COLUMBIA, Mo. — Quick, versatile Missouri smothered Nebraska's ground game Saturday while opening its Big Eight Conference championship bid with a 17-7 victory on a wet field.
In registering their fourth straight success of the season, the Tigers proved to scouts from the Sugar, Orange and Liberty Bowls that they have a complete team.
Defensively, they limited Nebraska to 36 yards on the ground, one of the feeblest showings by any of Coach Bob Devaney's eight N.U. teams.
Offensively, Missouri struck from long and short range while collecting 214 yards rushing and another 110 with a sputtering though always dangerous air attack.
The context was witnessed by an estimated 60,500 fans, second best turnout in Memorial Stadium history.
Defeat was a sobering experience for the Cornhuskers who had been buoyed by a 42-14 drubbing of Minnesota the previous week. The Lincolnites now are 2-2 for the season. They have lost three in a row to Missouri and have been beaten in seven of their last 10 conference games.
They avoided a shutout this dark, chilly afternoon with a 77-yard pass play early in the third period. Quarterback Jerry Tagge lofted the ball to fellow soph Jeff Kinney, who sped 55 yards after making the catch.
Kinney has scored in his first four varsity games — a performance believed unduplicated by any other Husker since the All-American campaign of sophomore Bobby Reynolds in 1950.
The breathtaking Tagge-Kinney strike helped Nebraska pile up 232 aerial yards. The figure is impressive but the effort was largely futile.
Led by ends Mike Bennett and John Brown, tackle Mark Kuhlman and linebacker Steve Lundholm, the Tigers put relentless pressure on Tagge when the outcome still was in the balance. In the first half alone, the N.U. quarterback was dumped for losses of six, 10, five and seven yards and was hit a number of times after releasing the ball.
Missouri quickly established a command that never was in serious jeopardy.
The Bengals scored on their second play from scrimmage with Terry McMillan, the quarterback hero of the Gator Bowl, teaming with Big Eight sprint champ Mel Gray.
McMillan slipped as he dropped back from the Missouri 31 to throw, but quickly regained his balance and spiraled the ball toward flanker Gray, who was in the process of outrunning Nebraska's Jim Anderson.
Gray fielded the pass on about the N.U. 25. From that point on, there was no race. Henry Brown's placement hiked the lead to 7-0 with the game only two minutes and 11 seconds old.
The clinching score came with nine seconds remaining in the first half.
Fortune was flip-flopping at that point. Nebraska thwarted a drive to the N.U. 44 when Dana Stephenson intercepted a McMillan pass on the Husker 12. Three plays later, Brown crashed into Tagge and dislodged the ball, which he covered on the 16.
Three plays after that damaging collision McMillian pitched over the goal line to end Tom Shryock, who won a jockeying duel with Anderson. The eight-yard play, again decorated with a Brown conversion, gave Mizzou all the margin it needed.
Oddly enough, McMillan's passing record at the half was a miserable three-for-15. Miserable, except that two of the completions were good for touchdowns.
The giblets that went with the gravy was a ground attack led by Joe Moore's fourth straight 100-yard job. He carried 38 times, lost only a yard, netted 134.
Nebraska ground leader was Kinney, netting 30 yards in 13 carries.
"They've got too much speed for us," said N.U. Regent Eddie Schwartzkopf, the former all-conference guard.
Enemy speed also was the betraying factor in Nebraska's other loss, the 31-21 game with Southern Cal. That was when Sports Illustrated referred to "those big slow Cornhuskers."
Speed and quickness. Offense and defense. Missouri had the proper ingredients in both departments.
Nebraska's best field position the first half came when linebacker Jerry Murtaugh intercepted a McMillan pass and hustled 13 yards to the Tiger 40.
Larry Frost hit the middle for three. But when Tagge then went back to pass, he was buried by John Brown, Kuhlman and Bennett. A hard rush by Bennett forced a hurried pass on next down. Nebraska punted — one of the nine times it had to kick during the first 30 minutes.
The second time Nebraska obtained possession in the second half, gamester Tagge went back to work on the air effort. The Huskers were on their 23 when Tagge hurled a first-down pass that Guy Ingles could not hold. Nebraska had to pass if it was going to move.
Tagge tried again. This time Kinney darted between two defenders, made one of his 13 catches, and set sail on his fifth touchdown of a very auspicious varsity debut.
The score was 14-7. Handicappers had seen Missouri's margin at 10 points, and the Tigers now obliged as Jon Staggers returned the following kickoff 41 yards to his 48.
The defensive play of Ken Geddes and Murtaugh helped stall the drive on the N.U. 33. Henry Brown kicked a 48-yard field goal on fourth down. Missouri won by 10.
In the fourth quarter, Brown missed from 22 yards.
Sophomore Van Brownson did all of Nerbaska's quarterbacking in the final period. Although he completed seven of 13 passes, the Tigers gave him the treatment, too.
There was a fumbled handoff between Brownson and Green, interceptions of Brownson passes by Butch Davis and George Fountain. The rookie was tackled for losses totaling 21 yards.
Murtaugh, the rugged junior out of Omaha North High, had one of his finest days despite the losing cause. In addition to the interception he took part in 17 tackles.
Dave Walline, junior from Ypsilanti, Mich. figured in 16 tackles and Al Larson in 13.
Missouri remains at home for the Oklahoma State game this week. Nebraska returns home to battle 1968 co-champ Kansas U.
|Yards per carry||3.5||0.9|
Nebraska is 65-36 all-time against Missouri.
|Texas A&M||Sept. 27|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 25|
|Iowa State||Nov. 8|
|Kansas State||Nov. 15|
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