LINCOLN — Although a desultory fourth quarter may have chased some television viewers to another channel, top-ranked Nebraska handled ninth-ranked Colorado in stride Saturday, 31-7, for its 18th consecutive football victory.
The workmanlike performance agreed with what statistical addicts had been saying: Nebraska has a stouter defense and a lesser offense than Oklahoma.
In whipping Colorado by 45-17, the Sooners gave up 83 yards rushing and 241 passing for a total of 324 yards. Nebraska trimmed 164 off that sum when it yielded 108 on the ground and only 52 in the air.
And whereas Oklahoma had amassed 670 yards of its own, the Cornhuskers produced 324.
Above all, perhaps, it was a day of redemption for N.U. quarterback Jerry Tagge. He had netted only 25 yards against Colorado in 1969 and zero last season.
In his final shot at the Buffs, who came into this high-pressure contest with a 6-1 record, Tagge directed touchdown drives of 16, 65, 75 and 25 yards.
He threw a five-yard touchdown pass to fullback Maury Damkroger and scored on a one-yard plunge while picking up 150 yards in total offense. He retired after Nebraska’s first play from scrimmage in the final period.
On offense, there also were bows to be taken by Jeff Kinney and Johnny Rodgers, the latter making key contributions although held scoreless by Colorado for the second straight year.
Kinney tallied on touchdown runs of 11 and three yards.
Those were touchdowns Nos. 28 and 29, breaking by one the N.U. career record previously held by Bobby Reynolds and Joe Orduna. Kinney also was the game’s leading ground gainer, totaling 81 yards in 27 carries against a Buff team that played scab-nosed defense all the way.
Rodgers caught three passes for 54 yards, earning the Nebraska career record in pass-reception yardage. The junior from Omaha Tech now shows 1,277 yards compared with the 1,234 collected by Omaha Westside grad Guy Ingles in 1968-70.
Rich Sanger, sophomore from Ovid, Colo., strutted his stuff before the home-state folks with four straight extra-point kicks and his initial varsity field goal — a 34-yarder — in four attempts.
The Blackshirt defenders set up three touchdowns. The other was one of Nebraska’s trademarked retaliatory efforts, coming promptly on the heels of the Colorado score.
Bob Terrio, senior linebacker from California, was the gent who most often sniffed out then snuffed out trouble.
He made seven solo tackles, assisted on six others and broke up two passes.
Rich “Bad Man” Glover, middle guard from New Jersey, took part in a dozen tackles. Ends John Adkins and Willie Harper each made a pair of tackles behind the line. Altogether, Colorado backs lost 77 yards.
Attendance was announced as 66,776, although there appeared to be at least a thousand empty seats.
The contest began in a steady drizzle with the temperature at 38 degrees. Later, the wind whipped up to 20 miles an hour but blew the clouds away; the game was finished in bright sunlight.
Many a falling back sent up a spray of water while skidding on the AstroTurf. However, there seemed little doubt that the artificial playing surface was far superior to what would have been provided by nature’s own sod.
With the press box more crowded than usual with bowl scouts and writers from points as diverse as New York and Oklahoma, anticipation steadily mounted during the early sparring.
Late in the first quarter, Kinney put Colorado in a hole by downing Jeff Hughes’ punt on the C.U. three. Colorado immediately got off the hook — out to the 20 — when Glover was caught tugging at the face mask of quarterback Joe Duenas.
On the following down, the center snap went through the hands of the peppery little Chicano. Adkins recovered on the Colorado 16, and Nebraska was ready to start the serious business of defending its Big Eight lead.
With fullback Bill Olds delivering a vicious block, Kinney went to the 11. Kinney then bucked the middle, angled slightly to his right and pranced into the end zone.
Before the quarter ended, Dave Mason intercepted a pass by Ken Johnson on the N.U. 35.
Are government bonds more reliable than the Blackshirts? That was Mason’s fifth theft and Nebraska’s 20th of the season.
The Huskers temporarily were stymied by a clipping penalty. Tagge solved that problem by passing to Frosty Anderson for 17 yards and a first down on the N.U. 49.
The next play, first of the second period, was a 30-yard pass, Tagge to Rodgers. Five straight carries by Kinney moved the ball from the Colorado 21 to the five.
From that point, with Rodgers and Woody Cox also in the end zone, Tagge flipped over the middle to Damkroger for a touchdown.
Two minutes and 13 seconds later, Colorado became the third team to score on the Blackshirt regulars.
The play covered 34 yards. Johnson’s pass was taken near the 15 by :09.2 sprinter Cliff Branch, who had just a step on safety Bill Kosch. One step for Branch is enough. He streaked to the end zone, and J.B. Dean, the Buff from Gothenburg, Neb., converted.
The score was 14-7, certainly not an appropriate time to conduct a top 10 vote.
But Nebraska rebounded like a champion, sweeping 75 yards in 10 plays. For openers, Tagge hit Kinney on a 32-yard aerial gain. Third down came up only once; with six to make, Olds churned for seven. Another major play was Tagge’s 19-yard pass to Rodgers, good for a first down on the two.
Kinney picked up one at the middle before Tagge cracked over center for the touchdown.
Still in the second period, Nebraska drove from its 42 to the Colorado 17. Time ran out as Sanger kicked a field goal.
Neither team could get much going in the third quarter — despite a 36-yard gallop by Colorado’s Charlie Davis and Mason’s recovery of a Duncan fumble.
Nebraska couldn’t generate a first down following the alert play by Mason, but when Hughes punted, Rodgers smacked into receiver Branch and captured the resultant fumble on the Buff 25.
The payoff came when Kinney charged around the N.U. left flank, butted Brian Foster unconscious at the one and piled into the end zone.
Colorado had an opportunity to narrow the gap when Dean recovered Rodgers’ fumble of a Tagge pitchback early in the fourth quarter. That was on the N.U. 40.
Colorado reached the 20, but lost its momentum due to penalty for illegal motion and, more significantly, because of ripping defensive play by Larry Jacobson, Adkins, Glover and Harper. The Buffs finally gave up the ball on downs on the Husker 41, a yard back of where they had been eight plays earlier.
The final accounting should note that Davis, Colorado’s season rushing leader with a 99.1-yard average, netted 77 yards in 12 carries against Oklahoma. Nebraska held him to 76 in 17 carries.
A Colorado official said, “Oklahoma has a heckuva lot better offense and a better kicking game than Nebraska, but Nebraska has a superb defense. How can you predict what will happen?”
The same spokesman said: “Our coaches think Tagge is the best pro quarterback prospect in the country.”
That, too, is a point that could be debated, but Tagge now owns a career total-offense figure of 4,736 yards with four scheduled games to play. Only two backs in Big Eight history — Colorado’s Bobby Anderson, primarily a runner, and Kansas State’s Lynn Dickey, primarily a passer — have topped that figure.
|Yards per carry||2.0||3.1|
Nebraska is 49-20 all-time against Colorado.
|Texas A&M||Sept. 25|
|Utah State||Oct. 2|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 23|
|Iowa State||Nov. 6|
|Kansas State||Nov. 13|
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