Dave Humm pitches to John O'Leary...hardly anything different in Husker attack. But, wait... O'Leary passes... Right back to lonesome Humm WORLD-HERALD PHOTO
Lincoln — After all the coaching stratagems were logged and all the fumbles, interceptions and so-called breaks that were supposed to decide such games were totaled, Oklahoma became the Big Eight champion Saturday on simple things.
Nebraska simply couldn't stop the Sooners' running game. It was Jim Littrell up the middle, Joe Washington to the outside and Steve Davis anywhere he wanted to go.
So in the end, Nebraska lost a 14-7 third-quarter lead built on a bundle of emotion and swash-buckling play-calling while the Sooners chugged along toward the national championship via a 28-14 triumph.
Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne had appealed to the Cornhusker fans to give the mighty visitors an uproarious welcome, and a record Memorial Stadium turnout of 76,636 did its part.
But those Nebraskans in the stands and those on the field were just not enough.
Oklahoma, which raised its record to 10-0 while ending Nebraska's regular season at 8-3, swept along the AstroTurf for touchdowns drives of 80, 55 and 61 yards in the last 20 minutes to send the Huskers crashing back to brutal reality.
The Sooners had nary a passing yard. Not that they needed any. They motored for a whopping 482 ground yards — getting 147 from fullback Littrell, 142 from halfback Washington and 112 from quarterback Davis.
But it was a long way from Nebraska's 0-27 loss at Norman, Okla., a year ago when the Huskers failed to initiate a scrimmage play on the Sooner side of the field. They made it across on their first series Saturday.
They had a 187-179 split in run-pass yardage against the Big Eight's leading defense and scored with two touchdown passes on a chilly, blustery day that was not conducive to passing.
But the Huskers passed into the teeth of 28 mph gusts for the touchdowns in the second and third quarters on two totally illogical plays.
Trailing, 7-0, on Davis's 10-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, Nebraska was scrimmaging from the O.U. 38-yard line on third and three. A pitchout, maybe, or a short pass, but no. The Huskers went for it all.
Nebraska quarterback Dave Humm pump faked a short pass, watched split end Chuck Malito springs past cornerback Sidney Brown and defied the breeze with a deep lob down the sideline for the touchdown.
The second was more astonishing. The Huskers took a 14-7 lead on their first possession of the second half on a touchdown pass from I-back John O'Leary to Humm. Correct. O'Leary to Humm.
Again, it was a short-yardage situation after Don Westbrook set it up with a 42-yard reverse. The textbooks say you're supposed to muscle it out on fourth and one at the enemy 11-yard line.
After a timeout to discuss the field goal option, Osborne called the play that had been put in for this game to take advantage of Oklahoma's unusually swirt pursuit.
With the Sooners chasing O'Leary to the right, Humm sneaked back to the left and was lonesome when O'Leary wheeled and passed back to the quarterback. Humm easily romped the remaining 11 yards.
After Mike Coyle's second extra-point kick, the Husker emotion peaked when Jim Belka chopped down Elvis Peacock on the ensuing kickoff and Jimmy Seeton recovered the fumble 15 yards away from the goal.
But fate decreed that Nebraska would not score.
On yet another third-and-short play, at the six, Humm called for a pass. As he shouted numbers at the line of scrimmage, wingback Westbrook thought he heard the quarterback call an audible for another play.
As a result, Westbrook and fullback Tony Davis wound up blocking the same Sooner when Westbrook should have been catching the pass. It went incomplete, and Coyle missed his second field goal attempt (he and Sooner Tony DiRienzo both were errant in the first quarter).
"We needed to get something there," a wrung0out Osborne said later in the Nebraska dressing room. "If there was one critical play, that was it."
Nebraska Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin said there were two.
After Coyle's miss, Oklahoma has given up only one touchdown in the first half all year, and has not allowed an opponent more than two touchdowns in 34 games.
When comparisons are made, Oklahoma invariable comes out best. It is on such things that odds are established. Here again, OU wins, by around two touchdowns.
But Coaches Tom Osborne of Nebraska and Barry Switzer of Oklahoma had near identical reactions to the odds they say they don't pay attention to odds; games are won on the field.
Games are also won on such intangibles as determination and such tangibles as coaching decisions—items the Huskers are banking on to overcome the Sooners' paper superiority.
Seniors like Humm, Mark Doak and Tom Pate have emphasized they will draw inspiration from this afternoon's challenge being their final one in Memorial Stadium.
Others, like junior fullback Tony Davis, keep looking for aprod by reviewing films of Oklhaoma's 27-0 conquest last year. Not just the players.
Nebraska defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said, "I have to admit I've been waiting for this one for a long time. It was real embarrassing to get beat 27-0.
"They beat us and beat us good last year. It was the coaches' fault as much as the players."
Frosh Anthony, who will relinquish his starting spot today to more experienced and more healthy John O'Leary, hasn't been through Nebraska-Oklahoma before, but he has heard enough talk.
"When I was recruited, that's all they talked about, playing Oklahoma," Anthony said. "If you can just get in a game like this for a couple of minutes, it's exciting. How often do you play the No. 1 team in the nation?"
Asked what impresses him most about Nebraska, Switzer replied: "Number 50 through 90." He meant the Nebraska linemen. "They're awesome," Switzer said.
Nebraska outweighs Oklahoma, 236-227, in the defensive line, but the Sooners own a 248-235 advantage up front on offense.
Oklahoma has not lost in 27 games and has won its last 18. Switzer, in his second season as a head coach has never been defeated.