Manhattan, Kan.—Nebraska took 6 minutes, 32 seconds to score a touchdown and secure victory over Kansas State Saturday. Then the Cornhuskers spent the rest of the afternoon fiddling around wondering how they did that.
Mike Coyle knocked through a couple of field goals to make the final reading 12-0 and give the No. 3-ranked Huskers a 9-0 record.
But about the time grim expressions were locking onto Nebraska faces late in the game when it appeared 12-0 was going to be all there was, word came from Norman, Okla., where the Kansas upset of No. 2 Oklahoma was imminent.
Then with the upsets of high-ranking Penn State, Southern Cal and Florida, 12-0 didn’t look all that bad.
Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, acknowledging that the afternoon “was a lot longer than I thought it would be,” circled his team in the locker room and told them simply that the was “glad we won. We’re 9-0.” The players cheered that.
After Nebraska’s opening touchdown mark—79 yards in 16 plays and ending with an 8-yard pass from Vince Ferragamo to Tony Davis—the major question was just how wide would the winning margin be.
After all, this was Kansas State, the Big Eight patsy, loser of five straight games. All beat up and all that. The Wildcats had a reputable defense, but it wasn’t supposed to be THAT good. Not against the team that just hammered Colorado and Missouri, scoring 93 points.
The outcome “wasn’t as predictable as a lot of people thought. They can play defense as well as anybody in the conference. Their coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for getting them ready after what they’ve been through the last couple of weeks,” Osborne said.
The Husker coach wrote it off as “just one of those days. It helps when you can play poorly and still win.”
“This was probably the first game in a long time when there was no significant improvement. We probably went backward. If we play that way the next two weeks (Iowa State and Oklahoma), we’ll get beat,” he said.
Actually, Nebraska was not as impotent offensively as the score indicates. The Huskers built a respectable 372 yards in total offense while limiting the Wildcats to 131.
Sophomore I-back Monte Anthony rushed for 107 bruising yards on 24 carries, bullback Tony Davis added 74 while becoming the No. 2 all-time Nebraska rusher and John O’Leary gained 63.
Davis padded his career total to 2,259 yards. He surpassed Bobby Reynolds (1950-52) on his third carry, an 11-yard blast en route to the lone touchdown.
Nebraska’s offense was at its best in the opening series of each half. Those are the times when the Huskers historically just line up and try to beat the opponent with straight-ahead, I’m-tougher-than-you football.
K-State was given three plays and a punt, and the Huskers appeared ready to run it up when 12 more plays accounted for 64 yards to the Wildcat 7-yard line. But they had to settle for Coyle’s 24-yard field goal and 9-0.
One quarter had elapsed and Nebraska had controlled the ball for 11:22 and had initiated 28 plays to nine for K-State.
But the game started taking on a different complexion from that point.
With linebackers Gary Spani and Carl Pennington providing K-State with inspiration via 19 and 14 tackles, respectively, the Huskers were held to Coyle’s 22-yard bullet of a field goal after 11 straight running plays set the ball on the Wildcat four following a Kent Smith interception.
Monster back Marvin Switter stopped Anthony for no gain on third down, forcing the field goal.
The slim majority of Kansas State backers in the full house of 41,300—there were 16,000 Nebraska followers—were forced to reserve cheers for first downs on offense. There were only two through three quarters and six altogether. But their darlings were on defense.
And every time Nebraska had to turn to Randy Lessman to punt, the overworked K-State defense was carried back to the bench on a rousing ovation.
Lessman had to kick six times, but Wildcat Bill Sinovic, who often did spectacular work, kicked 11 times.
Those who enjoy defense and kicking games would have loved it. Coverage was generally excellent. Those things draw notice in lieu of anything more exciting.
Nebraska quarterback Vince Ferragamo, who had been improving with each game, had a luke-warm afternoon while playing the entire game. He completed seven of 18 passes for 105 yards.
Saying he didn’t want to make any excuses, Ferragamo offered a couple anyway. “The crown (high center) on the field was so high, it hurt our timing (on passes). But it could be psychological. Then in the third quarter, the sun got in the way a couple of times.”
The lack of timing was apparent on four passes that were just high enough that Bobby Thomas could get one hand on, but not two.
“They had some good defensive backs, and they conveyed a zone a lot, but they were in a man-to-man,” Ferragamo said.
“I just don’t think we were very high for the game. We’ve been more emotional. If we’re going to play a good team—not that Kansas State wasn’t good, but they didn’t have a good record—we can play more emotionally.”
Mack’s scrambling accounted for 45 yards on 10 carries, and he completed three of eight passes for 37 yards.
“He’s just like putting a halfback at quarterback. A scrambling quarterback gives you a lot of problems. Your linemen get a lot more tired,” said Monte Kiffin, the Nebraska defensive coordinator.
“But any time you get a shutout, and they don’t get over the 50 (except once) you’ve done a good job. Our defensive backs probably played their best game. The underneath (short pass) coverage was the best it’s been all year.”
Linebackers Clete Pillon and James Wightman were the busiest of the Husker defenders with 15 and 14 tackles, respectively.
But Kiffin drew only inquisitive looks when he tried to convince locker room visitors how great the K-State offense was.
Osborne conceded that his team “probably played conservatively the last quarter. But the defense was holding, and we didn’t want to do anything that might go the other way. We didn’t plan to do a lot of fancy things, and we didn’t.”
Osborne’s conservative approach was apparent in the second quarter when he had Lessman putn from the Nebraska 40 on fourth and inches. He was tempted.
“I called a play first, then I chickened out. The defense was playing well, but I didn’t want to put them in a bind. They (Wildcats) looked like they could play all day and not score, but I didn’t want to give them a break.”
Osborne said his play-calling “was not that great.” But Bob Devaney, his coaching predecessor interrupted him with: “Don’t say that. There was nothing wrong with the plays. It was the execution.”
To which Osborne added: “We’d better be better next week.”
That will be the Iowa State visit to Lincoln Saturday.
|Yards per carry||2.0||4.0|
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas State.
|Miami (FL)||Oct. 4|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 18|
|Kansas State||Nov. 8|
|Iowa State||Nov. 15|
|Arizona State||Dec. 26|
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