The proverbial hole for a truck... except it's Willie Ross in the driver's seat and Ron Griesse and John Dervin striking out after blocks. Ken Zimmerman
Lewis Field, Stillwater, Okla.—Nebraska used a lackadaisical 20 to 16 victory over Oklahoma State Saturday to set the stage for an all-out championship battle with Oklahoma in Lincoln next week end.
The Cornhuskers chose the Stillwater backdrop as the setting for their worst performance of the campaign.
It was fortunate for the Scarlet that the final road foe was a determined but undermanned Oklahoma State squad, now 1-7.
The Cowpokes—unable to suit up more than 31 players (one a field goal specialist), five less than the Nebraska traveling squad—surprised by forcing the Huskers to extend themselves throughout.
An 11-point halftime cushion which Nebraska managed to swell to 17 after three quarters was badly needed as the Scarlet withstood a two-touchdown fourth quarter surge by Oklahoma State.
A slim crowd helped to 17,500 by a half dozen bands including the 140-piece Nebraska unit watched.
The Saturday log for the Huskers indicates a return of quarterback Dennis Claridge and fullback Rudy Johnson, both injured, as a “must” if Nebraska is to handle Oklahoma U.
There also is concern over the possibility the Huskers may be without Bob Hohn, one of their speed merchants.
Hohn injured a knee on the first play Saturday. John Kirby was the victim of a mild concussion in the second quarter.
Kirby is expected to be ready for the Sooners, Hohn is doubtful.
Although Oklahoma State never really seriously threatened, the Cowpokes did maneuver a comeback to force Nebraska to use the last 59 seconds to run out the clock.
As usual, it was the vulnerability of the aerial defense which distressed Nebraska.
With Mike Miller, the league’s leading pitcher last year, firing the bombs and end Jack Jacobson his favorite target, the ‘Pokes amassed 165 yards through the air.
The clever Jacobson had the Kirby-less Nebraska secondary chasing shadows as he grabbed nine short pitches for 105 yards.
Except when end Larry Tomlinson tagged him and later when Bob Brown gave him the big bear hug, Miller maneuvered untouched by Nebraska rushers.
This pass supremacy enabled by Nebraska rushers.
This pass supremacy enabled Oklahoma State to press Nebraska, 19-17, by first downs and crowd in total offensive yardage, 276-263.
Miller pitches brought Oklahoma State in position to score the field goal which shoved the Pokes within seven at 10 to 3 midway in the second quarter.
Passes set up the first Cowpoke touchdown, and a short pitch into the flat produced the other.
In the fourth quarter, the Nebraska secondary was so badly demoralized that fullback George Thomas of O.S. used the old-fashioned draw play for 10 yards and a first down on the Nebraska 17 to keep alive the drive that gave the Pokes their first touchdown.
Thomas got the big 10 on fourth down and six as the Huskers left the middle unprotected in a weird scramble to cover the receivers.
The Husker defense still was in a state of shock three plays later as Thomas ran unmolested through the line for seven yards and the touchdown.
This O.S. drive carried 77 yards in 15 plays.
With 10:45 left in the game, the Pokes stalled a second Nebraska attempt to lug the ball out of Scarlet territory, then marched 66 yards in 10 plays for their other score.
Bob Brown’s recovery of the O.S. short kickoff in midfield stymied Cowpoke hopes of exploding a victory bomb in the last minute.
Until the undermanned Stillwater collegians managed the back-to-back touchdowns, the home crowd showed concern with the size of the Nebraska margin.
Late in the scoreless first quarter, Oklahoma State got to only the Nebraska 43 and Husker Dave Theisen missed a field goal attempt from the O.S. 43.
The N.U. march started after Williams’ 20-yard punt had gone out of bounds on the Husker 45.
An offsides penalty spoiled a Willie Ross 11-yard sprint. However, the Huskers drew new life when a Duda pitch to Freeman White was ruled pass interference and the Scarlet gained a first down on the Pokes’ 32.
By the time the teams switched sides for the second period Ross, Duda and McNulty advanced Nebraska to the Oklahoma State 17.
The Huskers needed only three plays of the second quarter to send Wymore’s McNulty across from the two.
When Theisen’s conversion was good, Nebraska fans settled back for the kill.
The Pokes had other ideas which should have been a warning to the Huskers. They took Tomlinson’s kickoff and worked the airlanes for 50 yards.
The Oklahomans reached the Nebraska 14 and Tomlinson, Dick Callahan and Tony Jeter forced the field goal which Poke Charlie Durkee potted from 30 yards.
The sudden slicing of the Nebraska bulge to four points called for quick action by the Cornhuskers.
A 29-yard kickoff return by Frank Solich to the Nebraska 30 touched off a 70-yard explosion during which the Huskers needed only 13 plays and THeisen’s conversion to gain a 14 to 3 advantage.
There were 3:45 left in the first half and Larry Elliott back Duncan Drum’s kickoff to midfield.
The Pokes, however, got only to the Nebraska 17. White smeared passer Miler for an 11-yard loss on a fourth down attempt to silence the bid.
Ahead by 11 points into the second half, Nebraska boosted this to 17.
Ted Vactor returned the kickoff five to the Nebraska 27. In 14 plays, the Huskers drove 73 yards for the score.
Bruce Smith started with three plunges for 11 yards, and Duda saved the march by gambling on fourth and inches at the Nebraska 48. Fred got this first down by such a slender margin that a measurement was required.
Once past midfield, Vactor swept for six and took a pass from Duda for six before Smith ripped the middle for 15.
Cozad’s Maynard Smidt was sprung for three to score standing up on third and three.
It was well Duda gambled at midfield and that Smidt scored, as the best Nebraska could do during the next 22 minutes was one threat which fizzled on the O.S. 22.
Clouds shielded the pass receivers and kick returners on the East-West field.
However, a cross wind in the 78-degree temperature made it rough on the kickers.
Nebraska’s Dave Theisen averaged 30 yards on three kicks, which may have been fortunate, as Elliott, with an impressive record in returns, got only six yards with two boots.
Cowpoke Jeff Williams, a ranking Big Eight punter averaged only 31.8 with five kicks.
Solich got 55 yards with two Cowpoke kickoffs and Ted Vactor 22 with one. The Pokes also had a good day chasing kickoffs, Williams running 68 with three and Elliott 28 with one.
Nebraska went without a fumble. The Pokes recovered their two bobbles.
The victory was the first by Nebraska at Stillwater and evens the series, the Huskers having lost the first two.