LINCOLN — Nebraska laughed at the odds-makers and smashed Oklahoma’s Big Eight Conference football dynasty Saturday, 25-21.
The Scarlet met the Oklahomans shoulder-to-shoulder in a hell-for-leather battle which dealt the Sooners their first defeat in 75 consecutive conference starts.
The victory was no fluke.
Nebraska pressured the Big Eight champions all the way.
The crowd of 34 thousand, on its feet the entire afternoon, saw the Huskers come from an early 0-7 deficit to lead, 12-7, in the second period.
The roaring throng cheered a 13-point comeback that erased a 12-14 half-time count to give Nebraska an 11-point bulge at 25-14 midway in the final quarter.
Having whipped the Oklahomans with a high-geared offense and gang-tackling defense, the Nebraskans uncorked a great defensive show in the final minutes to protect the victory.
During these closing seconds the Cornhuskers saw their 11-point cushion whittled to four with 4:06 left. The tension wasn’t eased until, with 25 seconds left, quarterback Ron Meade leaped high in the end zone to pick off a third-down Sooner pass.
Meade’s smart maneuver gave Nebraska a touchdown and permitted the Cornhuskers to run out the clock.
When the officials signaled the touchback, the crowd started moving from the stadium onto the field.
Before the celebrants left the field, the goal posts were stripped for the first time in Memorial Stadium history.
As the students paraded the campus they were met by Chancellor Clifford Hardin, who had hung out the “No Classes Monday” sign.
In addition to matching Oklahoma touchdown for touchdown, the energetic Nebraskans added insult to injury by booting field goals at each end of the field.
Meade, the young Canby, Minn., sophomore whose toe performed so ably against Minnesota and Oregon State, kicked deadeye placements from 22 and 33 yards out.
He worked into a crosswind as he sent Nebraska in front, 15-14, in the third quarter and widened the gap to 11 points in the final period.
While Meade provided the margin of victory, a pair of sensational punt returns broke Oklahoma’s back.
Both runs came with such shocking suddenness they left the Sooners temporarily stunned.
LeRoy Zentic, a lineman, got credit for the first return, one of the many plays which backfired for O.U.
Leading, 7-6,-and deep in its own territory, Oklahoma strategy called for a quick-kick by quarterback Bob Cornell.
When Nebraska linemen rushed through the Oklahoma barrier, Cornell wilted under the pressure.
The ball slithered off his foot six yards into the arms of the surprised Zentic.
The Husker guard, however, was equal to the occasion.
Without breaking stride he hot-footed it 36 yards to the end zone. Zentic was in trouble only at the 20 and teammate Jim Moore cut down the frantic Sooner who was in the way.
The touchdown moved Nebraska ahead, 12-7, and took considerable sting out of the comeback touchdown which enabled Oklahoma to lead at the half, 14-12.
Nebraska was trying desperately to nurse a 15-14 lead into a victory when the brilliant Pat Fischer electrified the crowd and chilled the Sooners with a sensational 48-yard punt runback.
Going into the final period one point behind, the Sooners, usually offensive-minded, suddenly decided to play for the breaks.
Wahoo McDaniel’s quick-kick starting the final period was nullified somewhat by Fischer’s 15-yard return to the Nebraska 45.
When the Husker offense stalled, Harry Tolly, whose punting contributed much to the enjoyment of the Nebraska fans, lofted a high, 46-yard kick that Sooner quarterback Bob Boyd elected to ignore.
With Boyd watching, the ball rolled dead on the O.U. four.
After gaining six yards on the first thrust, Boyd again called on McDaniel for a punt.
The Sooner strategy reckoned not with the elusive Mr. Fischer.
Pat, racing back under the punt, grabbed the ball on the Nebraska 36 and headed goalward.
The swivel-hipped, side-stepping Fischer had the Sooner defense so badly befuddled Pat ran head on into an Oklahoma tackler, bounced off and raced deep into enemy territory.
Only fast footwork by Oklahoma’s capable Brewster Hobby prevented the touchdown.
But Hobby’s tackle on the O.U. three was merely momentary relief for the Bud Wilkinson clan.
Dallas Dyer gained a yard at the Oklahoma left end, Don Fricke picked up another, then quarterback Tolly shouldered across on the third-down sneak.
The Sooners threw their entire strength into the middle, but Harry pushed in to the right of his center with just enough margin for the important six points.
Nebraska marched 43 yards in 10 plays for its first touchdown.
The Cornhuskers got this early chance when the sputtering Sooner machine was stalled by fumbles and miserable punting.
During this early lapse, the Sooners were guilty of about every error in the book.
These included an Oklahoma safety man trying to move the ball after signaling for a fair catch, a penalty that shoved O.U. back to its three.
Then followed a McDaniel punt that ricocheted off a teammate’s back, which the Sooners luckily recovered in time for another try from the 10.
These blunders enabled Nebraska to keep the play in Oklahoma territory.
Dyer’s short return of a kick to the Oklahoma 43 cleared the way for the first Nebraska tally.
The Huskers were to the Oklahoma 32 by the end of the first quarter.
The crowd warmed up when Fischer ran to the Sooner eight on a quick opener, then went wild when Tolly hit end Dick McDaniel with a fourth-down pitch for the touchdown.
The Oklahoma defense had concentrated on the flanks and left the middle open. McDaniel’s catch was routine, the play was so well executed.
The crowd, which had seen Oklahoma score from the opening kick-off, came off the seats when McDaniel tossed the ball to the referee.
They were not too unhappy when Nebraska gambled for the go-ahead two points and lost when Fischer led Clay White too much with an end zone pass.
Oklahoma’s three touchdowns came quickly and with a fair amount of ease.
But the fumbling fashion in which the Sooners got their first tally could have been a tip-off that this wasn’t to be Oklahoma’s day.
The opening drive required less than three minutes and needed only nine plays to send Prentice Gautt across for the score.
But en route the Sooners were saved by two lucky breaks.
The first came near midfield when quarterback Boyd fumbled and Nebraska’s Zentic recovered.
LeRoy’s alert work was nullified by a Nebraska offside.
Sixteen yards from touchdown territory the Sooners profited by another break.
This was after Hobby fielded a 12-yard Boyd pass on the Nebraska 16.
Tackled hard, Hobby fumbled. The ball squirted around on the ground and finally was recovered by a Nebraskan.
This alert Cornhusker play was nullified as the recovery was out of bounds.
The Sooners then rode into touchdown land on a nine-yard dive buck by Hobby, an offside penalty on Nebraska and a pay-off plunge by Gautt.
Jim Davis’s place-kick conversion gave O.U. 7-0 command.
The second O.U. touchdown was achieved with the same speed.
This march, late in the second quarter, needed only eight plays with Cornell squirming over from the Nebraska six on a keeper play.
Again Davis converted and the Sooners went to rest leading by a shaky 14-12.
The third Sooner touchdown also was a quickie.
The Oklahomans struck with a startling swiftness after Meade’s 33-yard field goal shot Nebraska ahead, 25-14.
There was 7:20 left and Boyd started the comeback try with a 13-yard kick-off return to the O.U. 33.
Gautt fumbled but recovered as he ate up 18 yards on the first rush.
Eight plays later Gautt slanted across from the three and when Davis kicked his third conversion the scoreboard read Nebraska 25, Oklahoma 21.
There was 4:06 remaining when Davis kicked off to Dyer, who got back to the Husker 19.
Only 2:15 remained when John Bond’s punt surrendered the ball to O.U. on the Sooner 42.
A fancy pass play with Wahoo McDaniel receiving carried to the Nebraska 40.
The clock showed 1:10 left when Gautt slipped, then recovered in time to get to the Nebraska 27 with a fourth-down plunge.
With the clock running, Oklahoma switched frantically to the air.
Those closing seconds to the thousands of Nebraskans were just as nerve-wracking as the early play when the Scarlet was riding its victorious offensive maneuvers.
It was evident Oklahoma would take to the air with its final threat.
The stadium became a bedlam as fans shouted encouragement, advice and caution.
The Nebraska and Oklahoma benches joined in the general uproar.
First Sooner play was a Boyd-to-McClellan pass, Fricke leaped to bat the ball out of play.
Forty-three seconds remained as Carroll Zaruba and Dyer spoiled a Boyd pitch to Wahoo McDaniel in the end zone.
The third and last Sooner effort was a pitch to Hobby. Passer Boyd was rushed so hard he threw wildly with Nebraska’s Meade on the other end.
Nebraska is 38-45 all-time against Oklahoma.
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|Iowa State||Nov. 7|
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