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Benning Ignored Advice And Returned Punt 51 Yards Against Texas Tech

October 23, 1996

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ What was Nebraska running back Damon Benning thinking as he fielded a punt against Texas Tech in the fourth period?

``You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,″ Benning said Tuesday. Then he told, anyway.

``I could hear coach McBride saying `Let it go, let it go’... but I wanted to make something happen,″ he said.

Benning ignored the advice of defensive coordinator Charlie McBride, fielded the ball under pressure and returned it 51 yards.

Fifth-ranked Nebraska had made a lot of mistakes to that point, and Benning hoped that a big special-team play could be crucial.

His return set the stage for his own 3-yard scoring run minutes later _ a run punctuated by Benning recovering his own fumble in mid-play.

``There are just some days,″ Benning said, ``when you would rather be lucky than good.″

Nebraska (5-1, 3-0 in the Big 12) had just six turnovers going into the Texas Tech game. Against the Red Raiders (4-3, 3-2), the Cornhuskers fumbled seven times, lost four of them and saw an interception of a pass from Scott Frost returned for a TD. Nebraska was penalized 99 yards on 11 penalties.

``I don’t think it’s anything anybody should get accustomed to seeing out there,″ Benning said in predicting the errors would diminish.

Coach Tom Osborne declined to say how well Nebraska would do against Kansas (3-3, 1-2) on Saturday.

``I guess I don’t feel real comfortable playing anybody right now,″ he said. ``Hopefully we’ll play a little better this week ...″

The outcome at Texas Tech probably turned on Nebraska’s kicking game, Osborne said. Punter Jesse Kosh averaged 48 yards per kick, Kris Brown kicked a 39-yard field goal and Nebraska did well returning punts, while stalling the Red Raiders’ returns. Linebacker Jon Hesse, named Big 12 defensive player of the week, blocked a punt.

But errors in execution were reminiscent of Nebraska’s 19-0 loss last month to Arizona State, Osborne said.

That loss dimmed Nebraska’s hopes for a third straight national title.

Although the defense did well overall, holding running back Byron Hanspard to 107 yards rushing (half his season average), penalties kept five Texas Tech drives going, Osborne said.

His players know better execution is a must.

``I think they’re concerned enough that we had their full attention″ at practice Monday, he said.

Osborne said some of the miscues at Texas Tech surprised him.

``I thought we’d kind of gotten past our execution problems ... then all of a sudden the wheels come off!″ Osborne said. ``Why that would happen I have no idea.″

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