NEW ORLEANS, La. — If Alabama wants to claim the No. 1 position in college football, sorrowful Nebraska is in no position to argue.
The Big Eight champions were, in fact, so thoroughly whipped in Monday’s 34-7 Sugar Bowl game they may volunteer to circulate petitions for Bear Bryant’s undefeated troops.
It was total disaster.
It was the worst defeat suffered by Nebraska since Oklahoma belabored Bob Devaney’s first N.U. team, 34-6, in 1962. It also was the largest score run up by any Sugar Bowl winner in nine years.
Alabama won the toss, accepted the kick-off and opened with a 45-yard pass from quarterback Ken Stabler to end Ray Perkins.
In less than 7½ minutes, the Tide rolled for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Nebraska, which had come to town eager to atone for last year’s pasting by Alabama in the Orange Bowl, already was beaten.
Smarting from the scorn of national pollsters, these ‘Bamians ran up the biggest half-time margin in Sugar Bowl history, 24-0. They proceeded to amass 436 yards in total offense; they strangled Nebraska’s attack by making a record five interceptions and capturing two fumbles.
When the Huskers did eventually end Alabama’s shutout string at 19 quarters, the Southeasterners grabbed the next kick-off and rushed 70 yards in six plays to remind their rivals who was boss.
The drive ended the scoring on the same saucy note as the opening play, with Stabler again coolly shooting the ball to Perkins for 45 yards.
The twosome deserved the encore.
Stabler, an overwhelming choice for the outstanding player trophy, showed uncanny accuracy in completing 12 of 18 passes for 218 yards.
The 6-foot-2 junior from Foley, Ala., also led the winners in rushing, as he had during the regular season. His 38 ground yards gave the wiry ringmaster a grand total of 256.
Perkins, a senior whose success in pro football has been widely predicted, caught seven flips and stretched them into 178 yards with speed and clever footwork.
The temperature was in the mid-50s. The humidity at kick-off was 93 percent. Rain, which might have proved of some benefit to the less-fancy Cornhuskers, refused to come down.
It was Alabama’s day, from the moment Bear Bryant cast a commanding glance toward the heavens until jazz trumpeter Al Hirt vigorously directed the Alabama band in a fourth-quarter serenade of the obvious conquerors.
In between, there was occasion for Rebel yells and waving of Confederate flags when the Governors Wallace of Alabama were introduced to the crowd of 82 thousand.
Among the players taking bows were safety Bobby Johns, who broke a Sugar Bowl record by stealing three passes; rough-riding tackle Lou Thompson and linebacker Bob Childs, Mike Hall and Wayne Owen, who paced the highly mobile defense; All-America tackle Cecil Dowdy, who usually led the irrepressible blocking charge.
In the consolation department, quarterback Bob Churchich set a Nebraska passing record with 21 completions, which were worth 201 yards.
Churchich passed to sophomore halfback Dick Davis for a 15-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth period. Davis, who hadn’t handled the ball until Nebraska was trailing by 17-points, made the catch on the nine and smacked into a couple of defenders to force his way over the goal line at the flag.
It was Davis who scored Nebraska’s only touchdown in the loss to Oklahoma.
The sturdy fullback carried 10 times against Alabama, netting a team-high 37 yards rushing. Halfback Ben Gregory boasted the best average, however, getting 26 yards on four attempts.
Nebraska’s leading receivers, with six catches each, were Tom Penney and Dennis Richnafsky.
Busiest of the N.U. defenders were linebacker Barry Alvarez, who started in place of Lynn Senkbeil and made eight tackles and three assists; cornerback Kaye Carstens, middle guard Wayne Meylan and cornerback Marv Mueller.
Special note also must be made of the day’s cleverest band stunt.
The ever-ready Alabama musicians formed the half-time score during their six-minute stint at intermission, and did it with neat precision suggesting it all was part of the script.
Stabler’s game-starting bolt to Perkins put the ball on Nebraska’s 27. It also must have put the Husker hearts in their mouths. This was the dreaded “big play,” performed by the dreaded twosome they had been watching in movies for weeks.
Les Kelley carried four times, the final effort taking him over the middle for a touchdown with only 3:56 elapsed. He suffered a shoulder injury and did not carry again.
However, the Bear pushed a button marked “talent” and out came substitute Ed Morgan, a 5-10 177-pound sophomore who ran like he thought he was Bronko Nagurski. Morgan exactly matched Husker Davis’s 10 carries and 37 yards.
Alabama kicked off, quickly forced a Nebraska punt, then sizzled 71 yards in four plays for touchdown No. 2. The series started — how else? — with a 10-yard Stabler-Perkins pass. On next down, the same pair clicked for 42 yards. The series ended with Stabler floating 14 yards around the ‘Bama left end.
When threatened by a tackler, Stabler faked a pitch-back to fullback David Chatwood then floated in four the score.
The score reached to 14-0 with 7:28 left in the quarter when Steve Davis kicked the second of his four conversions. The artful junior also contributed field goals of 30 and 40 yards to spice the show.
The first time Nebraska stopped Alabama, Meylan tackled halfback Frank Canterbury after a two-yard gain to leave Alabama with a fourth-and-one decision. Alabama punted.
On first down, Harry Wilson’s fumble was recovered by 6-foot-4 end Charlie Harris on the Nebraska 38.
After moving to the 13, Stabler was the victim of a shocking development. He missed on a pass for the first time in seven tosses.
So Davis kicked a field goal. It was 17-0, and Nebraska hadn’t budged beyond its own 47.
On its first possession of the second quarter, Alabama swept 71 yards in 10 calls. This time, alternate quarterback Wayne Trimble ambled around the Tide left end from the six, crashed into Larry Wachholtz at the goal line and scored.
Stabler returned to duty a few minutes later and again was the victim of a shocking development. Husker sub end Ivan Zimmer dumped Stabler for a nine-yard loss on the N.U. 40 on third down. It was the first time a Husker had touched the well named “Snake.”
Nebraska got past midfield shortly before the half when Churchich passed to Harry Wilson for 26 yards to the Tide 38. However, Nebraska lost the ball on downs at the 28.
When the half ended, Alabama had a tell-tale yardage advantage of 277-113.
Everything had happened to Nebraska except an interception. That occurred on the fourth play of the second half as Johns sidetracked a Churchich delivery intended for Gregory.
Alabama couldn’t cash in on that alert play, so Johns did it again a few minutes later. He was on his knees at the ‘Bama 17 when an errant shot to Penney came his way.
Stabler used a 27-yard pass to Perkins as the big play while taking his charges down to the N.U. 23 after that bit of ball-hawking. Davis backed up seven yards to kick his second field goal.
Thus the count was 27-0 going into the final quarter.
However, Nebraska was making a belated move. Passes by Churchich to Penney, Richnafsky, Charlie Winters and Miles Kimmel had helped Nebraska advance to the Alabama 15 as the third period ended.
Then on second down with six to make, Churchich hit Davis, who was pedaling down the right side. The throw, the catch and the run were of the picture-book variety on this ninth play of a 70-yard effort.
For what it was worth, Nebraska at least had scored on the vaunted Tide, a privilege denied regular-season rivals Louisiana Tech, Clemson, LSU, South Carolina, Southern Mississippi and Auburn.
But Alabama quickly nullified the points involved by sending Stabler and Perkins to center stage for their aerial legerdemain.
Coach Bob Devaney later poured in substitutes, although it perhaps will not be a sporting event which many will insist on preserving in scrapbook form.
|Yards per carry||3.6||3.4|
Nebraska is 2-3 all-time against Alabama.
|Utah State||Sept. 24|
|Iowa State||Oct. 1|
|Kansas State||Oct. 15|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 12|
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