MANHATTAN, Kan. — Nebraska's topsy-turvy football season closed with a thud Saturday as Kansas State up-ended the Cornhuskers, 29-14.
The Huskers saved their most miserable performance for the finale of a 4-6 campaign which saw the Scarlet rise to great heights against Minnesota and Oklahoma.
K-State's victory salvaged considerable from a 2-8 season.
The win may have saved the job of Wildcat coach Bus Mertes, whose athletes celebrated their only conference victory of the year by giving their mentor a shoulder ride after the game.
Before game time, alumni had threatened to ride Mertes out on a rail. His resignation had been reported due this week.
A slim crowd of 6,500 saw the Wildcats come from behind twice to win going away.
For the handful of Nebraskans who trailed the varsity south, it was the old, old story.
The Cornhusker offensive, monotonously striving to grind out yardage the hard way, clicked only on two brief occasions.
Inability to gain consistently was particularly painful the second and third quarters, during which Nebraska had a 25-mile wind at its back. Going into the breeze, the Wildcats outscored the Scarlet, 14-7.
The Cats' 12-point last quarter with the wind was the clincher.
Nebraska's offensive ineptitude was exceeded only by a defense in which the line and secondary at times collaborated in near-complete disorganization.
Unable to score in four consecutive games, the Wildcats broke the shackles with a first-quarter field goal.
Before the matinee was over, the Wildcats had scored by every method possible except the two-point conversion.
Their production was three touchdowns, one on the ground, and two by air; three place-kick conversions; two field goals, and a safety.
Although badly routed at the finish, the Cornhuskers led twice during the drab afternoon.
The customers had hardly settled on their perches before Nebraska had seven points.
During these early seconds it seemed the long absent Nebraska offense was to move in gear.
Dallas Dyer ran the end zone kick-off to the N.U. 30 and the Huskers swept 70 yards in five plays.
Carroll Zaruba got the big bite when he rambled 66 yards.
Pappy's sprint was a near-duplication of his touchdown run against Colorado.
Breaking loose on a third-and-14 situation, Zaruba nearly went the route.
Three Wildcats gave chase and Dale Evans finally caught the Fullerton senior from behind on the K-State six.
Dyer smashed across from the three on the second try and Ron Meade converted to give the Scarlet a 7-0 bulge with only 1:59 played.
The touchdown evidently made the Cornhuskers fat. They sat back on their haunches in a "waiting defense."
With the secondary playing cat and mouse against the K-State spread and tacklers up front diving at shadows, the Huskers saw their lead threatened, 7-3, by the end of the quarter and disappear, 10-7, by halftime.
The aggressive Wildcats used the spread to move across mid-field and a power attack to keep the Scarlet off balance in scoring territory as they served early notice they were out to win.
After the Nebraska score, the Wildcats took the kick-off nearly 70 yards before yielding when fullback Tony Tiro's fourth-down plunge was six inches short of the end zone.
The Nebraska line collaborated on the stop after Blaylock hit end Vern Osborne with a third-down pass that was just a yard short of a touchdown.
Harry Tolly's punt got to the Nebraska 42 and the Husker defense couldn't make a stand until Kansas State penetrated to the Nebraska 24.
Stymied when passer John Solmos fumbled in a deep spread, K-State signaled for John French, the field goal specialist.
French's kick was dead center from 45 yards out and K-State finished the first quarter trailing, 7-3.
The three points which set the Aggieville cannon booming didn't seem too serious to Nebraska when the Huskers ran the kick-off back to the Husker 40, then hurried to Kansas State's 15.
Dyer gave the Manhattan faithful a brief scare when he turned the corner from the K-State 42 and ran down the east sidelines to the end zone.
The Lexington sophomore's run was cut to 15 yards when he was called out of bounds on the K-State 27.
Three power plays carried to the 15 before Nebraska strategy called for a switch to the air.
The pass just missed the fingertips of end Dick McDaniel to land in the arms of K-State's Solmos.
Solmos made the steal on the Wildcat nine.
Kansas State then swept to midfield on passes off the spread as the Cornhusker defenders stood back to clamp tackles on receivers.
Once in Nebraska territory. Cat backs Evans, George Whitney, and J.B. Littlejohn alternated at shredding the Husker line and sweeping the ends.
With K-State in scoring range, Nebraska's Tolly was forced to the sidelines. Meade, his replacement, watched scatback Whitney whiz by him for seven yards and a first down on the Nebraska five.
Nebraska's Pat Fischer, bruised in the Colorado game, was rushed into the secondary. He watched as Evans took a Blaylock pass on his fingertips and pulled it in for the touchdown.
The play covered six yards, the Huskers having thrown the Cats for a yard loss on two line plays.
The clock showed 1:28 left in the first half when French's conversion gave the Wildcats their first advantage.
The Cornhuskers used less than four minutes of the third quarter to surge back in front. They halted the Wildcats at the K-State 33, then took charge on the Cat 41 when Blaylock's punt into the wind got only eight yards.
Nebraska used only three plays to roar ahead.
Clay White failed but Tolly got 22 yards on a roll-out to the right.
Zaruba, hitting the same position, swung the flank and ran 19 down the sideline to score.
Meade's second conversion made it Nebraska 14, Kansas State 10.
At this point coach Bill Jennings would have done well to call the Cornhuskers to the bus and head for Lincoln.
It would have saved the Huskers the embarrassment of watching the Wildcats run away to a convincing victory.
The Cats took the kick-off and, using Blaylock's arm as a springboard, paraded 65 yards to score.
Senior Max Falk got the first touchdown of his three-year career when he leaped over the Nebraska barrier from one yard out.
That made it 17-14, Kansas State, going into the final period.
But it didn't mean the spirited Wildcats were through. Far from it.
Catching fire when White fumbled the ball away near midfield, K-State moved form the Nebraska 40 to the 20 because the teams traded sides.
The first play of the fourth quarter was a weirdy with Blaylock throwing to Evans just inside the end zone.
Nebraska's Tolly went up with the receiver.
A simultaneous catch gave K-State the completion and Evans the touchdown.
French's kick boosted the Wildcat margin to 24-14.
Behind 10 points, Nebraska finally called on Fischer offensively.
Pat got 15 on the first scamper, then retired as the feeble Nebraska bid wilted at midfield.
The Cornhuskers were through but K-State wasn't.
The Wildcats swarmed Tolly in the end zone for a safety, then delivered the coup de grace by having French kick a field goal from 37 yards away.
The two field goals are French's entire production for the year.
With the Wildcats dominating the statistics, the only Nebraska bright spot was provided by Zaruba.
Pappy's 126 yards in 13 tries was the best individual effort.
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas State.
|Oregon State||Oct. 3|
|Iowa State||Nov. 7|
|Kansas State||Nov. 21|
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