Memorial Stadium, Lincoln — Nebraska waited until Missouri had 21 points before starting to play football here Saturday afternoon.
A punt return for a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half brought the Huskers out of their slumbers. Once aroused, they went on to score 20 points — but their slow start was fatal.
Coach Don Faurot’s Tigers pulled out with a 21-20 victory which left them undefeated in the Big Six Conference race.
But there wasn’t too much crabbing as 34 thousand thoroughly-chilled Homecoming Day fans filed out of the stadium.
They had seen one of the finest comebacks ever put on by a Nebraska team. And they applauded the effort, even to the extent of overlooking some dreadfully sluggish play in those first 29 minutes.
Before going into details of how the visiting Bengals collected 21 points in the first 25 minutes of the game, let’s concentrate on the sudden turn in Husker fortunes.
As the big field clock started its last time around in the second quarter, Bob Teel went back to punt for Mizzou.
The ball settled into Dick Hutton’s arms as he stood on the Nebraska 40-yard line.
The fleet Auburn 160-pounder started to his left, then clamped on the brakes and reversed his field. As he scooted toward the east sideline, he seemed to be trapped by Tiger end Melbourne Sheehan.
But Wally Hopp, playing in his first Husker varsity game of the year, was Johnny-on-the-spot. Hopp, still packing two hundred pounds after cutting off 35 since September 1, laid a beautiful block on Sheehan.
That sprung Hutton into the open — and he kept right on going. The clock showed five seconds left as Hutton dashed into the end zone to complete a 60-yard runback.
Sammy Vacanti’s attempt to add the point was wide. It didn’t look vital at that moment, but as things worked out that failure was the difference between defeat and a tie.
Fred Metheny directed the Husker T during an 89-yard scoring march. It started in the third quarter, and wound up with Jim Myers of York running five yards to a touchdown on the fourth play of the fourth period.
Actually the Huskers gained 104 yards on this drive, because once Metheny threw a lateral over Hutton’s head for a 15-yard loss.
Metheny chose his plays wisely on this sustained march, sending Hopp into the middle, Hutton, Bill Moomey and Myers wide, and flipping a pass now and then.
Willard Bunker, who played a fine last-half game at end, set the stage for the third Husker touchdown.
The veteran fell on a fumble by Leonard Brown to give Nebraska the ball on the Tiger 14-yard line. Metheny’s first pass from here was blocked. Then Sammy Vacanti came back into the game.
On his first play he rifled a bullet pass to big Jack Pesek. Tiger Jawn’s boy from Ravenna clutched the ball as he fell into the end zone.
Vacanti’s second successful conversion left the Huskers only a point behind — with eight minutes left to play.
What the Huskers tried in those remaining minutes sent shivers up and down the spines of the spectators. It was wild, chance-taking football, but it just wouldn’t produce a victory.
The Huskers had to wait until less than five minutes were left to get the ball back again.
When they did, they tried something they hadn’t used before this season. It was a wide spread formation, with all of the linemen out far to the left of center Joe Partington, and all of the backs except Vacanti far out to the right.
It worked once out of four times. On this try, Vacanti whipped a pass straight down the middle to Partington. Yes, to the center.
He was an eligible receiver because he was on the end of the line.
Partington’s catch was good for a gain of 10 yards and a first down. But three more desperate Vacanti passes fell incomplete, and Myers punted. Then Mizzou managed to hold the ball the last 2½ minutes.
So the Tigers protected their margin — a margin set up by first-half offensive play which fooled the Huskers completely.
Little Leonard Brown, the 143-pounder who took over as Mizzou T-formation director when Bus Entsminger was left at home with injuries, was clicking beautifully.
He kept sending his ball carriers wide on lateral passes to make Nebraska’s six-man line with three backers a failure.
Vacanti intercepted a pass on the Nebraska nine to stop an early Tiger scoring bid. But on the next play Dick Thompson fumbled, and end Roland Oakes recovered only six yards from the Nebraska goal.
In two plays, Bob Hopkins crashed outside tackle for a touchdown. Big Jim Kekeris kicked the first of three perfect placements.
In the second quarter, Lloyd Brinkman took a lateral from Brown and raced 40 yards down the east sidelines for a touchdown. Lee Bowman, 201-pound Tiger fullback, put a neat block on Tom Novak to clear the way.
Howard Bonnett’s wide run produced the third Missouri touchdown. He ran 12 to the Nebraska 26, and circled the Husker left end for a 26-yard scoring run.
Kekris calmly kicked the extra point — not knowing it would turn out to be the winning point.
Not knowing that Nebraska would control play the remaining 35 minutes.
Metheny, Hutton, Pesek, Hopp and Bunker already have been mentioned as Nebraska’s key men. Tackle Carl Samuelson also deserves mention for good tackle play.
Center Partington was on the field the full 60 minutes. Two of his usually dependable helpers, guards Freddy Lorenz and Eddie Schwartzkopf, both hobbled off the field with leg injuries.
Nebraska now has an open date before meeting Iowa State in the final home game November 16. And the Big Six title likely will be settled that same afternoon, when Missouri visits Oklahoma.
Nebraska is 65-36 all-time against Missouri.
|Kansas State||Oct. 5|
|Iowa State||Nov. 16|
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