LINCOLN — The snowball fights and ensuing fisticuffs in the south end zone seats of Memorial Stadium were inevitable late Saturday afternoon despite repeated public address appeals.
The Nebraska-Kansas State game had held the attention of the 75,079 customers as long as it was a contest. That was about one-and-a-half quarters before the Cornhuskers breezed to a 59-7 verdict.
With substitutes playing more than half the game, 65 Huskers participating, and the score mounting, the temptation in the predominantly student section to create diversionary excitement was just too much.
Nebraska didn't need any help in handling the outmanned Wildcats, but Vince Gibson's players contributed immensely to their downfall by turning the ball over to the Blackshirt opportunists eight times, five on fumbles and three on pass interceptions.
Little went right for the Cats, who ended their season at 3-8. Even the heavy first quarter snowfall, that was certain to be an equalizing factor, let up in the second stanza.
When it was over, the 59-7 beating was the worst inflicted by a Nebraska team since the series inaugural in 1911 when Kansas State bowed by 59-0.
Despite the vast point spread, the game wasn't really that close. Coach Bob Devaney, picking up his 100th career win at Nebraska, pulled his first team offense for good with five minutes left in the second quarter.
The Blackshirts, or No. 1 defensive unit, retired early in the third quarter, and the third-string defenders mercifully allowed the visitors to salvage a smattering of respect with a touchdown 6:20 from the end.
As the Nebraska players retired to the locker room to await the official announcement of a third straight trip to the Orange Bowl, they could look back no these developments in the third highest scoring game in an 8-1-1 season:
— Substitute I-back Jeff Moran, a sophomore from Huron, S.D., gained 129 yards on 13 carries, the highest rushing total of any Husker this season and the only one over 100 yards.
He hit the century figure in the first half, mainly via a 72-yard dash in the second quarter.
— Flanker Johnny Rodgers, who had to work fast to boost his Heisman Trophy credentials with a limited amount of playing time, tied two national records when he opened scoring with a 52-yard punt return. The dash down the west sideline gave him a career total of seven punt returns for touchdowns, tying Oklahoman Jack Mitchell in 1946-48, and eight punt or kickoff returns, matching Colorado's Cliff Branch in 1970-71.
— Three touchdown passes — one by starter Dave Humm and two by Steve Runty — broke the Big Eight season aerial scoring mark of 20 by Missouri in 1969. Nebraska now has 22 with the Oklahoma game remaining Thursday.
— Humm, who now has the fourth-highest one-season yardage total in Big Eight history, matched Jerry Tagge's Husker record of 17 scoring passes when he pitched 32 yards to Bob Revelle in the second quarter.
— I-back Gary Dixon, who gained 20 yards on eight carries, became the 13th Husker since 1950 to gain 1,000 yards in his career. He hit that figure on the nose.
— The 144 passing yards gave the Huskers a season aerial record of 2,323 yards.
Kansas State could find some consolation in the fact that only one Husker opponent this season has surpassed the Wildcats' 290 yards total offense. That was Iowa State, with 356 yards in the 23-23 tie the preceding week.
And senior wide receiver John Goeger could claim some personal satisfaction with a Wildcat career reception record of 57 after catching eight for 70 yards Saturday.
The impact of Kansas State's miscues is reflected in a review of Nebraska's scoring drives. Four of the last five touchdowns came after fumbles. The Huskers marched 32, 26, 20 and 67 yards after the Wildcats' misfortunes.
Runty's substitutes took over after the first team stretched a 10-0 first quarter advantage to 31-0 with 7:30 left in the half. Nebraska finished with 514 yards, surpassing the 500-yard mark for the fifth time this season.
Humm completed seven of 13 passes for 96 yards in his abbreviated appearance. Runty was 3-7 for 48 yards.
Rodgers was again the all-around champ. In addition to the scoring punt return, his second of the season, Johnny caught five passes for 64 yards and carried five times for 26 and a second touchdown from eight yards out.
After opening with two fruitless series, Rodgers injected life into the smallest home crowd of the season when he fielded a long, low Joe Brandt punt at the Husker 48. He started on a sweep to his right, turned the corner thanks to Rich Glover's crunching block and fled past the Wildcats' bench in a scoring dash that was a cinch after he turned upfield.
Placekicker Rich Sanger, who had a perfect day, made it 10-0 with a 26-yard field goal into a south breeze and driving snow with 3:25 left in the first quarter.
On the second play of the second quarter, Kansas State had the Huskers backed up against the south stands (no snowballs had been thrown at that point) with a punt that was downed on the two.
Moran, a 6-1, 191-pounder who rekindled memories of the departed Jeff Kinney, solved that dilemma by racing between Tom Alward and Daryl White and pedaling 72 yards before Gordon Chambliss saved the touchdown on a diving tackle.
Five plays later, Dixon's four-yard touchdown, his eighth of the season, and Sanger's boot made it 17-0.
The Huskers traveled 52 yards on the next sortie. It was fitting that Rodgers got the last eight yards, displaying excellent hurdling form while clearing Ted Stealey at the goal line. The Omaha senior had bailed his team out of a third-and-fifteen jam by shaking clear for a 23-yard reception to keep the drive alive.
Kansas State's next two series typified the Cats' frustration. Defensive end Steve Manstedt intercepted, swiping the ball from teammate Joe Blahak, and Dave Mason claimed a Don Calhoun fumble on the next Wildcat possession.
One play later, Humm lofted a pass over defender Stealey into the waiting arms of split end Bob Revelle in the end zone 32 yards away.
Nebraska made it 38-0, its highest halftime total of the year, when Runty took nine plays to cover 60 yards on his first series.
A Runty screen pass to Bill Olds accounted for the final 12 yards. The touchdown was made possible by Stan Hegner's block that drove a K-State linebacker into the Astro-Turf.
Pilger, Neb., I-back Dave Goeller, returning after suffering a broken bone in his arm three games ago, was instrumental in the 45-0 touchdown.
He recovered a bungled fair catch attempt by Ron Coppenbarger at the K-State 26 and dashed five yards up the middle to score five plays later.
John Hyland, a patient senior substitute end from Lincoln, got the next one, going when he claimed a Calhoun fumble at the Wildcat 20. Runty faced fourth-and-15 when he completed a 25-yarder to Frosty Anderson for the touchdown.
Nebraska completed its scoring with 11:04 remaining when Moran finally got his reward from the four to complete a 10-play, 73-yard march.
Kansas State prevented a fifth Nebraska shutout of the season by moving 77 yards behind sophomore quarterback Steve Grogan. Isaac Jackson, a skittery halfback who distinguished himself with 99 yards on 20 carries, was called on six straight times at the end and got the final yard.
|Yards per carry||3.5||5.4|
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas 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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