Lincoln, Neb. Nebraska is off to the Big 12 championship game — and Bo Pelini won’t go kicking and screaming.
The Cornhuskers’ volatile coach was on his best behavior Friday while his 16th-ranked team beat Colorado, 45-17, to lock up the Big 12 North without starting quarterback Taylor Martinez.
Pelini was the focus of the week after his foul-mouthed sideline rants during the loss at Texas A&M earned him a rebuke from the Nebraska chancellor.
If all the drama was any distraction, it didn’t show on the field.
“A lot of people tried to tear this team apart,” Pelini said, referring to the national media attention he attracted for his meltdown in College Station, Texas. “We weren’t going to let it happen. Enough said on that.”
Running back Rex Burkhead passed for two touchdowns and ran for 101 yards and another score in Nebraska’s final meeting with Colorado before they head to different conferences.
Nebraska (10-2, 6-2) will go to Arlington, Texas, next Saturday hoping to win its third Big 12 title, and first since 1999, before going to the Big Ten next year.
Colorado (5-7, 2-6), which played its third game under interim coach Brian Cabral, failed to become bowl-eligible in its last season before joining the Pacific-12. The Buffaloes were 2-1 since Dan Hawkins’ firing.
“Would I like to be the next head coach? Yes, but that’s not up to me,” Cabral said.
With Martinez out because of injuries to his right ankle and left foot, the Huskers relied heavily on Burkhead to take pressure off backup quarterback Cody Green.
Burkhead went to the bench early in the second half, when the Huskers converted three turnovers into touchdowns to break open the game.
Before that, Burkhead, who finished with 19 carries, took handoffs and pitches from Green and direct snaps in the wildcat formation. He also showed he could still throw a little bit.
Burkhead, who played quarterback as a high school sophomore, gave Nebraska a 17-3 halftime lead after he took a pitch and started running to his right. He pulled up and lofted a perfect spiral over Colorado’s Jalil Brown and into the hands of Brandon Kinnie for a 26-yard TD.
For his other passing TD, lined up in the wildcat, Burkhead faked a handoff and ran right, pumping once before he reversed field and headed left. As Burkhead neared the sideline, he flipped a short pass to Kyler Reed for a 4-yard TD.
“After those two touchdown passes, I looked at him and said, ‘Hey, slow down a little bit. I’m the one who’s supposed to be throwing them,”’ Green said, laughing.
Green completed 10 of 13 passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns.