16 for '16: Purify, Huskers stun No. 24 Texas A&M
The season had ultimately been a disappointment for Nebraska when it traveled to take on No. 24 Texas A&M back in November of 2006.
The Huskers had fallen out of the polls after starting the year 7-3, including dropping two of their past three games heading into their showdown with the Aggies.
Even so, NU was still in position to potentially clinch a Big 12 North Division title and a trip to the conference championship with one more victory.
Despite blowing an 11-point halftime lead, Nebraska caught just enough breaks down the stretch for quarterback Zac Taylor and wide receiver Maurice Purify to deliver Texas A&M a stunning upset in the final minute.
How it went down
Behind a pair of touchdown runs by Cody Glenn, Nebraska went into halftime with a 21-10 lead over Texas A&M and seemed poised to punch its ticket to the Big 12 title game in Dallas.
But the offense would fizzle out and the defense seemingly couldn’t get a third-down stop in the second half, which allowed the Aggies to chip away at the lead and eventually go up 27-21 on a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Jorvorskie Lane with 7:28 left to play.
Because A&M decided to chase points by electing to go for two and failing following their previous touchdown - a 57-yard run by quarterback Stephen McGee with 12:51 remaining - the Aggies only led by six after converting their second two-point try.
That ended up being a pivotal swing when all was said and done.
Even when Taylor was intercepted on the ensuing NU possession, the Huskers got another big break when defensive ends Barry Turner and Zack Potter blocked a 42-yard field goal attempt by kicker Layne Neumann with just 1:57 remaining in the game.
That set Taylor and the offense up for a two-minute drill at their own 25-yard line, and the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year made sure to save his best for last.
Taylor methodically led Nebraska down the field by completing 5-of-11 passes for 75 yards - including three clutch first-down conversions to walk-ons Todd Peterson and Dan Erickson - but Nebraska faced a third-and-10 from the A&M 17 with less than 30 seconds to go.
Taylor’s next pass to Purify fell incomplete, but the Aggies handed NU a first down when defensive lineman Marques Thornton was flagged for roughing the passer to make it first and goal at the 9.
The very next play, Taylor lofted the ball to the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Purify in the right corner of the end zone. Purify soared up in front of 5-10 freshman cornerback Jordan Peterson and hauled in the go-ahead touchdown to put the Huskers ahead 28-27.
Texas A&M still had one last chance to win it, but NU defensive end Adam Carriker ended those hopes when he wrapped up McGee and threw him to the turf on the game’s final play to seal the victory.
They said it
"That's what you dream about right there. You dream about being in the shotgun and letting your receivers go to work, and making plays with no time left. That's definitely been a dream of mine my whole life... I wouldn't have wanted to win this game any other way. It's something that everybody's going to remember.''
-- Zac Taylor, Nebraska quarterback
"These kids, I wish you could see their faces in that locker room. They poured a lot of effort and time, sweat and tears, into this. I'm just so happy to see it culminate in a North Division championship and an opportunity to play for the Big 12 championship.''
-- Bill Callahan, Nebraska head coach
“It was a step we needed to take. We hoped it’d be this year. But you can’t jump over all of the hurdles at once. You have to go through the process of getting to where you want to go.”
-- Steve Pederson, Nebraska athletic director