USAF ACADEMY, Colo. — The jut-jawed young football players of Air Force Academy outscored Nebraska the final three periods at Falcon Stadium Saturday but lost a 27-to-17 decision to the heavily-favored invaders.
Audacious to the finish, Air Force made a game of it by scoring a field goal and a touchdown in a 54-second outburst that had the Cornhuskers reeling early in the third quarter.
For almost 10 minutes, Nebraska teetered on a four-point advantage, 21 to 17.
Ten thousand N.U. followers in the crowd of 37,056 were able to breathe more deeply when dynamic Frank Solich roared 40 yards to his third touchdown with 2:06 remaining in the third period.
It was Solich who had touched off an apparent rout by blurring his way 80 yards on the first play after Nebraska received the opening kick-off.
Those vital strikes enabled the 158-pound fullback to collect 205 yards rushing, a one-game Cornhusker record.
Former All-America Bobby Reynolds amassed 187 yards during a 32-to-26 victory over Minnesota in 1950 for the former mark.
WHO'S IN CHARGE?
Perhaps the going was too easy at the outset.
Nebraska swept to touchdowns the first three times it had possession, producing a 21-to-0 margin in slightly more than 14 minutes.
But even then, the Falcons were behaving as though they were the ones pouring it on.
Their ringleader on attack was quarterback Paul Stein, 5-10, 178-pound senior from Lansing, Mich.
Stein threw 34 times, completed 18 for 269 yards. That broke the Air Force record and, against Coach Bob Devaney's Nebraskans, is second only to George Mira's 321 aerial yards in the 1962 Gotham Bowl.
Stein was dumped for losses totaling 40 yards, but he always bounced back eager to run or hurl the ball as circumstances dictated.
Air Force netted only 40 yards rushing, grim evidence that Nebraska wasn't standing idly by. Linebacker Lynn Senkbeil, cornerback Bill Johnson and safety Larry Wachholtz were the most prominent of Nebraska's defenders.
N.V. STARTS FAST
In the picturesque setting of the rampart range of the Rockies, and with the temperature hitting a balmy 65 at kick-off, the red-clad tourists from Nebraska settled down for an afternoon of go-go football by the nation's second-ranked team.
When Solich took off through the Husker right side and sped 80 yards on the opening play, there were knowing smiles throughout the N.U. section.
Air Force managed only three yards on three plays when it had an opportunity to move the ball.
Nebraska was bopped with a five-yard penalty on first down after the Falcons punted. But on the next play, Harry Wilson got away for 41 yards to the A.F. 40.
There was only one pass completion on this thrust — a 13-yarder from Bob Churchich to end Freeman White, for a first down on the 15.
Solich nabbed four at the middle and Ron Kirkland six through the right side. Then Kirkland utilized a block by Wilson to kick through the right side for a touchdown.
Wachholtz followed with the second of three straight placement conversions.
SWOSH! FRANK'S GONE
This time Air Force gained two first down's before Ted Vactor's ball-hawking thwarted a fourth-down pass by Stein, giving Nebraska possession on its 37.
Churchich mixed a 10-yard pass to White with ground sorties by Wilson, Solich, Kirkland and fullback Pete Tatman. With the ball on the enemy 21, Churchich pitched it out to Solich on a power shot to the left — usually the weak side.
The Cleveland senior was gone with a swoosh. The score was 21 to 0; victory apparently well sacked and tied in ribbons. Most forecasters had picked Nebraska by four touchdowns. and this mastery was developing even more rapidly than anticipated.
The only sour note up to this point was a flood-repair bottleneck on the highway between Denver and the academy. This had stacked traffic so monumentally, fans were arriving throughout the first half.
TROUBLE SETS IN
Not a soul in the attractive bowl could suspect that Nebraska would be able to squeeze only one touchdown out of its next nine possessions.
The Husker scoring string broke in the early moments of the second quarter when a Churchich handoff to rookie Ben Gregory was fumbled on first down.
Recovery by Larry Cole gave the Falcons an inspirtional shot from the N. U. 27.
Immediately, Stein passed to halfback Larry Cook, who was stopped by Vactor and Johnson at the four. Cook made two on the ground as a prelude to Fullback John Ondrejko's touchdown slant through the middle.
Nebraska rambled 66 yards to the A F. 10 in hopeful retaliation, but a delay-of-game penalty and Clay Magee's third-down stop of Solich altered Devaney's plans.
Dave Allen deflected an attempted field goal by Wachholtz.
A.F. GOES TO AIR
Air Force monopolized the ball the remaining 3:35 before the intermission. Stein's dauntless pitching carried the Falcons 65 yards to the Scarlet 15.
With four seconds to go, soph quarterback Sonny Litz faked a field goal attempt, jumped to his feet and lofted the ball to end Carl Janssen.
Husker Senkbeil deflected the ball, but Janssen snatched it out of the air. Mike Kennedy and Vactor bore him to the ground at the goal line as the Cadet Corps went wild.
However, officials said the ball was dead a foot or two short of a touchdown.
After the intermission, Stein resumed his pesky throwing.
He almost made it the third play after the kickoff, but Senkbeil tripped up receiver Jim Schultz after a 36-yard gain to the Nebraska 15.
By fourth down, the Falcons moved no farther than the 13. Dan Radtke then came through with his field goal.
CADETS COME CLOSE
Fired to high pitch, Air Force made a dribbling, onside kick-off that touched Husker tackle Jim Brown and slithered on past. Jim Hogarty recovered on the N.U. 46.
Stein passed for 40 yards to Guy Hogle, who was downed by Johnson on the six. Bob Barnes next took a pitch-out and scored as Langston Coleman met him at the goal line. Radtke's conversion kick shaved Nebraska's lead to 21 to 17 with 11 minutes and 53 seconds to play in the third period.
There were, of course, taunts regarding Nebraska's top 10 prestige.
Air Force kept pressure on so well quarterback :Fred Duda didn't get into the game until the final five minutes.
Not the least of the fanatical Falcons was defensive end Jerry Wyngaard, one of Coach Ben Martin's surprisng teenagers. The six-foot-two rookie had a hand in 11 tackles while helping pinch off a number of wide ventures by the Huskers.
Nebraska also had trouble handling the ball smoothly and was guilty of infractions that mounted to a penalty total of 95 yards.
A third-down plunge by Ondrejko was stymied by Kennedy, forcing a punt that set up Nebraska's only points of the last half.
About four minutes remained in the third quarter.
Guard Wayne Meylan's recovery of a Solich fumble on third down kept the bid alive. With two to make at the Falcon 41, Solich struck through his left side.
Frank appeared halted momentarily after a short gain, but suddenly burst out of the pack and sped to a touchdown. Air Force angrily protested that the ball had been blown dead, a belief reflected in the notable lack at pursuit.
However, three officials disagreed and the score that gave Solich an 18-point total also gave Nebraska cause for great relief.
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|Yards per carry||1.5||7.1|
Nebraska is 1-1 all-time against Air Force.
|Air Force||Sept. 25|
|Iowa State||Oct. 2|
|Kansas State||Oct. 16|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 13|
Nebraska has played 11 games on Sept. 25. See them all »
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