LINCOLN, Neb. — Oklahoma is out and Nebraska is in the national title race — for now.
Third-ranked Nebraska beat Oklahoma 20-10 in a defensive struggle Saturday, derailing the No. 2 Sooners' hopes of repeating as national champions and ending their 20-game winning streak.
"As far as wins go, I've had a lot of them, but this one pretty much ranks up toward the top," said quarterback Eric Crouch, who caught a pitch pass on a trick play and took it 63 yards for a touchdown to put the game away.
With the victory, the Huskers (9-0, 5-0 Big 12) likely put themselves in front of the national title race. They were second to the Sooners (7-1, 4-1) in the Bowl Championship Series rankings entering the game.
Oklahoma could have a chance to return the favor in the Big 12 Championship on Dec. 1 if both teams win their remaining games.
Nebraska coach Frank Solich said December is still a long way off.
"There's enough excellent football teams around the country that the big picture is still unclear," Solich said.
Nebraska led 13-10 through most of the second half before Solich caught Oklahoma by surprise with a rare stray from Nebraska's normally conservative offense.
"Against a defense like Oklahoma, if you don't take a few chances and make a few calls like that you're not going to move the ball at all," Solich said. "Sometimes it's just a matter of timing."
On a first-and-10 from the Nebraska 37 with 6:10 left, wingback Thunder Collins took a handoff around the right end and pitched it to freshman Mike Stuntz, a quarterback who is playing receiver this fall. Stuntz lofted a perfect pass to Crouch, who caught it around the 40 and ran untouched to put the Huskers up 20-10.
"When it's called you're kind of a little hazy about it, but when you're wide open you've got to take advantage of it," Crouch said.
Stuntz was told not to throw it if Crouch was covered, but didn't have to hesitate when he saw Crouch sneak into the secondary.
"Not only was he going to catch it, he was going to outrun everybody because he's one very fast man," Stuntz said. "I was just thrilled to death."
The win was especially sweet for Crouch, who led the Huskers to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter last year but was shut out the rest of the way as the Sooners' upset the top-ranked Huskers 31-14.
"In a game like this, a lot of people are going to look at it for years and years to come. This was icing on the cake for my career," Crouch said.