LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas came along at just the right time for Nebraska's football team Saturday.
The Cornhuskers could finally talk about last week's loss to Missouri following the 31-3 trouncing of the Jayhawks. Missouri had been a feared subject all week before this one — a mental trap everyone wanted to avoid.
But Tom Osborne, the head coach, started it off in the locker room celebration. "It's a whole lot better than last week. If we had lost again, we'd close the locker room," he said.
The coach, in a frivolous mood following the lopsided victory, was joking with the press. He referred to announced decisions by Bill Mallory of Colorado and Barry Switzer of Oklahoma to ban writers from post-game talks with players. Switzer changed his mind Saturday and allowed the interviews, even though a 42-31 loss to Colorado might have left him less joyful than Osborne.
The win over Kansas also opened the door to another subject — Oklahoma State, a 20-19 winner over Missouri Saturday and next week's Husker foe in Lincoln.
Osborne called Oklahoma State "the most complete team we've faced," and coaches said they would study their plan of attack on the bus ride back from Lawrence.
"We needed to get some momentum back. I was worried about the players still thinking about Missouri," Osborne said.
They were, but Osborne had little reason to fret. The Huskers were determined to work out frustrations on the Jayhawks.
"I wanted to play again right after the Missouri game. I can't function on a loss," quarterback Vince Ferragamo said.
But Ferragamo and his offense functioned well, running up 483 yards in total offense — the highest accumulation in a 6-1-1 season.
And the defense? It held the Jayhawks, the Big Eight Conference's leading rushing unit, to 184 total yards and a single pass completion in eight attempts.
For a team that might have been down in the dumps, the Huskers turned in a performance that Osborne called "probably our best all-around game, kicking, offensively and defensively."
Punter Randy Lessman set the tone early when he pinned the Jayhawks back to their three-yard line on his first two punts. The Husker defense and offense collaborated for the first two touchdowns.
Middle guard Jeff Pullen set up the first one with a fumble recovery on the K.U. 37. Four carries by Anthony and a diving grab of a Ferragamo pass by Curtis Craig at the one set the state for a give-and-take of penalties.
A holding call against N.U. nullified one TD run and put the ball at the 16. Three plays later an interference call put it back at the one where Ferragamo sneaked in on the second play.
Kicker Ron VanderMeer claimed another bobble by Mike Higgins on the ensuing kickoff, and it was a simple 35-yard hike to the end zone.
Ferragamo had completed only two of seven passes until he lined up on the Jayhawk nine-yard line en route to the second touchdown.
He noted that Kansas had eight men bunched up near the line of scrimmage and changed the play at the line. He sent tight end Ken Spaeth trotting into the end zone for an easy touchdown lob without a challenger near.
That was just for warm-ups.
Ferragamo took the Jayhawks apart thereafter. He estimated he called audibles at the line of scrimmage 40 per cent of the time. Osborne said he guessed wrong only once.
"Vince just had a normal day," Osborne said, intending it as a compliment. "He always throws the ball very well. He helped himself a lot today recognizing defenses."
Ferragamo finished with 14 completions in 27 attempts for 199 yards and two touchdowns.
Ferragamo, who raised his season touchdown total to 14, was at peak efficiency on a 93-yard drive that raised the score to 21-0 with time fading rapidly in the second quarter.
"They were from four different formations," Ferragamo said. "But half of throwing passes is the catching. I've never seen catches like those."
The most spectacular were diving reception of wingback Curtis Craig on the K.U. one-yard line preceding the first touchdown, Thomas's over-the-head grab while trying to stay in bounds on the 43-yarder and high reaches by Shamblin and Malito.
After Byron Stewart, the third Husker I-back, made it 28-0 from three yards in the third quarter and Al Eveland ran the lead to 31-0 with a 37-yard field goal early in the fourth, attention was focused on whether the Huskers could register a fifth shutout in their last six games against Kansas.
The Jayhawks, however, made their best showing with an 11-play drive that featured the lone Scott McMichael completion to set up a consolation 42-yard field goal by Mike Hubach.
|Yards per carry||3.5||5.1|
Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.
|Miami (FL)||Oct. 2|
|Kansas State||Oct. 16|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 6|
|Iowa State||Nov. 13|
|Texas Tech||Dec. 30|
Nebraska has played 17 games on Oct. 30. See them all »
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