LINCOLN — Nebraska's fire-breathing underdogs carried the battle to unbeaten Colorado Saturday, but were spiked by their own mistakes — four fumbles and four interceptions — and lost by 21-16.
The record crowd of 65,766, blessed by brilliant autumn weather, saw Nebraska limit the Big Eight leaders offensive platoon to a single touchdown — one which came in gift wrapping when a second-quarter gamble failed.
However, the hard-hitting, ball-hawking visitors squeezed two touchdowns out of the Nebraska offense.
Colorado derailed one pass and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to secure a lead it never relinquished.
In the third period, after the Huskers' all-out effort had pulled them to within one point of the favorites, 13-14, Colorado socked away the triumph with a 76-yard interception runback.
Colorado simply was doing what it consistently has been doing better than any other Big Eight team this season — stabbing the opponent on the blade of its own aerial attack. Saturday's four interceptions ran the C.U. five-game total to 17, just 11 short of the national record for a season.
Any question concerning Nebraska's determination, the degree of its desire to overthrow this high-riding brigade from the Rockies, is resolved by statistics showing N.U. amassing 402 yards in total offense compared with the Buffs' 182.
Sophomore Joe Orduna checked in with his greatest day running, collecting 98 yards and averaging 9.8. That included an artful touchdown dash of 27, a near carbon copy of his 25-yard play which beat Minnesota.
Workhorse Dick Davis carried 19 times for 68 yards and caught two passes. Halfback Ben Gregory, netting 14 yards in four carries, was much more effective with his three pass catches for 56 yards and one touchdown.
Thrust into a showdown with a rival sophomore quarterback, Nebraska's Frank Patrick completed 14 of 27 passes for 191 yards but was unproductive on the ground. Colorado's Bob Anderson likewise was throttled as a rusher while delivering eight of 15 passes for 72 yards.
However, Anderson gave the host club fits with his deceptive ball handling and was expert in his direction of a backfield which lacked Wilmer Cooks.
Replacing the injured Cooks was sophomore Tom Nigbur, 209-pound Brahma bull who stomped for 43 yards in nine chances. That total was second only to William Harris's 51.
It will be difficult to forget that Nigbur comes from Security, Colo.
Most of the way, this was a wilder wild west show than any ever produced by Bill Cody, and an exhibition with more oddities than Phineas T. Barnum presented in his gaudiest of freakish arrays.
The N.U. gamble that backfired is a case in point.
First, take note that Nebraska came out brimming with pugnacity, grabbing the opening kick-off and beginning its first series with a pass.
The Huskers soon had to punt. Three plays later, N.U. aggressively retrieved the ball when Jim Hawkins recovered Anderson's fumbled hand-off at the C.U. 42.
Davis's hard rushing and a 19-yard pass from Patrick to Denny Morrison helped hurry the ball to the enemy 10. Tackle Frank Bosch, one of the C.U. defensive giants, wrestled Patrick down for a seven-yard loss. Then Patrick delivered a perfect shot to Gregory, who took the ball on the 10 and darted across the goal line. Bill Bomberger's placement made it 7-0 with slightly less than seven minutes gone.
That advantage carried into the second quarter, which found Colorado moving steadily toward the N.U. goal.
After the Buffs reached the nine, End Mike Wynn dived over blocker Bart Bortles to pin Anderson for a six-yard loss. Nigbur regained one yard before Al Larson, sophomore safety, spilled Anderson for a loss of three.
That made it fourth down on the 17. With the ball held another seven yards back, Dave Bartelt was far short on the a field goal attempt.
Nebraska took over on its 20, boasting a seven-point advantage and bristling with confidence. When it was one-yard shy of a first down on the N.U. 29, the plunge was ordered.
This was cocksure football, to put it mildly.
A gold-jacketed Colorado staff member who had found a seat in a press row used another adjective: "Stupid." However, it was a call made to order for fans who have been demanding more Husker optimism.
After Center Roger Kudrna jammed the ball into his hands, the 6-7 Patrick lunged. From atop the west grandstand, it appeared Patrick had reached the 30 before being shoved back and disappearing into the dog pile.
But the referee, after pulling the players off, declared that Patrick had not made the first down. Later there was confusion in the press box over an announcement that Colorado had recovered a Patrick fumble on the play. At any rate, it was Colorado's ball.
With only 29 yards to go, Colorado could smell six points like six pounds of garlic. Anderson ran for 10 on first down. It was Nigbur-Harris-Nigbur to the six.
Nigbur then faked into the middle; Anderson slipped the ball to Larry Plantz, who raced around the Buff end for a touchdown frosted by Bartelt's placement.
Nebraska promptly fought back 59 yards to the Colorado 12 as Gregory, Davis, and Denny Richnafsky hauled in tosses from Patrick.
As Patrick attempted to pass again, he was clobbered from behind by end Mike Schnitker. The resulting fumble was picked up by the other end, Mike Veeder. The latter raced to Nebraska's 25 but officials ruled the ball dead on C.U. 14.
On Nebraska's next possession, a rich opportunity from the Colorado 37, a second-down pass by Patrick was stolen by Dick Anderson. The older brother of the Buff quarterback ran to near the Nebraska 40, then smartly turned and lateraled to Veeder.
A 6-4, 221-pound senior from Minneapolis, Veeder legged it into the end zone to complete a zany sequence that consumed 17 seconds.
After Beltelt's kick lifted the tally to 14-7, Nebraska had 49 seconds before intermission to make up for its mistake. There were 44 seconds and 74 yards to go after Orduna returned the ball to the Nebraska 26.
Orduna ran end for 26 and Patrick tagged Richnafsky for 14 yards on vital plays. N.U. had reached its own 47 before Patrick's long pass to Richnafsky sailed incomplete. Time ran out on the play.
But, lo, Ike Howard had bumped into Richnafsky in flagrant interference. The rules gave Nebraska one more play. That was from the point of interference, which officials determined to be the Colorado four.
Davis shot into the heart of the defense, go to the one and fumbled into the end zone, where Bosch recovered.
That ended the wackiest 30 minutes of football seen in Lincoln in some years. Although Colorado was out front, 14-7, Nebraska still was in red-necked contention.
The Cornhuskers took the second-half-off, a touchback, and drove to their 45. Dana Stephenson had to punt, but Colorado was caught in illegal use of hands, and Nebraska got another chance from the C.U. 40.
Patrick fired to Morrison for 13 yards. On the next down, the blocking of Gregory, Davis and Jo Armstrong launched Orduna on his 27-yard touchdown run, a sparkling effort which included evasion of Mike Bynum at the three.
Dick Anderson blocked Bomberger's conversion attempt to save a one-point margin for the visitors.
Later in the third period; Bob Best intercepted an Anderson pass to give Nebraska the ball on its 19. A 34-yard pass-run with Patrick and Gregory collaborating helping N.U. storm to the Buff 33. Then the killer play.
Patrick's throw to Richnafsky was grabbed instead by Jeff Raymond, who kicked up his heels for 76 yards and a touchdown. With Bartelt's conversion, the C.U. advantage was 21-13.
Nebraska got to the Colorado 17 early in the fourth quarter, mainly on a 39-yard strike from Patrick to Orduna. With the defense tightening, Bomberger kicked a 33-yard field goal.
Another N.U. threat carried to the Buff's 16, but Linebacker Kerry Mottl recovered a fumble on the 13 when Orduna landed heavily and lost his grip.
Nebraska had two more opportunities to catch up in the final minutes. However, lack of time demanded passes, and Raymond and Tom Kmetovic intercepted a pair.
It was a game that should keep second-guessers busy all week while Nebraska prepares for its invasion of Texas Christian. Colorado, 3-0 in the league and 5-0 overall, returns home to face Oklahoma State.
|Yards per carry||2.6||4.0|
Nebraska is 49-20 all-time against Colorado.
|Kansas State||Oct. 7|
|Iowa State||Nov. 4|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 11|
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