LINCOLN — Nebraska took another step toward a fourth straight Big Eight football title Saturday by brushing aside top challenger Oklahoma State, 34-0, like a giant swipe of Rich Glover's forearm.
With 76,432 homecoming fans looking on, Nebraska ran up a season high total of 566 yards — a fact that was almost incidental to the magnificence of the Blackshirt defense that blanked a fourth straight opponent.
The last time a Nebraska team did that was in 1937, when 10 Husker foes were frustrated.
With Coaches Monte Kiffin (defensive line), John Melton (linebackers) and Warren Powers (secondary) building up button-popping pride in their pupils, the Blackshirts faced the stiffest pressure since UCLA (opening loss, remember?) and passed the test with an A-plus grade.
That was no brittle wishbone the Cowboys brought to Lincoln for the showdown between the Big Eight leaders. Quarterback Brent Blackman's outfit was the No. 3 rushing team in the nation, averaging 345 yards per game.
The Blackshirts allowed the Pokes only 134 yards on the ground and a meager 205 yards total offense. The visitors managed just two first downs each half and could not put together two in a row in the face of middle guard Glover and friends.
While the day belonged to the defense, Dave Humm's offensive troops entertained the fans with a third straight game of more than 300 yards in passing yardage. The 338 yards compiled by Humm and Steve Runty was second high for the season behind last week's record 360 versus Kansas.
Although Humm received a bruised shoulder in the first quarter that tightened up alter and forced him to yield to reserve Runty for the last 15 minutes, the Las Vegas sophomore completed 15 of 32 passes for 271 yards — 214 coming before intermission.
With Runty tacking on three more completions in eight attempts, the Husker hurlers tied the season high 40 passes, with 18 complete, three for touchdowns.
The increased reliance on the pass on a dreary, cold afternoon may have been dictated by further depletion of the I-beck depth.
Dave Goeller, who started the last two games with Gary Dixon injured, went out with a broken forearm late in the second quarter. His injury was described by the team physicians as a fractured radius.
Taking up the slack, 13 Huskers divided up the ball-carrying chores for a 269-yard ground total, including a pair of end-around plays by tight end Jerry List for 13 yards.
Humm and flanker Johnny Rodgers continued to pile up records at the expense of Oklahoma State's overworked secondary, which did nothing to tarnish its reputation for pass interference excellence.
Going into the game with 13 thefts in a 4-2 season, the Pokes swiped two each from Humm and Runty, including Darryl Stewart's seventh of the season.
Humm became the most proficient sophomore passer in N.U. history by running his yardage total to 1,498 yards, erasing the 1,449 by Frank Patrick in 1967. Only Jerry Tagge's 2,019 yards last year leads Humm's season yardage.
Rodgers, who pushed his senior campaign touchdown total to 11 with a 19-yard pass reception and a 17-yard run, had another super day of catching with seven for a whopping 124 yards. He needs only three more receptions to match the Big Eight career record of 129 by Iowa State's Otto Stowe in 1969-70.
Although the 34-point victory margin was about the predicted spread, the final score does not truly reflect fierce competition on the field. The injuries to Goeller, Humm, linebacker Johnny Pitts (knee) and numerous bruises to other Huskers provide a more accurate gauge.
Much of the credit for the Huskers' 22nd straight home victory and third straight in the Big Eight for the conference lead should go to kicker Rich Sanger.
He gave the offense some working room with field goals of 21 and 27 yards in the first quarter after going into the game with a 2x9 record and added four extra points to give him 43 of 45 for the season. He missed a perfect day when a 51-yard attempt fell short in the second quarter.
Sanger also improved on his ever-improving punting average with five kicks averaging 45 yards. More important he kept OSU in poor field position. The Cowboys started out, after Sanger punts, from their three, nine, 17 and 20 and from the four after Alvin Brown tried to run back the errant field goal.
Nebraska opened the game as if it fully intended to maintain its nation-leading 49.7 scoring pace, taking the opening kickoff to the Cowboy five, where Sanger was finally called on for his first field goal.
On Oklahoma State's second offensive play, Fountain Smith fumbled, Blahak recovered at the OSU 31 and five plays later, it was 10-0 with just over five minutes gone.
Dixon's five-yard shot on fourth and two set up a picture pass play from Humm to Rodgers for 19 yards as Dave sucked the defense in with a fake into the line and Johnny beat the Cowboy zone with plenty to spare.
After Nebraska waltzed to a 13-0 lead after one quarter, Oklahoma State demonstrated it is a cut above Texas A&M, Army, Minnesota, Missouri and Kansas.
Oklahoma State's defense, upholding the Stillwater school's tradition of stout defense, blunted six straight N.U. offensive series in the second quarter, grudgingly yielded a touchdown pass in the third period and finally gave way for two more to the Runty-led charge in the fourth quarter, the final score coming with 38 seconds left to give the shivering Husker faithful a warm glow for the drive home.
While the Cowboys' defense played up to its hard-nosed expectations, the wishbone offense was rendered ineffective while Blackman, averaging over 90 yards per game, spent most of the afternoon with his nose rubbed in the AstroTurf. He averaged one yard for 15 attempts, while getting well acquainted with Glover, Bill Janssen, John Dutton and particularly Joe Blahak.
Blahak made Bob Devaney and his coaching staff look like geniuses for their strategy of moving him from his cornerback post to safety for wishbone teams.
Blahak was the most outstanding of a number of Blackshirt standouts with six tackles, a fumble recovery and five passes broken up, a couple of them with his chest.
Glover played his usual leading role against wishbone teams with 11 tackles. The other top stars in the Blackshirt galaxy were Willie Harper, nine tackles, Dutton, Jim Branch, and John Pitts with eight each and Captain Janssen and Monte Johnson matching Blahak's six.
Again, it was the superb Humm-Rodgers combination that was responsible for Sanger's second fielder that made it 13-0 at the quarter.
Back-to-back passes of 12 and 47 yards, the latter an over-the-head reception by the Omaha speedster, put the ball at the Poke five. Dixon got two yards on two rushes before OSU let it be known that the Huskers were going to have to earn the rest of their points.
Lee Stover and middle guard Barry Price dropped Humm for an eight-yard loss (one of four sackings) to bring Sanger back in.
From that point until the third quarter it was a defensive contest like those that have typified the 12-year series. And Cowboy linebacker Cleveland Vann should have garnered an honorary black shirt while compiling 13 tackles, making him the busiest performer in the game.
Oklahoma State made its most serious bids in the second quarter while reaching Nebraska's 29 (after 39-yard scamper by Smith) and the 33 after a fumble recovery. Each time, the Blackshirts withstood the pressure with ease.
Nebraska opened the second half with another quick start, this time taking it all the way after Rodgers fielded a punt at the N.U. 45. Three straight Humm completions and a 14-yard dash by Dixon were the big chunks, with Humm swinging a pass into the left flat to Bob Revelle for the eight-yard score.
At that point, Nebraska had been used to benching its regulars, but 20 points was not the type of lead the Huskers had been enjoying in recent contest.
Although 59 Husker players were used, most of the subs did got in until the final minutes.
Rodgers, who had been getting worked over on punt returns all afternoon, saw his most open space on the last play of the third quarter when he took one seven yards to the OSU 36. Jeff Moran picked up seven yards, Runty kept for 11 and Rodgers, making a rare fourth-quarter appearance, turned the left side and swept 17 yards to the flag after List's block allowed him to turn the corner.
The last touchdown came after a short punt to the Oklahoma State 39. Runty, scrambling to avoid a heavy rush pitched into the end zone where Ritch Bahe took the ball away from Stewart, making the Cowboy pay for his earlier interception. The play carried 20 yards.
The touchdown pass was Runty's fourth of the season and Bahe's touchdown was his second.
Nebraska will travel to Colorado, a surprising loser to Missouri Saturday, to defend its Big Eight lead this week. Oklahoma State will play at home against Kansas.
|Yards per carry||2.9||4.0|
Nebraska is 37-5 all-time against Oklahoma State.
|Texas A&M||Sept. 16|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 28|
|Iowa State||Nov. 11|
|Kansas State||Nov. 18|
|Notre Dame||Jan. 1|
Nebraska has played 19 games on Oct. 28. See them all »
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