BATON ROUGE, La. — Nebraska got the quick six points, then sat on it ... and sat on it ... and sat on it.
For 48 minutes and 52 seconds the Cornhuskers tried to make a touchdown they earned the first time out of the chute stand up for the entire game.
And then it was gone.
Two field goals by Louisiana State sophomore Mike Conway — one near the end of the third quarter and the other 7:09 from the end of the game — finally erased that slim advantage.
With simple mathematics, it ended up to a 6-6 tie that was interpreted by a delirious Tiger Stadium mob of 70,746 as an upset of gigantic proportions.
So much for all that national championship talk for the moment.
It started out about as expected, in delightful bayou country weather of 76 degrees with the "Death Valley" crowd living up to its reputation for vocal intimidation.
But then the second largest gathering in stadium history settled back to watch the inevitable as the Huskers launched a 65-yard touchdown drive on the opening kickoff.
It ended with the heavily-favored Huskers making a last-gasp bid when defensive end Ray Phillips intercepted a Pat Lyons pass on the final play, then pitching a lateral back to linebacker James Wightman who fled for the Tiger end zone.
But, alas, the officials ruled Phillips was out of bounds at the LSU 30. Wightman tossed the ball out of the end zone in disgust as the Tiger partisans erupted again and again.
It was an alley fight from the beginning, with the Huskers repeatedly flooring the smaller home forces the first half but failing to deliver the knockout punch.
The second half, it was the Huskers who were saved by the bell. If Conway 44-yard field goal attempt with 40 seconds left in the ball had been a couple of feet farther left, Nebraska wouldn't have salvaged half of it.
For what it was worth, Nebraska won the statistical battle with 256 total yards — 176 coming before intermission — to 229.
And the depressing outcome for the Huskers knocked the luster off a superb job of knock-'em-on-their-backs running by junior fullback Dodie Donnell.
Donnell was the main instigator in the Huskers' early dominance. He busted the middle for the 14 yards on the game's first scrimmage play and picked up nine each on his next two attempts in the initial drive.
Donnell, starting his first game, had 74 yards on 14 carries by halftime and finished with 21 trips for 91 yards on 14 carries by halftime and finished with 21 trips for 91 yards to lead both teams.
Perhaps the only touchdown came too easily. A 39-yard pass interference penalty called against Tiger defensive back Steve Jackson on a deep lob from Vince Ferragamo to Chuck Malito was major assistance.
After Donnell picked up nine yards to the LSU six-yard line on fourth-and-one, the Huskers punched down to the three. From there, Ferragamo faked Donnell into the middle again, then flipped over the middle to tight end Ken Spaeth for the touchdown.
Then came perhaps the most crucial error for the Huskers this night. Reserve quarterback Randy Garcia mishandled extra point snap and was buried under Clinton Burrell's shirt when he tried to run for it.
But surely the Huskers would get more. Wouldn't they?
The yards weren't coming easily, but they were coming. It was ball control at its best. Almost.
The clock wore on with Nebraska threatening and threatening. But still there were only those six points.
By the half, NU had run 48 offensive plays to LSU's 21 and had didn't fare very well in his personal battle with Tiger defensive tackle A.J. Duhe.
"I thought I came off the ball fairly well, but I don't think I kept my feet moving once I got to him," Lingenfelter said of the much-ballyhooed matchup of all-American candidates.
"I tried to guess with him instead of sticking my head in and just taking it to him. That's the way I did last year, too. I didn't play well against him last year either."
Lingenfelter was asked if Duhe was the most difficult assignment he's undertaken.
"I have a tougher time against Mike (N.U. defensive tackle Mike Fultz) in practice," Lingenfelter said. "But Duhe is a hard guy to cut. I couldn't get his legs. I was hitting and he was just slipping off."
Duhe slipped off for nine unassisted tackles and two assists.
"it's going to be a long road back," Lingenfelter said as he surveyed the quiet locker room.
"Shoot, our defense did a great job. We (the offense) have got to put more than six points on the scoreboard."
Linebacker Clete Pillen, who captains the defensive unit, said the motion that LSU used bothered the Huskers at first.
"But we were prepared well for what LSU was going to do," Pillen said. "We settled down and didn't have much of a problem with fheir motion.
"The problem was that we got ourselves in trouble by giving them the momentum. Give them momentum and you have trouble playing down here."
"They were a good team. They're just an all-around good football team."
Chuck Malito, who caught three passes for 42 yards, echoed Pillen's thoughts about the Tigers.
"I think LSU is a great ball club," Malito said.
Malito shrugged off his personal accomplishments, which were one of the bright spots in the N.U. offense.
"Individual effort is not what it's all about in football," he said. "You have to have a great team effort."
|Yards per carry||3.8||2.6|
Nebraska is 5-0 all-time against LSU.
|Miami (FL)||Oct. 2|
|Kansas State||Oct. 16|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 6|
|Iowa State||Nov. 13|
|Texas Tech||Dec. 30|
Nebraska has played 9 games on Sept. 11. See them all »
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