Nebraska’s national collegiate football leaders cut the heart out of Minnesota upset hopes Saturday with three Jerry Tagge-Johnny Rodgers touchdown passes, then coasted to a 35-7 triumph before a record crowd of 68,187 at Memorial Stadium.
Jeff Kinney added a pair of touchdowns on the ground, giving important balance to an attack that produced 421 yards in total offense compared with 306 for the Big Ten school.
For the second straight week, All-America candidate Tagge outpassed a much-heralded quarterback rival.
The steady senior from Green Bay notched 15 completions in 21 attempts for 218 yards. His career yardage total jumped to 3,207 as he bypassed Bill Weeks of lowa State, Gale Weidner of Colorado and Missouri’s Paul Christman for fourth place in the all-time Big Eight record list.
Minnesota’s Craig Curry hit on 15 of 32 passes for 132 yards.
Curry suffered from two handicaps. He was pressured by Blackshirts such as Larry Jacobson, Willie Harper, Bill Janssen and John Adkins. And he had no receiver to compare with the breath-taking Rodgers.
The swift, artful junior from Omaha Tech scored on aerial plays covering 28, 20 and 37 yards after being shut out in the Oregon opener.
Minnesota exhibited power as well as a strong passing threat, with fullback Ernie Cook ripping his way for 71 yards and halfback Jim Henry adding 48.
Once again, Nebraska more than matched the enemy. Complementing Kinney’s 79 ground yards were Bill Olds with 54 and sub halfback Gary Dixon with 30.
Olds, a 6-1, 215-pound junior from Kansas City, Kan., is beginning to flower impressively as he assumes the mantle of 1970 senior Dan Schneiss.
Nebraska opened the scoring midway through the first quarter, traveling 50 yards in four plays on its second possession.
Tagge, back to pass, changed his mind and rambled for three on first down. Then he sent Kinney around left end for eight. Tagge passed to tight end Jerry List for 11. On the following play, Rodgers got behind Farrell Sheridan and expertly fielded an end-zone pass from Tagge.
Rich Sanger, sophomore placekicker, delivered the first of five conversions.
Two and one-half minutes later, Adkins recovered a Curry-Cook handoff fumble on the Minnesota 20.
Olds dropped the ball on first down, but Tagge scopped it up and boomed around the N.U. left end for a clutch six yards. Kinney carried the next five times, finally scoring over the right guard from the one as Keith Wortman flattened linebacker Ron King, Minnesota’s star defender in the conquest of Indiana the previous week.
Starting on the second play of the second period, Minnesota rallied its forces to advance 79 yards and register the first touchdown of the season against the Huskers’ No. 1 defensive unit.
Cook, Curry and Henry saw heavy duty as the Gophers remained on the ground while driving to the N.U. 17. Adkins and Janssen slammed Curry for a yard loss on the next play, but an ill-advised yank on the quarterback’s face mask gave Minnesota a first-and-10 on the eight.
Cook made two over his right tackle before following a four-man escort through the same territory and into the end zone. Mel Anderson’s placement narrowed the score to 14-7 with 9:08 remaining in the half.
Minnesota simply had overpowered the Nebraska defense on that series. Husker faithful never admit doubt, but there was sound reason to believe the visitors might be reversing the early trend of the contest at that point. Suspicions were confirmed a few minutes later, when the muscular Gophers opened an attack from the Nebraska 39, where linebacker and captain Bill Light had recovered an erratic pitchout from Tagge to sub fullback Maury Damkroger.
On the sixth play of the sequence, Curry passed to Cook for a first down on the 20. When a Husker made a tardy landing on Cook, the ball was moved on to the 10.
Suddenly, the Blackshirts came alive. It was fourth and 11 for a touchdown when Mel Anderson attempted a field goal from the 20. The kick sailed wide to the right.
This time it was the Gophers who obliged with a face-mask violation while Nebraska was nullifying the visitors’ score with an 80-yard touchdown comeback.
After the 11 was reached, Kinney ran opposite to the blocking flow and was forced out just inside the two by Steve Politano. Kinney then followed blocker Damkroger into a goal-line stack on the N.U. left side. He had the ball over the goal line before being thrown back.
Halfway through the third quarter, Nebraska fattened its cushion with a Tagge-Rodgers touchdown strike of 20 yards. Rodgers made the catch around the 15, weaved through a trio of potential tacklers and darted into the end zone.
On the previous play, Rodgers had teamed with Damkroger to block a path for Dixon’s two-yard burst on fourth down — a yard more than was needed. That effort obviously had taken nothing out of Rodgers, who was at his elusive best on the scoring strike.
Still in the third period, Nebraska blazed 80 yards in four plays for the wrapup points.
Tagge threw to Rodgers for 25 as soph tackle Daryl White wiped out the ill-fated Sheridan. Tagge passed to Cox for seven, Kinney ran for 11 and Tagge spiraled the ball to Rodgers for the final 37.
This touchdown brought another great effort from Rodgers, whose leap for the ball carried him over the goal line. Sheridan, the poor guy, was defending.
There were three moments of particular note as Nebraska reserves carried most of the load the rest of the way.
On the kickoff after the final touchdown, Gopher first-string center Dale Hegland was ejected for roughing Sanger, the kicker. In the fourth quarter, Randy Borg, of Alliance, soph replacement for co-captain Jim Anderson at right cornerback, recovered an end-zone fumble by Cook and thus took the stinger out of a 70-yard Minnesota drive. Pat Morell, replacement for linebacker Bob Terrio, intercepted a Minnesota pass with 6:13 to play.
Perhaps it is a case of credit to Minnesota rather than blame for Nebraska, but Husker team play was not always as smooth as it was in the opening game.
Nebraska lost one of two fumbles and was slapped with five penalties. Scouts for Texas A&M, this week’s opponent at Lincoln, must have been making detailed notes during Minnesota’s long touchdown drive against the Blackshirt regulars.
On the bright side, in addition to the heroics by Tagge and Rodgers, there was evidence that cooler weather — it was 51 degrees at kickoff — may have alleviated Kinney’s problem with hay fever.
The McCook senior displayed uncommon strength and persistence while hiking his career touchdown total to 20, best for any Husker other than Bob Reynolds and Joe Orduna (28 touchdowns each) over a 21-year span.
Kinney also raised his career rushing total to 1,521 yards, moving ahead of Dick Davis and Bob Smith to third place on the 1950-71 chart. Reynolds and Orduna also are the only ball carriers ahead of him in this category.
Nebraska’s 28-point victory margin matched its previous high (42-14 in 1969) in the Minnesota rivalry.
The former Memorial Stadium crowd record was 68,128 for Kansas in 1968.
|Yards per carry||3.2||4.1|
Nebraska is 25-33 all-time against Minnesota.
|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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