COLUMBIA, Mo. — Nebraska can win tough ones, too.
Poise under pressure? The Cornhuskers provided a gilt-edged answer Saturday, spotting Missouri 14 points in the opening quarter and then snatching a 16-to-14 triumph in the final minutes.
Technically, the decision was achieved on a 26-yard field goal by North Platte junior Larry Wachholtz with five minute and 56 seconds to play.
But coming from so far back against Missouri’s ball-control masters, it was a miracle of grit and persistence with honors divided equally between Quarterback Fred Duda’s attackers and Linebacker Mike Kennedy’s defenders.
Nebraska fattened its perfect record to 7-0 and took clear-cut command in the Big Eight Conference chase with a 4-0 mark.
The record crowd of 58 thousand — larger even than the top turnout for the recent World Series — was on hand to see a challenge and a fight.
Missouri promptly threw the gantlet after taking the opening kick-off.
In a shade more than 10 minutes, Garry Lane quarterbacked the host team on forays adding up to 129 yards, two touchdowns and a lead that couldn’t have looked more permanent in granite to the delirious homecoming celebrants.
With the sky clear, the temperature in the low 70’s and the trees of an adjoining woods completing the idyllic autumn picture, it was a setting for poetry, not murder.
But Missouri was killing Nebraska.
In the first 10 minutes, the Huskers had the ball for only two plays — a three-yard run and a pass that was stolen by Johnny Roland.
Nebraska was not in a wilting mood, however. And at the finish, it had outyarded Mizzou, 318 to 243, and owned a precious triumph.
Nebraska’s two touchdowns came in the second quarter and both were scored by Wachholtz’s former high school teammate Pete Tatman, which must have made this one of North Platte’s greatest days in football.
As usual, there was controversy.
Missouri boiled over a personal-foul penalty that gave Nebraska a vital 15 yards on the path to Wachholtz’s field goal. The assessment was made, an official said, because of a profane remark.
Nebraska did not consider the penalty vital. The team had been moving with forceful momentum of its own generation.
Nor did the vanquished players quibble.
“They are not overrated — they’re real good,” Tiger Charlie Brown said of the Huskers.
Nebraska was stuck with the short end of a score for the first time this season when Lane topped an opening 80-yard drive with a run of 22 around his right end.
There had been only one crisis on that hard-blocking, cleat-digging march. Because of a holding penalty, Missouri faced a third-and-20 predicament on its own 36.
Rushed hard when he went back to pass, the big senior from East Alton, Ill., still got the ball off to Monroe Phelps on a strike that carried to the Nebraska 23.
When Nebraska got possession after the touchdown, Roland’s interception of a Duda pass quickly returned the N.U. offensive platoon to the bench.
There was a clip on Roland’s return, but the 15-yard handicap meant nothing to these supercharged athletes.
The set-up was a 19-yard aerial, Lane to End Jim Waller, which carried to the N.U. two-yard line. Fullback Carl (Bull) Reese burrowed inside the one, then slammed across.
Placement specialist Bill Bates zeroed in for the second time, raising the Tiger advantage to 14 points, each of which looked like a coffin nail to faint-hearted Husker rooters.
Nobody, positively nobody, gives Dan Devine that great a head start and then survives to win the race. But Bob Devaney did on this October 30.
Paul Christman, former Missouri All-America quarterback, studied Nebraska intently as it ran nine plays before relinquishing the ball.
“This,” Christman muttered, “is a good club. Missouri’s going to have to have all the breaks it can get.”
Tackle Walt Barnes gave Christmas some standing as a prophet by blocking Ray West’s punt on the first play of the second quarter.
This time, Bob Churchich was at quarterback. But the Huskers still couldn’t hit the big plays.
When Nebraska forced a punt three minutes later, Duda again tried his hand at the N.U. throttle.
He completed a pass to End Freeman White, who out-fought double-teaming defenders to make it a gain of 16. Harry Wilson broke off left tackle and sped 37 yards to the Missouri one on the next play.
This looked more like a top 10 team.
Charlie Winters helped create line space as Tatman cracked left of center for the touchdown. Wachholtz converted.
Nebraska, with 9:32 remaining in the first half, finally was in the ball game.
Excellent defensive work by Kennedy and Dick Czap helped stall Mizzou a short while later.
Wachholtz returned West’s punt to the N.U. 43, but because Jerry Patton was caught shoving a tackler from the back, a clip penalty forced Nebraska to start from its 11.
Eighty-nine yards from a possible tie, Duda, Winters, Solich, Tatman and White joined their rampaging mates in the line to cover that distance in 14 plays.
Scrappy Duda, whose 76 yards were to make him the game’s leading rusher, had only one pass completion — and eight-yarder to Wilson. The rest was footwork.
At the Missouri 39, Duda scurried around his left end. With Nebraska pulling the opposing end and corner back out of position, Duda pedaled all the way to the one, where Gary Grossnickle knocked him down.
Solich wriggled for no more than half a yard. Solich then faked effectively while Tatman muscled through the middle for the touchdown.
Wachholtz’s kick was wide to the left, giving Nebraska good reason to gnaw their knuckles.
The third quarter was a pre-Halloween monster mash, with opposing defensive units holding the upper hand.
Missouri’s West provided the highlight, a 67-yard punt that was dead on the Nebraska 10. Duda steered the Huskers out of that hole and up to the 31 before Ken Boston grabbed a pass intended for Solich.
Marv Mueller, the rapidly developing Columbus soph, evened that score by swiping a Lane pass two plays later.
The fourth quarter was four minutes old when Nebraska started a sequence from its 40. Ron Kirkland, Wilson, Duda and Winters chewed away tough yardage to the Missouri 34, where it came up fourth down and a foot to make.
Winters earned two yards and the first down.
The personal foul came during the milling that followed this play, moving the ball all the way to the Missouri 17.
Duda spooked his way to the 12. Winters tore out of Linebacker Rich Bernsen’s grasp to reach the nine. Duda simply moved the ball nearer the center of the field on third down.
On fourth down, with the ball held on the 16, Wachholtz kicked the most important field goal of his young life.
That was good for a two-point lead, which had to be nursed for five minutes and 56 seconds.
Brown had red-clad rooters sweating profusely with a 40-yard kick-off return to the Missouri 43.
Lane went to work with his fearsome arsenal of passes and keepers, but defenders such as Kennedy, Patton, Kaye Carstens and Wayne Meylan thwarted that series.
Missouri had one more opportunity, working from its 20 with 51 seconds to play.
That dream died with Mueller’s second interception of the game. He legged it 40 yards as time ran out — and a joyful Husker squad surged form the bench to shout congratulations.
|Yards per carry||3.4||5.2|
Nebraska is 65-36 all-time against Missouri.
|Air Force||Sept. 25|
|Iowa State||Oct. 2|
|Kansas State||Oct. 16|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 13|
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