LINCOLN — Set ‘em up in the other nine alleys.
Highly expectant fans, an estimated record 52,650 of them, received full measure Saturday from the University of Nebraska football team in its 34-to-14 triumphal debut against Texas Christian University.
Husker rough spots were revealed, but only the crabbiest man in town would quibble over a decisive first-game victory on a wet field.
Nebraska achieved its mastery with a pleasing combination of brute strength, a stabbing aerial game and juggler’s stunts in ball-handling.
Its superiority in total yardage was 384 to 164; its first downs, 21 to 8.
The first two times it had the ball, Nebraska moved steadily under Quarterback Bob Churchich’s direction to accumulate 122 yards and two touchdowns.
Both scores came on passes from Omaha junior to End Freeman White, whose eight receptions for the day broke an N.U. record.
Most of the winners’ power play came from Halfback Ron Kirkland, who ranged near and wide on a dozen carries for game rushing honors — 93 yards.
However, big Pete Tatman at fullback also was quite effective, averaging seven yards on half a dozen thundering trips.
Nebraska’s starting fullback, the ever-popular Frank Solich, flitted persistently for another 44. Frank also made his first appearance at end, streaking out for a pass that was overthrown.
With all that flow of talent, it remained for a defensive back, Bill Johnson, to provide the longest scoring dash. He raced 50 yards with an intercepted pass after the Texans had shaved the gap to seven points in the second period.
Quarterback Fred Duda made his first appearance in nine games, taking the field in the fourth period when the count was 28 to 7.
It took Fred a while to warm up; two drives were aborted early when Linebacker E. A. Gresham intercepted Duda passes.
But when Duda got the feel of the game, he exhibited all the sleight-of-hand and swashbuckling boldness of old.
Replacing Churchich with several minutes remaining, the Chicago senior engineered the final six plays of an 83-yard touchdown sweep that had fans gasping at his audacity.
Tatman broke loose for 25 yards to the N.U. 42 to give this nervy drive its early momentum. Several plays later, Churchich dashed around right end and flicked lateral to Kirkland for another 24.
But down the stretch, it was Duda.
He made 10 — and stopped the clock — on an end run. He put Nebraska on the nine with a hairbreadth lateral to Ken Brunk.
Duda next weaved through the middle and attempted to leap across the goal line, but was solidly repulsed by a trio of Horned Frogs.
One foot short. Fourth down, 13 seconds remaining. Duda again zipped to his right. No more than a long stride away from six points, he shoveled the ball to Brunk, who took it over.
Absolutely, Duda has returned.
Never doubt, but what TCU was playing football all the while.
The visitors chewed angrily at the middle of Nebraska’s line, picking up a total of 132 yards just on the reckless thrusts of Fullback Ken Post and Halfback Steven Landon, both sophomores.
Post was a 19-carry workhorse.
He’s the “ready rookie” who several days ago declared:
“I can’t sleep at night. I just lay in bed, tossing and turning, thinking of Nebraska … All my life I have wanted to play against the No. 1 team.”
He did and with distinction.
Shorn desperately thin of experienced material, Coach Abe Martin got good mileage out of Offensive Tackle Bobby Barker, a touch-luck senior seeing his first varsity action.
Less than three months ago, a surgeon stripped six varicose veins from Barker’s right leg and told the youngster he could run again in a year — “Maybe longer.”
Despite its willingness, TCU was belted off balance at the beginning and never came close to a take-charge opportunity.
In Nebraska’s first two telling thrusts, Churchich completed his first six passes.
On the first touchdown throw, good for 27 yards, White got back of Dan Jones to make the catch in the end zone. His giant strides took him across a mud patch beyond the end zone and up into the seventh row of temporary bleachers.
Touchdown No. 2 followed a superbly executed punt return by Larry Wachholtz, the former North Platte quarterback. Aided by Walt Barnes’s explosive block, this run covered 28 yards.
Churchich drove the regulars to the 12. Faking adeptly, he tossed a high one to White, who was being tightly shadowed by Jones.
White, who was a 6-5 high jumper in high school at Detroit, catapulted himself into the air at the goal line and came down with a touchdown.
Undaunted, the Frogs embarrassed the N.U. Black Shirts with a hammering march of 78 yards, climaxed by a touchdown with 2:56 elapsed in the second quarter.
The 10-yard cashier play was achieved on Quarterback Kent Nix’s third pass and first completion of the game.
He aimed diagonally for End Sonny Campbell. The 6-2 junior made his jump in front of Kaye Carstens, speared the ball and managed to spin across without stepping out of bounds.
Earlier, Carstens had made a fine play to thwart a long Nix-Campbell pass at the goal line.
Before the intermission, Wachholtz darted 26 on another breathtaking punt return and Johnson, a 10.5 sprinter in his prime as a Stanton High trackman, made his piracy at midfield and whistled home for six.
A pass-interference call on Frank Horak was highly consequential on Nebraska’s third-quarter touchdown move that put the ball on the TCU 12.
Churchich gained two yards on a keeper, then rammed the ball into the midriff of Kirkland, coming around from left half.
Kirkland ran wide, broke a tackle near the six and lunged over barely inside the corner flag as two defenders barreled into him.
The second interception on Duda by Gresham found the rookie linebacker tossing off at the N.U. 43 to Defensive Halfback John Richards.
Richards got down to the 12. Three plays later, Landon’s high knee action took him through the right side for three yards and a touchdown.
No doubt smarting from his miscue, Duda cancelled that one out with his late artistry.
Leisurely study of the game films should give Coach Bob Devaney enough material for sharp lecturing as Nebraska prepares for Air Force this week.
However, it is unlikely the casual fan saw much to dampen enthusiasm for a big Husker season.
|Yards per carry||3.6||5.1|
Nebraska is 6-1 all-time against TCU.
|Air Force||Sept. 25|
|Iowa State||Oct. 2|
|Kansas State||Oct. 16|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 13|
Nebraska has played 9 games on Sept. 18. See them all »
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