Turning Point: NU vs. ISU Oct. 6, 2007
The turning point might have been a kickoff return midway through the second quarter. Or it might have been Bo Ruud's interception return for a touchdown late in the third quarter.
Either way, Cortney Grixby was involved.
Making plays, "that's what football is all about," he said.
Oh yes, in that case he was referring to his two interceptions in the game, the second coming as Iowa State tried to rally from an 11-point deficit with 3:50 remaining. Grixby returned the ball 41 yards to the Iowa State 3-yard line. Nebraska needed three plays to score a final touchdown.
"I was in the right spot to get some interceptions," he said.
Ruud was in the right spot to get an interception when Grixby tipped a Bret Meyer pass on third-and-goal at the Nebraska 12-yard line with just over 2 minutes left in the third quarter.
An Iowa State touchdown would have cut the lead to 21-17. Instead, the Cornhuskers pulled ahead 28-10, as Ruud caught the tip and ran 93 yards for a touchdown.
"You never know when you're out there when you have a chance to make a play," said Ruud, who also returned an interception for a touchdown against Ball State the week before.
"You've just got to be ready to make that play."
Ruud, a high school running back, ran along the west sideline, to the north end zone, weaving back and forth, with a blocking assist from defensive tackle Shukree Barfield.
More accurately, the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Barfield shielded Ruud from would-be tacklers, including Meyer. Barfield "was running like a maniac. He was unbelievable," said Ruud.
"He just did a good job of running straight, trying to run right through that quarterback, making that quarterback unclear what to do. That's textbook of what you want your D-line to do if an interception happens. You want them to sprint right through the quarterback and not slow down."
Grixby didn't get a good look at the play until Ruud was well on his way down field.
"He kept going back and forth, weaving," said Grixby. "I was like, 'Just run in.' "
A little weaving would have helped Grixby on the interception he returned to the Iowa State 3-yard line, according to Ruud. "I don't know why he's criticizing me. I scored and he didn't," Ruud said.
"Watch the film. He would have scored if he would have cut back."
Ruud said he would have helped Grixby with a block, too.
Grixby took advantage of some blocking by the kick-return team in the second quarter. Iowa State kicked off after taking a 10-0 lead with 7:47 remaining in the half. He fielded the ball at his own 2-yard line and returned it 51 yards to the Cyclone 47-yard line before being brought down.
He made it sound easy. The key to a kickoff return — he also had a 36-yard return after Iowa State cut the lead to 28-17 — is to "get some blocks, get a hole and just go through it," he said.
The 51-yard return "was huge, a great spark, a great lift," said coach Bill Callahan.
Nebraska capitalized on that field position with a seven-play, 47-yard touchdown drive to its first touchdown, on a 20-yard pass from I-back Marlon Lucky to H-back Sean Hill.
The Cornhuskers would take the lead for good before halftime with a 10-play, 82-yard touchdown drive in just 1 minute and 35 seconds. At that point, "we felt good," Grixby said. "We felt we had the momentum. It's like a pendulum. That's what Coach always says, back and forth.
"We got the momentum back and we knew that our offense was on the verge of breaking open. So we just wanted to be stable (defensively), bend but don't break. And that's what we did."
Ruud's interception return sapped any hope of a comeback the Cyclones might have had.
And Grixby had a hand in that, literally.
"Bo's always in the right spot," said Grixby.
As it turned out, they both were.