Nebraska beats Buffs, wins Big 12 North title

Published Nov. 26, 2010 5:42 p.m. ET


AP Sports Writer

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Nebraska is off to the Big 12 championship game -- and Bo Pelini won't go kicking and screaming.

The Cornhuskers' volatile coach was on his best behavior Friday while
his 16th-ranked team beat Colorado 45-17 to lock up the Big 12 North
without starting quarterback Taylor Martinez.

Pelini was the focus of the week after his foul-mouthed sideline rants
during the loss at Texas A&M earned him a rebuke from the Nebraska

If all the drama was any distraction, it didn't show on the field.

"A lot of people tried to tear this team apart," Pelini said, referring
to the national media attention he attracted for his meltdown in
College Station, Texas. "We weren't going to let it happen. Enough said
on that."

Running back Rex Burkhead passed
for two touchdowns and ran for 101 yards and another score in
Nebraska's final meeting with Colorado before they head to different

Nebraska (10-2, 6-2) will go
to Arlington, Texas, next Saturday hoping to win its third Big 12
title, and first since 1999, before going to the Big Ten next year.


There was no North Division trophy presentation after the game.
Athletic director Tom Osborne said through spokesman Keith Mann that
Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe had safety concerns about traveling to
Lincoln after his office received disconcerting correspondence from
fans angry about the work of game officials in Nebraska games.

Colorado (5-7, 2-6), which played its third game under interim coach
Brian Cabral, failed to become bowl eligible in its last season before
joining the Pacific-12. The Buffaloes were 2-1 since Dan Hawkins'

"Would I like to be the next head
coach? Yes, but that's not up to me," Cabral said. "I just had a
wonderful ride these last three weeks. I had the best seat in the house
for three weeks. There isn't a Buff alive that wouldn't give anything
for that. I just feel so privileged to have been in this position.
Where this goes, only God knows."

Martinez out because of injuries to his right ankle and left foot, the
Huskers relied heavily on Burkhead to take pressure off backup
quarterback Cody Green.

Burkhead went to
the bench early in the second half, when the Huskers converted three
turnovers into touchdowns to break open the game.

Before that, Burkhead, who finished with 19 carries, took handoffs and
pitches from Green and direct snaps in the wildcat formation. He also
showed he could still throw a little bit.

"Nothing Rex Burkhead does surprises me," Pelini said. "He's what a
football player is supposed to be. They ought to put his picture next
to it in the dictionary. He just does so many things to help you."

Burkhead, who played quarterback as a high school sophomore, gave
Nebraska a 17-3 halftime lead after he took a pitch and started running
to his right. He pulled up and lofted a perfect spiral over Colorado's
Jalil Brown and into the hands of Brandon Kinnie for a 26-yard

Burkhead's other TD pass was
worthy of the season highlight video. Lined up in the wildcat, he faked
a handoff and ran right, pumping once before he reversed field and
headed left. He pushed away defensive end Forrest West and, as he
neared the sideline, flipped a short pass to Kyler Reed for a 4-yard TD.

"After those two touchdown passes, I looked at him and said, 'Hey, slow
down a little bit. I'm the one who's supposed to be throwing them,'"
Green said, laughing.

Green completed 10 of 13 passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns, and Roy Helu Jr. ran 15 times for 77 yards.

Dan Hawkins watched from the press box as his son, Cody Hawkins, became
Colorado's all-time leading passer when he threw a 29-yard touchdown
pass to Will Jefferson. Hawkins was 10 of 26 for 163 yards and two TDs.
He finished his career with 7,409 yards, breaking Joel Klatt's record
of 7,375.

For Nebraska, the victory was a
happy ending to a tumultuous week. Chancellor Harvey Perlman on Sunday
called out Pelini for his intense and animated outbursts directed
toward officials and Martinez. Pelini publicly apologized for his
behavior on Monday.

On Tuesday defensive
coordinator Carl Pelini, Bo's brother, apologized for knocking a video
camera out of the hands of a reporter on the field after the A&M
game and athletic director Tom Osborne issued a statement saying he
expected Bo Pelini to tone down his antics.

Bo Pelini's temper was tested early in Friday's game when Burkhead
dropped a short pass and officials initially ruled it a fumble instead
of an incompletion. Pelini showed no visible reaction to the call,
which was overturned on video review.

Later, he raised his hands but kept his cool as he talked to two
officials about why no flag was thrown when Burkhead got bumped after
appearing to have called for a fair catch on a punt.

The Nebraska student section played off Pelini's complaints about
penalties in the A&M game, showing up with yellow flags that they
waved en masse whenever it looked like a penalty was or wasn't

"I know a lot of people have
their negative outlook on (Pelini)," Burkhead said, "but us, as
players, we know who he is. He's a great coach, and hands down he's a
great guy and we love playing for him."

Green said, "We always say whenever coach Bo quits yelling at you,
that's when you need to worry because there's a problem. We don't care
that he yells."

The Huskers are in the Big
12 championship game for the second straight year. Last year they lost
13-12 to Texas after officials put 1 second back on the clock, enough
time for the Longhorns to kick the winning field goal.

The Huskers have been fueled all season by the disappointment of that game.

"They earned it. They did a lot," Pelini said. "They won 10 football games, and that's not easy to do."

One more and the Huskers will have the ultimate going away present from the Big 12.