LINCOLN — A second straight overwhelming defeat of Missouri might offer a good comparison for answering the question: How good is Nebraska's football team?
Is it as good as the undefeated national champions of a year ago? That Cornhusker team pinned a 36-0 loss on the Tigers in Columbia, Mo.
The 1972 edition of the Big Red rang up a 62-0 count Saturday before a record 76,511 customers at Memorial Stadium. Not a bad comparison.
One thing for sure, the current Huskers are a very good football team. Since the opening loss to UCLA, N.U. has outscored four opponents by 225-14 while upping its record to 4-1. The shutout was the second in a row.
While the defense was just a shade off its door-slamming pace in the Minnesota shutout two weeks ago, giving up 168 yards, the offense performed at its season's best (544 yards total offense) — thanks mainly to a record passing day by quarterbacks Dave Humm and Steve Runty.
They combined for 329 yards to break the one game Husker record of 290 by Frank Patrick against Oklahoma in 1967. Humm completed eight of his first nine passes and finished with 15 of 22 for 267 yards and three touchdowns.
Runty mopped up by completing five of seven for 62 yards as Coach Bob Devaney let him use his complete offensive repertoire in the early going after he reported in midway through the third quarter.
Humm's superb aerial performance — through two-and-a-half quarters — has been surpassed only twice in Nebraska history. Patrick's 290 is the top individual showing, followed by the 285 yards by Jerry Tagge last year against Kansas State.
Humm's three touchdown passes tied the N.U. mark by Bob Churchich in the 1966 Orange Bowl and Tagge last year against Minnesota.
An asterisk, however, should be placed in the record book beside the passing achievements. The footnote should point out that Humm's impressive statistics were enhanced by the pass-snatching acrobatics of flanker Johnny Rodgers, who hauled in everything in the area while logging five receptions for 89 yards — all in the first half.
Rodgers also partially erased a legend when he rubbed out the name of Bobby Reynolds from the record book.
A 28-yard touchdown pass reception in the second quarter gave the Omaha senior the Cornhusker career scoring record with 216 points. He wiped out the 211 by Reynolds in 1950-52.
Nebraska saved its worst skunking of a Missouri team for an opportune time, with representatives of the Cotton and Sugar Bowls taking notes in the press box.
They might have agreed with the writer of the popular tune — at least in Nebraska — who penned: "Faster than a speeding jet plane. . . Smooth as a brand new car. . . Every Husker player is a football super star."
At least the Missouri players couldn't have disagreed much with those sentiments. They suffered through the second worst defeat in Tiger history, upstaged only by a 65-0 humiliation by Texas in 1932. The most points given up by a Tiger team were in a 67-14 loss to Oklahoma in 1956.
If the Husker momentum was slowed by a two-week layoff, it was apparent only in the 7-0 first quarter when two fumbles were lost.
But by the third quarter, those miscues were long forgotten.
Nebraska turned the game into a laugher with four touchdowns in that stanza — three coming within a span of 2:11.
Coach Bob Devaney unleashed his horde of hungry substitutes after that blitz. A total of 62 Huskers saw action.
Nebraska demonstrated it could do it all while trying to enhance its No. 5 (or No. 6 depending on your favorite poll) national ranking.
The Huskers displayed ball control technique by scoring on drives of 77, 76, 67, 57 and 55 yards and opportunism by converting fumble recoveries into scoring sorties of 19 and 29 yards.
The other two touchdowns were set up by a 49-yard punt return by Rodgers and a 38-yard interception runback by Randy Borg.
Eight Nebraska players joined in the scoring parade. Gary Dixon's pair of one-yarders was the only double. That gave him six touchdowns for the season, one less than leading scorer Rodgers.
Dixon was the leading rusher with 54 yards on 14 carries. Sub I-back Don Westbrook had 48 on six carries, including a 28-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter, the longest ground scoring thrust by a Husker this season.
Split end Bob Revelle enjoyed his best day, matching Rodgers' five receptions, and accounting for 110 yards and a 19-yard touchdown. Reserve wingback Glen Garson also caught five tosses for 53 yards.
The fact that leading tackler Rich Glover was credited with only three tackles points out the quality depth on the defense that matched back-to-back shutouts achieved by the 1971 team.
Defensive end Steve Manstedt was voted the outstanding lineman by press box observers. He had five tackles. Blackshirt linebacker Jim Branch and subs Bob Nelson and John Bell each had eight.
The Husker defense allowed the first Big Eight opponent to cross midfield only in the first quarter on a 34-yard run by quarterback John Cherry (the drive ended on a fumble at the N.U. 27) and twice in the fourth quarter against the substitutes.
The closest Missouri came to scoring was on a drive directed by Tony Gillick, who completed Missouri's first pass with 6:12 remaining after nine incompletions.
He took his team to the Husker 11, where linebacker Tom Ruud dropped Gillick for no gain on fourth-and-five.
Aided by a 20-mile-per-hour north wind, Nebraska drove to its initial touchdown on a 57-yard match that ended with Dixon diving in from the one. It was a simple muscle drive with a couple of short passes to Rodgers and Revelle breaking the monotony.
Rodgers livened up the game early in the second quarter when he roared out of the backfield, caught a short pass over the middle, took advantage of a block by Dave Goeller and scored from 28 yards out.
Cornerback Borg started the third touchdown drive when he recovered a fumble at the Tiger 19. Humm worked the option play for nine yards and Dixon took six straight turns (including an illegal procedure penalty play) to score his second touchdown.
Then came a scoring spree that was reminiscent of the events that ran up the score in the 77-7 Army rout.
Humm fired over the middle to tight end Jerry List on a 24-yard pass-run to complete a 76-yard drive opening the second half. List had no challengers on his third scoring reception of the year after Rodgers drew a crowd when he went in motion.
Rodgers followed that up with his 49-yard punt return to Missouri's 42. Humm promptly hit Garson for 11 yards and Revelle between two defenders for the 19-yard touchdown.
Eighteen seconds later, Nebraska pushed the margin to 34-0 after Borg intercepted on Missouri's first play and hustled 38 yards down the east sideline before he was knocked out of bounds a yard short of the flag.
About that time, Missouri's band started playing "Boomer Sooner" — a song that does not inspire Nebraskans to stand and clap. The only reasonable explanation was that the Tiger bandsmen were reminding the Huskers a more formidable opponent is waiting when Oklahoma visits here Thanksgiving Day.
Runty and his subs, however, wanted no part of looking ahead. They accounted for three more touchdowns after entering the fray with 7:34 left in the third quarter to the accompaniment of a resounding cheer.
The Ogallala junior completed passes of 20, 10 and three yards in a 55-yard scoring drive that ended when Huron, S.D., sophomore Jeff Moran scored from the one.
Westbrook's dash made it 55-0 moments into the fourth quarter, and Runty got one for himself when he kept for nine yards four plays after Terry Rogers recovered a bobble at the Missouri 29.
Kicker Rich Sanger, who missed only his second extra point attempt this year after the fourth touchdown, completed the damage when he booted his 34th PAT of the season. He also averaged a fine 45.5. yards on four punts.
Nebraska will travel to Lawrence, Kan., next week to play Kansas U. (2-3) while Missouri faces another rugged weekend at undefeated Notre Dame.
|Yards per carry||2.5||3.4|
Nebraska is 65-36 all-time against Missouri.
|Texas A&M||Sept. 16|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 28|
|Iowa State||Nov. 11|
|Kansas State||Nov. 18|
|Notre Dame||Jan. 1|
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