NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma played its long awaited “best game” Saturday to upset Nebraska’s Big Eight champions, 17 to 7, and break the nation’s longest major-college victory string at 16.
Husker Coach Bob Devaney hailed his conquerors’ 60-minute effort as “near perfect.”
The Sooners came from behind with an 88-yard power drive in the fourth quarter and three minutes later administered the coup de grace with a 48-yard touchdown stab by burly Larry Brown.
As all but the glum Husker partisans in the homecoming crowd of 55 thousand leaped and shouted, the Sooners gave Coach Gomer Jones a triumphant shoulder ride off the field.
The smashing play of the winners was a complete turnabout from erratic performances of the past.
The team which had lost the ball 25 times on fumbles and interceptions in the first eight engagements did not drop the ball once this afternoon and was nicked for only a single pass theft.
Led by Defensive End Rick McCurdy and Linebacker Carl (Sheepdog) McAdams, Oklahoma wrecked Nebraska’s ground game by plugging the middle and demolishing most of the Huskers’ end plays.
Nebraska had averaged 242 yards rushing while running up a 9-0 record and earning a berth opposite Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. But Oklahoma, in lifting its conference record to 4-1-1, gave up only 86 ground yards.
With the Husker big guns silenced, rookie Quarterback Bob Churchich set the losers’ rushing pace with 39 yards. Meanwhile, Brown of O.U. was logging 104 and Jon Kennedy was barging for another 88.
Manhandled in the line, Nebraska was able to keep its hopes of a perfect season flickering with a pressing pass attack. Its only touchdown was a 56-yard effort in the second period, with Churchich throwing to End Freeman White.
Churchich completed 12 of 24 for 150 yards. That gave him a season total of 893 yards, erasing the school record of 829 set by Denny Claridge in 1962.
Oklahoma intercepted three, however.
So overwhelming were the Sooners, they achieved this convincing victory despite the loss of All-America Fullback Jim Grisham and leading scorer Lance Rentzel for second half play. Grisham aggravated a pinched neck nerve in the second period. Rentzel earlier had incurred a painful hip bruise.
Sub Fullback Kennedy, a 216-pound sophomore from Ponca City, and McAdams were voted Oklahoma’s standout back and lineman. Churchich and Linebacker Mike Kennedy, who figured in 18 tackles while absorbing much of the brunt of the Sooner attack, were top Husker vote-getters.
Although Nebraska held a 7-to-3 lead at the intermission, the warning signs were obvious.
Oklahoma had outrushed the Huskers, 118 yards to 33. And except for Churchich’s scoring strike, the visitors had not been able to move beyond their 48-yard line. Superb punt coverage had limited N.U. to one yard each on a pair of returns.
Still, Nebraska had given its followers hope with a goalline defense of the rock-ribbed variety that had foiled rivals such as Missouri and Kansas.
On its second possession, early in the opening period, the Sooners had driven 60 yards to the Nebraska one, where Kennedy and Tackle Dick Czap had crashed in to thwart Grisham’s fourth-down plunge.
That threat had materialized following an interception by Bill Thomas. After Kent McCloughan and Bob Hohn advanced the ball to the five, Ron Kirkland punted out of his end zone and Gene Ross made a fair catch on the N.U. 42.
This time Kennedy, Bernie McGinn and Bill Haug led the clutch barricading that forced O.U. to resort to a field goal attempt after battling to the six. With the ball on the 13, Butch Metcalf’s second fielder of the season gave Oklahoma 3-to-0 advantage.
The second play of that march was a “sleeper,” with Tommy Pannell passing to huge Tackle Ralph Neely for an 11-yard pickup.
The points went on the board with 12:53 remaining in the second quarter.
Five minutes later, Nebraska took a punt on its 28 and started battling back. On first down, Mike Base held Hohn to a single yard at left end—and this shackling of the wide thrusts already was becoming a habit.
So young Churchich went to the air.
He flipped to White for 13 yards. Next down, Rodney Crosswhite swooped in to hogtie McCloughan after a two-yard gain at right end.
Again Churchich passed. White raced down the sideline in front of the Husker bench, passed defender Thomas, grabbed the ball on the O.U. 39 without breaking stride and sped on to the touchdown.
With Duncan Drum’s placement, Nebraska had a four-point margin.
Outstanding play by Defensive Halfback Ted Vactor helped quell Oklahoma attempts to rebound on the passing of Quarterback Bobby Page.
There was a scare just before the half ended, when Frank Solich, disdaining a fair catch under swift punt coverage, was smacked down by End Allen Bumgardner as he caught McCurdy’s kick.
The ball popped free and was knocked around, but Solich recovered on the Nebraska seven. Churchich ran out the clock with a pair of keepers.
In its three most recent games against Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma State, Nebraska had failed to score in the third period. On this sub-freezing afternoon, the post-intermission slowdown lasted the full 30 minutes.
Fans from the North took heart two plays after the second-half kick-off when Vactor made a kneeling interception of a low throw by Pannell. It was Nebraska’s ball on its own 47.
Churchich whirled around his left end for seven yards on first down—and that was the first time Nebraska had crossed midfield on the ground.
After reaching the O.U. 32, the march was shattered by an illegal-use-of-hands violation, and the Huskers wound up punting from the O.U. 42.
Kirkland and McCurdy exchanged punts midway in the third period, with the latter booming a 53-yarder that Solich caught on the 19 for no return.
Good runs by Solich and Churchich and passes from the latter to White and Harry Wilson helped prod the Huskers to a first down on the Sooner 37.
From there on, the Sooners took firm command.
They soon forced a punt, a 45-yard effort by Kirkland which Larry Shields put on the Oklahoma 12 with a short return. That was the start of the 88-yard back-breaker.
Kennedy and Brown were the prime ball carriers as O.U. tore sizable holes in the Cornhusker line. The surge continued into the fourth quarter, where three fourth-down crises were survived.
Kennedy pounded out the vital yardage on the first two occasions. The third time, fourth and three to go on the Husker eight, it was Brown who slammed through. He legged it around right end, was tripped by Vactor on the five and fell on the two.
Meanwhile, the roar from the crowd had gained steadily in volume. Sooner rooters were shouting for the kill.
Walt Barnes stopped Page on the one. John Strohmyer halted Page a foot short of the goal. The Cornhuskers weren’t going down without a scrap.
On third down, Page lunged over the goal momentarily, then was thrown back. But it was a touchdown, and Metcalf decorated it was a placement conversion.
“Will the real Big Red please stand up,” a press box inhabitant yelled, taunting the visitors for using the old Sooners nickname.
Six minutes and 16 seconds of play remained.
Solich dashed 45 yards with the kick-off, finally being pulled down on the Nebraska 29.
A couple of plays later, McAdams hit Churchich for a five-yard loss. The defiant quarterback retaliated with an 11-yard peg to Wilson, making it fourth down and three. Bob put every ounce of energy at his command into a sweep around left end and made the first-down with only inches to spare.
He recovered a fumbled hand-off. On next down, his toss intended for Wilson was pulled out of the air by Bumgardner at the 50. The big end lugged it two strides to the N.U. 48.
On first down, Brown shot through the middle with a great burst of speed and raced straight ahead for the wrap-up touchdown. Vactor made a valiant but futile effort to catch him.
After Metcalf’s kick hoisted O.U. to a 17-to-7 lead, Churchich attempted to pass a miracle with passes. Completions to McCloughan, Jeter and White gave Nebraska a first down on the Sooner seven with 1:19 to go.
Gritty Churchich hoofed around his right end and was bounced out on the three. Jim Riley and McCurdy downed Hohn for a yard loss and Shields broke up a pass to McCloughan. With 49 seconds left, Churchich threw to White in the end zone. McAdams sidetracked the ball and ran it out to the 10.
Then the Huskers had to face reality. Their streak was ended and Oklahoma still could point back to mid-season of 1961 for its last loss to a conference foe on Owen Field.
The defeat was only Nebraska’s fourth in 32 games under Devaney.
|Yards per carry||4.4||2.5|
Nebraska is 38-45 all-time against Oklahoma.
|South Dakota||Sept. 19|
|Iowa State||Oct. 3|
|South Carolina||Oct. 10|
|Kansas State||Oct. 17|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 14|
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