LINCOLN — Call him I.M., Isaiah Moses Walter, or just plain Hipp. It doesn’t matter as long as he also is referred to as the most productive running back for a single game in 88 years of Nebraska football.
There have been various accounts of what the sleek and powerful Cornhusker sophomore prefers, but after he rushed for a school record of 254 yards against Indiana in his first collegiate start Saturday, maybe it should be Mr. Hipp. Or General.
Hipp carried the brunt of a Nebraska offense that was mostly infantry on a drab, soggy afternoon before 76,034 that resulted in a 31-13 Cornhusker victory that did not truly reflect the grudging challenge by the Hoosiers.
It was not until the beleaguered Nebraska defense asserted itself in the fourth quarter and the offense pushed across two touchdowns in the final 7:07 that Hipp’s accomplishments could be fully appreciated in a winning cause.
Hipp, a walk-on from Chapin, S.C., earned his chance to start with 122 yards the week before against Baylor while relieving injured I-back Rick Berns. He erased Berns’ record of 211 yards against Hawaii last year when he gained 26 yards on a draw play in the third quarter.
Hipp’s afternoon’s work included a 73-yard bolt, also in the third, when he ripped away from two tacklers, kicked in the afterburners, and finally ran out of room at the Hoosier seven. But he did not score a touchdown despite his mileage.
Quarterbacks Tom Sorley and Randy Garcia took care of most of the clean-up work.
Garcia passed two yards to tight end Ken Spaeth. Sorley passed six yards to split end Tim Smith and ran five yards for the final TD in the last minute.
“The record meant a lot to me,” Hipp said. “ I thought maybe I could gain 200 yards. The yards are important, but being able to get the ball in the end zone is more important.”
“Isaiah had a great day running the ball, and he had to earn every yard of it against a tough defensive effort,” Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said.
Hipp’s teammates spoke almost reverently of Saturday’s hero.
“I was glad I was on defense so I could watch him run,” cornerback Ted Harvey said.
Fullback Monte Anthony was so impressed that he referred to his young teammate as “The Juice,” which was a high compliment, putting Hipp in the same company as the Buffalo Bills’ superb O.J. Simpson.
“I’d look up and see him flying down the field. I don’t know how he got there, but he was moving,” center Tom Davis said.
After carrying 28 times, Hipp said, no, he wasn’t sore except for his toes. “I’ve got turf toe,” he said, referring to a common AstroTurf ailment from stubbing the toes.
And, no, he didn’t care what name he was called, even though a Husker assistant coach had dubbed him I.M. Hipp because he thought it was catchy. “I’d just as soon be called Hipp,” Hipp said.
But Nebraska’s third consecutive victory after an opening loss to Washington State was much more than I.M. Hipp.
It included a fourth game of more than 400 yards in total offense for the Huskers for a 405-345 advantage, and a defense that was on timely, if not overwhelming.
From the time Indiana marched the opening kickoff 80 yards in 15 plays for a 7-0 lead, it appeared the Nebraska offense had better have a good day.
The offense was good enough for a 17-10 lead at the half, then slumbered until the middle of the fourth quarter.
Indiana, meanwhile, was turning loose a pair of rowdies named Ric Enis and Tony D’Orazio for 106 and 115 yards, respectively, mostly on gut-busting plays up the middle.
The Hoosiers, bringing a 1-2 record and a 25-point underdog reputation into the game, were in upset position with a 17-13 deficit with 11:13 left in the game when Indiana Coach Lee Corso made a tactical error born of faith in his offense.
He decided to eschew a punt in favor of an off-tackle dive play on fourth-and-one from his own 43-yard line.
D’Orazio got the call and ran head on into George Andrews, pinching in from his left end position. Then tackle Rod Horn got in a lick, and the Hoosier was stopped for a yard loss.
From there, the Nebraska offense finally uncranked again with a touchdown drive that was a relief to Husker faithful who were dredging up thoughts of Washington State again.
Sorley hit wingback Curtis Craig on a critical 11-yard pass on third-and-eight, Hipp broke tackles for 10 and, on third down from the six, Sorley passed softly over cornerback Willie Wilson to split end Smith deep in the end zone.
With Billy Todd making it a more comfortable 24-13 with his extra point, the Huskers, for the second time, took advantage of an Indiana fumble for a touchdown to finish it up.
Enis lost the ball on the Hoosier 19, and middle guard Oudious Lee recovered. Sorley picked up 18 yards and ran it from the five with 58 seconds left.
But, before he scored, Sorley heard the bark of his coach, and Osborne later sought out Corso to apologize for a pass that late.
Sorley called an audible for a pass at the line of scrimmage but threw incomplete.
“I saw them real tight on the tight end, and I thought we could score on a play-action pass,” Sorley said. “It would normally be a good situation, but not when you’re ahead 24-13 and want to keep the clock going.
“I showed my inexperience. I knew it when I saw Coach Osborne coming out with fire in his eyes,” Sorley said.
Osborne said his apology was unnecessary. “Corso said he knew I didn’t call it when he saw me throw my headset down,” he said.
While Smith scored Nebraska’s breathing-room touchdown in the fourth quarter, his punting was instrumental in helping Nebraska establish control in the first quarter.
Smith dropped a punt near the Indiana goal line after the Hoosiers had established a 7-0 lead on Scott Arnett’s sneak, and wingback Kenny Brown kept the ball out of the end zone for John Havekost to down on the three.
On the next play, Arnett slipped backing away from center and was downed in the end zone for a safety.
Harvey kept the heat on when he returned the ensuing free kick 21 yards to the Indiana 44, and Hipp broke a screen pass for 30 yards to set up Garcia’s touchdown pass to Spaeth.
Hipp took a quick pitch for a two-point conversion with a 10-7 Nebraska lead after Nebraska got a second chance when a penalty wiped out a passing failure.
Punter Smith and Brown teamed up again in the second quarter, and tackle Stan Waldemore downed the ball a yard from the Indiana goal. Five plays later, Andrews and linebacker James Wightman smacked tailback Darrick Burnett, the nation’s No. 4 rusher, and Burnett fumbled away to Jimmy Pillen at the Indiana 20.
Burnett, who had gained 209 yards the week before, did not return and finished with 33 yards on nine carries, and Nebraska marched in on Sorley’s sneak and a 17-7 lead.
Another long Indiana drive fell short, and David Freud kicked the first of his two field goals, from 20 yards, 18 seconds before halftime.
Freud, a 26-year-old Israeli Army veteran, kicked a 36-yarder in the third quarter to make it 17-13 and keep his record perfect with five consecutive field goals and eight points after touchdown this season.
Then the Nebraska defense, which had been roundly chastised at halftime, stepped in to choke off a Hoosier bid following a Hipp fumble at the N.U. 25. Indiana punted from the 44 on fourth and 28.
The pressure remained on the defense after Hipp’s 73-yard run late in the third quarter netted nothing.
Hipp twice failed to make it into the end zone on fourth down from the one. The first time, Indiana was declared offside after Hipp lost a fumble.
The Huskers also reached the Hoosier five early in the fourth quarter, but a major penalty and a loss resulted in a missed 49-yard field goal attempt by Todd.
But on the next Indiana possession, the Nebraska defense, which gave up a season-high of 306 yards rushing, prevented the Hoosiers from getting that one big yard on fourth down.
“We had been waiting for everybody else to make the hit,” said defensive tackle Horn. “We were more emotional the second half.”
“If you don’t have emotion on defense, you’re in trouble,” defensive line coach Charlie McBride said. “That’s one of the hardest 31-13 games I’ve ever been involved in."
|Yards per carry||4.6||6.6|
Nebraska is 8-9 all-time against Indiana.
|Washington State||Sept. 10|
|Kansas State||Oct. 8|
|Iowa State||Oct. 15|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 29|
|North Carolina||Dec. 19|
Nebraska has played 18 games on Oct. 1. See them all »
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