|North Carolina State||7||0||7||0||14|
LINCOLN — Tom Osborne put on his best I-told-you-so face and quietly analyzed Nebraska's 31-14 football victory over North Carolina State Saturday.
True, the Huskers did not make the 23-point spread imposed by the oddsmakers, and the team's image may suffer with the nation's pollsters, but in many ways Osborne was more pleased with the outcome than he was with the waltz past UCLA.
This Husker team, Osborne's first as a college coach, has character, he said. It twice came from behind and was at its grittiest when the pressure was the greatest — scoring three times in the last 12 minutes while shutting out the Wolfpack in the last quarter.
"I meant what I said when I said the game should have been rated even," said the obviously relieved rookie coach. "They had us staggering. We were hanging on. To win by three touchdowns, I'm really pleased."
A look at the final 17-point margin and Husker advantages of 480-193 in total yards, 342-177 in rushing, 136-16 in passing and 93-52 in total plays would indicate that Nebraska had things pretty much its own way.
It was a heart-pounder until Tony Davis' two-yard charge with 8:18 remaining allowed the heavily partisan crowd of 75,925 to sit back and relax.
The Huskers' character was perhaps best emphasized by Davis, who missed much of the first half with a ballooning ankle sprained on the second play. He carried 22 times for 106 yards, his second game over the century figure after gaining 147 against UCLA.
Then there was Dave Humm, the record-setting passer last year as a sophomore who had lost his job to Steve Runty. Humm entered the game, amid loud cheers, at the start of the second quarter after North Carolina State had taken a 7-0 lead and Runty had seen three drives stymied by a pair of interceptions and a lost fumble.
Humm completed eight of 14 passes for 102 yards and touchdowns of 40 yards to Frosty Anderson and seven yards to Brent Longwell. The Las Vegas lefty also scored on the ground from a yard out.
"Steve probably would have got the job done, too." said Humm. "It was a little different coming off the bench. We hadn't really established anything an couldn't get our momentum going. But I've got a lot of respect for Steve. He did the job last week, and I got it done this time.
"But they (N.C. State) had a really good defense. They had a lot of character, and they didn't quit. They did a real good job of disguising their defenses. We had certain plays we thought would work, but they took them away from us."
Humm said Osborne's concern that the warm weather might harm Nebraska more than the Wolfpack was groundless. "They (State) were getting tired in the second half (despite playing 56 of 62 squadsmen in the first half), and our line started kicking out real good," he said.
The offensive line, which drew accolades after the UCLA game, started jelling late in the second quarter after the Huskers were backed up to their one-yard line when John Marko caught Eddie Poole's punt in midair.
The bail was ruled down at that point, despite protests from the Husker bench, since Marko had not interfered with Nebraska's chance to catch the ball.
It took just seven plays for the Huskers to cover the 99 yards. Davis replaced sub Dave Goeller — who had an excellent day with 90 yards on 20 carries— and earned working room with six yards on the first attempt.
Then he shook the lethargy from the Nebraska crowd by ripping off 39 yards on a power play to the right side. Tony was chased down from behind, but the save went for naught.
Humm, who was 0-for-2 at that point made his first completion of 1973 a dandy. He hung the ball up in the left corner, and Frosty Anderson, built like a splinter but a heavyweight when he is near the goal line, outwrestled defender Mike Stultz for the ball near the five and stepped in for the Huskers' initial score.
Rich Sanger kicked the first of his three extra points to go with a 24-yard field goal, giving him a perfect day before he was sidelined with a knee injury in the last quarter.
Humm, who said he called the touchdown play after setting it up with a couple of sideline patterns credited Anderson with "a great catch." He used the same word to describe Davis' effort on the first scoring drive.
"Tony's got a lot of pride, and he's the kind of kid who will never quit on you. Tony, David (Goeller) and Jeff (Moran) are all that way. They can all get the job done.”
Davis said, “you just don’t hurt an ankle against a team like North Carolina State. They’re a great team. They hit you and never quit. We expected it to be a tough game, but it took us a while to get going.”
“They hurt us mentally more than anything. We needed a break, a big break. It might have been my run (the 39-yarder), but it didn’t help as much as Frosty’s catch.”
Davis said his injury “hurt pretty bad for a while. I thought it was the Achilles tendon, and I told the coach he’d better go with Dave (Goeller). But I put some ice on it, and it felt better.”
“George (physical therapist George Sullivan) said it was like a nerve injury, and it wouldn’t hurt to run on it.”
With the score tied 7-7 at the half. Nebraska’s backers were more optimistic, but there was still the problem of solving State’s straight ahead dive plays.
Fullback Stan Fritts used a quick opener off left guard to race 59 yards unmolested for the first score on the last play of the first quarter.
After Sanger’s field goal gave the Huskers their first lea, 10-7 in the second quarter, Fritts again jolted Nebraska’s national ranking with a 16-yard burst over the right side, ending a 67-yard sortie.
“We’d better learn how to stop that dive play,” complained Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin as he checked his Blackshirt defenders for injuries. “That’s the first thing you learn in grade school.
“The pressure was on our kids. They showed inexperience, and they made mistakes. We’ll just have to eliminate them. We saw four or five different sets (offensive formations) where we saw only one against UCLA, and we had trouble adjusting. I’ve got to give them (State) credit for patience with their offense. We thought we could get them shook up and make mistakes.”
Kiffin had extra praise for his defensive secondary, which led the nation in pass defense last week and should not lose its grip after holding the Wolfpack to three completions in 16 attempts for 16 yards and a Bob Thornton interception.
“The secondary has played extremely well in two games,” said Kiffin. “They (opponents) have only completed five passes and three of them were screens. I think it shows Coach (Warren) Powers is one of the best secondary coaches in the country.”
Nebraska went ahead for good in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter when it received good field position at the State 43-yard line when Poole’s punt traveled only 21 yards. Humm faced fourth and five at the Pack 26 when he passed over the middle to tight end Longwell for nine yards. Davis carried three times to the one, and Humm sneaked over.
The Wolfpack, which had been carrying the fight to N.U. all afternoon, suddenly dropped into reverse. John Bell stopped sophomore quarterback Dave Buckey for a two-yard loss, then teamed with end Steve Manstedt to drop Buckey for a five-yard deficit after an incompletion.
Then it was spotlight time for the other end, sophomore Bob Martin. He spilled punter Poole at the State 21 on an aborted fake punt play.
Davis carried on four of the ensuing five plays, including the last one of two yards.
Safety Thornton’s interception and 12-yard return to the N.C. State 38 set up the final score, Humm’s seven-yard pitch to Longwell on first down. Omahan Mike Coyle, replacing Sanger, made his varsity debut a success by kicking the extra point.
North Carolina State, which had averaged 50 points while winning its first two games and was the nation’s No. 3 team in total offense, fifth in passing and 13th in rushing had to settle for the consolation of a good show against the No. 2 team in the nation and game rushing honors (11 for 131 yards) for Fritts.
Nebraska, with two downs and nine to go, will entertain Wisconsin next week in its third straight home game before traveling Oct. 6 to Minnesota.
North Carolina State, which had gone into the game ranked 14th and 16th in the major polls and not knowing how good it was, will play Georgia Saturday in Athens, Ga., knowing now that it has a very good team.
Nebraska’s players and coaches are unanimous on that summation.
|Yards per carry||4.9||4.8|
Nebraska is 2-0 all-time against North Carolina State.
|North Carolina State||Sept. 22|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 27|
|Iowa State||Nov. 10|
|Kansas State||Nov. 17|
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