Lincoln—Nebraska didn’t really need Terry Luck’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Brad Jenkins in the fourth quarter Saturday, not with the Cornhuskers’ tightwad defense playing shutout.
But it was the principle of the thing.
The Husker offense was en route to building a 397-177 total yardage margin over Kansas, which had come into the Big Eight Conference opener for both teams with a new wishbone offense that led the league in rushing.
Yet the Huskers had been deprived of ail that hand-slapping and hugging they like to do in the end zone after touchdowns. They had been forced to settle for congratulating Mike Coyle for three field goals.
So the offense salvaged a measure of pride in an often frustrating afternoon that would up with a 16-0 Husker victory and a still unblemished record of 5-0.
But not as much as Kansas had when it confronted Nebraska’s goal-line alignment with the clock running short in the first half, down where goal-line defenses got their name, on Nebraska’s end.
Nebraska’s Blackshirt defenders were three yards from giving Kansas carload of inspiration after the Jayhawks had journeyed 70 yards with ridiculous ease on two plays.
With 11 seconds left, the visitors were shoved three yards farther away from the final stripe. With three seconds left, end Ray Phillips sailed in from the left side to block Dennis Kerbel’s field goal.
So Nebraska rode the thunderous cheer of the bulk of the 76,285 fans to the locker room holding a 6-0 lead instead of a 6-7 deficit. The Huskers had snatched back the momentum, which coaches insist is so important in such situations.
While the goal-line heroics in the final seconds of the first half were doubtless the most significant plays of the game, the Husker defense drew appreciative cheers all afternoon. This was no humpty-dumpty wishbone the Jayhawks brought to town.
It had led the Big Eight Conference in rushing with 317 yards a game. It had Nolan Cromwell at quarterback, a young man who was a safety a year ago but a ground eater with an enormous appetite this year. He had a 294-yard game that had even relegated the great Gale Sayers to the second line in the K.U. record book.
Cromwell was good, for sure, but his 19 carries produced only 62 yards, 76 below his average. And he had little help. Kansas gained but 121 yards on the ground and 56 in the air, 50 of which came on one play that brought out the goal line unit.
“I could tell when we ran down there that they wouldn’t score,” said defensive tackle Mike Fultz. “If we would have walked, it might have been a different story. THey (Jayhawks) didn’t want it bad enough.”
Safety Jimmy Burrow went out, and three tackles—Fultz, George Mills and Jerry Wied—lined up with middle guard John Lee and ends Phillips and Bob Martin.
As Cromwell swept to his left, Fultz burst through to wrap him up. Cromwell pitched out badly to Bill Campfield, who dribbled the ball out of bounds at the six with Martin and linebacker Clete Pillen hanging on him.
With three seconds left, Phillips flagged down the 23-yard field goal attempt by Kerbel, who had kicked five of six for the year.
“That was a fine pass that got them down there, but we couldn’t let anything cheap get by on us,” Pillen said. “Cromwell is good, but at least he didn’t run like he was in a track meet today.”
Husker defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin gushed praise for his Blackshirts for the crucial stand and for the second shutout of the season.
“You can shut out teams like Minnesota and Indiana some years, but out players really have to feel good about shutting out the leading rushing team in the conference.”
“Our first-team defense hasn’t been scored on all year when we were in a goal-line defense.”
Kiffin said he shared the blame for letting Kansas get so close.
“Chuck was playing him (Smith) too tight, and he knew it the minute it happened, but we weren’t in a prevent defense, and I’ll take the blame for that.”
“Cromwell had just made 20 yards on an option, and we were trying to keep him from doing it again to get them in field goal range.”
While Kansas may have been deflated by the goal-line stand, it was the Husker tackling that was more telling, Kiffin said.
“That was as fine a tackling as I’ve ever seen the first half. I think it discouraged Cromwell. He didn’t run the option much the second half.”
Vince Ferragamo, starting his first game at quarterback, drove his team 62 yards on the first possession, then settled for Coyle’s 38-yarder in the first quarter.
Then, after a 66-yard field goal attempt by Kerbel was short, it was 52 yards and a lost Monte Anthony fumble.
Then 50 yards, featuring Curtis Craig’s 41-yard run, and I-back John O’Leary was stopped short on fourth-and-one by Chris Golub.
Two plays later, Pillen claimed a Jayhawk fumble at the K.U. 36, and the offense came within five yards of the goal. But Bobby Thomas’ dive for a touchdown pass was just short, and Coyle hit again from 22 yards to make it 6-0.
Nebraska played the same tune to open the second half with a 54-yard march to the K.U. 12, but two straight losses by Dave Gillespie brought out Coyle again for a 31-yarder. That pulled him within one of Paul Rogers’ school record for one game set in the 1969 Sun Bowl.
27 yards in two plays by Monte Anthony was a good way to welcome Luck, who got a little luck with a first-down completion to Thomas on a rebound off safety Kurt Knoff.
On the next play, Luck passed 26 yards into the end zone. Tight end Brad Jenkins and wingback Craig converged in front of the goal post, and both went for the ball, behind the defense.
Jenkins, who is 6-2 won the jump over his 5-10 teammate and claimed the long-awaited touchdown.
“We flooded the safety area, and they’re both supposed to be out on the hash marks,” Luck said. “I’m supposed to read the safety. Whichever way he goes, I throw the other way.”
“But Brad got forced inside, and Curtis was reacting to the ball.”
“But I got bumped inside by the cornerback. That was the first time he’d taken me. I know I’ll hear about it (during film review by the coaches). We’re not supposed to let that happen. I don’t see how Terry got the ball in there. It was a perfect pass.”
Nebraska’s lack of consistency on offense. Osborne said, was caused in large part by the Kansas defense.
“They were using a goal-line defense that we hadn’t seen. We should have been able to hurt that by throwing the ball. They were gambling on defense (with the goal line), and you’ve got to give their defensive coordinator (Lance Van Zandt) credit. He guessed right a lot.”
Van Zandt moved to Kansas this year from Oklahoma State, and Osborne said Saturday’s game was “similar to last year’s Oklahoma State game (Nebraska won, 7-3). We spent more time working against the goal line this week than we ever have before.
“All year long, we have been doing a good job converting on third downs, but today it was just the opposite.”
Nebraska, however, had good success on wingback counter plays, with Craig gaining 77 yards on eight carries and Tom Heiser seven on one sweep.
Anthony had his best afternoon of the year with 72 yards on 15 tries, and John O’Leary had 50 yards by halftime and only one afterward. O’Leary was used little the second half after he came up fuzzy from a first-half tackle.
Ferragamo completed nine of 16 passes for 87 yards and Luck four of seven for 52.
Nebraska completed a five-game run at Memorial Stadium with a perfect record and will venture on to Oklahoma State Saturday.
Kansas, which had take a 3-1 record and No. 20 ranking nationally into the game, will try to recoup at Iowa State.
|Yards per carry||2.6||4.4|
Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.
|Miami (FL)||Oct. 4|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 18|
|Kansas State||Nov. 8|
|Iowa State||Nov. 15|
|Arizona State||Dec. 26|
Nebraska has played 17 games on Oct. 11. See them all »
©2019 BH Media Group