MIAMI — Not long after kicker Michael Badgley arrived at Miami last summer, he made a bold comment to classmate Brad Kaaya: "One day, I'm going to kick the game-winning kick against Nebraska."
Badgley lived out his vision Saturday at Sun Life Stadium in a wild finish to the latest chapter of one of college football's greatest rivalries. The sophomore booted a 28-yard field goal in overtime to help the Hurricanes escape with a 36-33 win over Nebraska.
"Obviously every kicker wants to hit the bomb that's like 60 yards," Badgley said. "I'll take whatever it was."
Especially with the first-half surge and fourth-quarter collapse that preceded it, in front of an announced crowd of 53,580.
Receiver Rashawn Scott secured his second 100-yard game of the season before halftime. Kaaya threw two first-half touchdowns and clinched the fourth 300-yard passing game of his career before the fourth quarter even started. He finished with a career-high 379 yards, topping the mark of 359 he set last year, also against the Cornhuskers (1-2).
UM's defense was equally strong, forcing a three and out on four of the Huskers' first six possessions and helping give the 'Canes a 20-3 halftime lead. Badgley seemed to seal UM's second 3-0 start since 2004 with 11:14 left when he kicked his fourth field goal of the game to give UM a 33-10 lead.
"We kind of put it on ourselves," Huskers safety Nate Gerry said.
And Nebraska's offense put it on itself to get out of the hole.
Huskers quarterback Tommy Armstrong accounted for 204 yards of offense in the fourth quarter as the UM defense melted with two targeting penalties. Armstrong capitalized, leading three consecutive touchdown drives — all covering at least 75 yards.
He found Brandon Reilly on fourth and 12 for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 3:46 left in the game that cut UM's lead to 33-25 and had the 'Canes scrambling to figure out how their 23-point lead was disappearing.
"To be honest," linebacker Trent Harris said, "I don't even know."
When UM failed to pick up a first down on the ensuing drive, Armstrong had one more touch of magic left. He needed only 2:06 to drive 87 yards and hit Stanley Morgan Jr. for an 8-yard score.
Even though Kenny Calhoun was at the game, there was no replay of the 1984 Orange Bowl classic, when Calhoun batted away the two-point conversion to seal UM's first national title. Jordan Westerkamp caught Armstrong's pass to tie the score with 33 seconds left.
As overtime dawned, UM chose not to be haunted by its missed opportunities. The 'Canes advanced inside the Nebraska 15 three times after the third quarter but came away with only two field goals.
"Tomorrow is a day we talk about not getting touchdowns in the red zone," coach Al Golden said after the game. "Tonight we celebrate what we did in the end zone, and that's obviously what Badgley did."
Cornerback Corn Elder helped put Badgley in position for that kick with some heroics of his own. On the first play of overtime, Armstrong failed to see Elder streaking toward the end zone. Armstrong underthrew receiver Taariq Allen and hit Elder instead.
"It just came right to me," Elder said.
UM played for a field goal on its first overtime drive. Badgley said he was calm as he aimed for the white spot between the orange and green curves of the U logo. As soon as the ball left Badgley's foot, there was no doubt about the first winning kick of his college career.
"He wanted to do it last year, but that didn't happen," Kaaya said. "His wish came true."
Contact Matt Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.