LINCOLN — Nebraska's football team played with a swagger Saturday, trounced Colorado 20-7 and firmly established itself as a Big Eight title contender.
In the process, Bob Devaney won a coaching gamble with Eddie Crowder before a highly responsive turnout of 67,084, third-largest assemblage in Memorial Stadium history.
The Cornhusker headmaster benched the Big Eight's No. 2 man in total offense, Jerry Tagge, and put his chips on sophomore Van Brownson.
The confident kid from Shenandoah, Ia., responded by directing two touchdown thrusts. He completed eight of 17 passes for 117 yards and contributed several runs of significance.
Crowder's gamble was to employ record-breaking tailback Bobby Anderson mainly as a decoy the first half. But the Buffaloes fell behind, 10-7, during that span, and Nebraska's defensive Blackshirts kept the All-American candidate under control when he tried to spark a comeback in the second half.
Anderson was held to a net of 42 yards in a dozen carries. His previous low since being switched from quarterback was 121 yards against Iowa State.
Meanwhile, Husker co-captain Dana Stephenson was turning in a blistering game-breaking performance that should earn him Big Eight Back-of-the-Week recognition.
The senior cornerback out of Lincoln Pius X High School intercepted a pass by quarterback Jim Bratten to set up the go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter. He intercepted another toss by Bratten as a prelude to an insurance touchdown in the third quarter.
And before the fun was over on this gray, chilly afternoon, Stephenson made yet another interception to thwart Colorado's last frantic bid.
Nebraska's defense was, in a carefully considered word, tremendous. It was a job that may give rise to a new slogan: Blackshirt Is Beautiful.
Here are a few of the defensive highlights that bottled up Colorado after Nebraska had moved to a 20-7 lead with 5:33 remaining in the third period.
Ken Geddes led a fourth-down stop of the Buffs at the N.U. four-yard line. Sherwin Jarmon recovered a Bratten fumble on the Colorado 22. Adrian Fiala intercepted a Paul Arendt pass and returned it a couple of yards to the visitors' 48. And then the final theft by Stephenson.
Nebraska's finest game of the season produced the 99th triumph of Devaney's head coaching career and earned a share of the Big Eight lead — with Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma remaining on the schedule.
The Cornhuskers are 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the conference. As results the past two Saturdays have indicated, the championship is there for the plucking.
It can now be regarded as an oddity that Colorado was able to take the opening kickoff and blast 77 yards for a touchdown. Nebraska, it appeared, might be in for a most dreary day.
The big offensive line was detonating awesome holes as Bratten capered effectively on option runs, fullback Ward Walsh shoed great power, and Anderson constantly worried the N.U. defense.
Crowder tossed in an end-around play for the big gainer, with Marv Whitaker dashing 39 yards to the N.U. 24.
With the ball on the seven, Anderson followed Walsh though a good-sized hole for the touchdown. Dave Haney converted.
Paul Rogers kicked a 40-yard field goal late in the first period. That was No. 9 for the junior, breaking Larry Wachholtz's N.U. career record of eight.
But Nebraska trailed for 19-and-a-half minutes of the first half.
Colorado came close to scoring again before Nebraska could nab its first touchdown. Arendt steered the Buffs from their 34 to the Scarlet 18. However, Walsh fumbled on the next play and Geddes recovered on the 18.
For a moment, it was Raggedy Ann. Phil Irwin stole a Brownson pass and ran six yards to the N.U. 38. Colorado fumbled a handoff on the follownig play, Pat Morell recovering for the Husker on their 39.
Only 2:15 remained in the half when Stephenson, striding with Whitaker, picked off a Bratten pass on the Nebraska 39. This time Brownson had all the answers.
Schneiss plunged for two, Van passed to Jeff Kinney for 20 yards and to Larry Frost for 19 on consecutive plays. On a draw, Schneiss broke a tackle by 238-pound Dave Capra and bulled for nine.
Swinging wide around his right end, Brownson was run out on the four by Bill Collins. Capra and Collins backed up Kinney for a foot or so.
Then Nebraska wheeled out a blocking convoy headed by Carl Ashman, Jim McFarland and Schneiss. Kinney dutifully followed the flock around right end and across the goal line. With Rogers' placement, Nebraska had a 10-7 edge.
The halftime show was a salute to Phineas T. Barnum by the Cornhusker Marching Band. Barnum entertained the 19th century public with curiosities such as Tom Thumb, the Feejee Mermain, the Wild Man of Bornea and the original Siamese Twins.
It is unlikely, though, that the flamboyant promoter ever titillated an audience more than the Huskers did in the final 30 minutes Saturday.
Experts said this game was a tossup, yet Nebraska flat whipped Colorado down the stretch. Never was the victory grip loosened.
Stephenson's second interception put Nebraska in business on the Colorado 32 with three minutes gone in the third quarter. Short bursts by Kinney and Schneiss moved the ball to the 27.
Now picture Brownson about to be buried by a rush led by Collins. The quarterback moves easily as the protective pocket breaks open. He keeps peering downfield. Then he hurls the ball to Schneiss, who makes the catch near the sideline at the 22.
Guy Ingles, also in that attractive neighborhood, occupied the nearest defender while the 6-2 Schneiss stretched his legs all the way home.
Scant minutes later, soph cornerback Jim Anderson took possession of a Bratten pitchout intended for Bobby Anderson, Nebraska's ball on the C.U. 41.
An 18-yard pass from Brownson to Schneiss, and runs by Schneiss and Kinney advanced Nebraska to the 15. But it came up fourth-and-five, so Rogers fattened his fresh record with a 10th field goal, this a 32-yard kick.
With the Blackshirts dominating the fourth quarter, it was hardly more than incidental that quarterback Tagge — who had averaged 196 yards per game in total offense — entered this fray with only 4:57 remaining.
With the help of an interference call, Tagge had his mates at the Colorado five as the game ended.
Let the record show that Jerry Murtaugh took part in 18 tackles, Jarmon in a dozen. Art Larson and Bob Liggett got the most yardage in tackles behind the line.
Schneiss averaged 40.8 yards on eight punts, netted 63 yards to become the winners' leading rusher and also ranked as top receiver, bagging four passes for 71 yards.
The Iowa State game this week concludes the home schedule, and it could set off Coach Devaney's 100th-victory celebration.
|Yards per carry||3.5||2.3|
Nebraska is 49-19 all-time against Colorado.
|Texas A&M||Sept. 27|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 25|
|Iowa State||Nov. 8|
|Kansas State||Nov. 15|
Nebraska has played 18 games on Nov. 1. See them all »
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