#6 Nebraska 24
Colorado 12

Oct. 9, 1976 • Folsom Field, Boulder, Colorado

1 2 3 4 T
Nebraska 0 7 7 10 24
Colorado 3 9 0 0 12

Buffs Go to Opera; Huskers Sing Same Tune, 9th Verse

Muxlow fires and misses, with Richard Berns continuing on his 48-yard run. RICH JANDA/THE WORLD-HERALD

BOULDER, Colo.— Greg Jorgensen should have given some sort of sign to the pockets of Nebraska football fans nestled in the corners of Folsom Field Saturday afternoon.

He would have saved the visiting red coats a good deal of stewing and fretting while the Cornhuskers were gouging out their annual victory over Colorado.

It was a drama-filled, a 24-12 conference opener that was Big Eight football at its finest, with the outcome still in doubt into the final two minutes. But Jorgensen, the Husker right offensive guard, declared afterward:

"It never entered my mind that we'd lose." Maybe Jorgy wasn't paying attention. From the Colorado point of view — and the bulk of a record 53,538 in attendance shared it — this contest was building to a climax that would end eight years of frustration with the Buffs winning by a foot.

It was the right foot of Mark Zetterberg, who is the president of the Boulder Civic Opera when he isn't kicking field goals for Colorado.

He kicked four of them in the first half Saturday to match Freddie Lima's school record in 1972 and account for every C.U. point.

Zetterberg, a walkon from New York who was second stringer two weeks ago, gave Colorado a 3-0 lead with a 50-yard field goal in the first quarter, a 46-yarder to make it 6-7, a 37-yarder to make it 9-7 and the fourth from 29 yards to give C.U. a 12-7 halftime lead.

There seemed only one way to prevent Zetterberg from regaining the lead for Colorado in the last 12 minutes after the Huskers had scratched out another touchdown for a precarious 14-12 lead. They couldn't count on him missing.

One Alternative

The Buffs had put together a 14-play drive that had earned a first down on the Husker five. Three plays later, they were only to the four, and Zetterberg stared at the goal posts only 21 yards away.

Lining up on the right side of Nebraska's defensive line was Dave Butterfield, the cornerback from Kersey, Colo., who likes nothing better than to beat his home-state university.

Butterfield blew in like a blizzard and blocked the kick with his chest.

"Everything just worked out great," Butterfield said. "We hadn't had a whole lot of good luck. He (Zetterberg) hadn't missed any of the long ones, but when they got the first down on the five, we told ourselves there was no way they were going to score."

Pitch and Play

Still, Zetterberg was a constant threat as the clock wound on. The Buffs had repeatedly set him up with long-striking plays by kick returners Howard Ballage and Billy Waddy, twisting runs by tailback Tony Reed, fullback traps by Jim Kelleher and a pitch-and-pray pass of 45 yards from Jeff Knapple to Emery Moorhead that led to last one seven seconds before the half.

That threat wasn't eliminated until Nebraska's Al Eveland, who had missed earlier from 49 yards, dropped a 47-yard boot into the three-point area by scant inches with 5:07 left in the game.

Nebraska held a 17-12 lead at the point, and only a touchdown could prevent the Huskers from running their mastery over the Buffs nine consecutive games.

But Rick Berns, the swift Texan who was forced to carry the I-back burden when Monte Anthony went out with a reinjured knee in the second quarter, put the contest out of range.

Gamble Backfires

Nebraska faced third-and-one on its 49 when the lanky sophomore took a pitchout to his left. Colorado defensive back Mike Spivey gambled with a blitz, missed Berns behind the line, and Berns hiked 48 yards to the Buff three before he was knocked out of bounds. Berns scored the final touchdown two plays later.

The Huskers were obviously overjoyed with surviving their first Big Eight test. They praised their younger adversaries for an inspired challenge and congratulated themselves for being equal to it.

For Colorado, however, it was just another bitter experience.

It started with the Colorado student section taunting the Huskers with obscene chants, and it ended with Coach Bill Mallory keeping the locker room door locked for 25 minutes and declaring his players off limits to interviewers.

In between, the Buffs threw up an aggressive defense that knocked Anthony and fullback Dodie Donnell out for the afternoon on successive plays the first half and put up the rushing onus on the shoulders of Berns and sub fullback Garry Higgs.

Berns responded with a glittering 127 yards on 22 carries, and Higgs added another 30 on seven attempts.

Nebraska outrushed the Buffs, 253 yards to 173, and had a total offense edge of 349 to 280.

"They said we couldn't run the ball. It was in all the papers here," Vince Ferragamo, the Husker quarterback who was limited to a subpar 96 yards passing. "We like to run. That really jacked us up."

After the second straight victory coming from behind in the second half, guard Jorgensen said, "Vince was the only one who said a word in the huddle. We just kept pounding at them. We finally got some field position the second half. We finally got some breaks and stuck it in the end zone."

Lotta Heart

Offensive tackle Bob Lingenfelter said the line was "coming off the ball as fast on the last play as the first. There's no team in the country in better shape than we are. And that Richard Berns is faster than ________ . He's a terrific back."

Nebraska coach Tom Osborne lamented the Huskers' field position the first half, starting when Curtis Craig hesitated on the opening kick-off and made it back only to his seven-yard line.

Contributing factors were 116 yards in kick-off returns by the Buffs and a 37-yard punt return by Ballage.

"The halftime deficit was due to the kicking game. We had minus return yardage on punts before this game," Osborne said.

"But our players showed a lot of heart coming back like that. Colorado was steamed up . It was the game of the year for them."

"I've seen Ferragamo a little sharper (he completed nine of 19 passes), but he was under a lot of pressure. We had trouble picking up some of the blitzes.

"It was a whale of a ball game. I feel we're off and running now. . . but we have a lot of good teams to play yet."

Colorado lost two fumbles and Nebraska one, and all were costly.

Nebraska linebacker James Witghtman recovered a fumble by Knapple, making his first start, on the Colorado 35, in the second quarter. Seven plays later, including a pass interference penalty in the end zone, Anthony scored Nebraska's first touchdown.

Later in the quarter, Nebraska had driven from its 20 to the C.U. 18 when Higgs lost a fumble.


More coverage

World-Herald post-game coverage (PDF)

Game stats

Opp NU
Penalties-Yards 5-55
Rush yards 173 253
Rush attempts 37 62
Yards per carry 4.7 4.1
Pass yards 107 96
Comp.-Att.-Int. 8-23-1 9-20-0
Yards/Att. 4.7 4.8
Yards/Comp. 13.4 10.7
Fumbles 2 1

Series history

Nebraska is 49-20 all-time against Colorado.

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 15 games on Oct. 9. See them all »

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