LOS ANGELES — Nebraska came to the land of make believe and stunned heavily favored Southern California during a 21-21 shell-shocker Saturday night.
The third-ranked Trojans had to come from behind three times to gain the deadlock with the nervy Huskers, an undaunted, brassy aggregation in the face of the big West Coast buildup of USC.
Jerry Tagge, who put on a uniform for the first time since Monday, did a masterful job in engineering the Husker attack against what was labeled as another defensive powerhouse.
This wasn't a game for the faint-hearted, right up to the final play. The game ended with Jimmy Jones firing the ball 60 yards to the N.U. goal. There to battle Trojan receiving star Sam Dickerson were Jim Anderson and Tom McClelland as the ball fell to the turf.
A crowd of 73,768 must have left feeling this was a stand off. The statistics showed Nebraska with a tissue-paper thin edge in yards, 365-360. Southern Cal, which rocked Alabama, 42-21, a week earlier, got a king-sized buildup all week and went into the game favored by 13 points.
But Joe Orduna and his trail-blazing friends in the offensive line don't much care about press clippings on the erstwhile Wild Bunch.
Orduna, the fluid-motion senior from Omaha, broke away on a sensational 67-yard run for one score and finished the game with 135 yards in 18 carries.
For his efforts, the press voted him the game's outstanding offensive player. Ron Ayala of Southern Cal, who kicked three extra points and played a stellar defensive game after a shaky start, was named the defensive standout.
The Nebraska Blackshirts had their moments, too, with Jerry Murtaugh, Ed Periard, Bob Terrio, Willie Harper, Rich Glover and Dave Walline leading a charge that left the Trojans with respect for the entire N.U. team.
But every time the Huskers came up with a big play, the Trojans seemed capable of matching it — on defense and offense.
Tagge, under treatment for a ruptured vessel in his leg since Tuesday morning, came on with a fine performance under the circumstances. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 140 yards and ran six times on the gimpy leg for four net yards after being trapped for 15 in losses.
Johnny Rodgers scored one N.U. touchdown and was a busy man on kick returns. He carried three punts 55 yards and four kickoffs 70. Guy Ingles, who led in receptions with five for 65 yards, scored once on a fullback option pass from Dan Schneiss as little Guy outhustled Ayala for the ball near the goal.
Clarence Davis who tied it for the Trojans with 6:44 left on a nine-yard burst over the middle, had 117 yards on 27 carries.
Murtaugh, who was in on only three tackles in Nebraska's 36-12 win over Wake Forest last week, decorated a brilliant performance with 14 unassisted stops and 11 assists.
No one on Southern Cal was in on more than 11 tackles.
Nebraska's first possession resulted in a solid, 73-yard drive, with Orduna, ironically, ending the march when he fumbled at the USC three.
The Husker halfback had carried eight times in the drive for 43 yards as he got the starting call.
That get-acquainted march, which put starch in the Husker rooting section, showed Nebraska was capable of moving the ball.
Two series later, Rodgers returned a punt 30 yards to the USC 47. Six plays later, Schneiss fired a sizzler to Ingles for the score after taking a pitch-out from Tagge.
USC's kicking specialist, Ron Ayala, who was the defender on Ingles' touchdown play, set up the Trojans' second-period touchdown that tied the game with 3:35 in the half.
He intercepted a lobbing Tagge pass at the N.U. 37 and got back to the 27. Clarence Davis, the Pacific Eight's leading ground gainer last season, never turned loose of the ball in five plays as the Trojans went to the Husker four.
Jones circled around the right side for the score and Ayala matched Paul Rogers' kick for 7-7.
Tagge worked expertly in guiding the Huskers to a touchdown with four straight completions as the Big Eight club sailed 74 yards in 10 plays.
Tagge's pitch to Rodgers covered the final 15 yards as the score came with 54 seconds left in the half.
Before his scoring reception, Rodgers made a leaping grab at the 15.
Nebraska owned a 225-152 advantage over the Trojans in the first half. Ingles made four catches for 55 yards.
Orduna's 56 yards in 11 carries led Nebraska's 94 yards rushing in the first half.
Ayala not only stopped Nebraska's third-quarter march with an interception, but his theft set the stage for USC's 65-yard march for a 14-14 tie. Jones put the show on the road with three completions.
Orduna saw to it that Nebraska took the lead by breaking his field and going the distance.
Nebraska's defense stiffened in the third period after Davis had dashed 51 yards with the kickoff. A holding penalty set the Trojans back after they had reached the 18.
Larry Jacobson gave N.U. a chance to add to its total when he recovered a fumble at the USC 15. N.U. got to the six in three plays. With fourth and one, Rodgers' field goal attempt was wide to the right after a low snap from center.
The Pacific Coast kings ate up 80 yards in a dozen plays, with Davis scoring the matching touchdown and Ayala tying the game with 6:44 to go.
|Yards per carry||3.4||4.7|
Nebraska is 0-4 all-time against USC.
|Wake Forest||Sept. 12|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 24|
|Iowa State||Nov. 7|
|Kansas State||Nov. 14|
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