Thar she blows... goal post yields. Your turn... Ed Pavoris (61), Walt Barnes (50) and Kelly Petersen urge Devaney into shower. Peeled orange... for Dennis Claridge. Tom Allan (left), Associated Press (middle), Ken Zimmerman (right)
Memorial Stadium, Lincoln—Nebraska’s war-whooping football team quickly accepted on Orange Bowl invitation Saturday after mastering Oklahoma, 29 to 20, to give the school its first Big Eight Conference Championship in 23 years.
The victory—much more impressive than the score indicates—climaxed a whirlwind two-year comeback for the Cornhuskers under the coaching of Bob Devaney.
With the smashing of Oklahoma’s Big Eight win string at 16 games, Devaney now has beaten every school in the conference. His overall record with Nebraska is 18-3.
Buoyed by the return of quarterback Denny Claridge after a two-week absence, the Huskers ran up an advantage of 29 to 7 as partisans in the crowd of 38,485 pitched oranges onto the field and roared their encouragement.
Oklahoma capitalized on the premature celebration to slip in a pair of late touchdowns.
However, those belated points had little effect on the delirious fans. Before the Huskers could run the final play of the game, goal posts were down and hundreds of rooters had moved onto the gridiron.
Nebraska’s domination is pointed up by its 14 to 9 margin in first downs and its surprising ground net of 194 yards compared with the Sooners’ 98.
It was a bruising fight from the beginning, with Nebraska carrying a precarious lead of 3 to 0 into the intermission.
Still, the jut-jawed Nebraskans never were headed after Dave Theisen had provided that edge with a 27-yard field goal late in the opening quarter.
Someone had said these king-size Huskers couldn’t move.
But they moved quickly enough—and with sufficient force—to smear enemy backs for losses totaling 30 yards, nad to tear open holes for short-range touchdown bursts by fullback Rudy Johnson, the very valuable Mr. Claridge, halfback Kent McCloughan, that sparkling rookie quarterback, Fred Duda, and Lyle Sittler.
Five times these magnificent Huskers forced and captured Oklahoma fumbles.
Remember Jim Grisham, the all-star fullback who outgained the entire N.U. team a year ago? He contributed only 16 yards this cool afternoon as the home club controlled the ball for 27 more plays than the losers.
Grisham’s alternate, Larry Brown, the husky sophomore who helped crush Missouri the previous Saturday, was Oklahoma’s ground leader with 36 yards.
But the Huskers countered with halfback Willie Ross, who ran and danced for 53 yards, and fullback Rudy Johnson, a back-breaker with 50.
There were vital contributions of 24 by fullback Bruce Smith, 23 by Claridge and 19 by McCloughan.
First choice of plane seats on the flight to Miami next month probably should go to Nebraska’s tenacious ball hawks, however.
For instance, it was guard Bob Brown who forced the fumble and tackle Lloyd Voss who recovered it to set up Nebraska’s first touchdown.
The second six-pointer followed end Chuck Doepke’s recovery of a fumble by Sooner fullback Brown. The springboard to No. 3 was Theisen’s interception of a pass by Ron Fletcher.
The final thrust came after McCloughan stole a pass by Bobby Page.
Ingredients for victory included fierce blocking by a host of backs and linemen, fumble captures by Brown and guard John Dervin, several slashing tackles by end Larry Tomlinson and a great pass defense play by Dick Callahan.
Oklahoma’s resistance was keyed by end John Flynn, linebackers John Garrett and Carl McAdams, and defensive back Larry Shields, David Voiles and Charles Mayhue.
Nebraska ran out of steam on the O.U. 18 the first time it had the ball, and a field goal attempt by Theisen from the 25 was wide.
The Huskers again were denied a touchdown when they drove 40 yards to the Sooner nine in the same period. Flynn threw Claridge for a yard loss and a pass fell incomplete before Theisen made good on his boot from the 17.
A few oranges were tossed onto the field, but the game was only 10 minutes and 41 seconds old.
The Huskers muscled their way 38 yards to the Oklahoma 30 on a drive that spanned the quarter break. It lost some steam when Johnson was forced to retire temporarily with a leg injury suffered on the opening play of the second quarter.
It fizzled when Flynn chased Ross for a 6-yard loss to the 36 on third down.
Nebraska was equally stubborn, however.
Oklahoma surged 27 yards to the N.U. 20 in the second quarter, only to be knocked back to the 25 on a third-down charge by fullback Smith.
With the ball held on the 32, George Jarman’s field goal attempt was short of the goalposts.
At the intermission, Oklahoma had made only a single first down rushing—and had waited 25 minutes for that.
Oklahoma erred early in the third period when halfback Lance Rentzel attempted to field a high punt by Theisen.
Although Brown was thundering along in the wake of the kick, there was no effort to make a fair catch. Rentzel went for the ball; Brown went for Rentzel.
Voss’ recovery of the resulting fumble gave Nebraska possession on the Sooner 15.
Ross made eight yards at right end and Claridge bit off another four, but illegal use of the hands backed the Huskers to the 19.
Claridge ran to his right, then passed to Tomlinson, who made a fine catch on the seven under pressure from Mayhue and McAdams.
Johnson plunged to the four, Claridge nosed to the one and Johnson hurled his 190 pounds over right guard for one touchdown.
More oranges sailed onto the field as Theisen’s kick made the score 10 to 0 with 8:47 to go in the third.
Flynn nabbed a fumble by Ross late in the third, but Nebraska retaliated two plays later, with Doepke’s stake out of Larry Brown’s bobble on the O.U. 32.
The Huskers were in control moving into what must have been the wildest, wackiest fourth quarter in Memorial Stadium history. 39 points were registered in those final 15 minutes.
The 32-yard thrust featured a 9-yard bullet pass from Duda to end Freeman White. It culminated in Claridge’s line blast behind Ron Michka and Brown from less than a yard out.
Theisen again converted but was to miss his next two efforts.
Oklahoma showed its spunk by zooming 57 yards in five plays after the next kickoff.
The starter was a 35-yard aerial, Page to end John Porterfield.
The final stroke covered 22 yards with Fletcher tossing to Flynn, alias the Headache Kid.
Flynn, a 6-2, 222-pound wingman with good speed, got away from one tackler at the four and drove across in style. With Jarman’s conversion kick, the score was 17 to 7, and 12:43 to play.
Nebraska couldn’t hack out a first down, but did much better on O.U.’s first try from scrimmage. Theisen speared Fletcher’s pitch on the gallop and went from Oklahoma’s 49 to the 15.
Smith bucked for three yards. Then Claridge, on one of his hair-raising one-hand carries, sped around left end to the 2-yard line.
Ross couldn’t gain, but McCloughan took a handoff from Claridge, pivoted expertly and stepped into the end zone. Now it was 23 to 7.
Tomlinson kicked off. He delighted the crowd with a tremendous follow-through that found him cutting the legs out from under receiver Shields on the O.U. 23.
On first down, McCloughan snatched the desperate Page’s pass and returned it to the O.U. 20. Ross sprinted to the one.
Duda tried the left side, ripped out of Garrett’s clutches and proceeded to his fifth touchdown of the year. Score: 29 to 7. Time remaining: Five minutes and 43 seconds.
Apparently, the Huskers relaxed.
Lyle Sittler recovered Pannell’s fumble of Tomlinson’s whistling, medium-range kickoff but Mayhue grabbed an errant Duda-Theisen pitchout on the next play at the Sooner 26.
In nine tries, Bud Wilkinson’s men had a touchdown. Wes Skidgel got it on a reverse to the right for 27 yards. Jarman’s kick cut the deficit to 15 points.
Two plays after the short kickoff, Sooner end Al Bumgardner claimed Ted Vactor’s fumble on the Nebraska 25. Pannell whipped the ball to Skidgel on first down for another touchdown.
Miracle-minded Oklahoma sought tow points on a pass by Pannell, but Willie Paschall of Nebraska caught it in the end zone just 42 seconds before the Big Eight championship became official.?