LINCOLN — Nebraska toyed with the hopes of 31 thousand homecoming football fans for nearly 59 minutes Saturday, then dropped a 14-12 decision to Kansas that will keep second-guessers up late for many a night.
It was the wackiest game of the year for the Cornhuskers.
Kansas, expected to keep Nebraska in trouble with passes, threw only three times while running up more than twice its usual ground yardage.
Expected to give the Jayhawks fits with its running, Nebraska hit six of 10 passes in its best aerial exhibition of the season.
And at the finish, while dispirited fans trudged from the Stadium, Kansas players gave a jubilant shoulder ride to a coach who had announced his resignation just three days earlier.
Hounded at home, Chuck Mather was king for a day on foreign soil.
After a drab first half that found K.U. earning a 7-6 advantage, Nebraska brought the action to a boiling climax late in the fourth quarter.
The Huskers trailed by 12-12 when they started a scrimmage series on their own 35 midway in the period.
Five plays later, following a five-yard pitch from Larry Naviaux to Bill Hawkins, they were on the Kansas 17 with fourth down and three to make.
Would Nebraska try a field goal? It would have to be into a 20-mile-an-hour wind, but that looked like the decision when booter George Cifra trotted from the bench.
But it was a running play, with Naviaux driving hard for a first down on the 13. Loud cheers.
In three carries, Naviaux and Carroll Zaruba had another first and 10 on the two. Naviaux got to the one but Zaruba was thrown back to the two. Naviaux regained the yard.
Fourth and one yard from a touchdown that should clinch the victory. Only a minute and 15 seconds remained.
Some one rolled a kicking tee onto the field and fans shouted "no, no."
A five-yard penalty for delay of game set the ball back to the six. Field goal formation, Cifra in the slot. And the fact that Nebraska had been unable to convert after both its touchdowns was ringing in the mind of every onlooker.
The snap. The swing of the toe.
The ball wobbled crazily in the air, veered wide to the left and finally dribbled into the end zone. Larry Carrier picked it up and ran it out to the 31.
That was the game.
Kansas had scored the first time it had the ball, driving 86 yards in 14 plays. Quarterback Wally Strauch wheeled around left end for the final three yards.
Strauch also converted.
Nebraska didn't threaten until early in the second quarter when Charlie McCue fumbled on a punt reception and Husker sophomore LeRoy Zentic recovered on the K.U. 20.
A 10-yard toss from Naviaux to Doug Thomas was the key move as Nebraska took the ball to within a foot of the goal line.
Roy Stinnett slipped over on fourth down but Dick Prusia's kick was deflected by Jim Letcavits.
Minutes before the half, Nebraska swept 59 yards to the Jayhawk five. Stinnett fumbled at the point and K.U. still had its one-point margin at the rest period.
Still brimming with confidence at the outset of the third period, Nebraska forved a fumble by Homer Floyd and Mike Lee made the capture to set up a drive from the U.N. 42.
On third down, Naviaux cracked K.U. with a 30-yard pass to Thomas on the enemy 25.
Then it was Jerry Brown, Carroll Zaruba, Gene Sandage and Naviaux slamming through the line until again Nebraska was just one foot short of a touchdown.
And again Stinnett went over, slipping off the left shoulder of center Dick McCashland.
And again the Huskers failed to convert, Floyd breaking through to deflect the ball this time.
Facing a 7-12 deficit Mather juggled his backs and ordered a fast-break offense.
The first drive failed as McCashland and Zentic made the vital defensive plays.
But when Don Feller, 6-foot-2 fullback, stole a pass intended for Sandage, the Kansans were off and running toward the deciding points.
The 49-yard march carried into the fourth quarter and featured Letcavit's falling catch of a six-yard Straruch pitch into the end zone.
Strauch made it 14-12 but the Huskers had 12:45 in which to rally.
The first bid was thwarted by another Feller interception. The second was the one that brought the field goal decision and promise of a lively Monday morning for the downtown coaches.
Overshadowed by the disappointing final score were such Huskers bright spots as Zentic's good play, Max Martz's brilliant moments at end. Brown's best running of the year, Don Olson's 60 minutes at tackle and Stinnett's passing and punting.
Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.
|Washington State||Sept. 21|
|Kansas State||Oct. 5|
|Iowa State||Nov. 9|
Nebraska has played 19 games on Nov. 2. See them all »
©2019 BH Media Group