Substitute backs contributed four touchdowns Saturday as Nebraska opened defense of its national collegiate football title with a remarkably easy conquest of highly regarded Oregon U., 34-7.
The victory was witnessed by 67,437, largest home crowd for a nonconference game in N.U. history.
Nebraska had the more efficient air attack and boasted a ground advantage of 298 yards to 87 while building total-offense superiority of 415-205 against the school which shared second place in the Pacific Eight Conference last season.
Oregon had gone 20 straight games without suffering a shutout, but needed a punt fumble by Nebraska reserve Glen Carson in the final minutes to set up its only points on this bright, hot afternoon.
Senior I-back Jeff Kinney delighted a delegation from his hometown of McCook by bettering the visitors’ heralded Bobby Moore both in total ground yards, 124 to 53, and in average gain per carry, 5.6 to 3.5.
That observation must, of course, be accompanied by recognition of the fact that the talented Moore was obliged to scamper into the teeth of a far stouter defense than Oregon could muster.
All Nebraska touchdowns came on the ground as Coach Bob Devaney gave his revamped offensive line a thorough testing.
Kinney supplied the opening touchdown. The next three were furnished by his alternate, stubby, hard-driving Gary Dixon, a California junior college transfer.
The final Cornhusker touchdown was the result of a splendid run by third-stringer Randy Butts, a 6-2, 197-pound sophomore, who was a prep track and football standout at Grand Island.
Soph Richt Sanger converted after all the touchdowns except one on which the center snap was bobbled.
The game brought forth yet another superlative performance by quarterback Jerry Tagge, who directed the first three scoring drives — one of which covered 99 yards — and had a pass-completion percentage of .80 compared with .52 for the Oregon’s All-America candidate, Dan Fouts.
Although the Huskers made sparing use of the pass, Tagge and Van Brownson came within one yard (117-118) of matching the production of Fouts, who pitched the ball a dozen more times.
And Tagge was just a yard off the ground net of 42 by Dixon.
The senior co-captain from Green Bay totaled 98 aerial yards with eight completions in 10 attempts. That gives him a career total of 2,989, surpassing the school record (2,935) established by Omahan Bob Churchich in 1964-65.
Devaney had declared that expectations of a repeat national championship were “foolhardy” and “a shot in the dark.” With Nebraska facing 11 more regular-season games in the longest schedule it ever has attempted, the coach’s appraisal still makes sense.
But Cornhusker enthusiasts may be tempted to throw off all restraint in the wake of Saturday’s showing by a club rated no more than a 14-point favorite.
Not that there weren’t disappointing moments.
For example, Nebraska was forced to travel 140 yards for its initial touchdown in the opening quarter. Surprisingly smooth and efficient for a first game, the Cornhuskers took the opening kickoff and moved 73 yards to the Oregon seven. On next down, disaster. Fullback Bill Olds ripped into the line and fumbled into the end zone for a touchback.
Oregon managed to shove the ball up to the N.U. 40 before monster back Dave Mason intercepted a Fouts pass — the first of three N.U. acts of piracy — on the Nebraska 33.
The very next play was one of the gems of the day.
Tagge passed to tight end Jerry List for 34 yards. The defiant Fighting Ducks made Nebraska use 10 plays to get the ball across, Kinney leaping atop a high pileup on the N.U. right side from the one for goal-line penetration.
During the two related drives, Kinney handled the ball on 11 of 24 plays.
Key stops by end Willie Harper and linebacker Bob Terrio helped force an Oregon punt before a first down could be logged. Bedeviled by a backspin on most of his punts, Larry Battle saw his kick bounce dead on the Oregon 47.
Tagge hurried his charges to the five, from where Nebraska had the psyching audacity to run three straight plays at the Oregon middle, protected by hulking middle linebacker Tom Graham, another All-America nominee.
Dixon gained three. Sub fullback Maury Damkroger, a second-generation Husker, added one. Then Dixon took the same path for a touchdown as center Doug Dumler led the forward surge.
A tribute to Oregon defenders, paced by linebacker Steve Rennie’s 11 solo tackles and Graham’s eight: For the second straight time, Nebraska was requited to notch its touchdown on a fourth-down effort.
The trailing team traditionally is souped up for the start of the second half. True again. With passer Fouts on target, Oregon blitzed 43 yards in four plays, reaching the N.U. 36.
Then it was Duck soup for Husker cornerback and co-captain Jim Anderson, who took the ball away from receiver Leland Glass on the Nebraska one-yard line.
Tagge, Nebraska’s dauntless Red Baron, delivered passes to Olds, still-exciting Johnny Rodgers and Woody Cox while sparking an advance to the enemy five. Dixon hit the middle once, the right side twice, and touchdown No. 3 went on the board.
The two-yard grand finale was abetted by the blocking of Brent Longwell, Damkroger and Carl Johnson.
A 6-foot-4 rookie from Homer, Longwell did a good job in replacement of List, who, along with Dumler, saw no more action following a first-half injury. Dumler was replaced by center Doug Jamail, the squad’s court jester.
Longwell and Johnson again swept a path as Nebraska scored on a 33-yard push that began in the third period and was climaxed by Dixon’s six-yard burst around the N.U. right side on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Brownson again was at the helm when Nebraska’s seconds maneuvered 50 yards for a touchdown with 5:18 to play.
Two yards from the end zone on first down, Butts broke a tackle by monster back Bill Steber and fairly roared across.
A few minutes later, it was safety Garson’s misfortune to signal a fair catch, then fumble an Oregon punt. Glass recovered on the Nebraska 11.
Moore must have been weary, but he ran wide to his right from the seven and scored with four Huskers sprawled in his wake. That was three minutes and 21 seconds from the final gun.
The game resume must note that although he did not enter the scoring derby, flanker Rodgers did provide electrifying moments as he averaged better than five yards on five carries and caught two passes, one for a 25-yard gain. The speedy wriggler also returned a punt for 11 yards.
Devaney called on 11 ball carriers, two passers and half a dozen receivers as he utilized a total of 58 players.
|Yards per carry||3.9||4.1|
Nebraska is 6-2 all-time against Oregon.
|Texas A&M||Sept. 25|
|Utah State||Oct. 2|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 23|
|Iowa State||Nov. 6|
|Kansas State||Nov. 13|
Nebraska has played 9 games on Sept. 11. See them all »
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