AMES, Iowa — Playing a tie game is like kissing your sister, Nebraska Coach Bob Devaney has been known to say, but his Cornhuskers were fortunate to get a buss of any kind after a 23-23 knuckle-biter with Iowa State Saturday.
Nebraska was only an extra-point kick away from its second defeat of the season when sophomore soccer-style booter Tim Goedjen, who had missed only twice in 31 previous attempts this season, pulled the game winner to the left and left the Huskers with half of it.
In fairness to Goedjen, who kicked a 46-yard field goal and barely missed twice from 40 yards out, he was hurried by a Husker rush that was a game attempt to defy the odds for the umpteenth time in this game.
The odds were certainly against the spirited Cyclones when they started a final drive 74 yards from the Husker goal with 58 seconds left.
But they made it with 23 seconds to spare when George Amundson hung the ball up from 24 yards out and flanker Willie Jones got to it ahead of defender Randy Borg just before he ran out of the left corner of the end zone. Willie was engulfed by the student body.
That drive, during which Amundson, the super-composed senior from Aberdeen, S.D., completed passes of 12, 18 and 20 yards before his dramatic scoring pitch, came against the nation's No. 1 defense.
It came in full view of 36,231, plus scouts from the Orange, Sugar and Cotton Bowls, who had not come to see the home team. Iowa State was being wooed by the Liberty Bowl for the third time this season. The Cyclones' bowl value should improve by playing the Huskers even.
While Husker followers can point to eight dreadful turnovers as the reason for the surprising outcome, credit must also be given to the Cyclones, who overcame the natural emotional letdowns that followed pressurized scoring drives by the Huskers in the second and fourth quarters.
But still, the impact of six fumbles — all lost — and two interceptions cannot be minimized. Each break increased Iowa State's confidence and Nebraska's frustration.
Nearly as important was Iowa State's ability to handle Nebraska's rushing game, which had performed so effectively the week before against Colorado. Both teams finished with 121 yards on the ground. That figure is Nebraska's puniest in a 7-1-1 season. The inability of the Huskers to control the ball on the ground forced quarterback Dave Humm to put the ball in the air at a record pace. His 42 passes wiped out the previous high of 40 by Frank Patrick in 1967, and his 23 completions matched Jerry Tagge's best day in 1969.
It came down to which quarterback could perform under intense pressure. As in the game itself, sophomore Humm and senior Amundson finished in a tie.
Humm scored first on a five-yard sweep and passed for touchdowns of four yards to Johnny Rodgers with eight seconds left in the half and 35 yards, again to Rodgers, in a "must" drive that regained the lead for Nebraska, 20-17, with 8:08 left in the game.
Amundson completed 14 of 31 passes for 233 yards (34 fewer than Humm and touchdowns of eight and 33 yards to tight end Keith Krepfle and the 24-yarder to Jones for the moral victory.
Husker flanker Rodgers, who had a chance to field only one punt for no return, played throughout with a limp and had teammates helping him back into the huddles.
No limp was noticeable, however, when he was the intended pass receiver. He showed Heisman form with nine receptions for 113 yards despite double coverage and the fact that he was the obvious choice when the going got tense.
It was certainly tense when Nebraska was struggling to keep Iowa State from scoring again when the Cyclones held a 17-13 lead in the fourth quarter and Goedjen was barely wide on a 40-yard attempt with just over 12 minutes left.
At that point, Husker backers dared to get boisterous. It looked as if their team would escape with a win, albeit a shaky win. A 23-17 lead. A Goedjen field goal wouldn't hurt now. Only 1:03 remained. Amundson couldn't rally his team 80 yards in that time. Could he?
It should have been apparent at the time, though, that anything was possible.
Cyclone Coach Johnny Majors' "Cowpasture Play" in the second quarter had been an indication it would be an anything goes game.
On the first play after a punt to the Iowa State 38 with the Cyclones leading 10-7, Amundson approached the ball with his teammates lined up in a running formation several yards toward the left sideline. The bewildered Huskers stood their ground, line up on the ball.
Amundson, acting as the center, snapped the ball underhanded to Strachan, who picked up 14 yards before the Huskers reacted.
The play was a throwback to another era. Many Husker fans will remember Bud Wilkinson's Oklahoma team pulling the same stunt in 1956 with Clendon Thomas going for a touchdown. Wilkinson called it the 'swinging gate.'
The wily Majors just brushed the cobwebs off and renamed it his "Cowpasture Play." He tried it once before five years ago — against Nebraska.
Nebraska failed to move and Iowa State came back with a 16-yard completion to Ike Harris to the Husker 42 and followed up with a swing pass to Mike Strachan, the sophomore who leads the Big Eight in rushing.
Sophomore Strachan showed why by running right past Husker Dave Mason on one-on-one near the Iowa State bench. He fled for 26 yards to the 16.
Amundson went to the reliable Krepfle on the next play, but the ball bounced free and cornerback Joe Blahak made a saving interception, his second of the year, two yards from the goal and ran back to the 11.
Then came the Huskers' most dynamic offensive display of the day. The drive took only seven plays to cover the 89 yards.
Humm passed to Rodgers for 22 and eight yards and to tight end Jerry List for 17 to put the ball on the Cyclone 35. On the next play, Rodgers, no limp evident, outlegged Barry Hill and John Schweizer and was waiting in the end zone when Humm's sailer came down. Rich Sanger's placement kick made it 20-17 with 8:08 left.
After trading fumbles, Nebraska appeared to be in good shape when punter Doug Keown passed incomplete for fourth down and Nebraska had the ball at the Iowa State 35 with 3:49 left.
After a fourth-down play on which Gary Dixon picked up an apparent first down at the five — but the Huskers were penalized for illegal motion — Sanger kicked a 36-yard field goal.
It didn't take long for the thrill-a-minute business to develop. On the first series, a Keown punt hit Husker Dave Mason, who was unaware, and Strachan recovered on Nebraska's 33. The first fumble. But the Huskers withstood the threat.
Steve Manstedt livened up several listless series by intercepting an Amundson sideline pass with a diving catch at the ISU 32. A 15-yard pass to Bob Revelle was the big gainer before Humm opened scoring 1:54 from the end of the first quarter by rolling out to his right and winning the five-yard dash to the flag ahead of defender Barry Hill.
But the Cyclones, especially defensive tackle Merv Krakau, kept pushing Husker noses in the mud, snuffing out the smell or orange blossoms.
A perfectly-timed long ball from Amundson to flanker Jones, the ultimate hero, went for 47 yards to the NU 25. Six plays later, the game was tied after Amundson laid the ball perfectly into Krepfle's outstretched fingers to step ahead of George Kyros for eight yards.
The Cyclones put the Huskers in the hole for the first time since the UCLA opener when Goedjan hit a 46-yard fielder at 6:27 of the second quarter to make it 10-7.
Nebraska, however, took a 13-10 lead into the locker room at the half with a superb 80-yard drive that started with 1:20 remaining after Goedjen was short on a 64-yard attempt and Rodgers ran it back to the 20.
Rogers raced 26 yards on a reverse, and Humm, after two in incompletions, pitched consecutive completions of 10 and 16 yards to Jerry List, six to Revelle, six more to List and finally the last four to Rodgers eight seconds ahead of the gun after an interference helped with 12 yards.
With three interceptions and a lost fumble at that point, a 13-10 lead looked good to Husker followers, even though Sanger missed for the third time in 51 point-after-touchdown kicks.
But Iowa State won the battle of the "Go Big Red" banner that was paraded tauntingly in front of the Cyclone fans at intermission and very nearly win it all in the next two quarters.
Nebraska escaped a ticklish situation when Mason intercepted on his goal line on the first play after Krakau recovered a Humm fumble at the Husker seven.
But the field position was in Iowa State's favor, and on the second play of the next possession, Amundson pitched a high archer to Krepfle for a 17-13 lead with 5:32 left in the third frame.
Nebraska regained the lead with the 89-yard drive that has already been recounted. And in review, Iowa State still comes back to tie in the unlikely finish.
For Nebraska, the first real contest since UCLA undoubtedly marked an end to the longshot bid to rebound for an unprecedented third straight national championship.
But the tie still kept Nebraska in front in the Big Eight Conference with a 4-0-1 record. The Huskers will return to more friendly atmosphere at Memorial Stadium Saturday to play Kansas State.
Iowa State, now 5-2-1, hasn't beaten the Huskers in their last 12 games. The Cyclones now play at Missouri, which also has a reputation for rude treatment of visiting teams.
|Yards per carry||2.7||2.5|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa State.
|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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