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Cowboy defense stuns No. 20 Nebraska

The last time Nathan Peterson scored a touchdown, he was a freshman tight end at Tulsa Union High School.

 

That is, until Saturday, when he snatched up a Nebraska fumble and scampered 19 yards for the game-sealing touchdown in the Cowboys' 41-29 upset over the Cornhuskers.

 

"I saw the ball come bouncing; it seemed like it was jumping right towards me, so I thought maybe I should have laid on it, but I saw the end zone right there," the junior defensive end said.

 

"The one thing that crossed my mind was how much fun I was having."

 

Peterson's size is what is most impressive to coach Mike Gundy.

 

"Anybody that's 230 pounds ... and plays down there with guys that are 320, that's what it's all about," Gundy said. "He's an image that we like to project for what we want on this football team."

 

Peterson and the rest of the Cowboy defense made a big statement with the win: they do have the ability to finish a game, despite this season's last-minute losses to Kansas State and Texas A&M.

 

In the first half, OSU could not contain Cornhusker running back Brandon Jackson, who had 99 yards in the first quarter alone, contributing to Nebraska's 16-0 lead.

 

Although the Cowboys managed to fight back to trail by only three at the half, the defense had to make adjustments during the break to find a way to keep the Cornhuskers from scoring.

 

"Our main purpose at halftime was to get the guys calmed down, to stop the run, to get them on third down, go out after them," defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said. "Those are the things we did. We have to start doing those."

 

The adjustments were the key in OSU's win. In the second half, the Cowboys held Nebraska to 52 rushing yards and 184 total offensive yards.

 

On six straight drives, the Cornhuskers were turned away, and their first score in the second half didn't come until their final drive of the game with seven seconds left in regulation.

 

Gundy was first to give credit to Bedford and his staff.

 

"The defense ran some different schemes in the second half to slow down the run," Gundy said. "Late in the game, we put a lot of pressure on a very good quarterback (Zac Taylor). I was particularly pleased with the way that Coach Bedford handled the last few minutes, putting pressure on them."

 

Taylor, a Norman-native, was sacked four times in the fourth quarter.

 

"I knew the whole time we'd be able to stop them," said Peterson, who finished with two sacks and four tackles.

 

"It was a matter of making tackles. We were in a place to make plays, and we finally put that together in the second half."

 

Peterson was glad to see the defense finish the game because of the criticism Bedford has faced in recent weeks.

 

"He has so much passion in his job, and to see him take criticism for our poor play, it kind of makes you pretty furious," Peterson said. "He's not the one out on the field missing the tackles or giving up deep balls or not getting the score.

 

"And when we let him down like that and people start picking at him, it kind of gets to you. That's one thing we did, we wanted to win this and get it for him."

 

Bedford attributed the win to what the defense had been working on all week.

 

"You go back to Kansas State, we blitzed, we played zone, we did everything, and we didn't get it done," he said.

 

"This week, we focused on one thing: do your job and don't worry about anything else; trust the man next to you. If you do that, we're going to get a win, which we did today."

 

Despite playing on a state championship-winning team considered to be among the country's best, Peterson said he has never seen a team that wants to win more than these Cowboys do.

 

"This team has so much heart, and they just play close," Peterson said.

 

"And there's no individuals on this team. We just want to win. We want to be a good team for our coaches, ourselves, for our school.