LINCOLN — With victory in easy reach, Nebraska collapsed Saturday to present Oklahoma State with a 7-6 win.
The Oklahoma State explosion came in the last 4¼ minutes of an ultra-conservative game as Nebraska was enjoying what appeared to be a comfortable one touchdown lead.
A fumble, weak defense and mental lethargy combined in the Scarlet downfall.
Until those closing minutes, the punchless Cowboy offense, which mirrored the Nebraska attack, never assumed alarming dimensions.
A fatal Nebraska fumble came when Nebraska appeared to have the stubborn battle of defenses and hitless offenses well in hand.
Tackle Frank Parker’s recovery gave Oklahoma State possession on the Nebraska 29.
In eight plays the Cowboys turned defeat into victory.
Sophomore Ted Davis, conversion specialist who has missed only one try this year, placekicked the go-ahead point with 1:19 left.
Nebraska, badly outplayed after the intermission, with no weapons for a counter-attack, floundered miserably in the closing seconds.
The highly controversial Pat Fischer was hero, then got of the long afternoon featuring largely defensive maneuvering.
It was Fischer’s fumble which cut the Cowboys loose from the corral for their winning ride.
But, it was fearless Pat’s long range wallop which gave the 24 thousand, smallest Lincoln turnout in years, their only chance to cheer.
Fischer’s home run punch was an 84-yard punt return.
The run-back was strictly a Fischer specialty. Pat making the catch on the 16, crossing the hash marks at the 25 then cruising down the sidelines.
Past mid-field he appeared to be home free, End Bill Comstock settling all doubt by up-ending Cowboy Billy York at the 30.
For the conversion Ron Meade came off the bench for the first time in three weeks. His effort had plenty of height but was to the left.
This error by the usually reliable junior didn’t appear serious until the Oklahomans came to life in the closing minutes.
Ahead six points, Nebraska’s strategy appeared to be to make the touchdown stand up for a victory.
The Cornhuskers decision to go the conservative route may have been influenced by the inability of the Nebraska offense to mesh in gear.
Even the introduction of a pigeon-toed T version of the double wing for spice failed to help the Huskers.
Oklahoma State also was having its troubles and until the Cowboy’s winning drive in the closing minutes the game was waged mostly between the 30-yard stripes.
The Fischer fumble which sprung the trap, came after Pat had signaled a fair catch of Dave Hannah’s punt on the Nebraska 27.
On the first play, Fischer apparently trying for a keeper, reversed into the line and lost control of the ball.
Cowboy Parker recovered on the Nebraska 29.
During the eight-play drive for the winning touchdown, the Cornhuskers twice had the Oklahomans on the hook with fourth down and seven and fourth down and eight situations.
Aside from Fischer’s long scoring run, all the excitement of the game was packed into this O.S. thrust.
Striking from the 29, Fullback Rich Buck fumbled for a two-yard gain, then Quarterback Jim Elliott was stopped at the line of scrimmage.
When the Pokes tried a third-down pass, Nebraska’s Pat Clare delivered what would have been the game-saving play had the final score showed a 6-0 victory for Nebraska.
Clare roared over to deflect an Elliot pass triggered for End Billy Dodson, alone in the end zone.
Pat’s great save went for naught when Elliot connected with a fourth-down pitch to Tommy Jackson. The O.S. end had eluded the Cornhusker secondary and stumbled out of bounds on the Nebraska 13.
When three line plays go only five yards, it was apparent the O.S. fourth-down try was to be a forward pass.
This was indicated when Elliott, the Cowboy passer, faded back only to discover the busy Nebraskans had all receivers well covered.
The Huskers had the ends and backs so well smothered they neglected to rush or cover the middle.
Elliott, sensing the Huskers were asleep, quickly headed directly for pay territory.
In the eight-yard jaunt he had only to side-step one red-shirted tackler, End Don Purcell hit him from the side on the goal line and the Cowpoke quarterback tumbled across the final stripe.
Aside from Fischer’s brilliant punt return, Nebraska’s only scoring threats were jammed into the first half.
These were mild gestures which enabled the Huskers to camp in Oklahoma territory most of the first two quarters.
A second-period thrust got as far as the O.S. 27, thanks to a Fischer 13-yard sweep. Pat really got to the Cowboy 16 but a clipping penalty spoiled most of the gain.
Another bid bogged down on the O.S. 22 when Ron Meade’s passes went haywire and his placekick from the 30 was far short.
Before intermission, Nebraska outdowned the Cowboys, 7-4, and led, 128-59, in yardage.
The second half was an entirely different story with O.S. holding a 7-3 edge in first downs and a 128-83 bulge in yardage.
The fourth quarter was well along before the Huskers finally got their initial second-half first down.
This was the result of a well executed bootleg by Fischer. Noel Martin sparked another first down before this lone after intermission penetration of Oklahoma territory bogged down on the 32.
Before the fumble recovery which blitzed Nebraska hopes, Oklahoma State was across mid-field only twice.
The Cowboys got to the Nebraska 39 the first time they got the ball and were to the Nebraska 35 early in the fourth quarter.
Gang tackling by the Cornhuskers hurled back the first invasion. Clay White’s piracy of an Elliot pitch stymied the second thrust.
Except for Fischer’s scoring jaunt and the short Oklahoma State drive, the only excitement which kept the spectators awake was mid-field head-butting by Nebraska Gary Toogood and Oklahoma Rodney Replogle.
This flare-up late in the first quarter drew only a warning from the officials.
Nebraska had the better of the rushing argument but failed miserably through the air.
Coach Bill Jennings used Fischer, Meade and John Faiman but all 10 pitches missed the target.
Oklahoma State hit three of nine tries, including the big one which saved the touchdown drive.
Nebraska, 3-6 for the season and 1-6 in the conference, closes at Oklahoma Saturday. Oklahoma State, 3-5 for the season and 2-3 in the league, winds up with Colorado and Oklahoma U, at home.
Nebraska is 37-5 all-time against Oklahoma State.
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