Ninth-ranked Nebraska and No. 15 Colorado were supposed to settle the Big Eight championship Saturday night. Instead, they settled for a tie.
Colorado's Greg Thomas blocked a 41-yard field-goal attempt by Nebraska's Byron Bennett as time ran out, preserving a 19-19 tie that left the teams in a first-place tie atop the conference standings.
Colorado tried to put extra pressure on Bennett by calling three consecutive timeouts before his kick. When Bennett finally attempted his kick, Thomas leaped and blocked it with his left elbow. The ball rolled out of bounds as time expired before a chilled capacity crowd of 52,319 at Folsom Field.
"We realized we had to block the kick or the season was dashed," Thomas said. "We had a great surge and I went right over the top."
Colorado (5-2-1) and Nebraska (6-1-1) are both 3-0-1 in the Big Eight with three conference games remaining. If they tie for the league title, the Orange Bowl will decide which team goes to the Jan. 1 game.
Although the bowl selection date is Nov. 17, Orange Bowl officials will probably have to delay their decision until the Nebraska-Oklahoma game is played Nov. 29.
The tie was Nebraska's first in 190 games dating back to the 1976 season opener against Louisiana State and Colorado's first tie since last year's opener against Tennessee.
Colorado, which was seeking its third consecutive victory over Nebraska and its 19th consecutive conference victory, took a 19-12 lead on quarterback Darian Hagan's four-yard touchdown run with 27 seconds left in the third quarter. But Nebraska tied it on Derek Brown's seven-yard run with 6:41 remaining in the game, which was played in a minus-8 wind chill.
Nebraska had a final chance to win after driving 31 yards to the Colorado 23 with four seconds left. But Bennett, a sophomore who earlier had kicked field goals from 27 and 35 yards, had his last attempt blocked. It was Thomas' third blocked kick this season and the fifth of his career.