STILLWATER, Okla. — Nebraska crawled out of a deeply dug grave Saturday to beat Oklahoma State in the final minute, 21 to 17, and accept an invitation to play in the Orange Bowl at Miami on New Year’s night.
The Cornhusker opponent in Florida is expected to be Alabama, although under Southeast Conference rules the Bear Bryant team cannot yet make an official pledge.
There was a report that Nebraska will conduct its early drills at Brownsville, Tex., as it did last year before the Cotton Bowl Game, then return to Lincoln for Christmas before moving on to Miami.
Until big Pete Tatman crashed three yards for the winning touchdown late on this gray, foreboding afternoon; it appeared the post game meeting between the Huskers and Orange Bowl emissaries would be one of mutual embarrassment.
With five minutes and 19 seconds remaining, Nebraska was a 17-to-14 loser to a team that had been beaten six times in seven games.
But it must be remembered that in the shadow of disaster, Nebraska had the guts and poise to move the ball 75 yards in 15 plays — thus asserting its superiority and raising its perfect record to 9-0.
Nebraska also has achieved at least a tie for the Big Eight crown, and can post its third straight undisputed championship by defeating Oklahoma U. at Lincoln on Thanksgiving Day.
All those baubles seemed distant and relatively unimportant during the 60 minutes the Huskers battled for plain survival against the magnificent of Coach Phil Cutchin’s lightly held underdogs.
Twice Nebraska had to grind its teeth and fight from behind!
Even as time ran out in this blood curdling drama, Walt Garrison broke loose on an 18-yard run to the N.U. five-yard line, where valiant Dick Czap, Bill Johnson, Marv Mueller, Larry Wachholtz and others swarmed over the defiant Cowpoke.
Garrison carried 19 times for 121 yards, a tremendous effort against a Nebraska club that was as tough as it was erratic.
Of course, the Huskers had a host of yeoman scrappers of their own, starting with Halfback Ron Kirkland, whose wild horse thrusts were worth 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Harry Wilson added 95 yards as Nebraska dominated the ground game, 267 yards to 147 and built a meager edge of 297 to 239 in total offense.
Defensively, rookie Middle Guard Wayne Meylan roamed left and right to take part in a dozen tackles for the never-say-die Black Shirts of N.U.
Rick Coleman, holding the fort in the absence of injured Right Linebacker Lynn Senkbeil, led the unit in unassisted tackles with seven and helped on four others.
Co-Captain Mike Kennedy, Czap, far-ranging Walt Barnes and sophomore End Jerry Patton were among other Husker defenders who distinguished themselves when the pressure was greatest.
Notable in the defensive secondary were Mueller and his pair of interceptions, one pass theft by Kaye Carstens and the all-around clutch work of Wachholtz.
Although both Quarterback Fred Duda and his receivers had their poorest day in the air, a 30-yard pittance, Coach Bob Devaney went the route with Duda. Perhaps the coach was recalling the dauntless Chicagoan’s inspirational leadership in the comeback at Minnesota last year and the Duda spark that turned the tide against grudging Iowa State and Missouri this autumn.
At any rate Duda was the helmsman as Nebraska did perform another near miracle.
Nebraska was clutching desperately to a 14-to-10 margin with about nine minutes to play, when a Kirkland punt inexplicably bounced backward a dozen or so yards to give Oklahoma State the ball on the N.U. 35.
Garrison and Baxter alternated to the 13, where it was fourth down and two. Cutchin called for a field goal, with the ball held on the 20.
But when a Husker jumped offside — Czap protested violently that OSU had induced the move — the Cowpokes were given a first down on the eight.
After Garrison made five, Baxter followed 6-5, 225-pound Tackle Harold Akin over for a touchdown. With Charlie Durkee’s kick making the advantage 17 to 14 with 5:19 to play, there was bedlam.
Cowpokes jumped up and down, shook hands, slapped backs. Sirens and horns sounded. Fans’ hats flew into the air. They were celebrating, prematurely, the college upset of the year.
A 22-yard kick-off return by Frank Solich put Nebraska in business on its own 25. And on this murky day, you could hardly see the OSU end zone with binoculars from there.
Wilson, Kirkland and Charlie Winters laboriously moved the ball 13 yards in five plays. Bill Young deflected a Duda pass intended for Freeman White, but Duda then connected with Wilson for a first down on the Nebraska 49.
When Duda followed with an 11-yard strike to End Denny Richnafsky, Nebraska took time out. It had the ball on the enemy 40.
Two minutes and 41 seconds of playing time remained.
Duda threw on first down, but no receiver was close.
Tatman fought the nearest defender as Wilson went flying around his left end to a first down on the 29.
When an over-eager Cowpoke piled on, the penalty shoved the ball down to the 15.
Wilson ripped through the left side for nine. Charley Harper and Young smothered Duda just outside the five. Nebraska again called time as 1:47 showed on the clock.
Needing one yard on third down, Wilson was held for no gain.
Then Wilson vaulted a stack of lineman on the left side to earn the vital first down on the four-yard line. Duda pitched back to Tatman, who stormed to just inside the two.
Tatman, on a snorting lunge into his right side, scored the touchdown running over Linebacker Jay Lavender in the process. Wachholtz’s placement was high and well centered, providing the final touch to victory.
Five plays were managed by the hosts, but until Garrison made his final burst, it appeared that few Okies in the homecoming crowd of 31,500 had much faith left. Their emotions had been severely drained.
Nebraska’s second fumble of the first quarter set up OSU’s initial touchdown. Duda lost the ball when hit by Hugh McCrabb, and Harper recovered on Nebraska’s eight-yard line.
Larry Elliot nosed into the line to score from the one on third down. Durkee converted.
Making their own break as the Huskers responded in kind in the second quarter, Mueller intercepted a Baxter toss and returned it nine yards to the N.U. 42.
Power runs by Wilson, Kirkland, Tatman and Ben Gregory put the ball on the foe’s two, from where Kirkland rammed across. Wachholtz followed with his thirty-first placement conversion of the season, breaking the school record.
Nebraska got its first lead in the early minutes of the third quarter after Patton caused and recovered a fumble by Elliot on the kick-off.
Required distance was 22 yards.
Kirkland made it on the fifth play, utilizing a block crew led by Guard LaVerne Allers and Tatman. With Wachholtz doing his sore-toed duty, the count was 14 to 7 until the fourth period.
Aided by offside and pass interference penalties against the Huskers, OSU traveled from its 49 to the 28. On fourth down and nine to go, Durkee stepped back and kicked a 45-yard field goal. He had missed a 43-yard attempt in the opening quarter, but this boot was zeroed in all the way.
Nebraska still led, 14 to 10. Although the clock showed 10:56 remaining, it took a year to finish the game.
|Yards per carry||3.6||4.2|
Nebraska is 37-5 all-time against Oklahoma State.
|Air Force||Sept. 25|
|Iowa State||Oct. 2|
|Kansas State||Oct. 16|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 13|
Nebraska has played 17 games on Nov. 13. See them all »
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