Scores

Final

Ball State 40

(2-2, 1-1 MAC)

(24) Nebraska 41

(3-1, 2-1 home)

12:30 PM ET, September 22, 2007

Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, NE), Lincoln, NE

1 2 3 4 T
BALL 0 10 21 940
#24NEB 7 7 14 1341

Top Performers

Passing: S. Keller (NEB) - 438 YDS, 3 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: M. Lewis (BALL) - 19 CAR, 122 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: D. Love (BALL) - 10 REC, 214 YDS, 1 TD

Keller's 438 pass yards, 3 TDs help Nebraska edge Ball St.

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Sam Keller did his job. Then all he could do was watch as his teammates on defense were trying to do theirs.

Defensive Woes
Nebraska Cornhuskers

What's happened to the famed "Blackshirts" at Nebraska? Saturday's 41-40 win over Ball State continued the Huskers' defensive skid this season.

Opponent Yards Allowed Yards Per Play
Nevada 185 3.6
Wake Forest 376 4.9
USC 457 6.7
Ball St. 610 7.7

What Keller saw was frightening. Ball State had two opportunities to take the lead in the final 22 seconds -- one when an almost sure TD pass was dropped; the other when a long field goal was wide.

In the end, Keller's third touchdown pass stood as the winning points as No. 24 Nebraska defeated Ball State 41-40 and avoided what arguably would have been the most embarrassing defeat in school history.

"I just had to have faith in the defense," said Keller, who passed for a school record 438 yards. "And I was saying a prayer or two."

If it was two prayers, both were answered.

After Keller gave the Cornhuskers the lead with 3:13 to play, Ball State started at its own 22.

Nate Davis completed six passes and converted a third down with a 3-yard run to give the Cardinals a first down on the Nebraska 38.

The next sequence had Keller, and everyone with ties to Nebraska, holding their breath.

On second down, Dante Love, running open on a post pattern, had what appeared to be a perfect throw and easy touchdown bounce off his hands at the 10.

Then, after linebacker Steve Octavien broke up a pass on third down, Ball State's Jake Hogue lined up for a 55-yard field goal attempt with 17 seconds remaining. Hogue, who hit earlier from 45 and 22 yards, hooked his kick wide left.

"We're very disappointed in the outcome," Ball State coach Brady Hoke said. "It's a tough pill to swallow because we had opportunities."

More opportunities than Nebraska cares to recount.

The Cardinals' moved almost effortlessly against the Huskers all afternoon, as they rolled up 610 yards of offense, the most by a Nebraska opponent since Washington amassed 618 in 1991.

Behind Davis, who passed for 422 yards and three touchdowns, 23-point underdog Ball State scored on four of its first six possessions of the second half to lead 37-28 early in the fourth quarter.

Nebraska fans, already were wringing their hands over an uninspired performance in last week's loss at home to top-ranked Southern California, let their feelings be known.

Boos came pouring out of the Memorial Stadium stands as the Cornhuskers allowed 40 or more points for the second straight week, the first time that's happened since the end of the 1990 season.

"They had a right to boo us," said Maurice Purify, who caught the 11-yard pass from Keller that put Nebraska ahead for good. "We weren't playing as good as we should have played. We were close to losing the game."

Nebraska pulled within 37-35, with 9:21 left, when linebacker Bo Ruud intercepted a pass that bounced off his chest into his hands and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown.

"They threw a little floater," Ruud said. "I bobbled it, and I took off."

Davis said Ruud's interception was the game-changing play.

"Dumb decision on my part," the Ball State quarterback said. "I should have thrown it away, but you learn from your mistakes."

Keller, who completed 29 of 37 passes, was at his best on the winning drive. He dinked the Ball State defense with short passes to running back Marlon Lucky and hit Sean Hill for a 32-yard gain, before finding Purify for the score. Nebraska went for the 2-point conversion, but Keller's pass to Todd Peterson was out the back of the end zone.

The Cardinals, who nearly upset a second-ranked Michigan team a year ago, played on even terms with the Huskers.

Because they couldn't finish the job -- again -- coach Bill Callahan didn't have to explain a loss the likes of which has never been seen in Lincoln in the program's 118-year history.

It might not have matched Appalachian State's upset of Michigan in national magnitude, but it would have been a low point for a coach who already is owner of the most lopsided loss in program history (70-10 at Texas Tech in 2004).

"It's a step forward because it's a win," Callahan said. "These wins are hard to come by in this day and age because of the way people are playing football. We see that across the country. You would always want things to go a little bit better, and it didn't, so you have to deal with that for the duration of the game. Our ability to stay in the game, to keep rallying, was outstanding."

Trailing 14-10 at the half, Ball State covered 39 yards in three plays after Quentin Castille fumbled early in the third quarter, with Davis scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 14-yard run.

Nebraska answered with Keller's 73-yard TD pass to Sean Hill, but Ball State came right back with Lewis running untouched for 43 yards.

Keller's 18-yard TD pass to Nate Swift put Nebraska back on top, but Ball State went up 31-28 on Davis' 58-yard pass to Love.

B.J. Hill intercepted Keller near the goal line, and then Davis finished a five-play, 96-yard march with a 21-yard pass to Madaris Grant, putting the Cards up 37-28.

"There are all types of wins," Callahan said. "I'm just proud of the fact our kids found a way to get this one done today."

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Team Stat Comparison

 
BALL
NEB
1st Downs2725
Total Yards610552
Passing422438
Rushing188114
Penalties4-345-50
3rd Down Conversions9-158-13
4th Down Conversions0-01-1
Turnovers23
Possession27:0832:52

Passing Leaders

Ball StateC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Davis26/434229.831
NebraskaC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Keller29/3743811.831

Rushing Leaders

Ball StateCARYDSAVGTDLG
Lewis191226.4143
Davis6579.5129
NebraskaCARYDSAVGTDLG
Lucky211024.9128
Castille5163.217

Receiving Leaders

Ball StateRECYDSAVGTDLG
Love1021421.4158
Hill59318.6126
NebraskaRECYDSAVGTDLG
Hill312943.0173
Purify612220.3138

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERBALLNEB
TD10:17Marlon Lucky 28 Yd Run (Alex Henery Kick)
Drive: 9 plays, 63 yds, 4:43
07
SECOND QUARTERBALLNEB
TD09:46Darius Hill 20 Yd Pass From Nate Davis (Jake Hogue Kick)
Drive: 10 plays, 80 yds, 2:58
77
FG04:41Jake Hogue 45 Yd
Drive: 13 plays, 48 yds, 3:40
107
TD00:26Quentin Castille 1 Yd Run (Alex Henery Kick)
Drive: 9 plays, 73 yds, 4:10
1014
THIRD QUARTERBALLNEB
TD11:31Nate Davis 14 Yd Run (Jake Hogue Kick)
Drive: 3 plays, 39 yds, :59
1714
TD06:39Sean Hill 73 Yd Pass From Sam Keller (Alex Henery Kick)
Drive: 3 plays, 81 yds, 1:22
1721
TD04:55Miquale Lewis 43 Yd Run (Jake Hogue Kick)
Drive: 5 plays, 80 yds, 1:44
2421
TD02:09Nate Swift 18 Yd Pass From Sam Keller (Alex Henery Kick)
Drive: 7 plays, 71 yds, 2:40
2428
TD00:54Dante Love 58 Yd Pass From Nate Davis (Jake Hogue Kick)
Drive: 4 plays, 80 yds, 1:15
3128
FOURTH QUARTERBALLNEB
TD12:50Madaris Grant 21 Yd Pass From Nate Davis (Pat Failed)
Drive: 5 plays, 96 yds, 1:29
3728
TD09:21Bo Ruud 34 Yd Interception Return (Alex Henery Kick) 3735
FG07:05Jake Hogue 22 Yd
Drive: 7 plays, 65 yds, 2:10
4035
TD03:13Maurice Purify 11 Yd Pass From Sam Keller (Two-Point Pass Conversion Failed)
Drive: 8 plays, 82 yds, 3:45
4041