Soggy Mizzou falls to Nebraska

BY foxsports • October 13, 2009

By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER , Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- No. 21 Nebraska won't earn many style points for its 27-12 comeback win over No. 24 Missouri on a cold, rainy night.

Until the fourth quarter, the Huskers were flummoxed by drive-killing penalties, mishandled punts and a stagnant offense. But the Huskers (4-1, 1-0) are right where they want to be after the Big 12 opener -- atop the North Division with a crucial win over two-time defending division champion Missouri (4-1, 0-1).

After failing to score in the first half against Missouri for the first time in more than two decades, Nebraska mounted its biggest fourth-quarter road comeback in school history and its first win over a ranked opponent since 2006.

"It's a great start to Big 12 play," said defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who finished with six tackles, one sack, a forced fumble and a key interception Thursday night. "We want to dominate the Big 12 North and start it off the right way."

Missouri, meanwhile, was left pondering missed opportunities after blowing a 12-0 lead through three quarters and allowing 27 unanswered points in a nationally televised fourth-quarter collapse.

The Tigers committed eight penalties for 100 yards, curtailing several early scoring opportunities. In one instance, Missouri got the ball on Nebraska's 32-yard line after the first of three muffed punts by Nebraska.

But the drive stalled after a holding penalty, two incomplete passes and a sack of quarterback Blaine Gabbert that backed up Missouri to midfield.

"There were a lot of opportunities the first three quarters," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "If we had done a better job executing there on both sides of the football, it might not have gotten like that in the fourth."

Nebraska's defense -- which entered the game giving up just seven points per game, best in the nation -- helped spur a 20-point scoring flurry over a little more than three minutes early in the final quarter.

With Missouri on its own 21, Suh batted down a Gabbert pass and hauled it in to give Nebraska the ball inside the Tigers' red zone. Nebraska needed only two plays to score on a 13-yard pass from Zac Lee to Niles Paul, taking its first lead at 13-12.

A 40-yard interception return by Nebraska's Dejon Gomes on Missouri's next possession left the ball at the Missouri 10. Nebraska made it 20-12 on Lee's third TD, an 8-yard pass to tight end Mike McNeill.

Gabbert injured his ankle on a first-quarter sack and fumble but remained in the game. The injury appeared to affect both his mobility and his ability to plant his feet while throwing, but Pinkel said there was little consideration of pulling the starter.

"He struggled a little bit but he felt he could play," the Missouri coach said.

Gabbert entered the game leading the conference in passing efficiency and ranked fourth nationally in that category. But he completed just 17 of 43 passes for 134 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. It was his first game this season without a touchdown pass.

The win gives the Huskers an early advantage in the Big 12 North race -- along with a possible tiebreaker should Missouri finish with the same conference record.

That was the scenario in 2008, when Nebraska and Missouri both finished with 5-3 conference records but the Tigers advanced to the Big 12 title game thanks to a 52-17 win in Lincoln.

Since the Big 12's formation in 1996, the eventual North division champion has lost its conference opener only twice.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini was subdued after the win -- well aware that his team has plenty to work on after committing 12 penalties, surrendering five fumbles and barely gaining 100 yards of total offense through the first three quarters.

"It's just part of the process," he said when asked if the game marked a breakthrough for Nebraska, which hadn't won in Columbia since 2001. "It's on to the next game."

Nebraska returns home to face Texas Tech (3-2) next week. Missouri travels to No. 15 Oklahoma State (3-1).

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