LINCOLN — If Baylor’s defense was as good as Tom Osborne said, then Nebraska’s offensive players could be pardoned for beating their chests after Saturday’s 41-10 sashay in sun-splashed Memorial Stadium.
It could have been a cruel blow to the Cornhuskers and their followers in the 90th consecutive sellout of 76,231 when Rick Berns, their splendid I-back, went out with a painful hip pointer in the opening quarter. But it was just a nasty sidelight.
The Huskers had a good Hipp (pardon the pun) in the spare parts department, and I.M. Hipp quick-stepped for 122 yards while Nebraska ran up a 414-182 margin in total offense.
“Losing Richard (Berns) hurt,” Osborne said. “He gives us an extra dimension as a receiver. And we may not have him next week.”
With Berns sidelined, his string of four consecutive games gaining more than 100 yards, going back to last season, was broken.
But Hipp made it five straight for the I-back position.
“We’re unstoppable with the backs we have,” said offensive guard Steve Lindquist after the post-game giddiness. “We can’t be stopped unless we stop ourselves.”
“It was more a case of our offense being good than their defense being bad,” said fullback Monte Anthony, who toiled 10 times for 44 yards. “We can run on anybody.”
Even Osborne, the normally reticent head coach, conceded that it was a good outing for building confidence, although he wouldn’t go as far as Lindquist and Anthony. “I think we can be pretty good,” he said.
It was destined to become a relaxing afternoon for Nebraska partisans after emotion-draining outings against Washington State and Alabama when the Huskers scored the first 10 points and it became apparent Baylor would need Husker help to make a serious challenge.
Baylor, coming in with a 1-1 record, tried to muster an offense with three gimpy quarterbacks in the first half and its leading rusher, Gary Blair, gone in the first quarter with a possible broken foot.
But the Huskers played the hospitable host with lost fumbles. One at the N.U. 20 set up the only Baylor touchdown, and another at the 17 on the next possession in the third quarter gave the Bears a chance to make a game of it.
Nebraska’s lead was 23-10 when the Bears got their second chance, and Osborne said later, “Things looked a little tense.”
Baylor pushed the ball to the seven before safety Larry Valasek and linebacker Lee Kunz dropped quarterback Sammy Bickham for a five-yard loss, cornerback Tim Fischer broke up a pass in the end zone and end George Andrews mashed Bickham as he threw for another incompletion.
Then Robert Bledsoe, who had kicked a 42-yard field goal in the first quarter, kicked a pop-up that fell short, and the Huskers had weathered the threat.
“If they had gotten in there, it might have been a ball game all the way,” Osborne said.
That stand, two interceptions, a blocked punt that resulted in the first touchdown and an otherwise consistent job of stifling the Baylor offense won the game ball for the first-string Blackshirts and their relief.
“The defense played so much better today. I was really impressed with the way they went after them,” Osborne said.
“At times the offense was not really sharp, but we scored enough points to win,” he said.
The same passing combination that provided the key play in the winning drive against Alabama the week before connected with a 40-yard hookup in similar fashion in Nebraska’s first scoring drive.”
Randy Garcia, the first of five Nebraska quarterbacks, threw far down the right sideline to Tim Smith, who took the ball over Scooter Reed’s reach just inside the sideline at the Bears’ 11. Three plays later, Billy Todd kicked a 22-yard field goal, his fourth in three games.
Less than two minutes later, defensive end Randy Rick flew in from the right flank to block Luke Prestridge’s punt, and Larry Young came from the other side to chase the ball into the end zone for a touchdown.
From there, the punters went on display for a time — Nebraska’s end Smith averaged 43 yards on eight attempts, and Prestridge 39 on 10 — until Osborne replaced Garcia with Sorley.
It took eight plays to cover 63 yards, with Hipp busting the middle the final 14 yards. En route, Sorley fed a 22-yard pass up the middle to tight end Kenny Spaeth.
“I audibled it. All their strength was to the split end side. There was an opening on the weak side, and Kenny just found the hole. It was something we figured they would give us before the end of the game,” Sorley said.
Nebraska had another good drive going in the second quarter, with Hipp chipping in 26 yards on a pitch play; but it died at the Baylor 15, and Todd missed a 32-yard field goal.
It was a short reprieve for the Bears.
On the next play, Greg Hawthorne fumbled away to Fischer, and Husker wingback Curtis Craig followed with a 22-yard bolt to the end zone.
Craig was split wide to the left in the pro set and had a wide alley when the Bears reacted to a fake pitch to Hipp going left. Baylor cornerback Howard Fields took a shot at Craig inside the five, but, as he did a week earlier on a touchdown sweep, Craig went airborne into the end zone.
“When you get that close, there’s no sense in getting stopped,” Craig said with irrefutable logic.
When Todd missed the ensuing extra point, it was his first PAT fluff in eight tries.
“I guess missing the field goal made me think about it. I just wasn’t hitting the ball squarely at all,” the Arizona junior college transfer said.
With the 23-3 halftime edge appearing comfortable, Nebraska was set to launch another drive in the third quarter when returner Frank Lockett muffed a punt, and Ken Griffin recovered on the Husker 20. Three plays later, Bickham rolled left and pitched five yards into the end zone to David Seaborn.
Still, there was plenty of cushion.
Until Hipp mishandled a pitch from Garcia for the second time, and Bear Jerry Harrison recovered on the N.U. 17. That was when the Husker defense was at its finest, and the offense added padding to the score with a final 12-play, 80-yard drive engineered in flawless fashion by Garcia.
Hipp, who had earlier seen a 27-yard gain nullified by a holding penalty, contributed 26 yards to the drive after tight end Mark Dufresne’s block allowed him to turn the corner, and it would have been 15 yards more if he hadn’t hit the sideline at the Husker 48.
Hipp gained another 12 yards on an option play, and Garcia hit Craig with a seven-yard pass for a first down at the four.
On fourth down at the one, the Huskers took time out, and Osborne instructed Garcia to call another pitch play to Hipp. But he gave his quarterback some leeway.
“If Baylor came out in a certain defense, I wanted him to automatic to a pass to the tight end,” Osborne said. “The other players were alerted to it. But normally we don’t like to automatic at the one because the players are a little more tense, there is more crowd noise and there is more chance for a mistake.”
Garcia, however, saw the Bears bunching up to the inside, called the audible and pitched softly out to his left to Spaeth for the easy score.
“I didn’t want to throw it hard, but I thought it would never come down,” he said.
Then, Garcia overcame Todd’s errant PAT with a two-point conversion pass to Craig over the middle.
That final touchdown came with only three seconds elapsed in the final quarter, and the Husker subs mopped up.
Jeff Quinn, Eddie Burns and Tim Hager followed Garcia and Sorley into the fray at quarterback.
Sorley, who has been bothered by a sore shoulder, did not play the last 1½ quarters after starting the second half.
“Coach Osborne said he wouldn’t put me back in because I’d made it so far,” Sorley said. “He didn’t want to take any chances. But it sure felt good to be in the locker room at the half instead of the training room.”
“Baylor did some good things defensively, but they had trouble getting things going consistently,” Osborne said. And losing Blair “had to hurt them because he’s a good back.”
“We were working pretty hard, but it was hard to match last week (Alabama game) for excitement,” fullback Anthony said. “We should have blown them away. I firmly believe that.”
“Our defense helped pull us through this game, for sure. We still had too many turnovers. Before the Big Eight games start, we have to get rid of those,” he said.
“I’ve just got to work on watching the ball all the way into my hands,” Hipp said of his two fumbles. “They weren’t bad pitches.”
What will he remember most, the fumbles or his 122 yards?
“Neither. I forget all about everything that’s happened once a game is over and start thinking about the next one,” he said.
The next one for the 2-1 Huskers is Indiana at Memorial Stadium Saturday.
|Yards per carry||2.2||4.5|
Nebraska is 11-1 all-time against Baylor.
|Washington State||Sept. 10|
|Kansas State||Oct. 8|
|Iowa State||Oct. 15|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 29|
|North Carolina||Dec. 19|
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