MANHATTAN, Kan. — It made a good story, even if it wasn’t true.
After zapping Kansas State with a 66-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter Saturday, I.M. Hipp returned to the Nebraska bench and, according to a teammate, said: “I Hipp-notized ‘em.”
Sorry, Hipp said after the Huskers opened the Big Eight Conference season with a bruising 26-9 victory, but somebody was putting words in his mouth.
The sophomore who could run over a field of eggs without breaking any, wasn’t joining the I.M. Hipp name game. He let his feet do the talking with touchdown sprints of 66 and 82 yards and gained 207 yards on 23 carries.
“I’m not a braggart. I just do my job,” said Hipp, whose latest moniker in the Husker locker room is Hoppity Hipp.
The youngster, who set a Nebraska single-game rushing record of 254 yards in his first start the week before, had a powerful influence on the outcome with his two cross-country jaunts. Otherwise, it was a tossup slugging match.
Hipp’s first touchdown erased a 3-0 K-State lead after the first quarter, provided by barefoot kicker Kris Thompson’s 51-yard field goal. Thompson’s previous longest was 19 yards.
His second provided a 17-3 cushion on the third play of the second half. It was a replay of the first one, with Hipp taking a quick pitch to his right, cutting inside a block on the corner and treading lightly and rapidly down the sideline while tight end Ken Spaeth tied up the final Wildcat defender with a moving block.
“Both of those long runs worked like you draw them on the blackboard. Everybody did his job,” Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said.
The top 10-ranked Huskers won their fourth straight game in a 4-1 season while K-State lost for the fourth time in five weeks. The score was fairly one-sided, and Nebraska built a healthy 415-158 margin in total offense yardage.
From all outward appearances, then, the game went about as expected. But a KSU stadium turnout of 41,100 — fourth largest in school history — and participants knew the game was fiercely competitive. The Wildcats, in fact, were within a touchdown well into the fourth quarter.
“We’re not a very pretty ball club, are we?” offensive captain Greg Jorgensen said. But his unit gained over 400 yards for a fifth straight week.
“It wasn’t a spectacular win, but it was a good win — an important win for us,” Osborne said.
Without Hipp’s two long runs, “we’d really have struggled. We’ve never been a big-play offense. I hope we don’t get to the point where we sit back and wait for something like that to happen,” Osborne said.
While Nebraska’s 362 yards rushing was the highest total of the season and Hipp’s 82-yarder was the first Husker run of 80 yards or more from scrimmage since Frank Solich busted one for 80 yards against Air Force in 1965, it was the Husker defense that most pleased Osborne.
“They played as well as they have all year. I can’t say Kansas State had a super offense, but it was pretty good,” he said.
Defensive Coordinator Lance Van Zandt looked over the statistics sheet and noted that the Wildcats managed only 62 yards rushing and 96 passing. “Is that the total, 158 yards? Sweet,” he said.
“The pass rush was better, and we got more turnovers. I thought we hit a lot better than we did against Indiana,” Van Zandt said.
Indiana rushed for 306 yards a week earlier, but the Huskers limited skittery K-State tailback Mack Green to 52 yards on 20 carries. And two interceptions by cornerback Rene Anderson, another by safety Larry Valasek and two fumble recoveries helped keep the Wildcats at bay.
Outside of a drive that Anderson killed with an interception a yard from the Husker goal in the final seconds of the first half, K-State’s offense was bunched in one 15-play, 80-yard scoring drive that carried over into the fourth quarter.
The Huskers were feeling fairly comfortable with a 17-3 lead when reserve quarterback Dan Manucci’s scrambling and passing produced the only K-State touchdown.
But Nebraska helped the Wildcats along with two major penalties.
The initial first down in the drive came via a roughing-the-kicker penalty when end Randy Rick decked punter Don Birdsley. After California junior college transfer Manucci threw passes to tight ends Paul Coffman and Omahan Charley Green, Manucci was dropped for two consecutive losses, apparently bringing up a fourth down on the Nebraska 27.
But defensive tackle Rod Horn was caught mashing Manucci after the whistle, and Manucci followed up with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Coffman.
“I didn’t hear the whistle. I could have sworn the whistle hadn’t blown,” Horn said.
But he vindicated himself moments later when K-State tried to trim the 17-9 Nebraska lead to six points with a two-point conversion try. Horn dropped Manucci short of the goal on an option run.
“When they went for two and didn’t make it, it certainly made the lead more comfortable. The best they could do then was tie us with a touchdown and two-point conversion,” Osborne said.
The Huskers, however, erased that possibility when No. 2 quarterback Randy Garcia drove his team 75 yards — with time out for a couple of turnovers. Garcia gave the Wildcats the ball on the KSU 28 when he missed split end Tim Smith on a fourth-down pass, but Manucci gave it right back when Anderson tipped his pass, and Valasek intercepted and ran back 25 yards to the 25.
Nebraska punched down to the one before Billy Todd was summoned for a 20-yard field goal, his second of the afternoon.
“It was the percentage thing to do,” Osborne said of the field-goal decision. That made it 20-9 with four minutes remaining.
Kenny Brown padded the score with a 27-yard touchdown run on a wingback reverse in the last 21 seconds after Tom Vering recovered a fumble that resulted from a crunching tackle on fullback Tony Brown by linebacker Bruce Dunning.
At that point, it mattered little that Todd’s extra point kick was wide.
Hipp got his chance to gain over 200 yards for a second straight game — and seventh in a row over 100 yards by a Nebraska I-back — when alternate I-back Rick Berns was forced to the sidelines on the last play of the first quarter.
The plan was to divide time between Hipp the starter, and Berns, who had been idle for two weeks with a hip injury.
But Berns, who gained 55 yards on 11 carries, was kayoed when he collided with wildcat tackle Rob Rouchin, who also retired with an injured elbow.
Berns was revived for a return in the third quarter — specifically for an I-back pass to wingback Curtis Craig. But K-State cornerback Sam Owen’s dive broke it up.
Berns wore a puzzled look when asked about the pass later. “I threw a pass?” he asked. “Yeah, I guess I kinda remember it. But I don’t remember anything about the first half. It was a fast afternoon,” he said.
Nebraska’s passing game, which accounted for only 55 yards against Indiana, improved by one yard. Sorley completed four of eight passes and Garcia three of four.
“We just didn’t throw very much. The wind was no factor,” Garcia said. The wind was 15 to 20 miles per hour from the northwest.
“I was impressed with Kansas State. They have a better team now than they have had in several years,” Osborne said. “But I was disappointed that we didn’t move the ball better, particularly in the third quarter when we had the wind. We really needed to get another touchdown then.”
Osborne has said several times recently that the Cornhuskers benefit more from a close contest, such as K-State provided, “but we’d rather win easily if we can.
“We’ve had to struggle every week. I hope it’s doing something for our team,” Osborne said.
After its first venture on the road, the Huskers will return to Memorial Stadium Saturday to play Iowa State, a 7-0 victor over Missouri Saturday and a 37-28 upset winner over Nebraska last year.
|Yards per carry||1.6||5.7|
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas 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. 8. See them all »
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