AMES, Iowa — Nebraska football team played like a winner all the way Saturday, earning a 16-13 decision over favored Iowa State as sophomore Denny Claridge came of age as quarterback and Thunder Thornton turned in another awesome power performance.
Handicapped to lose by six points, the Huskers established much better command than the final margin indicates.
Only two second remained after Iowa State swept to its final touchdown on four spectacular passes by Dave Hoppmann, who started connecting from his own end zone.
Nebraska’s superiority had been established long before that on battering-ram line play sparked by End Don Purcell and a driving attack headed by Claridge, Thornton, Dennis Stuewe and surprising Dick Callahan, a red-headed rookie from Sioux Falls, S.D.
Thornton, whose 92 yards topped the entire Cyclone rushing output, was ejected late in the game when he decided to retaliate after being roughed in a pile-up.
That punishment was technically proper but brought Husker assistant George Kelly on the field raging at the actual injustice of the situation.
Later, the Cornhuskers could relax and smile at having cracked their losing streak at four game while keeping alive a possible first-division finish in the Big Eight Conference.
Nebraska outdowned the Iowans, 18-10, and emerged with an advantage of 238-91 in rushing. Hoppmann’s 11 completions gave the losers a bulge of 180 yards to 88 in passing.
Hoppmann was anything but a flop in defeat before a crowd estimated at 15 thousand.
With 84 yards on the ground, he moved his season total to 873, breaking the school record of 844 he set last year as a sophomore. The versatile tailback added 264 yards to the 1,268 that made him national total-offense leader going into this game.
However, Nebraskans had heroes of their own aplenty.
Claridge ran for 33 yards, passed for another 83, averaged 40 yards on five punts and at all time exhibited the poise that can be gained only with experience.
A sample of his running:
Nebraska faced a third-and-three situation on the Cyclone 34, early in the final quarter as it moved toward the clinching touchdown. Claridge’s long strides took him around right end, where he lowered his head and flattened two erstwhile tacklers for a first-and-10 on the 27.
Thornton, as usual, garnered most of his yardage the hard way, splitting tacklers, crashing into Cyclones head first and often climbing the backs of friend and foe.
It was a two-yard plunge to the Iowa State six that led to his banishment late in the game. Roughed after the tackle, he came up swinging at Dick Limerick. An official quickly wrestled Thornton back as Limerick refused to swing.
The 15-yard penalty blunted the drive, but Thunder's teammates were understanding. Moments earlier, Husker Tackle Bob Jones had been withdrawn from combat after making like a pugilist in Cyclone Tom Parrish’s presence.
Purcell enjoyed one of his finest afternoons as a Husker, blocking sharply, defending like a man obsesses and hauling in three passes for 65 yards.
His first reception, on the initial play of Nebraska’s first-quarter touchdown thrust, was good for 16 yards to the Iowa State 40. When Captain John Cooper plopped on Purcell after the play, officials marched off another 15 yards.
Three plays advanced the ball to the 13, from where Calridge pitched to Halfback Callahan. The South Dakotan, who started the season as a third-string end, made a fine catch and twisted free to the two-yard line.
Thornton was a foot short of a touchdown, but Claridge bored to the right of Center Mick Tingelhoff for the first points of the game. Meade kicked the count to 7-0.
On the sharply executed drive, Claridge co-ordinated a backfield with Callahan at left half, Stuewe at right half and Thornton at fullback.
The patchwork crew, evolved from injuries to Willie Ross and Rudy Johnson, could have passed for a pro quartet.
Iowa State struggled 19 and a half minutes before producing a first down. The threat was wiped out on the N.U. 26, where Claridge made a lunging spear of a Hoppmann pass intended for J.W. Burden.
The dogged Cyclones soon forced a Nebraska punt, however, which was held up by the 12-mile-an-hour wind and downed on the Cyclone 43.
Hoppmann pitched to Burden for seven, then barreled around right end behind stout single-wing blocking. Dave swerved and ducked to elude three pockets of tacklers, took advantage of a block near the 25 and rode the sideline the rest of the way with a convoy that had no challengers.
Fans still were screaming over the 50-yard sprint when Larry Schreiber kicked his fourteenth consecutive conversion of the year for a 7-7 tie.
Six and a quarter minutes remained in the half.
A 58-yard quick kick by Dave Clayberg could have put the Huskers in a hole shortly before the intermission, but Stuewe, a fleet junior from Hamburg, Minn., got free for a 45-yard return to the Nebraska 47.
Bernie Clay rambled three yards and Claridge pitched for 36 to Purcell, who outlasted Clayberg in a shoulder-bumping "rooster fight" for the catch.
With the final seconds slipping away, Meade rushed onto the field and catapulted his field goal through the uprights from the 21. One second remained when the officials confirmed his accuracy.
In the first five minutes of the third quarter, Nebraska muscled its way from the Cyclone 48 to the 15, where End Steve Sturek knocked Meade out of bounds on a keeper at right end. Claridge and Meade misfired on one pass each as the bid fizzled.
The plucky home club fought back for 65 yards in seven plays that reached to the N.U. 20. Then, as Hoppmann rocketed forward on second down, the ball was knocked from his grasp and Jed Rood recovered for Nebraska on the 22.
That put the Huskers in business for their 78-yard excursion capped by Thornton’s touchdown plunge.
Callahan and Thornton contributed some of their most bullish running to this effort. Claridge passed only twice, Burden spoiling one attempt and Purcell grabbing the other for a gain of 12.
The final first down before the score found Thornton roaring on fourth-and-one. He scaled a huge stack of players for one vital yard to the four.
Ross, who had been announced as not making the trip, got a fat three and Thornton completed the job with 8:31 to play.
Meade’s kick was wide but the 16-7 margin appeared safe.
Outstanding work by Claridge in the defensive secondary spoiled the Cyclones’ ensuing air attack, but when Nebraska roughed Gary Ellis on a punt, Iowa State kept possession.
This time Hoppmann fired to Limerick for 18 yards and a first down on the Nebraska 17. Bob Brown and Ron Michka teamed to throw Hoppmann for a three-yard loss on the next play and moments later John Cooper’s pass was intercepted by Claridge on the goal line and returned 49 yards.
Nebraska killed valuable time on a march that died just outside the Iowa State three after Thornton and Gary Toogood had been chased for punching.
The last-gasp effort by Iowa State found Hoppmann hitting Randy Kidd for 21 yards, Limerick on a breath-taking play of 61 yards to the Scarlet 15, Limerick again to the six and Limerick still again for the touchdown.
Mixed in were three incomplete tosses as John Kirby, Dick McDaniel and Purcell made key defensive plays.
Purcell slammed into Hoppmann and took him to the ground as he cut loose with the conversion pass that could have sliced the score to 16-15. It was a wobbly throw which Larry Montre, in the end zone, couldn’t control.
The game ended and more fists flew as Iowa State recovered its short kick-off.
The victory gives Nebraska a new outlook as it heads for this week’s Lincoln scrap with Colorado. The Huskers are 2-3 in the league and 3-4-1 for the year.
Iowa State, 3-3 in the Big Eight and 4-4 over-all, plays outsider Tulsa Saturday.
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa State.
|North Dakota||Sept. 23|
|Kansas State||Oct. 7|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 21|
|Iowa State||Nov. 11|
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