Nebraska earns berth in Big Ten title game
Then again, Bo Pelini didn't expect it to, either.
No. 14 Nebraska relied on its defense and an emotional spark from the return of senior running back Rex Burkhead, outlasting Iowa, 13-7, on a cold, blustery Friday at Kinnick Stadium to secure a spot in the Dec. 1 Big Ten championship game.
"Well, that was hard. We knew it was going to be that way," said Pelini, the Nebraska coach. "We knew it was going to be hard. We told our team that. I don't know if we played our best, but we did what we had to do. We got it done."
Nebraska (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten) gained a season-low 263 yards of offense but held Iowa (4-8, 2-6) to 200 total yards and kept the Hawkeyes scoreless after the first quarter.
The Huskers will play Wisconsin on Dec. 1 in Indianapolis, with the winner receiving the conference's automatic berth to the Rose Bowl.
Burkhead, who'd missed the Huskers' last four games while recovering from a sprained MCL, didn't play in the first half but scored Nebraska's only touchdown on 3-yard run to give the Huskers a 13-7 lead with 3:10 remaining in the third quarter.
"Some of the coaches were coming up to me (at halftime), asking me how I was feeling, how I was doing, if I thought I could go," Burkhead said. "I said, 'Absolutely, let's do this.' I was excited to get a chance to go in."
Iowa (4-8, 2-6) gained only two first downs on its final four possessions, and Nebraska linebacker Alonzo Whaley intercepted James Vandenberg at the Iowa 35-yard line with 2:11 remaining.
Burkhead, who finished with 69 yards on 16 carries, then ran four times as Nebraska ran out the clock for its sixth straight victory.
No. 7 Louisiana State 20, Arkansas 13: Zach Mettenberger passed for 217 yards and a touchdown and the visiting Tigers forced a pair of turnovers in holding off the Razorbacks.
Jeremy Hill rushed for 77 yards and a score on 18 carries and Odell Beckham caught four passes for 112 yards for Louisiana State (10-2, 6-2 SEC), which kept its hopes for a BCS bowl berth alive by winning the annual "Battle for the Boot."
Tyler Wilson capped a stellar career by passing for 359 yards and a touchdown for Arkansas (4-8, 2-6).
No. 25 Kent State 28, Ohio 6: Linebacker C.J. Malauulu returned an interception for a touchdown and forced a fumble which resulted in another score as the host Golden Flashes seized their program-best 10th consecutive victory.
Trayion Durham ran for 97 yards and added his 14th rushing score for Kent State (11-1, 8-0 Mid-American), which will face Northern Illinois in the conference championship game on Nov. 30.
Washington State 31, Washington 28 (OT): Andrew Furney drilled a 45-yard field to tie the contest before connecting from 27 yards out in overtime as the host Cougars overcame an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit to win the 50th edition of the Apple Cup.
After Washington's Travis Coons sent his 35-yard field goal wide right as time expired in regulation, Washington State nose tackle Kalafitoni Pole intercepted Keith Price's ill-advised pass on the first play of overtime.
Syracuse 38, Temple 20: Ryan Nassib threw for 215 yards and a touchdown and Adonis Ameen-Moore added two scores on the ground to lead the visiting Orange to their third straight win.
Senior Montel Harris, the Big East's rushing leader with 948 yards entering the contest, ran for 106 yards for the Owls (4-7, 2-5 Big East). Quarterback Clinton Granger threw for a score and ran for another in his second career start, but tossed a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions that eliminated any hope for a comeback.
TCU 20, No. 15 Texas 13 (Thursday night): Matthew Tucker rushed for two touchdowns in the first half and the visiting Horned Frogs held off the turnover-prone Longhorns to record the 600th victory in program history.
Quarterback Trevone Boykin ran for a game-high 85 yards as TCU (7-4, 4-4 Big 12) won its 47th straight game when accumulating more rushing yards than passing. The Horned Frogs accomplished that easily (221-83) while holding Texas to 300 total yards.