Claridge starts... John Kirby, Larry Tomlinson block. Opening appears... Denny wheels goalward. Trouble ahead... Vince Tobin braces. Too late... Denny bullets across. Lawrence Robinson
Memorial Stadium, Columbia, Mo.—Senior fullback Rudy Johnson headed a lengthy honor roll Saturday as Nebraska pinched Missouri, 13 to 12, and took the Big Eight football lead by half a game over Oklahoma.
A crowd of 52 thousand—largest in this state’s sports history—saw the Huskers win on a couple of old Missouri specialties, power play and ball control.
In so doing, Nebraska climbed a mountain that had become mentally, as well as physically, formidable.
This was the Huskers’ first win over Missouri since 1956, and only the second in Columbia since 1937.
Johnson, a native Texan who combines speed, power and durability, netted 126 yards against MIssouri’s traditionally high-resistant defenses.
Also high on the list of ringleaders were quarterback Denny Claridge, who directed touchdown marches of 76 and 64 yards; end Chuck Doepke, whose fumble recovery set up the second score; fullback Bruce Smith, who broke the play that could have saved Missouri.
The latter episode was a tongue-biter for both the homecoming partisans and the estimated five thousand Husker rooters.
After pulling to within one point of Nebraska midway in the fourth quarter, Missouri lined up in “shotgun” formation to go for a two-point conversion.
Both ends split wide; both halfbacks lined up close to the line of scrimmage and just outside the tackles. Quarterback Gary Lane was back to pass with his fullback defending.
Lane’s toss sailed true to Jim Walker, a six-foot-four end, in the end zone.
The ball appeared to be in Waller’s hands—but only for a split second. Then Smith, a Falls City junior, made crashing contact.
The ball and two points flew out of the big Missourian’s hands.
Nebraska controlled the ball for the next seven minutes, traveling 51 yards before the limping Claridge relinquished possession with a fourth-down punt.
Missouri’s ground game could not move consistently against a grim, hustling defense led by Larry Tomlinson, Dick Callahan, Bob Brown, Kent McCloughan and John Dervin.
Those five Huskers accounted for 12 tackles and helped on 12 others.
Neither could Missouri contain Nebraska’s overpowering ground game.
In addition to Johnson’s net of 126, Claridge wheeled the ball for 41 yards. McCloughan picked up 38, Willie Ross and Bob Hohn chipped in 26 apiece, and Smith contributed 24.
Best for the losers on the ground was quarterback Lane with 32. An exciting sophomore, he also passed for 143.
Nebraska improved on its national pacesetting rushing average by netting 299 compared with its victim’s 81. In total offense, Nebraska topped Missouri, 361 to 224.
But Missouri seemed about as tough as ever in the category that pays off: points scored.
The final difference was another gold star for Johnson, who placement kick after the first touchdown gave him a season record of eight for 11.
On their way to victory No. 15 in 18 games under coach Bob Devaney, the Huskers scored first and remained on top the rest of the way.
Guard Bob Brown set a rough-and-ready blocking pace from the first scrimmage play, which, fittingly, had the brilliant JOhnson streaking 32 yards.
Nebraska didn’t even use the threat of a pass in punching out the 76 yards in 11 plays.
The only “big yardage” crisis came at third-and-five on Mizzou’s 26. With Ron Michka, John Kirby and Larry Kramer bowling over defenders, Johnson went up the middle all the way to the 16.
It was Johnson’s turn to block on next down. Rudy and Tony Jeter helped spring Hohn for six yards. Johnson got only half a yard before Ross dashed around his left end to the five, posting another first and 10.
Claridge faked to Johnson, then followed him over left tackle for the touchdown with Kramer leading the convoy. Johnson’s all-important kick was high and well centered.
Missouri buckled down late in the first quarter, taking heart on a sharp-angle punt by Claridge that flew out of bounds after traveling only 10 yards.
Starting from the N.U. 33, Missouri got 29 on a running pass from Lane to halfback Ted Saussele.
He made a falling catch on the four as Fred Duda and Ted Vactor were found lacking the correct defensive answer. That was the final play of the first period.
Missouri opened the second quarter with a touchdown.
Fullback Gus Otto fumbled at left guard. The ball rolled or was batted into the end zone, where Ken Boston jubilantly took possession.
Bill Leistritz had clicked on 10 of 11 placement attempts this year, but he was wide on this one. Nebraska remained out front, 7 to 6.
The visitors went 44 yards to the Missouri 36 later in the period. Penalties and a faltering air game ruined this threat.
The Huskers’ mettle was tested early in the third quarter when a punt by Daryl Krugman, who averaged 43.3 for the day, was downed by Gene Oliver on the N.U. seven.
Johnson carried twice to put the ball on the 20 and get Nebraska off the hook. Aided by a 25-yard pass from Claridge to McCloughan, Nebraska reached the enemy 18 before stalling in the face of defensive heroics by big George Seals and Ralph Kubinski.
Doepke’s crucial capture came late in the third period when Vince Turner called for a fair catch of a Claridge punt, then fumbled.
Doepke, a junior end from Waterloo, Ia. claimed the prize for Nebraska on his own 36.
Ross, McCloughan and Claridge gave Johnson important help on this sweep.
There also were two passes from Claridge to McCloughan for 16 and for seven. The halfback from Broken Bow speared the latter after Boston and Krugman had batted the football into the air.
A third pass, a soft toss from Claridge to Willie Ross down the left side, carried five yards to the two. A delay-of-game penalty against Missouri cut that in half.
Then Johnson slashed through the right side for a touchdown with ample room to spare.
Dave Theisen’s first kick from placement was good, but Nebraska was holding. The second attempt, with the ball held on the 24, was far short.
Missouri once more took advantage of an erratic pass defense to frighten its visitors.
John Sevcik ran a short kickoff out of bounds on the Missouri 33.
Lane passed to him for 14 yards, then pitched to Boston, who caught the ball near the sideline on about the Nebraska 35 and zipped on home without even a good race.
Moments later, Smith’s great clutch play on the conversion attempt restored Nebraska’s good spirits.