MIAMI — Cool, courageous Nebraska made an impressive bid for the national collegiate football championship Friday night by knifing through Lousiania State's great defense for a 17-12 victory in the Orange Bowl.
While adding the crown jewels of the Southeastern Conference to its bulging treasure chest, Nebraska also put in a claim for the best defense in the country as a record throng of 80,699 watched in awe on a balmy evening in the high 50's.
The Cornhusker Blackshirts' end Willie Harper was voted the game's best defensive player following countless clutch plays that helped jam the LSU attack.
Nebraskans 14 times smashed through the enemy line to pin down its backs for losses totaling 107 yards. LSU netted only 51 yards on the ground while finishing second in total offense, 278 to 293.
Husker quarterback Jerry Tagge, who engineered a nerve-less comeback drive of 67 yards midway in the final quarter, was hailed by the press as the outstanding player on offense in this hammering struggle for supremacy.
In 11 games during the regular season, LSU had yielded only two touchdowns on the ground. Nebraska crossed the goal line twice — on a three-yard plunge by Joe Orduna and a one-yard shot by Tagge.
Perhaps the most memorable picture of the game will be that of Tagge, perched atop a heap of bodies at the middle of the line, stretching out his long arms to guarantee penetration of the "plane" of the goal with the ball.
Louisiana State had yielded an average of only 52.2 yards rushing in its championship season. Nebraska netted 132 yards on the ground — a figure that must be compared with title-contending Notre Dame's 78 when Associated Press balloters cast their final votes for the national champion.
Notre Dame, conqueror of Texas' previous poll leaders in their Cotton Bowl match earlier Friday, was a 3-0 victor over Louisiana State late in the regular season.
Nebraska's first points came on a 26-yard field goal in the opening quarter by Paul Rogers, who also converted after both touchdowns.
LSU tallied on field goals of 36 and 25 yards by Mark Lumpkin, and on a 31-yard aerial play, Buddy Lee to sprint king Wayne Coffee.
All-American John Sage of LSU was the game's leading tackler with 11 solos and three assists. But All-America linebacker Jerry Murtaugh came out ahead of All-America counterpart Mike Anderson with totals of 9-1 to the latter's 8-1.
The Cornhuskers trailed by 10-12 going into the final period after LSU delivered its touchdown pass with time having run out in the third period.
N.U. defender Jim Anderson slipped and fell on that play, but Coffee might have made it to the end zone regardless. The 5-11, 170-pound sophomore from Baton Rouge has sprinted the 100 in :09.4 and holds SEC records for both the 220 (:20.8) and 440 (:45.6).
Working from its 33 following Jim Carstens' fielding of a difficult kickoff, Nebraska twice made third-down hurdles — with Orduna carrying on one and Tagge pitching to Jeff Kinney on the other.
The latter thrust was good for 17 yards and a first down on the LSU five.
Kinney hit left tackle for about three behind a cracking good block by Danny Schneiss. Tagge lunged into the center of the line but was about a foot short of the goal. Tagge's next effort got the job done with 8:50 remaining in the game.
Louisiana State then proceeded to make life precarious for heart patients among the some 16,000 N.U. followers by driving from its 16 to the 39 with growing momentum.
However, three straight passes by Lee were incomplete, thanks to a heavy pass rush and sharp coverage in the secondary. The third miss found Harper stunning Lee with a thunderous tackle.
When Wayne Dickinson punted on fourth down, LSU rooters yelled with joy as Harper crashed into the kicker. Harper had been blocked into Dickinson by Jim Benglis, though, and the officials ruled no violation.
The pressured punt was good for only four yards, going out on the Tiger 43. Now the Nebraska rooters were whooping it up with 6:29 to play.
Nebraska drove to just outside the LSU 13, but Orduna, who netted a Husker-high 63 yards and averaged 4.8 in an all-around magnificent performance, fumbled on his next carry. LSU recovered on its 13.
Now the LSU quarterback was Bert Jones, the youngster credited with the "strongest arm" in the school's modern football history.
On second down, Jones passed to 6-foot-3 end Gerald Keigley for a first-and-10 on its 26. On the following play, Ed Periard and Johnny Adkins barreled through to knock down Jones for a seven-yard loss.
Next play, it was Adkins, a 220-pound junior from Lynchburg, Va., smearing Jones for a loss of 12. Jones is a tough customer. He got up from that shellacking to hit tall, clever Andy Hamilton with a 31-yard pass.
The same combination advanced the ball to the LSU 44 on next down. With 2:07 remaining and the Tigers nearing midfield, their fans were delirious with delight.
Chris Dantin, subbing for the better known Art Cantrelle, benched with an ankle sprain in the first half, dashed to the 47. One yard was needed on third down. Jones kept for two.
On the next play, Harper grabbed the ball and ran five yards to the LSU 43.
Now Nebraska was out to kill time, but LSU called time out after Tagge lost about 12 inches with a cautious lunge and again after Kinney made two yards. No more time-outs for the desperate Tigers.
It was pure pandemonium in the Orange Bowl when Nebraska fumbled on third down and end Buddy Millican recovered on the LSU 40 with 52 seconds to play.
Wonder of glorious wonders — from the Husker point of view — a Jones pass for extremely dangerous Hamilton was intercepted by Bob Terrio, junior linebacker from Fullerton, Calif., on the Nebraska 38.
Tagge worked two protective keepers as time ran out. Fans still were chanting the final seconds when Kinney began jumping and holding both hands high to indicate "No. 1" for Nebraska.
Supercharged with determination after learning that Nebraska was the only remaining undefeated team among the top five rated teams, the Cornhuskers zipped to a 10-0 advantage in the first quarter.
The game's first major break came with 8:30 left in the first quarter when Dave Walline recovered a Dantin fumble on the N.U. 44.
The ensuing drive featured a 17-yard pass from Tagge to end Jerry List and a successful fourth-down plunge by Kinney that put the ball on the LSU 33.
A 26-yard pass, Tagge to Guy Ingles, was wiped out when the irrepressible Ingles broke from the starting gate too quickly. Eventually, it was fourth down and goal to go from the 10. With the ball on the 16, Rogers kicked his first field goal — the 25th of his Nebraska career.
The next time LSU touched the ball at the line of scrimmage, Larry Jacobson forced a fumble by Lee and Harper recovered on the LSU 15.
Orduna promptly reeled off 12 yards. And with guard Dick Rupert and tackle Bob Newton showing the way, Orduna scored from the three.
Nebraska still was on top by 10-0 when Van Brownson replaced Tagge at quarterback with 4 1/2 minutes gone in the second period. Brownson ran and Orduna gained two for a quick first down on the N.U. 31. But Brownson's pass on the following play was intercepted by Bill Norsworthy.
Late in the first half, LSU took the ball on its 24 and clawed its way to the Cornhusker 10.
Harper rassled Lee for a 10-yard loss on second down. Then a Lee pass was incomplete. On fourth down, Lumpkin kicked a 36-yard field goal.
N.U. was holding on the play. It took nearly four minutes for LSU to determine whether it wanted the three points or whether it would be better to take the ball just inside the 10 — with the down still four.
Coach Charley McClendon's boys chose to retain the points, and the half ended 10-3.
At the outset of the third quarter, LSU moved 72 yards to the Nebraska 12. The going was just too rugged, however, and the Tigers settled for a 25-yard field goal by Lumpkin.
A few minutes later, Norsworthy, who played even-Stephen with the N.U. quarterbacks, intercepted a Tagge pass to Ingles and thus killed a promising drive.
The give-and-take continued until Lee hurled his strike to Coffee, enabling LSU to march into the final quarter with the 12-10 edge.
The victory was Nebraska's 11th against no losses and the Southern Cal tie in a long but richly rewarding season that produced the Big Eight title among other honors. LSU, which saw its bowl victory string cut at four, closes with a 9-3 record.
|Yards per carry||1.1||2.8|
Nebraska is 5-0 all-time against LSU.
|Wake Forest||Sept. 12|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 24|
|Iowa State||Nov. 7|
|Kansas State||Nov. 14|
Nebraska has played 27 games on Jan. 1. See them all »
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