Texas A&M beats Nebraska by a foot
Texas A&M's goal this season was to return to national prominence for the first time in years.
Cyrus Gray and the 18th-ranked Aggies have done that, picking up their fifth straight win with a 9-6 victory over No. 9 Nebraska on Saturday night.
"The consequences of winning are the expectations get higher," coach Mike Sherman said. "We jumped over another hurdle and have taken another step. We still have another step to take."
Gray ran for a career high-tying 137 yards and Randy Bullock kicked the go-ahead field goal with about three minutes left for the Aggies. Gray added a career-high 65 yards receiving in his fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing game.
Gray is the first Texas A&M running back since 1990 to have five straight 100-yard rushing games and has 396 yards rushing in the three games since fellow running back Christine Michael broke his leg.
Sherman was asked to describe Gray's performance.
"I would say extraordinary," he said. "With his catches and his runs and picking the holes. If he didn't play the game he did we wouldn't have been able to kick the field goals. Nothing he ever does surprises me. I'm not shocked looking at his stats."
The loss kept Nebraska (9-2, 5-2 Big 12) from clinching the Big 12 North title. The Cornhuskers will have another chance to do it in their regular-season finale next week against Colorado.
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini reminded his team of that after the game.
"The game's irrelevant," he said he told the team. "At the end, we still control our destiny."
The game was tied at 6 when the Aggies (8-3, 5-2) took the lead on Bullock's 19-yard field goal. The Cornhuskers were plagued by turnovers all night and Texas A&M's go-ahead drive was no exception. The drive was kept alive by a roughing the passer penalty on Nebraska on third-and-11 at the Cornhuskers' 49.
The Aggies had third-and-goal at the Nebraska 2 and Gray was stopped for no gain to bring on Bullock.
Taylor Martinez missed the last five minutes of the first quarter and the entire second quarter after injuring his right ankle. He returned for the third quarter and played the rest of the game despite looking hobbled. He was flagged for intentional grounding on first down on Nebraska's last drive and then sacked on third down.
His desperation heave on fourth down was incomplete, and the record crowd of 90,079 stormed the field after the game as the Aggies trickled to the locker room through a sea of maroon.
It is the first five-game conference winning streak for the Aggies since 1998 and Nebraska's first road loss of the season.
"So many guys and just a collective effort," Gray said. "I've never experienced anything like it. I'm glad I was part of this team."
Nebraska finished with 16 penalties for 145 yards, a situation that had Pelini irate and yelling at the officials for much of the game. He was called for unsportsmanlike conduct early in the fourth quarter after a particularly long tirade.
"No comment. I'm not talking about penalties," he said. "You all watched the game."
Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill was 19 of 29 for 172 yards to improve to 4-0 since taking over as starter.
The Aggies took the lead on an 84-yard drive capped by a 28-yard field goal by Bullock early in the fourth quarter. Gray accounted for 55 yards on that drive, which was set up by Trent Hunter's second interception of the game.
Nebraska answered with a long drive of its own, going 78 yards for a 29-yard field goal by Alex Henery to make it 6-6. Dustin Harris knocked down a pass by Martinez on third-and-7 to force the kick.
Martinez finished with 107 yards passing and 17 yards rushing.
Martinez was injured when a teammate appeared to accidentally step on his right ankle in the first quarter and didn't return in the first half. He has missed time recently with a right ankle injury but played the entire game in the win over Kansas last week. A lineman appeared to have caught Martinez on the ankle as he tried to run with about five minutes left in the first quarter.
He was replaced by Cody Green, who couldn't get much going for Nebraska before halftime.
Pelini became angry at Martinez in the second quarter some time after his injury. It's unclear why he got upset, but he got in Martinez's face while he stood on the sideline and yelled for quite some time. At one point Pelini poked at his chest with a finger and a frame freeze from television showed him with his finger pulling at the collar of his jersey as Martinez stood motionless inches from his face.
Pelini wouldn't divulge details of the exchange or what led to it after the game.
"I can't talk about that," he said. "It had nothing to do with his injury."
Nebraska took an early 3-0 lead when Henery hit a 48-yard field goal on the Cornhuskers' first drive of the game. Texas A&M tied it at 3 when Bullock had a 29-yard field goal about nine minutes before halftime.