AMES, Ia. — The mood in Nebraska's dressing quarters at Clyde Williams Field late Saturday afternoon was an odd mixture of joy, anger, relief and frustration.
The Cornhuskers had just gone through another three quarters of thorough domination before going into a fourth-quarter swoon that has become something of a habit. It still goes into the books as a 23-13 Nebraska victory over Iowa State, maintaining an unbeaten string against the Cyclones that goes back to 1960.
Despite watching a 23-0 lead dwindle on two touchdown passes from Cyclone quarterback Wayne Stanley to Luther Blue in the last 5:17, Nebraska's players were howling in their cramped locker room because they had survived on a day in which other bowl-bound teams were losing.
After hearing that Sugar Bowl opponent Florida and Cotton Bowling Penn State had lost, along with Ohio State and Texas A&M favorites for the Rose and Cotton Bowls, Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said: "At least we held up our end."
"All this game showed is how right we were in picking Nebraska," Sugar Bowl President Cliff Kern said before he called for silence and extended the official invitation to the New Year's Eve classic in New Orleans.
Reading from a plaque he presented to Osborne, Kern said: "The University of Nebraska is cordially invited to participate in the 1974 New Orleans Mid-Winter Sports Association Sugar Bowl Classic."
The roar from the Huskers indicated that they accepted with pleasure. Laughter followed when a voice from the rear asked: "Does the Sugar Bowl have AstroTurf?"
The Huskers were muddy and sopped after an afternoon of slogging through the sloppy grass and a light rain that kept the 37,000 spectators huddled under umbrellas and ponchos.
But it wasn't the field that disturbed Osborne. He steamed about having to overcome field conditions, a determined Cyclone team and the Iowa State student body.
"That's a horrible, horrible dadgum situation," Osborne said in an uncustomary display of anger. "I don't care if I'm outspoken, but this is the sorriest place for us to play."
"We don't mind playing on grass, but I'm glad we don't have to play here again."
His anger was directed at the student section in the southeast corner of the field. The racket and debris made it difficult for his offense to operate at that end of the field, Osborne said.
"It's obviously hard to win here. It's unfair what you have to put up with. Their student body does this purposely. We couldn't audible (call plays at the line of scrimmage), and our players couldn't hear the snap count."
Nebraska's next game here will be played in the new Iowa State stadium, which is nearly completed.
But Osborne was gratified with his team's effort in its fourth straight victory while raising its record to 7-2. Iowa State dropped to 4-5.
"We played on their terms and won," Osborne told his players. "You showed a lot of courage."
Nebraska's players might have guessed it wasn't going to be an easy afternoon workout after a group of students paraded an obscene sign directed at them and a yellow haze hung over the field after a smoke bomb was ignited when the student body massed on the field before the kickoff.
Public address announcer Harry Burell, appealing to "the greatest fans in the world," said the game would not start until the field was cleared, which seemed reasonable.
The Iowa State captains even outnumbered Nebraska, 20-2, when the seniors went out for the coin flip.
But it was Iowa State which got the short end of the fortunes when the carnival got down to shoulder pads and helmets and all the slipping and sliding and fumbling was totaled up.
The Cyclones weathered the Huskers' initial offensive effort when Mike Coyle's 27-yard field goal attempt was wide, but it was only a temporary delay since Mike Strachan fumbled on the Cyclones' first play, and Bob Nelson recovered 16 yards from a touchdown.
Freshman Monte Anthony scored five plays later.
So much for playing it straight.
Nebraska I-back John O'Leary was running free in the secondary a short time later. A 25-yard gain was behind him, and he was looking for a way to gain more when he was hit from behind. Cyclone defensive end Andre Roundtree suddenly emerged from the pack with the ball, heading the same direction as O'Leary.
Few baton exchanges in the sprint relays have been as smooth and big Andre, who has 12 brothers and sister, looked as if he had made off with the last pork chop when he finally up-field. But once the Huskers got turned around and headed stopped Roundtree, Cyclone halfback Phil Danowsky handed the ball back three plays later on a fumble to Ron Pruitt.
Monte Anthony returned the favor with another fumble when it appeared he was stopped short on forth down at the Cyclone 23.
It was still the first quarter, and both teams had lost two fumbles.
Coyle made it 10-0 with a 21-yard field goal in the second quarter after Nebraska stalled at the I-State four, and the lead jumped to 16-0 in the third quarter on Anthony's seven-yard dash up the middle after Scott Bradley's 24-yard punt carried to only the Cyclone 34.
Iowa State middle guard Jimmy Potter aided the drive three times when he jumped offside, twice for first down penalties.
O'Leary, who was disgusted with his hand-off to Roundtree, found salvation in the Huskers' final touchdown.
He took a quick screen pass from Humm in front of the Nebraska bench and swept untouched down the sideline 42 yards behind blocks by Mark Doak and Rik Bonness.
"I was real disappointed after that fumble," O'Leary said. "There's no excuse for that. That was my first fumble of the year. It sure felt great to get into the end zone after that," O'Leary said.
Al Eveland, who used the conventional placekicking style, booted the final extra point after soccer kicker Coyle slipped and fell while missing the point after Anthony's touchdown.
But Nebraska Assistant Coach George Darlington said Coyle's kicking as much as anything neutralized the Cyclones' offense.
Twice, his twisting kickoffs left Iowa State starting drives from its three-yard line. Strachan fumbled one out of bounds and Blue, the nation's leading kickoff returner, fell down on the other.
But Blue was a Husker nemesis throughout. On the second play after reserve quarterback Tom Mason entered the game in the second quarter, the fleet sophomore got behind cornerback Ardell Johnson, Nebraska's fastest runner, but Blue dropped Mason's pass at the Nebraska five when a touchdown was imminent.
But he caught the 28 and 13-yard touchdown passes after starter Wayne Stanley returned in the fourth quarter.
Monte Kiffin, Nebraska's defensive coordinator, just shook his head after watching his team log its seventh straight shutout through three quarters, then fade.
Nebraska has outscored opponents by an amazing 239-7 in the first three quarters of its nine games. The foes hold an 80-72 fourth quarter lead.
"But both touchdowns were scored against the second string," Kiffin pointed out. "I still think it's more important get the second string in the game. I'll give up 13 points any time when we can get them in."
Osborne conceded that the contest "got a little hairy" in the fourth quarter. After the first Cyclone touchdown he hurried his Blackshirt defense back onto the field to stymie a drive four yards from the Husker goal. The regulars were greeted by boos.
"I should have done it earlier," Osborne said.
Iowa State had been stopped short in the second quarter after reaching the Nebraska 12. On fourth and two, Mason pitched out to Strachan, who passed back across the field to the quarterback. Mason fumbled the ball away to Ardell Johnson when he was hit.
In all, Iowa State lost all three of its fumbles;l Nebraska lost three of four.
Nebraska had a strong day rushing, with Anthony's 97 yards and 81 by O'Leary and 76 by Davis the major gainers in a 277-yard total.
Williams gained 61 yards for Iowa State, Strachan, the Cyclone record-holder, was held to 37 yards.
Stanley bested Humm in passing with 10 completions in 18 attempts for 134 yards to six of 10 for 109 yards. Humm raised his Big Eight career touchdown record to 39 with his toss to O'Leary.
Nebraska monster back Mark Heydorff, started his first game this year in place of injured Wonder Monds, summed it up:
"I'm glad to get that one over with. There was definitely a lot of pressure, with the bowl business and this being our last game here. Some people were saying we couldn't play on grass. We did all right."
Its final road game out of the way, Nebraska returns to Lincoln the next two weeks to finish the season against Kansas State and Oklahoma.
|Yards per carry||3.0||5.0|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa State.
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 26|
|Iowa State||Nov. 9|
|Kansas State||Nov. 16|
Nebraska has played 17 games on Nov. 9. See them all »
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