LINCOLN — Junior Johnny Rodgers’ 24th varsity touchdown, a feint-and-fly punt return of 62 yards, was the showpiece Saturday at Memorial Stadium as Nebraska beat Iowa State by 37-0 for its ninth straight victory this season.
Some of the time, the Iowa State defense gave Nebraska the rudest treatment it has received all season. Middle linebacker Keith Schroeder, tackle Larry Hunt and end Merv Krakau were among the rogue bulls in a valiant defensive effort.
Yet the top-ranked Cornhuskers knocked out 401 yards in total offense while holding Iowa State to its season low, 106.
The shutout was Nebraska’s third in defense of its Big Eight title — and Iowa State’s first in 13 games.
The visitors threatened to score late in the fourth quarter, moving from their 32 to the Husker 20 before linebacker Bill Sloey recovered a fumble by quarterback Dean Carlson to the delight of most of the 67,201 fans.
But it was Rodgers who really warmed up the crowd on this cold and windy afternoon.
The Cornhuskers held only a 10-0 advantage late in the second quarter when Cyclone Greg Mulhall’s punt descended on Rodgers at the N.U. 38. Coverage was good enough that it would not have been a surprise had the Omaha Tech grad signaled for a fair catch.
Rodgers, however, thinks in terms of touchdowns.
He clutched the ball and started weaving toward the initial clusters of would-be tacklers. There was a major confrontation with Mulhall which Rodgers solved with feints to the left and right and then a breakaway burst of speed that must have left the kicker gaping.
Speed was the main commodity until Rodgers reached the Iowa State five. At that point he ripped between Dennis McDonald and Ike Harris, who were sprawled on the artificial turf by the time he crossed the goal line.
The prolonged roar of the crowd was as great a tribute as any Husker has received in years.
Rodgers also had been at his inimitable best when he scored the first touchdown. That was a 10-yard sprint around the Nebraska left end late in the opening quarter. Safety Dave McCurry had a bullseye shot at Rodgers, who simply ran over him.
The game’s high scorer was placement specialist Rich Sanger, the improving sophomore from Ovid, Colo. He kicked field goals of 26, 27 and 39 yards in addition to contributing four extra points.
His kicks and Rodgers’ touchdowns gave Nebraska a 20-0 lead at intermission.
Nebraska fans could be forgiven for suspecting that their team has been facing the same opposition, disguised in different sets of uniforms, all season.
It hasn’t seemed to make much difference, in the final analysis, whether the defending national champs were playing floundering Missouri or a top 10 Colorado.
Nebraska has had enough points by halftime to win all nine games.
In fact, in all but the Oklahoma State encounter, their first quarter production has been sufficient to keep the Cornhuskers undefeated. (A spoilsport might point out that they would have been tied by four opponents, however.)
Against Iowa State, the N.U. Blackshirts raised their season interception total to 23. And the offense made each of the three worth a touchdown.
End John Adkins set up the first touchdown by stealing a Carlson pass and returning it 21 yards to the Iowa State 44. Jeff Kinney experienced one of his rare no-touchdown days but carried four straight times as a prelude to Rodgers’ 10-yard dash.
In the third quarter, tackle Larry Jacobson fielded a Carlson pass and pedaled his 250 pounds six yards to the N.U. 45. Kinney had two 11-yard bursts and one run of nine during the march that followed. Tagge supplied a 14-yard end sweep and fullback Bill Olds made a couple of short-yardage gains.
With the ball about two feet from the goal line, Tagge was inches short. The Cyclone defense gave nothing away. On the next down, however, Tagge bolted between tackle Daryl White and guard Dick Rupert on the left side to score.
More good defense — plus a costly clipping penalty — botched the next deep invasion of Cyclone territory. Sanger salvaged three points with his third field goal in as many attempts.
Coach Bob Devaney kept his regulars on the field longer than usual.
The alternates took over, though, after linebacker Bob Terrio’s interception of a pass by George Amundson gave Nebraska possession on the visitors’ 34.
Quarterback Van Brownson steered his unit the full distance in six plays without ever reaching a third-down situation.
The largest single gain was a stop-and-go run by Brownson at the N.U. left flank, good for 12 yards to the enemy five. After Gary Dixon picked up four yards, Brownson got the touchdown over right guard.
Amundson, a 6-3, 220-pound bronco from Aberdeen, S.D., did a lot of things right for Iowa State. Netting 83 yards on 29 carries, he was the game’s leading rusher. (Olds paced N.U. with 80 on nine trips.)
Amundson needs only 58 yards in the final three games to break the Iowa State single-season rushing record of 920, set by All-American Dave Hoppmann in 1961.
In the third quarter, Amundson was used at quarterback for the first time since the season opener.
The Iowa State ground total was diminished by Blackshirt forays that resulted in losses of 68 yards. The team net of 66 compared with the previous low of 94 against Colorado; the net against Oklahoma was 99.
And the total offense of 106 compared with the previous low of 235 in the 43-12 loss to the undefeated Sooners.
Oklahoma made 679 yards against Iowa State compared with Nebraska’s 401. Is Oklahoma simply that much speedier than Nebraska? Harry Burrell, Iowa State sports information director, replied: “Oklahoma backs all look like Rodgers.”
The victory was Devaney’s 60th in Big Eight competition. His teams have lost 13 to conference opponents, seven of the defeats coming in 1967 and ’68.
Nebraska closed its first seven game home schedule with total attendance of 473,286 and a per-game average of 67,612, both records. Nebraska home attendance has averaged more than 65,000 for five straight years.
|Yards per carry||1.4||5.2|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa State.
|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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