Fred Duda fooled Jayhawks by rolling out for NU's first touchdown... Daddy Duda (inset) enjoyed every step. John Savage
Memorial Stadium, Lincoln—Nebraska’s tougher-than-ever Cornhuskers scored twice in 24 seconds in the fourth quarter Saturday to demolish Kansas, 23 to 9, and take dead aim at their first conference championship in 23 years.
A crowd of 39,500—third largest in NU history—saw Nebraska raise its Big Eight record to 5-0 without the services of all-star quarterback Denny Claridge.
The only other unbeaten league entry is Oklahoma (4-0), which plays Missouri this week while the Huskers battle at Oklahoma State.
If both survive those tests, the Oklahoma game here November 23 can be expected to produce the Big Eight titleist—and the privilege of playing in Miami’s Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Oklahoma closes the Big Eight season November 30 at home against Oklahoma State.
Worst KU Licking
Saturday’s licking was the worst absorbed by Kansas this year. In the words of a Jayhawk official, “It’s the first time we’ve been knocked out of a game.”
KU’s earlier losses were by three points to Iowa State and Oklahoma; by four points to Texas Christian.
With Claridge in street clothes because of a leg injury, coach Bob Devaney handed the ignition key to sophomore Fred Duda, a 19-year-old gamester from Chicago.
The rookie responded with a heady job of team direction, fine running and 82 yards worth of passing.
The 185-pounder actually led the team in rushing with 66 yards, but 40 were subtracted on pass attempts which found him chased and downed.
It was a contest brimming with excitement, including a 99-yard touchdown run by Gale Sayers, KU junior halfback from Omaha.
That meteoric play early in the fourth quarter broke a Big Eight Conference record and pulled Kansas to within one point of the Huskers, 9 to 10.
But it didn’t dent Nebraska’s determination.
In fact, it served to spur Nebraska to a body-rocking finish that left the visitors in a state of gasping desperation.
The Huskers pitched in from the very outset to give young Duda great support. Added to strength-sapping line play and fierce ball-hawking were bonuses such as Dave Theisen’s superb kicking and Willie Ross’ first touchdown of the year.
Continuing his timely defensive work of the previous week against Missouri, Bruce Smith slammed into Jayhawk Tony Leiker to force a fumble on the fourth play of the afternoon.
Larry Tomlinson claimed the ball for Nebraska on the enemy 14.
As predicted, Kansas was in a mood for murder. And after three downs, marked by thudding stops by Brian Schweda and Bob Robben, Nebraska was sitting back on the Kansas 22.
With Duda holding on the 30, Theisen kicked a field goal that put the Huskers on top with 4:21 elapsed. That lead never was relinquished.
Walt Barnes, sophomore center from Chicago, hit Ron Oelschlager so hard on the following kickoff that the ball again popped into the air. This time co-captain John Kirby was the claimant—on the KU 20.
Three carries by Smith and a whirling 7-yard thrust by Kent McCloughan brought Nebraska to the seven. Duda then rolled out to his left with McCloughan in tandem for a possible pitchout.
Duda kept. Top efforts by Phil Doughty and Sayers weren’t enough to keep Fred out of the end zone. Theisen’s conversion made it 10 to 0 with slightly more than seven minutes having passed.
Fans sensed a rout similar to last year’s 40 to 16 Husker savagery at Lawrence. However, Nebraska was destined to work much harder this time.
Nebraska was unable to score for the next 36 minutes.
Still in the first period, Harley Catlin recovered a fumble by Rudy Johnson on the Husker 38. Oelschlager fled through the right side for 19 yards on first down.
Now the Husker defense showed its bullheadedness.
There was no gain for fullback Armand Baughman at the middle. Dave Crandall got three on a quarterback keep, but McCloughan brilliantly sidetracked a Steve Renko-Robben pass to force a field goal effort.
On the second play of the second quarter, and the ball held on the 23, Gary Duff kicked his third fielder of the year.
Later in the second period, KU coach Jack Mitchell introduced a kick that briefly put Nebraska in a hole.
When stout defensive play stalled the Jayhawks on the Nebraska 39, KU went into field goal formation and Duff purposely kicked the ball out of bounds from placement on the 45.
DUda steered Nebraska from its 16 to its 48, where Devaney had to call for a punt for the first time. Senior Theisen, who transferred from Marquette three years ago, filled in for Claridge and got off a boot of 31 yards.
Coverage was so good, Sayers had to signal a fair catch. In fact, Kansas never did get to return a punt because of good kicking and hustling groundwork.
Theisen wound up with a 38-yard average on four punts.
When KU tried to stall out the final minute of the first half, Nebraska alertly stopped the clock and forced a punt by Leiker that sailed out on the KU 46.
Nebraska had 19 seconds in which to attempt to fatten its 10 to 3 advantage.
With Theisen handcuffed by defenders. Duda’s first pass was incomplete. However, Duda then rifled the ball to end Dick Callahan, who made a falling catch on the five. NU again called time.
Five seconds would permit only one play. Tension was Adam’s apple deep throughout the packed stadium as the Huskers lined up. With a couple of fakes spreading the defense, Duda took off around his right end.
He reached the one, but was piled up there by a cluster of Kansans as the halftime gun sounded.
At this point, Sayers, the Big Eight’s rushing leader had been well contained.
Could the Huskers continue to hogtie the emigrant Nebraskan?
The third period was highlighted by a Renko-Sayers-Leiker-Renko double reverse and lateral for 19 yards, but neither side could make the truly big play.
That bit of glitter helped KU travel 64 yards to the Nebraska 17, but John Dervin and Theisen made vital plays in the clutch and Nebraska took over on downs.
Early in the fourth period, a 51-yard boomer by Theisen gave a backward bounce and was brushed out of bounds by Husker Lyle Sittler about a foot from the Kansas goal line.
And He’s Off
If Nebraska could nail a Jayhawk behind the goal line, there was a safety and two more points. Instead, Sayers added a gaudy paragraph to the brochure for his All-America candidacy.
Starting in the end zone, he sped to his left on an uncomplicated power sweep.
The 198-pound sprinter cut sharply, dodged his way past Huskers who tried to brake their hard charge. In a flash, he was moving at full speed.
Some Huskers seemed slow to react. Others took up the pursuit but simply lacked the speed to make it a good race. Sayers zoomed into the Husker end zone, tossed away the ball and clapped his hands for a continuing rally.
(The old conference record was a 98-yard run from scrimmage by Iowa State’s Meredith Warner against Iowa pre-flight in 1943.)
Duff’s attempted conversion kick was wide, but in point of current history, Kansas was crowding Nebraska, 9 to 10, and had better than 13 minutes in which to pull out a fourth consecutive triumph on NU turf.
Small chance, though.
Sophomore Frank Solich returned the kickoff 18 yards to the Nebraska 25. Rudy Johnson suffered a leg injury on first down and left the game, but the Huskers didn’t waver.
McCloughan and Ross and Duda and Smith battled to the KU 24 in 10 plays. Duda arched a pass to Tomlinson, who made a great tumbling catch on the eight. That was the inspirational strike.
Ross barreled around his right end, angled for the red flag at the goal line corner and brushed it as he landed for his first six-pointer of the year.
Doughty was there to protect the goal line, but he did not know how much Willie was overdue. Theisen’s kick made it 17 to 9.
Kansas perked up quickly when Sayers scurried from his goal line to the KU 26 on the kickoff return, and a roughing penalty—disputed by the Huskers—shoved the ball on up to the Kansas 41.
But on first down, the rangy Renko under-threw his pass target. Oelschlager batted the ball off course and Bob Hohn grabbed it.
The Beatrice junior zipped along the sideline for 53 yards and the sew-it-up touchdown. No one need remember that Theisen’s kick was wide.
Fans long will recall, however, the day Nebraska smashed a Kansas-Lincoln victory string while hiking its record under coach Devaney to 16 victories against three defeats.