Craig Sundberg passed for three touchdowns and ran for one as fifth-ranked Nebraska rallied in the second half to defeat No. 11 Louisiana State, 28-10, tonight in the 51st Sugar Bowl.
The Cornhuskers (10-2) had their top-ranked defense knocked around by the quicker Bengals in the first half. But they set up two second-half touchdowns with interceptions and twice had successful goal line stands.
Sophomore Doug DuBose scored Nebraska's first touchdown. He went 31 yards with a screen pass from Sundberg in the second quarter after LSU had taken a 10-0 lead.
In the second half, Sundberg gave the Big Eight Conference co-champions the lead for good, scrambling nine yards for a touchdown 6:46 into the third quarter.
Sundberg, a senior from Lincoln, Neb., who completed 10 of 15 passes for 143 yards in his first start since midseason, put the victory on ice with fourth-quarter scoring passes to Todd Frain of 24 and 17 yards. Sundberg was voted the game's most valuable player despite feeling "weak and tired" from the flu.
LSU took its 10-0 lead on a 37-yard field goal by Ronnie Lewis and a two-yard run by Dalton Hilliard.
The Tigers (8-3-1) were inside the Nebraska one-yard line on second down in the second quarter but failed to score, with Lewis missing a 19-yard field goal try. They went to the two on second down in the third quarter before Lewis was wide left from 24 yards.
"We were fortunate we weren't 17 down," Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said. "I think we wore 'em down."
Sundberg said, "When we got close, we scored. The first half, they looked like the team that tied Florida and beat Southern Cal."
In the third quarter, Nebraska's Chad Daffer, who had two interceptions, set up one score with an eight-yard return to the LSU 33 in the third quarter. Scott Strausburger's interception at the LSU 34 also set up a Nebraska score.
LSU used the speed of its receivers to gain 291 yards in the first half against a defense that had yielded only 203.3 yards per game during the regular season.
The Tigers finished with 404 yards offense, the most against the Cornhuskers this season. Oklahoma State had 324 yards against Nebraska in the regular season.
Still, LSU Coach Bill Arnsparger said, "We just have to have more points. One touchdown and field goal is not enough to beat a good football team."
DuBose was the rushing leader with 102 yards on 20 carries. He had two receptions for 39 yards.
The Bengals had one touchdown -- a 26-yard pass from Jeff Wickersham to Garry James -- nullified by a holding penalty and settled for a field goal. LSU took a field goal off the scoreboard after a penalty at the Cornhuskers' six in the second quarter, then failed to score.
The Tigers scored first on Lewis' field goal with 4:40 left in the first period. James went 35 yards around the left side to key the 52-yard drive, which stalled at the Nebraska 22 when Wickersham was sacked for a seven-yard loss by Rob Stuckey.
LSU took a 10-0 lead on its next possession, going 73 yards in 10 plays with Hilliard getting the final two 1:49 into the second quarter.
Nebraska, which had only one first down and 29 yards offense at the time, quickly closed the margin to the 10-7 halftime score by going 70 yards in only six plays.
DuBose had runs of 10 and 12 yards and Sundberg passed Brian Heimer for 13 yards before his screen pass to DuBose turned into a touchdown with 10:31 left in the half.