LINCOLN — Bennie Dillard came off the Nebraska bench to carry the ball on only three running plays Saturday.
But those three rushes were sufficient to turn a lackluster game into a 17-7 Cornhusker victory over Kansas State.
Two of Dillard’s sweeps packed touchdown punch. He swept from the four to give the Huskers a 10-0 bulge, then in the closing seconds circled the flank from the five for the clincher.
Earlier the speedy back had scampered 34 yards to set up Ron Meade’s field goal which broke the ice in a game which appeared headed for a disgusting stalemate.
This was Dillard’s first appearance this season. His 43 yards in three carries gave him high game average of 14.3.
And, in view of the weak scoring punch flashed by the Huskers in recent week ends, fans leaving the Stadium raised the question. “Where has Bennie been hiding?”
Possibly Cornhusker Coach Bill Jennings has been saving Dillard just for the Wildcats.
Three years ago Bennie with a sweep, nearly a dead ringer for his pay-off jaunts Saturday, scored the touchdown which gave Nebraska a 14-7 victory at Manhattan, the last time the Huskers have clipped the Cats.
Until Dillard brought the Cornhuskers to life, a near capacity crowd of 38 thousand watched a sluggish battle in which both teams were guilty of frequent errors — mental and physical.
Before finally clicking the Huskers passed up gilt-edge scoring opportunities either through five-thumbed ball handling or inability to muster a faint semblance of an offense.
The first half was so sad most of the musicians participating in the sensational halftime Band Day spectacular left for home during the intermission.
They had seen two drab periods in which the rival teams had collaborated on only four first downs, gained a combined 53 yards on the ground and 26 through the air while losing the ball three times on fumbles.
With the game scoreless Nebraska blew a chance after Center Mick Tinglehoff had made a brilliant recovery catch of a Nebraska pass.
The pitch was short and Tinglehoff became eligible after the ball had bounced off the hands of two would-be interceptors, Linebackers Kouneski and Finfrock.
Mick was downed on the K-State 33. A fourth down plunged by Dallas Dyer failed on the 24.
Dillard’s big moment which broke the game open came with 6:15 left in the third period.
Ron Blaylock, who beat the Huskers with his passing a year ago, had kicked out on the Nebraska 45.
The crowd which had had little opportunity to cheer, didn’t raise a ripple as Dillard entered the game. But Bennie soon brought them to their feet.
Tucking the ball under his arm he set sail to the right and catching the Wildcat flanker asleep scampered 34 yards to the Kansas State 21 before punched at the east sideline.
A five-yard penalty set the Huskers back. When a Pat Fischer keeper lost a yard, a Clay White reverse got only two and Fischer-Warren Powers pass was stopped on the 20, a field goal situation presented itself.
Ron Meade rushed onto the field and with a 10:45 played in the third period his field goal from the 27 spotted the Huskers a 3-0 advantage.
Meade’s successful placement was from the same angle from which Kansas State’s Blaylock had been successful from the 28 midway in the first quarter.
Blaylock’s effort, however, was nullified by an “illegal procedure penalty,” an infraction which became more costly to the K-State cause as the afternoon moved along.
Two minutes after Meade’s placement a K-State fourth-down gamble which backfired set up the first Nebraska touchdown.
Blaylock on a fourth and 10 call on his own 30 elected to fake a kick.
The Huskers had a good rush going and the Wildcat punter evidently thought he could make it.
His judgement was faulty by exactly 13 yards as Tryone Robertson, fine Nebraska sophomore guard, collared him on the K-State 23.
From that spot, the Huskers, listless in previous tries, used only three plays to score.
Fischer, who earlier had been having his worst afternoon, got the big bites on keepers of nine and 10 yards.
These quick rushes by Pat brought the ball to the K-State four and it was mere routine for Dillard to pedal through the Wildcat left flank to score.
Bennie swung wide, cut back inside and landed belly-buster in the end zone.
There was one minute left in the third period when Meade’s conversion gave the Huskers a 10-0 advantage.
These 10 points looked like a safe margin to all except the scrappy Wildcats who caught fire for the only time during the matinee.
Clay White’s fumble gave the Kansans their chance.
Fullback John Finfrock’s quick kick with the wind had rolled into the end zone and Nebraska, scrimmaging from its 20, didn’t signal distress until White lost control.
Center Al Kouneski gave K-State life on the Nebraska 25 and the Cats went from there.
The Scarlet defense which had worked to perfection in the early going yielded but not until forcing the Wildcats to make a good fourth-down plunges.
Blaylock got needed yardage both times on a sneak and it was his second-down plunge which brought the score.
The busy Blaylock kicked the extra point and fans who had beat it for the exits when the scoreboard showed 10-0 hustled back to their seats.
Pressing by three points, K-State made one more bid.
This was with four minutes remaining after a holding penalty had bogged down a 40-yard Husker drive and Archie Cobb had lofted a third-down punt into the end zone.
A 16-yard pass, Blaylock to Dale Evans, on the first play had the thousand Manhattan followers cheering for a rally.
With the Husker umbrella spreading wide, ‘Cat passes went haywire as Nebraska took over on the Kansas State 37.
There was 2:30 left and Nebraska used all but 10 seconds of this to get the clincher.
A 20-yard plunge by ThunderThorn ton signaled the score and when Fischer and Thornton got only nine yards, Dillard rushed in for the fourth-down play.
Bennie once more found the K-State left flank vulnerable as he dodged two tacklers and slipped away from two others for the touchdown.
Meade’s conversion merely emphasized the margin of victory.
Efforts of both teams to cash in on breaks during the first half were pitiful.
The game was only a couple of minutes old before End Darrell Elder blocked Cobb’s kick to give Kansas State possession on the Nebraska 20.
It was well for the Huskers the ball crossed the side stripe as neither Cobb nor the other Huskers were in position to stymie a runback.
The ‘Cats worked a fourth-down pass to Evans for a first down on the Nebraska 15, then wilted under the pressure from Husker End Don Purcell and Thornton.
When a penalty nullified Blaylock’s field goal the ‘Cats elected a pass. Blaylock’s pitch was low and Evan’s dive in the end zone was short.
Nebraska needed only one play to return possession to their opponents.
Fischer’s pitch-out deep in Husker territory never reached Bernie Clay and Elder recovered to give K-State the ball on the Nebraska seven.
Co-Captain Ron McDole held Blaylock to a yard and Thornton’s shoestring pass interception enabled Nebraska to take over on its four.
Cobb’s booming punts kept the pressure on K-State the second quarter.
Nebraska got its first chance when Archie’s kick sailed and rolled 80 yards into the K-State end zone.
The Huskers took over on the Wildcats 23 when Dick Kosier recovered Finfrock’s fumble.
Two plays and Finfrock had erased his error by recovering a fumble by Nebraska’s Pat Clare.
Each team flubbered one more chance before the intermission.
Evans interception of a Rischer pitch and runback to the Nebraska 37 was stymied by a clipping penalty and a great rush-tackle by Husker Pat Salerno o passer John Solmos near midfield.
A minute before the halftime gun a Faiman-White pass for 18 tot eh K-State 30 plus a personal foul had Nebraska 15 yards from a touchdown.
The Huskers lost 17 yards trying to get off pass plays and Meade came in for a field goal attempt from the K-State 47.
This optimistic call demanded a 57-yard boot and Meade’s best got only to the goal line.
Doug Weaver, ailing K-State coach missed the game. He would have applauded the aggressive play of his young club which shone defensively but was unable to muster an offense.
A scoreless stalemate would have been satisfactory to the K-State backers.
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas State.
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