LINCOLN — Kept wobbling on a tightrope for 60 tense minutes, Nebraska needed Jim Anderson’s end-zone interception in the final play Saturday to guarantee a 28-21 victory over Oklahoma and clinch the undisputed Big Eight football championship.
The melodramatic contest also enabled the Orange Bowl club of Bob Devaney to conclude its 11-game schedule undefeated.
With third-ranked Nebraska favored by 22 points, the crowd of 67,392 was witness to a tooth-and-claw struggle for survival rather than a whiplashing that might have improved Nebraska hopes for national title recognition.
But Nebraska did prove it was something more substantial than a gaudy frontrunner.
Twice coming from behind, it exhibited more giblets than will be served through the state on Thanksgiving Day.
Oklahoma was tough all the way, both on offense and defense.
It worked the N.U. Blackshirts over for a total offense of 371 yards. It yielded 417 yards to Nebraska, but a good share of that total was wheel-spinning between the 20-yard lines.
These sequences of frantic action were the game-busters:
—With a deadlock of 21-21 in the fourth quarter, Nebraska drove 53 yards for the winning touchdown. Third and one at the O.U. 44, a gutty second effort by halfback Jeff Kinney produced a first down on the 40. Third-and-10 at the 40, quarterback Jerry Tagge passed to tight end Jerry List for 14 yards. Third-and-11 at the 27 after a yard loss and a fizzled pass, fullback Danny Schneiss made a juggling catch of a Tagge pass and reached the three. Kinney battered to just outside the one, then Tagge squirmed over and Paul Rogers kicked his fourth straight extra point.
—Oklahoma took over on its 20 when Rogers missed a field goal attempt from 26½ yards out. One minute, 25 seconds remained. Six plays later, quarterback Jack Mildren had driven the Sooners to a first down on the N.U. 32. With Joe Blahak tightly covering intended receiver Greg Pruitt, Mildren’s pass was incomplete. Doug Johnson broke up a pass, but with 13 seconds to go, a Mildren-Pruitt aerial carried to the 27. Five seconds left, fourth down and five to make. Mildren huddled with his coach, then heaved the ball to flanker Jon Harrison in the end zone. Huskers Dave Morock, Bill Kosch, and Blahak also were on the scene, but it was Anderson who speared the ball and happily galloped with it to the Husker bench.
The cockeyed finish closely resembled the 25-21 Nebraska victory here in 1959. With Ron Meade intercepting a game-ending fourth-down pass, Nebraska clipped Oklahoma’s record Big Seven victory string at 44.
Anderson’s clinching theft Saturday was Nebraska’s third of the game and 30th of the season, breaking the conference record of 28 set by Missouri in 1942.
Anderson also derailed a Mildren pass in the first quarter. That broke the school record of 27 interceptions — set last season. Blahak picked one off midway in the fourth period, two plays after N.U. had gone out front by 28-21.
With Oklahoma State remaining on its schedule, the O.U. team still sports a 6-4 record and is heading for the BlueBonnet Bowl against Alabama.
Free safety Monty Johnson, linebacker Gary Bacous and tackle Kevin Grady were the leading tacklers with a defense that killed Nebraska drives reaching the Sooner 14 and one-yard lines in the first quarter.
The balloons finally went up when sophomore Johnny Rodgers scored on a 53-yard play. The pass from Tagge, who quarterbacked without relief, reached fleet Johnny at the 36.
The Omaha Tech grad broke a tackle, prospered from List’s thudding block and raced to the end zone. But that was only catch up. Oklahoma had opened the scoring several minutes earlier on the nifty Mildren’s plunge into the Husker right side.
Taking the ball after Rodgers’ touchdown, Oklahoma drove 75 yards to recapture the lead. The final 37 came in one lightning-like bolt by sophomore Joe Wylie.
The flyer from Henderson, Tex., has not been over-publicized.
He was the game-leading rusher with 125 yards. He completed one of two passes and handled the punting. Wylie’s kick average was a subpar 30, hurt by a one-yard side-sailing blooper in the third quarter.
Looking into the ugly face of another seven-point deficit, Nebraska demonstrated its mettle by promptly sashaying 80 yards for another tie.
All-American tackle Bob Newton opened the gate as Orduna roared three yards through the N.U. left side for the touchdown.
On the final play before the half ended at 14-14, Paul Rogers’ kick for an attempted 62-yard field goal landed several yards deep in the end zone.
Nebraska scored the second time it had the ball in the third quarter.
The Huskers took over on the Sooner 47, where Wylie’s short punt went out of bounds. Split end Guy Ingles was the magnifico of this series.
He had to jump to field a pass from Tagge, and it took prudent footwork to come down inbounds at the Sooner 30. The gain was nine yards, good for a first down.
Five plays later, Tagge again passed to Ingles. The former Omaha Westside athlete again leaped for the catch and came down just inside the backline of the end zone. This 13-yard play brought Ingles’ eighth touchdown of the year — one short of the N.U. season reception record set by Clarence Swanson in 1921.
Ingles is the Cornhusker all-time champ on pass-reception yardage for one game, one season and career. In three seasons, he caught 78 passes for 1,212 yards and 11 touchdowns.
But Nebraska again failed to hold its advantage. After the kickoff went into the end zone, Oklahoma swept 80 yards without a pass.
The drive carried into the fourth quarter. The climax was a 10-yard play with Wylie taking a pitchout, scurrying to his right and lofting a pass to end Willie Franklin in the end zone.
Bruce Derr’s third conversion made the count 21-21 with only 12 seconds elapsed in the period. There was time for Nebraska to snap back, which it did in high fashion.
Linebacker Jerry Murtaugh embellished his All-America credentials by figuring in 16 tackles, nine of them unassisted. His season total of 132 tackles broke his record set in 1969. The Omahan raised his career-record totals to 160 solos and 197 assists.
Kosch took part in 13 tackles for runner-up laurels.
With 200 yards passing and 55 on the ground, workhorse Tagge has a two-year total-offense figure of 3,040 yards, shading Bob Churchich’s three-year school record of 3,031.
Tagge now has hurled 15 touchdown passes, compared with Churchich’s three-year total of nine.
Paul Rogers ran his career extra-point total to 48, wiping out the conference record of 45, established by Kansas’s Bill Bell in 1968.
Orduna’s touchdown boosted his career total to 27, one short of All-American Bobby Reynolds’ record. Reynolds posted 22 of his as a sophomore in 1950.
The victory was No. 50 in the conference for Coach Devaney, his 78th for all games in nine Husker seasons. His complete record for 14 years of head coaching is 113 victories, 28 losses and six ties, a winning percentage unmatched by any current major college coach.
Devaney has won five Big Eight titles outright and tied for a sixth in his term at Nebraska.
|Yards per carry||4.3||3.9|
Nebraska is 38-45 all-time against Oklahoma.
|Wake Forest||Sept. 12|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 24|
|Iowa State||Nov. 7|
|Kansas State||Nov. 14|
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