STILLWATER, Okla. — I.M. Hipp wore a contented smile along the sideline in the final minute of Nebraska’s football game at Oklahoma State’s Lewis Field Saturday afternoon.
He pointed at the scoreboard in the west end zone and the figures that read Nebraska 31, Oklahoma State 14. “That’s all that counts,” he said.
For five weeks, Hipp had been forced to assume an extraordinary burden in the Cornhusker cause. It wasn’t Nebraska vs. Oklahoma State that had enticed ABC to televise Saturday’s game; it was Hipp vs. the Cowboys’ incomparable Terry Miller.
But Hipp was simply a valuable cog in a multi-faceted operation for the Huskers Saturday.
There was heady quarterback Tom Sorley repeatedly hustling for critical first downs, fullback Dodie Donnell muscling up the middle, wingback Curtis Craig cutting back into the teeth of the Cowboy defense in his finest afternoon as a Husker, and a Blackshirt defense that has grown bold and nasty in the last two weeks.
When Hipp’s teammates crowded around him in that last minute seeking the tally in the secondary contest, ABC’s Bill Flemming supplied the answer: Hipp was finished for the afternoon with 71 yards, his first outing in six weeks with fewer than 100 yards: Miller, the other half of the Big Eight Conference’s premier rushing duo, was still at work with 91 yards.
With a scant 47 seconds left, Miller ripped off 18 yards to push him past 100 for the 16th straight game.
Hipp’s expression never changed.
“I’m happy for him, but 100 yards doesn’t mean anything. I didn’t get all the yards I usually do, but I think I won the war against Miller. We won the game, and I honestly believe that’s what is important to him,” said Nebraska’s prized sophomore.
Miller performed as a Heisman Trophy candidate and the fourth collegian in history to surpass 4,000 yards in a career should. He collected 116 yards on 28 carries, but it was his lowest total in eight games. And he simply was not enough for the Cowboys.
The Cornhuskers, meanwhile, conducted a clinic in total team concept before a sun-splashed audience of 49,100.
With the Poke defense dogging Hipp’s every step, wingback Craig escaped for 82 yards on five counter plays while playing “two games in one,” as he later said. Fullback Donnell worked the middle on trap plays for 56 yards, and his backup, freshman Andra Franklin, punched out 34.
And quarterback Sorley, starting his third game, took advantage of all the attention directed toward Hipp to run 55 yards on rollouts and options and win ABC’s accolade as the outstanding offensive player during the regional telecast.
That diversity on offense was complemented beautifully by a Blackshirt defense that fell behind by 7-0 following an interception in the first quarter, then grew increasingly hostile. N.U. held the Big Eight’s top rushing offense to 196 yards — 103 below average — and helped build a 392-259 advantage in total offense.
“We’re on the threshold of becoming a real good football team,” Husker Coach Tom Osborne said after the surprisingly one-sided contest raised his team’s record to 6-2. Oklahoma State, a one-touchdown underdog, dropped to 4-4.
“It was a pivotal game for us. It was our first true road game,” he said, not counting a 26-9 win at Kansas State that was witnessed by 16,000 Husker followers.
“That was a good opponent with a great breakaway back. For the second week in a row, we had a great defense. That might have been the best all-around game we’ve played, from start to finish and on offense and defense.”
Nebraska erased the Pokes’ early lead with two touchdowns in the second quarter on an awesome display of power in an 80-yard drive and another of 45 yards when an OSU fake punt fizzled. It was 28-7 after three quarters and 31-7 until the last six minutes.
It might have been worse except sophomore Tim Wurth was stopped a yard from the Cowboy goal on fourth down in the final minute.
The Huskers were used to winning these matchups. A tie in 1973 was the only blight on the victory log that stretched back to 1961. But the ease with which it was accomplished didn’t fit the pattern.
“I thought it might go down to the wire again, particularly after we got down 7-0,” Osborne said.
“That didn’t seem like Oklahoma State. I’m not beat up,” linebacker Jeff Carpenter, the defensive captain, said.
Oklahoma State appeared equal to its challenge when freshman cornerback Gregg Johnson charged up the burnt orange following with an interception that bounced off N.U. tight end Ken Spaeth’s fingers in the early going. A personal foul penalty on the play put the ball on the Husker 33, and Miller spurted to a seven-yard touchdown eight plays later.
The Huskers answered that audacity in 13 plays covering 80 yards, including a 19-yard pass to Tim Smith and one of Hipp’s infrequent successes on a pitch play. The latter gained 10 yards to the tying touchdown, the first of two by the Big Eight’s leading scorer.
But it was in the next series that Okie State’s demise was launched. Cowboy Coach Jim Stanley called a fake punt from his 47. The ploy was plucky but ill-advised.
Nebraska had worked on just such tactics during the week and had spread its tackles wider than usual to shore up a vulnerable area along the line.
Vincent Orange took the short hike, tried to run off tackle, then was forced to the outside where Larry Young corralled him for a two-yard loss. From there, Sorley picked up a scad of most valuable player votes by sneaking to a first down on fourth down, rolling out for 17 yards for another and making eight on another rollout on third and six.
Appropriately, Sorley sneaked the last yard for the go-ahead touchdown, although it took him two tries.
“Coach Osborne has to get the credit for those runs,” Sorley said. “He likes to take advantage of the other team’s weaknesses, and he noticed that they were dropping their ends to double cover the split end when we were in our wide formations. That opened up the rollouts and options.”
And both calls for the quarterback sneak at the goal line came from Osborne, he said. “I was pretty tired then. I didn’t call my own number,” he said.
With the 14-7 lead at the half, Nebraska’s early liberal substituting took its toll on the Cowboys after intermission in the 80 degree-heat.
Early in the third quarter, a second interception by Johnson injected a fresh spark into the Pokes, and sophomore Harold Bailey, an option expert, was brought in to take some of the heat off Miller.
Bailey took off perhaps too much. Maybe he was inspired by gains of 10 and six yards on his first two carries, but he ignored the main man on the next three carries, too, and they netted only two yards.
The final Bailey keeper came on fourth and one from the Husker 24-yard line. He wound up on the 25 with middle guard Oudious Lee and end Tony Samuel on him.
From that point, Nebraska pulled away. Hipp started a seven-play, 75-yard drive by sprinting 27 yards on a draw play to crash the 1,000-yard barrier for the season and join an exclusive club of three former Huskers — Bobby Reynolds, Jeff Kinney and Tony Davis — to reach that mark.
Craig chipped in a 33-yard gain on a counter sweep. Hipp gained the last yard over right guard, and Billy Todd’s extra point made it 21-7.
Until that point, Oklahoma State had not tried a pass, which was sound strategy as the following two plays showed. Bailey was sacked by Kerry Weinmaster for a 10-yard loss on his first dropback. On his second, end Samuel snatched the ball away from tight end Steve Stephens at the Cowboy 31.
Moments later, Craig ran the counter trap 16 yards to the end zone and left free safety Gary Irions groping helplessly with a nifty juke at the seven.
Later, while replaying his finest afternoon, the Davenport, Ia., senior recounted a pregame conversation with Osborne.
“He reminded me that two years ago down here, I got hurt on the opening kickoff and only played three or four plays. He told me I had to play two games in one today to make up for it. I promised him I would,” Craig said.
Another Craig bolt of 29 yard in the fourth quarter helped set up a 39-yard field goal by Todd for a 31-7 lead before the Cowboys ended their frustration with a 55-yard scoring pass from Bailey to Gerald Bain, who had sneaked behind cornerback Ted Harvey.
Harvey, however, made amends when the same pair tried it again following a successful onside kick. This time, Harvey intercepted and returned the ball 29 yards.
“Miller was the workhorse of their offense, and the majority of the time, that’s who got the ball,” Craig said. “We just had more of a balanced team than they had. I knew if we could stop Terry, we could put the ball in the end zone,” Craig said.
“It’s important that we have a fairly diverse offense,” Osborne said. “We tried to make sure everybody got the football. They aligned their tackles to make the pitch plays tough for us.”
“And playing well on defense two weeks in a row means a lot. We’re getting to the point where we’re pretty sound. The players have gained some confidence.
"Sure, we're in the thick of the Big Eight race (3-1 behind Oklahoma’s 4-0), but we’re not out of the woods yet.”
The Huskers will go on the road again Saturday to Missouri, which upset Colorado at Boulder.
|Yards per carry||3.6||5.0|
Nebraska is 37-5 all-time against Oklahoma State.
|Washington State||Sept. 10|
|Kansas State||Oct. 8|
|Iowa State||Oct. 15|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 29|
|North Carolina||Dec. 19|
Nebraska has played 19 games on Oct. 29. See them all »
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