MEMORIAL STADIUM, Lincoln — Opportunity knocked three times in the third quarter Saturday before frantic Nebraska took charge to win a bruising, 21-7 football verdict from Missouri.
The victory, assured with two fourth-quarter touchdowns, kept the Huskers undefeated and extended their unbeaten string to 11.
Three times the usually error-free Missourians fumbled the ball in the third quarter before the Huskers, amid chants of “Go!” Go!” from the Big Red followers, caught fire.
The turnabout came with suddenness after the Husker attack had bogged down without a scoring effort for some 38 minutes.
Jeff Kinney, the tireless N.U. junior tailback who led all rushers with 108 yards, gobbled up a fumbled fair catch by Mike Fink at the Nebraska 34.
Missouri had just backed the Huskers into a deep hole and Jeff Hughes, a 43-yard average punter this day, kicked from deep in his end zone.
The Kinney recovery came just three plays before the end of the quarter. Missouri, after yielding an 80-yard scoring drive in the first quarter, had held the Huskers to three first downs from the 8:32 of the first quarter to that point.
Van Brownson, who took over at quarterback as Jerry Tagge’s replacement the second half, got one yard on an option. Kinney made a first down on the 44 in two cracks at the stubborn Mizzou line.
Then Joe Orduna broke it open. Wiggling free between left guard and tackle, Mr. Slyboots reeled off 41 yards to the Missouri 15.
There was no stopping the barreling Huskers at that point. Kinney gave Orduna a breather and pounded the middle four straight times to put the ball on the one.
Brownson, on second down, squeezed over the goal behind big Donnie McGhee. Paul Rogers’ kick made it 14-7 to give Husker backers in a crowd of 67,538 a chance to relax...just a bit.
The clinching points came on Johnny Rodgers’ 48-yard punt return with 4:01 to go. That was the end of Missouri’s hopes and ended the Tigers’ win streak over Nebraska at three.
Before that there were many plays undesigned for the faint hearted.
Perhaps the biggest collision of all spelled doom for the Tigers, who tied N.U. for the Big Eight championship last year.
Joe Moore, the nation’s leading rusher with 604 yards going into the game, crashed into burly Dave Walline of Nebraska with five minutes to play in the first period.
It was a classic tackle, a clean, solid hit that resulted in more than a two-yard loss. Moore was helped off the field and never returned because of a shoulder separation. He is feared lost for the year.
Hard luck didn’t stop there for the Tigers, who lost star defender Rocky Wallace with groin and back injuries late in the second period. He never played again either.
But don’t let those injuries mar Nebraska’s success over the crashing Tigers, who seemed to scrap harder after the mishaps.
Nebraska owned the statistical edge, a meritorious achievement that ranks second best to earning the most points.
Husker dominance shows in the total plays — 81-66 — and yards gained, 293 to 218.
Crackling defense was responsible for many of Mizzou’s six fumbles.
Hawking Huskers recovered three Tiger fumbles and intercepted three passes as the Blackshirts came to the rescue as of old when their offensive partners failed to move the ball.
Husker defenders took turns in the spotlight.
Big plays by the Blackshirts:
— Willie Harper’s tackle of quarterback Mike Farmer for an eight-yard loss. The play halted M.U. and Jack Bastable missed a field goal from the 31 with the game only four plays old.
— Ed Periard and Larry Jacobson had successive tackles for losses of nine and seven yards after the Tigers reached the N.U. 31 in the second quarter. Mizzou, out of field goal range, was forced to punt.
— Bob Terrio’s recovery of James Harrison’s fumble at the 22 to stop Mizzou’s third-quarter drive.
— Jacobson’s recovery of a Farmer fumble moments later at the 33.
Kinney’s recovery of Fink’s punt reception has to rate at the top. But the ever-present Jerry Murtaugh and Terrio intercepted passes after that to add to Missouri’s miseries.
Murtaugh’s interception gave N.U. the ball at the Mizzou 26. But eight plays later, on first down from the three, a Kinney collision with the Tiger forwards resulted in a fumble which was recovered by Vital.
Three plays later Rodgers, behind a convoy of blockers, carried the kick back for the out-of-sight score.
Credit Brownson, off to a shaky start, with a good performance. He completed five of 10 passes under the same brutal rush that had stymied Tagge the first half.
Tagge hit two of his first three throws, one of a 12-yard touchdown strike to Kinney, but finished two quarters with a 4-13 completion mark and two interceptions.
After Rodgers fumbled away the opening kickoff at the 23, Nebraska took control at its 20 following Bastable’s missed field goal.
This nine-play drive to cover the distance had no fancy stuff at the start. One pattern...Kinney, running behind McGhee, Wally Winter and Jerry List, for 33 yards in six plays. A five-yard Missouri penalty helped.
That put the ball on the Tiger 42. The enterprising Huskers then pulled a new play out of the book. List, a freshman halfback two years ago and an accomplished tight end now, took a reverse.
List shook a tackler behind the line and set sail for 27 yards before Pete Buha nailed him at the 15. Kinney got three yards before taking a delayed pass from Tagge for the touchdown.
Rogers, who ran his consecutive extra-point string to 20, converted with 8:32 left in the period.
The score not only succeeded in putting N.U. on the board. It also provoked the Tiger defenders. Nebraska got only one other first down the rest of the half.
Scrimmaging from their 15 in the second period, the Husker air game backfired. Lorenzo Brinkley stepped in front of Guy Ingles at the N.U. 23 for an interception.
Dan Schneiss’ tackle at the one only served in delaying the score, because Farmer punched it over and Bastable kicked the tying point.
Missouri had a good chance to break the tie as time ran out in the half. Again, it was the N.U. offense that put the Blackshirts in the hole.
Only 24 seconds were left in the half when Hughes punted from his end zone. Fink, behind a combination of good blocking and rubbernecking on the part of the Huskers, returned the kick 44 yards. Captain Schneiss again was the stopper at the 20.
Farmer passed to John Henley for seven yards to the 13. Bill Mauser, Moore’s sub, moved the ball to the middle of the field for Bastable. The sophomore, who tied a Big Eight record with four goals last week, missed as the kick floated to the right.
Nebraska had one drive that moved to the Missouri 27 late in the third quarter. Brownson hit passes of 17 yards to Rodgers and 13 to Ingles.
Then Missouri, which rushed nine men, deflected a Brownson pass and Adam Vital intercepted.
Farmer’s 51-yard kick put the Huskers in the hole at the nine. Then came the turnaround on the fumbled kick and the Huskers were on their way to their first Big Eight victory that ran the nation’s sixth-ranked club to 4-0-1 heading into the game at Kansas Saturday.
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Nebraska is 65-36 all-time against Missouri.
|Wake Forest||Sept. 12|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 24|
|Iowa State||Nov. 7|
|Kansas State||Nov. 14|
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