Rex Burkhead did a little bit of everything in a really big way, leading No. 16 Nebraska to a 45-17 victory over Colorado on Friday at Memorial Stadium.
Burkhead’s big day, which included 19 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown on the ground and a pair of touchdown passes from his I-back position, powered the Huskers (10-2, 6-2) to the Big 12 North Division crown and a spot in next Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Game in Arlington, Texas.
Colorado saw its season and Big 12 Conference affiliation come to an end with a 5-7 overall record and a 2-6 Big 12 mark. The Buffaloes will join the Pac-12 Conference next season.
Burkhead, a sophomore from Plano, Texas, completed both of his first two career attempts for touchdowns. The first one covered 26 yards to Brandon Kinnie down the right sideline after a pitch from Green. The second capped a highlight reel run that started to the right side of the field before ending with a four-yard flip to Kyler Reed in the end zone near the left sideline.
Burkhead’s versatile offensive performance, provided an explosive complement to quarterback Cody Green, who also threw a pair of touchdown passes and ran for a score on the afternoon. Burkhead and Green each completed touchdown passes to Kinnie and Reed, as Nebraska produced its best overall offensive effort since defeating Oklahoma State in Stillwater, 51-41, on Oct. 23.
Green, a sophomore from Dayton, Texas, closed an efficient offensive effort by completing 10-of-13 passes for 80 yards with two touchdowns. He also rushed seven times for 23 yards.
Kinnie led the Husker receivers with four catches for 48 yards and two scores on the day, while Reed added four catches for 17 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Joe Broekemeier pitched in a career-best three catches for 34 yards on Senior Day at Memorial Stadium.
Roy Helu added a solid performance of his own with 15 carries for 77 yards, while Dontrayevous Robinson added his best rushing effort of the season with 13 carries for 55 yards.
As a team, Nebraska amassed 407 total offense yards, including 262 yards rushing on 59 carries. Green, Burkhead and senior Zac Lee combined to complete 15-of-19 passes for 142 yards.
In addition to the solid offensive performance, the Blackshirts forced three second-half turnovers and set up the offense with short fields to lead to the impressive offensive output. The NU defense held CU to just 262 total yards, including 99 on the ground and 163 through the air.
On the third play of the second half, senior safety DeJon Gomes picked off a Cody Hawkins pass and returned it 12 yards to the CU 43. Five plays later, Green hit Kinnie with a 16-yard touchdown strike to put the Huskers up 24-3 just 3:02 into the second half.
Two plays later, Eric Hagg snagged his fifth interception of the season and returned it 26 yards to the CU 4. Hagg’s interception set up Burkhead’s touchdown pass to Reed and put the Huskers in complete control of the game with 10:51 left in the third quarter.
However, Colorado kept fighting in a rivalry game with a pair of Big 12 North Division teams playing their final games in the conference before heading to new leagues in 2011.
Cody Hawkins, who became Colorado’s career passing yardage leader in the game, connected with Paul Richardson on a 60-yard touchdown pass to pull CU within 31-10 with 8:19 left in the third.
Nebraska answered with Green’s one-yard touchdown pass to Reed less than five minutes later, but the Buffs put one more score on the board with Hawkins’ 29-yard touchdown pass to Will Jefferson as time expired in the third quarter.
Trailing 38-17 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Buffs held on NU’s first possession of the final period and threatened to cut the Husker lead to two scores. But the Blackshirts struck again. Hawkins hit Scotty McKnight on a short pass and Alfonzo Dennard stripped the ball, which was scooped up by Gomes and returned 19 yards to the CU 3. Two plays later, Green cashed in with a one-yard scoring plunge to put the Huskers up 45-17 with 12:55 left.
On the extra point, Nebraska senior place-kicker Alex Henery tied NU’s career scoring record with 388 points. Henery, a native of Omaha, tied former Husker place-kicker Kris Brown for Nebraska’s all-time mark.
Henery opened the scoring with a 42-yard field goal in the first quarter. While Henery accounted for all the points in the first quarter, both offenses gained momentum in the second period.
Burkhead capped a nine-play, 72-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run with 13:47 to go in the half to put Nebraska up 10-0. Colorado then mustered a nine-play drive of its own, covering 75 yards in 3:25. CU’s march stalled near the NU goal line, and the Buffs settled for Aric Goodman’s 22-yard field goal to make it 10-3 with 10:22 left in the half.
Burkhead then set the Huskers to the locker room with a 17-3 edge by connecting with Kinnie on a 26-yard scoring strike with 49 seconds remaining in the half.
Nebraska will face the Big 12 South champion in the Dr. Pepper Big 12 Championship Game next Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.