AMES, Iowa — Nebraska swallowed its great dismay at the early loss of Quarterback Fred Duda, who suffered a broken leg, then fought to a hard-earned victory over Iowa State Saturday, 14 to 7.
The Huskers survived on vital clutch play by rookie Quarterback Bob Churchich and cracking resistance by their defensive platoon.
Duda suffered a fractured left leg when tackled after a one-yard gain at right end with about 8½ minutes elapsed in the opening quarter.
Loss of the talented junior from Chicago for the rest of the season put a chill on what would have been a celebration after the Cornhuskers’ tenth consecutive victory, the school’s longest success string since the bountiful 1932-33 years of Coach D. X. Bible’s regime.
A crowd of 22 thousand, smaller than anticipated on a bright, warm day, saw the 19-year-old Churchich direct touchdown drives in the second and third quarters.
Still in the third period, the victory was put in serious jeopardy when the Cyclones sprung a brilliant rookie of their own, stocky Tony Baker, on a 58-yard touchdown sprint.
For the final 21 minutes, it was an exhibition of hard running and savage tackling, with each team hoping to force a miscue that might swing the decision.
While taking the first step in defense of its Big Eight Conference championship, Nebraska held Iowa State to 129 yards rushing and had a fat cushion in total yardage of 272 to 147.
Still, the Huskers were forced to scrap for their lives to the very finish.
The host defense was led by John Van Sicklen, senior tackle from Michigan who made 17 tackles and assists, and was voted his team’s outstanding lineman.
Double-duty backs Tommy Vaughn and Mike Cox took part in 22 tackles. Another big assist came from Omahan Steve Balkovec, who averaged a fraction better than 37 yards on eight windy-day punts.
Nebraska, as usual, was tough enough when pressure was greatest. It prospered from the tremendous line-play by young Mike Grace, veteran Bernie McGinn, persistent Mike Kennedy, Ron Griesse, Chuck Doepke and Langston Coleman, among others.
Kennedy, burly junior from Omaha, earned press box accolade as the No. 1 lineman.
Fullback Frank Solich, a workhorse with 78 yards on 18 carries, received the vote as Nebraska’s foremost ball carrier. But Churchich, too, was a marvel.
He started in football as a 95-pound midget league standout; became one of the few Omaha North High sophomores of recent years to immediately make the starting lineup.
In the final intrasquad game last spring, he led the Whites to an upset victory over the more seasoned Reds. He performed capably in his varsity debut against South Dakota, but was withheld from offensive duty in the Minnesota game as Duda shouldered the load.
Suddenly this Saturday, the burden was passed to him in a heatsick moment for the Huskers as physicians and trainers huddled over Duda on the sideline.
On Churchich’s first play, a fourth-down effort, Solich was inches short and Iowa State took possession on its own 44.
When Balkovec punted several minutes later, Bob Hohn was cut down on the Husker 23 after a three-yard return.
Churchich took command 77 yards from the Cyclone goal and drove the Huskers in with decisive heady play that never permitted a fourth-down crisis.
He opened with a nine-yard screen pass to Hohn. He fed Solich and Bruce Smith into the middle and over tackle, and hammered the flanks with Hohn, Kent McCloughan and swift, clever Harry Wilson.
Third down and two to make on the Cyclone 14, Churchich earned a fresh sequence on a keeper around right end to the nine. McCloughan took a pitch-out and followed the same route to the five.
With guard John Dervin heading the interference, Fall City’s Smith rammed the middle to the two. McCloughan than galloped around right end for a touchdown as Wilson, Smith and Dervin blasted defenders aside.
Duncan Drum’s placement put Nebraska on top. 7 to 0, with 10:34 remaining in the second quarter.
Buoyed by Wilson’s exciting twister for 18 yards, Churchich skippered the Huskers from their 37 to the foe 37 the next time they owned the ball. Wilson once got as deep as the 27 but a holding penalty nullified that effort.
That was the last push of consequence in the first half.
Iowa State took the second-half kick-off but soon was forced to punt when John Strohmyer, Langston Coleman and Lynn Senkbeil collaborated on a third-down stop.
After Balkovec punted, Churchich piloted a 48-yard scoring drive which opened with a jump pass to Doepke and closed with the quarterback nudging across from the one.
On the touchdown play, Churchich faked the ball to Fullback Smith and followed him into the hole on the left side. Ted Vactor kicked the point that lifted the advantage to 14 to 0 with 8:44 remaining in the third quarter.
The N.U. goal seemed a mile away when Vaughn’s subsequent kick-off return placed the ball on the Iowa State 26.
Baker plowed for three and Vaughn added a pair of yards at the middle. Quarterback Ken Bunte passed to Vaughn for a first down on the Cylcone 42.
Nebraska had put the host club on a hook but couldn’t keep it there.
Baker, a 210-pound sophomore from Burlington, carried on the next play. A hard-charging Husker had a swipe at him behind the line but missed.
Baker showed sprinter’s speed as he flashed past another would-be tackler and then a third. There was no one close enough to worry about the final 45 yards as Baker angled left and breezed home with a vast convoy of redshirts.
Balkovec’s kick further trimmed N.U.’s advantage, 14 to 7, with 6:24 remaining in the third period.
Another touchdown and two-point conversion would be enough to send Clay Stapleton’s Iowa State hopefuls out front. And there was plenty of time.
Van Sicklen tripped Hohn for an eight-yard loss to spoil Nebraska’s following bid to control the ball. A key tackle by Linebacker Joe McNulty, in turn, forced Iowa State to give up possession.
It was give and take the rest of the way with neither team mustering a formidable threat.
The record would show Ken Pigott and Van Sicklen dumping a Husker for a loss. Then Maynard Smidt, Larry Wachholtz and Kennedy would storm in to foil the Cyclones. Hard, stubborn football.
Surprisingly, neither team lost a fumble nor intercepted a pass.
Nebraska won the game, but enplaned home in the deep gloom of Duda’s loss and wonderment as to what effect it will have in the critical Big Eight games that lie ahead.
|Yards per carry||3.5||4.1|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa State.
|South Dakota||Sept. 19|
|Iowa State||Oct. 3|
|South Carolina||Oct. 10|
|Kansas State||Oct. 17|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 14|
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