LOS ANGELES — When the UCLA band played the Bruin alma mater after the football game in the Los Angeles Coliseum Saturday night, it sounded like a funeral dirge to the multitude of visiting Nebraska fans.
They had just witnessed the death of the Cornhusker dynasty.
The Cornhuskers' two-year reign over college football had come to an all-to-human end, with the spunky young Bruins pulling out a 20-17 victory in the final 22 seconds on Efren Herrera's 29-yard field goal.
Efren Herrera — a name Cornhusker fans will remember. The junior soccer-style kicker from La Puente, Calif.
He gave the 67,702 fans gathered here on an otherwise gorgeous fall evening an early indication of things to come with a 27-yard boot for a 3-0 UCLA lead in the first quarter.
The deciding swing of his leg ended Nebraska's grid supremacy by severing the victory string at 23 games and undefeated chain at 32.
The last Nebraska loss was a 17-7 setback at Missouri in the fourth game of 1970. The winning string was started the first game after the Huskers played to a 21-21 tie with Southern California in the last visit here two years ago.
UCLA's victory was hardly a fluke. Pepper Rodgers' second Bruin team was infinitely better than his 1971 bunch that went 2-7-1. The Huskers knew they had problems when they fell behind by 10-0 in the second quarter.
It was catch-up all night, but it is to the credit of Coach Bob Devaney's final team that they catch up —twice, 10-10 just before the half and 17-17 seconds into the final quarter.
But only so much could be asked of the Blackshirts. The offense repeatedly misfired and turned the ball over to the home squad five times — three times on fumbles and twice on pass interceptions.
Each turnover gave the upstart Uclans more confidence, and caused that of the Huskers to waver.
Although it seemed that the Huskers were backed up to the Coliseum walls on defense all evening, they had as many opportunities to move the ball as UCLA, with the number of offensive plays coming out 69-69.
The importance of the offensive miscues is apparent when examining Nebraska's 18-13 advantage in first downs and 320-284 edge in total yards.
But with sophomore James McAlister spearheading the wishbone-T attack with 90 yards in 18 carries, the Bruins chugged out 219 yards on the ground to Nebraska's 193.
Husker sophomore David Humm had the passing edge over Bruin Mark Harmon, a skillful junior college transfer student. Humm left-handed 21 passes, completing eight, saw four dropped in the first half, had two intercepted, and hit tight end Jerry List for a 44-yard touchdown pass.
Harmon completed four of eight for 65 yards, including a 46-yarder for a touchdown.
Herrera's dramatic chip shot in the final seconds came in Nebraska-like style with the Bruins controlling the ball for nearly the final six minutes in a pressure drive.
Husker Rich Sanger punted to the UCLA 43 with 6:13 remaining. Harmon drove his team to the Husker 30, only to be pushed back by Rich Glover, the game's outstanding defensive player, when Kermit Johnson was decked for a three-yard loss.
Then came the play that really decided it.
Harmon dropped back to pass and was nearly dropped again by right defensive end Tom Pate, but the Bruin leader stepped away and hit tight end Jack Lassner over the middle for 13 yards to the 20 on third and 11.
From there it was keep in position and wait for the clock to run down. The timing was perfect for UCLA.
Jimmy Allen's second pass interception had given UCLA good field position with a 37-yard return to N.U.'s 15 early in the third quarter as the teams battled at 10-10.
Five plays later, Harmon sliced between Glover and Monte Johnson for two yards and the second UCLA lead.
Nebraska gamely battled back opening the final quarter after downing a punt on the 44.
After Bill Olds and Dave Goellen picked up 12 yards on two plays. Humm winged a pass to tight end end Jerry List in the open over the middle.
List showed no sign of being slowed by summer back surgery as he outleged Allen and Allan Ellis 44 yards to make it 17-17.
The Huskers found themselves in the precarious 0-10 situation in the second quarter with an offense that gave the ball away twice on fumbles and saw four passes dropped.
Meanwhile, the proud defensive Blackshirts were being treated with an unaccustomed lack of respect by the young Bruin attack unit.
James McAlister, who the fans of Westwood had been waiting two years to see, signaled what was to come when he spun out of a tackle and carried 35 yards to the Nebraska 38 yard line on UCLA's first possession.
That drive was stopped, and Joe Blahak blocked Efren Herrera's 52-yard field goal attempt.
But the Bruins weren't to be denied long. On the next play Husker fullback Bill Olds lost the ball in front of the Bruin bench, with Cal Peterson coming up with it on Nebraska's 35-yard line.
It took UCLA 11 plays before Herrera chipped in with a 27-yard field goal with 4:05 remaining in the first quarter.
That 3-0 deficit was the first time since Nov. 21, 1970 that an opponent had scored first on N.U. Oklahoma was the culprit.
Nebraska hadn't been behind that much since Oct. 17, 1970, when Kansas held a 20-10 lead in the second quarter of a 41-20 Nebraska win.
But that wasn't all for the pesky Uclans. They left the 15,000 Husker rooters in a daze by pushing the count to 10-0 with 7:21 left in the half.
Another bobble was responsible, this time by Gary Dixon after he had stepped 13 yards to the N.U. 46. Again Peterson was the bad guy.
Then the shocker. Bruin quarterback Mark Harmon faked a run into the line, stepped back and lofted a strike to Brad Lyman, who had beaten Joe Blahak by a step at the five. Lyman stepped in uncontested, and Herrera added the extra point.
So it came down, it seems almost naturally, for Johnny Rodgers to get Nebraska untracked. The senior flanker took a punt 50 yards to the UCLA 20 on the first time N.U. touched the ball after a missed Rich Sanger 24-yard field goal attempt.
The Huskers couldn't punch it in from there because of penalty trouble, but Sanger ended the frustration with a 28-yarder with 5:48 remaining to make the score 10-3.
Then it looked like the Huskers of old.
Taking possession on their own 22 with 3:45 to go in the half, N.U. drove to the tying score in six plays, big thanks going to defender Allen Ellis who interfered with receiver Bob Revelle on a pass to the UCLA 11. It amounted to a 42-yard penalty.
Then, it was Rodgers' turn again. He swept left end, running right through Ellis at the 10 and took two defenders into the end zone with him with 2:26 left.
|Yards per carry||3.6||3.6|
Nebraska is 7-6 all-time against UCLA.
|Texas A&M||Sept. 16|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 28|
|Iowa State||Nov. 11|
|Kansas State||Nov. 18|
|Notre Dame||Jan. 1|
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