#9 Nebraska 31
Kansas 3

Oct. 30, 1976 • Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kansas

1 2 3 4 T
Nebraska 7 14 7 3 31
Kansas 0 0 0 3 3

Vince, Big Red Functioning Again

Quarterback Vince Ferragamo said it: "I've never seen catches like those." He was referring to several grabs by his receivers, including those pictures above. Curtis Craig (No. 33) had his beauty at the one-yard line in the first quarter. Chuck Malito, right, was the first of four straight Ferragamo completions in the second quarter. ED RATH/THE WORLD-HERALD

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.

Half the Credit to Receivers

The last four plays were an eight-yard completion to Chuck Malito, 43 to Bobby Thomas, 20 to Malito and three for the touchdown to Dave Shamblin.

"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.

Passing Strategy Abandoned

"I'll take losing a shutout every week if we could get back that Missouri game," said Monte Kiffin, N.U.'s defensive coordinator.

For Kansas and the bulk of an estimated sell-out crowd of 50,850, the outcome was as dismal as the cold, cloudy afternoon.

The Jayhawks have lost three of their last four games after winning the first four and have not generated much offense since losing quarterback Nolan Cromwell two weeks ago to knee surgery.

The K.U. coaches had said McMichael would have to pass well to stay in the game. But he missed his first seven attempts and had one intercepted, and that alternative was abandoned.

Halfback Laverne Smith, who had averaged 7.3 yards a carry, was a constant threat, but only a threat. He finished with 64 yards on 14 attempts.

Kansas tried McMichael, then sophomore Mark Lissack at quarterback, then went back to McMichael. They went from the wishbone offense to the slot-I, but nothing worked.

So the Huskers padded their scoring advantage over the last eight seasons to 286-40.

Osborne called Smith, the Jayhawks' all-time leading rusher and scorer, "a fine, fine back, but we've just played awfully well against them the last three years. The defense was tremendous. Everything went well except for a couple or three turnovers."

Said Kiffin: "We contained Smith for three years. He's never hurt Nebraska."

Kiffin: No Different With Cromwell

Would Cromwell have made a difference?

"I don't think so, and I don't mean that braggingly," Kiffin said. "I don't think one guy can make a team. We shut him out last year." Cromwell gained 62 yards in a 16-0 loss.

Warren Powers, who coaches the Husker secondary that appeared vulnerable to the pass against Missouri, applauded his troops.

"The wishbone is a funny thing, especially when a team has speedy halfbacks like Kansas has," said Powers. "The pass scares you. The backs have to support the run and come up tough. That's when somebody can zoom past you for a long pass.

"(Dave) Butterfield and (Ted) Harvey did a fine job supporting and covering," said Powers of the N.U. cornerbacks.

Despite the Jayhawks' threat to pass more than their average of 10 times a game, Powers said, "A team doesn't change its philosophy in one week. I know the one thing they didn't want was turnovers. The teams that play us well don't have turnovers.

"You're darn right those first two fumbles were crucial. That's where you can really hurt a team. If you can do something with the fumbles," he said.

Nebraska divvied up the rushing honors, with fullback Dodie Donnell gaining 77 yards, Monte Anthony, who went out with an injured shoulder in the second quarter, 63, Rick Berns 57 and Stewart 52.

Linebacker Clete Pillen was the busiest tackler with 10 individual tackles and two assists. Harvey had eight and one.

Life Went On, N.U. Came Back

"I felt it would be a rough, very close game. I'm just happy to win it," Osborne said.

Said Ferragamo: "We wanted to come back and have a good game. I'm definitely satisfied. Now we have to go on from here."

And Kiffin added a final reference to the Missouri loss.

"As head coaches, Tom Osborne and Bob Devaney have never panicked when they lose a game. They know when a game is over, there is nothing you can do about it, that you have to go on.

"When you start changing things and keep them out for practice an hour longer, that's where you start losing your kids."


More coverage

World-Herald post-game coverage (PDF)

Game stats

Opp NU
Penalties-Yards 5-55
Rush yards 170 284
Rush attempts 48 56
Yards per carry 3.5 5.1
Pass yards 14 199
Comp.-Att.-Int. 1-8-1 14-28-1
Yards/Att. 1.8 7.1
Yards/Comp. 14.0 14.2
Fumbles 2 1

Series history

Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.

See all games »

1976 season (9-3-1)

LSU Sept. 11
Indiana Sept. 18
TCU Sept. 25
Miami (FL) Oct. 2
Colorado Oct. 9
Kansas State Oct. 16
Missouri Oct. 23
Kansas Oct. 30
Oklahoma State Nov. 6
Iowa State Nov. 13
Oklahoma Nov. 26
Hawaii Dec. 4
Texas Tech Dec. 30

This day in history

Nebraska has played 17 games on Oct. 30. See them all »

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