Lincoln—When two football teams score 84 points in three quarters, then shut it off in the fourth, the mind starts to wander, looking for something insignificant to keep the game interesting.
It is totally insignificant that that the final score of the Nebraska-Colorado game Saturday would have been 21-21 if the visiting Buffaloes could deduct the touchdowns Nebraska scored following four fumble recoveries, another recovery on a muffed kickoff and an intercepted pass.
But you can’t do that, especially when you’re playing in Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium and a highly vocal crowd of 76,509, sixth largest in Cornhusker history, is watching.
So the final score of 63-21 in favor of Nebraska stands, which was phenomenal considering that Colorado was ranked No. 10 in the nation and had lost only to No. 2 Oklahoma by a point.
But they did happen, to the wonderment of players and coaches on both sides of the field. Colorado fumbled seven times and lost six. And the Buffs turned it over twice on interceptions.
Nebraska coach Tom Osborne likened the interminably long afternoon to a snowball rolling down a mountainside. Monte Kiffin, his defensive chief, called it a nightmare. And he was on the winning side.
Husker assistant John Melton, who helps man the phones in the press box, left his post early in the fourth quarter and went to the locker room. “Get it over before we get somebody hurt,” he said.
If they thought it was long, Colorado coach Bill Mallory thought it took an eternity to play the last quarter. Even a couple of consolation touchdowns in the third quarter after Nebraska made it 63-7 didn’t speed the clock.
“I don’t know…my Lord...good gosh...there were just some things in there...boy...boy...you can’t do things like that against a team like this.”
With Nebraska unbeaten in six previous games and ranked No. 4, the huge crowd had gathered on a cool sunshiny day expecting the close, bruising game both coaches had predicted for the top 10 duel.
The Buffs primed for the upset by stunning the Husker defense with a 74-yard touchdown run by quarterback David Williams on the game’s third play. But Colorado won only those first 52 seconds. The Huskers won the rest.
“We were in somewhat of a new defense. I was playing where the monster usually plays,” Husker safety Jimmy Burrow said, recalling Williams’ run.
“He just cut back, and I missed him,” said Burrow, who tried to hang on with the hand that was broken several games ago. “The cast wasn’t a factor. I should have made the play.”
“Against our defense, you just don’t see things like that. We have so much pursuit. Our Linebackers got cut off, and everything that could happen went wrong on that play.”
“But that possibly got us fired up. We knew it would be a football game.”
I-back Monte Anthony was more emphatic. “After they went down and scored early, we all really got up. They made us mad.”
The next drive took 2:24 and six plays to cover 59 yards, with John O’Leary sailing the last 10 yards around right end.
Nebraska’s offense got those first two in brutally efficient fashion to take charge. But they were to get only one more—an 80-yard, 17-play march to the fourth touchdown—without Colorado’s help.
It was that touchdown, Mallory said, that really did in the Buffs. After Colorado native Dave Butterfield’s first of two fumble recoveries set up the third N.U. touchdown of the first quarter, Colorado put together a drive that was hampered by three mechanical penalties and ended when Tom MacKenzie missed a 48-yard field goal.
“When it was 21-7. I felt if we could get our hands on the ball, we had a fighting chance,” Mallory said.
“It was one of my most frustrating days. Everything went wrong. We’re a pretty good football team, and I really felt we were ready, but I’ve never seen so many freakish things happen.”\
First down, Nebraska, at the six. Three plays later, Ferragamo aimed a pass over the middle to Brad Jenkins. The ball popped up in the air, and the Husker center Rik Bonness came down with it at the two.
The ball was placed at the one when a Burff grabbed Bonness’ face mask, and the penalty gave Nebraska an extra down. On fourth down, Tony Davis scored.
“I wasn’t doing anything, just standing there. I didn’t have anybody to block,” Bonness said of his reception. “It hit me in the chest. All I had to was grab it. Everything bounced our way didn’t it?”
It was 28-7 at that point, still within reach of the Big Eight’s most potent offense. But the Buffs couldn’t score if they couldn’t hold the ball.
—Butterfield recovered a Billy Waddy fumble at the C.U. 33. Ferragamo to Jenkins for a 5-yard touchdown. Now it’s 35-7.
—Mike McCoy muffs the kickoff and is knocked free of the ball by Steve Lindquist. Kent Smith recovers inches from the goal. O’Leary scores. 42 to 7 at the half, and Osborne is saying, “You always worry at the outset of the second half that something will happen.” What happened was more of the same.
—Terry Kunz caught a pass, then fumbled, and Burrow recovered at the Colorado 33. Anthony scores, and it’s 49-7.
—Chuck Jones intercepts a pass and returns it to Colorado’s 11. Gary Higgs dives in, and the snowball grows to 56-7.
—Colorado’s defense holds on a rare occasion after losing a fumble, then Melvin Johnson gives it right back to Jeff Pullen. This time, Dave Gillespie takes it in from 14 yards, and it’s over for Nebraska, 63-7.
Colorado scored twice against the subs when Williams ran 49 and six yards on consecutive plays for the first. Reserve fullback Jim Kelleher spiced another drive with a 48-yarder, then ran the final three.
When it was over, Nebraska had won its eighth straight game over its western neighbor, and this one was worse than all the rest in the 34-game series.
The worst previous licking was Nebraska’s 41-6 victory in 1963. But the Buffs have been beaten worse—by Texas, 76-0 in 1946.
Nebraska didn’t come close the 119 points the Huskers scored against Haskell in 1910, but it ranked up there with the 77-7 rout over Army in 1972, 62-0 over Missouri the same year and 65-31 over Oklahoma State in 1970.
Turnovers aside, Nebraska had season highs of 350 yards rushing and 77 rushing plays and tied the 93 plays rushing and passing against Texas Christian. The 545 yards in total offense were two yards shorts of the TCU total.
Colorado also had season highs against Nebraska’s Blackshirt defense with 268 yards rushing and 454 in total offense.
Quarterback Terry Luck, the offensive captain, led the reserves into the game with 4:20 gone in the third quarter when the score was 56-7.
Williams had the most yards of any player with 144 yards on eight carries. He completed nine of 20 passes for 119 yards.
Ferragamo completed eight of 10 for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was a remarkable game,” Osborne concluded. “We’ve never had so many turnovers and such good field position.”
Said Kiffin: “We don’t coach players to recover fumbles, but we coach them to make them happen. I just hope that never happens to us.”
Nebraska will take its 7-0 record to Columbia Saturday to play Missouri, a team that has beaten the Huskers the last two years.
“We’re going to beat them, I guarantee you. And you write that down,” said Burrow, the elated safety. “We figured this one was going to be tough, but MIssouri is the one we want.”
|Yards per carry||7.1||4.5|
Nebraska is 49-20 all-time against Colorado.
|Miami (FL)||Oct. 4|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 18|
|Kansas State||Nov. 8|
|Iowa State||Nov. 15|
|Arizona State||Dec. 26|
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