Even when it was behind in the fourth quarter, Nebraska’s def
MIAMI (AP) _ Even when it was behind in the fourth quarter, Nebraska’s defense knew it had the Miami Hurricanes where it wanted them: tired.
``We were just wearing them out,″ linebacker Troy Dumas said. ``We just kept firing away at them. We had a lot of bad breaks, but we played through it and came out on top.″
No. 1 Nebraska held Miami to minus-35 yards in the fourth quarter and finally ended its Orange Bowl curse with a 24-17 come-from-behind New Year’s night victory over No. 3 Miami.
``I said over and over again, I told you for years, you can’t win a national championship without good defense,″ defensive coordinator Charlie McBride said. ``Nebraska has a great offense tradition and it has left little for the defense. We are more a necessary evil.″
Nebraska didn’t take much of the Christmas break off like the Hurricanes. Instead, the Cornhuskers practiced at home and then came to South Florida early _ two days before the holiday _ to get used to the humid weather.
In the fourth quarter, it was Miami players who were gasping for air. Nebraska’s defense saw how slowly they moved back to the huddle.
``They talk about this being their climate and all, but I think we are the better conditioned team and it showed,″ linebacker Ed Stewart said.
Dumas added, ``We ran every day we had practice and Miami didn’t. They took a relaxed approach. They took six days off. We didn’t take any.″
In the first quarter, it appeared Miami _ the top defense in the country, allowing 220.9 yards per game _ would win the defensive battle.
Warren Sapp, winner of numerous defensive awards, did a jig after a sack in the second quarter.
``We have a philosophy of not saying nothing,″ Dumas said. ``We shut up and have our play speak for itself.″
The Hurricanes offense, behind quarterback Frank Costa, looked like it might blow Nebraska right out of the game when it scored quickly on the first possession of the second half for a 17-7 lead.
But after that, Costa and Miami were buried under a swarming sea of red and white Nebraska jerseys. In the fourth quarter, the Hurricanes did not manage a single first down, punting four times before a final, desperation fourth-down pass ended in an interception.
The game was over, for all practical purposes, when Kareem Moss picked off Costa’s last throw with 1:01 left.
Things turned around for the Cornhuskers early in the second half, when Nebraska again pinned Miami deep in Hurricanes territory. With Miami on its 3-yard line, Dwayne Harris burst through the line and nailed Costa for a safety.
Things got only more harried for Costa as the game progressed. He was hounded by the Cornhuskers line, with Harris getting to him three times.
``I think the pressure just changed him,″ McBride said. ``It looked like he wasn’t 100 percent physically.″
Costa threw for 95 yards in the second half, compared with 153 in the first half. The Hurricanes were held to 29 yards total rushing.
In the fourth quarter, Nebraska’s defense was supreme. The Hurricanes’ didn’t score on their last seven possesions and were limited to six first downs. On that final possession, Costa was sacked twice.
``We know in the last series they were going to go no backs. We knew right then we had to come smoking,″ McBride said. ``Our outside rush guys did a great job.″