BOULDER, Colo. — A sign in the University of Colorado football locker room reads: “I will prepare myself now, and some day my chance will come.”
Not this year.
One of the great constants of football life in the Big Eight Conference was extended Saturday: Nebraska 52, Colorado 14.
Nothing so unusual there. Nebraska’s winning log against the Golden Buffaloes reads 11 straight, 16 of the last 17 and no setbacks here since 1960.
And as they did a year ago, the Cornhuskers trailed early at 14-3 before going to the halftime break tied at 14. But the Huskers took the Buffs’ best bolts with no-big-deal aplomb and answered with an astonishing showing of offensive and defensive might. Following Howard Ballage’s 100-yard-plus kickoff return and a fumble-inspired touchdown that produced Colorado’s 14-3 lead in the first quarter, Nebraska ran off 49 straight points to silence a previously delirious Folsom Field turnout of 53,262, less the pockets of Husker followers in the end zones. At the end, the Huskers had accumulated a season high 641 yards — short of the all-time record of 655 against Hawaii in 1976. That figure matched the Buff record yield against Oklahoma in 1974.
The Husker defense gave up a paltry 119 yards rushing to a team that was ranked among the nation’s top 10 two weeks ago and 185 yards in total offense — Colorado’s season low.
In the madhouse celebration after a sixth straight victory, Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne was doing his best to head off the expected criticism of Buff Coach Bill Mallory. All-purpose back Rick Berns, the latest to emerge among the revolving I-back heroes, was enjoying the renewed attention.
Berns, who started on the bench, then played briefly at fullback, returned to his old familiar I-back position to trigger the rout with 132 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns.
“I was recruited by Colorado. I wanted to show them what they’re missing,” Berns said.
Mallory needed no reminder. He well remembered Berns rushing for 127 yards here two years ago and scoring the go-ahead touchdown in a 24-12 Husker win.
Saturday’s game also bore an eerie resemblance to last year’s 33-15 effort in Lincoln.
Husker Billy Todd opened scoring with a field goal, as he did a year ago. Then Todd kicked off to Balage, who took the ball two yards deep in the end zone. Ballage found a gaping hole up the middle, eluded Russell Gary’s dive and outlegged Andy Means to the end zone to make it 7-3. Last year, Ballage went 98 yards in the same situation.
Then, I.M. Hipp fumbled on a swing pass, Tim Roberts caught the ball in the air and returned it 48 yards before quarterback Tom Sorley saved the touchdown at the 3. On the fourth play, James Mayberry scored, and Pete Dadiotis’ kick made it 14-3. Last year, Colorado went ahead 15-3 following a fumble and 2-point conversion.
But, as Osborne said later, “For some reason, I was never really worried. We weren’t getting manhandled. It was our mistakes, and we felt those kind of things could be corrected.”
Or as Berns put it: “I never really felt like we were behind — not against Colorado. I go into every game thinking there’s no way the other team can beat us, but against Colorado a little more so.”
The Huskers caught up in the second quarter on the second of three Todd field goals and Berns’ 5-yard touchdown run, followed by a 2-point conversion pass from Sorley to tight end Junior Miller.
And despite the halftime tie, Nebraska went to intermission with a 216-77 edge in total offense. That was just to soften up the Buffs.
The Huskers came out and scored on five of their first six possessions, but it was the initial drive of the third quarter that really put C.U. away.
Berns opened the second half at I-back because Hipp had been having difficulty. “We just go with the guy who is doing well,” Osborne said.
Berns’ first carry went for 16 yards. Two plays later, he gained 8. Then, as the goal line neared, it was Berns for 11, 12 and 10 for the touchdown.
Nine plays, 80 yards, 21-14, and the track meet was on.
“At the half, our players said they thought Colorado was tiring a little. They thought we could run right at them,” Osborne said.
Colorado, which had led the Big Eight in three defensive categories, gave up 312 of Nebraska’s 463 rushing yards in the second half, and Sorley deftly mixed in 11 completions in 17 attempts for 178 yards and a 42-yard touchdown to Miller. It was the second time in two weeks the I-back fake and tight end deep play has worked for a score.
In the stretch run, Tim Wurth skipped down the left sideline for a 43-yard touchdown for Nebraska’s longest rushing play of the season, Hipp finally found enough freedom to finish with 92 yards and scored on a dive, and the subs marched 80 yards to wrap it up on sophomore Craig Johnson’s 33-yard run in the last 58 seconds.
The Husker defense had accepted the game as a challenge for Big Eight superiority. It won the duel with its Buff counterparts, no-contest — much to the delight of linebackers Lee Kunz and Bruce Dunning, both Colorado natives. Kunz was the leading tackler with 11 and Dunning next with nine.
The Blackshirts limited fullback James Mayberry and quarterback Bill Solomon, the heart and soul of the Colorado offense, to 38 and 37 yards, respectively.
So dominant were the Blackshirts that Colorado was held without a first down in the second half until the score had ballooned to 45-14 in the fourth quarter and freshmen Charlie Davis and Mike Green were in at quarterback and tailback. When Davis finally ran for a first down, he was rewarded with an ovation by the remaining Buff loyalists.
There were few other occasions for cheers for the Buffs, although the place went bonkers in the early going.
Nebraska failed to capitalize on Dunning’s interception and return to the Buff 15 in the opening series because Sorley’s pass to Kenny Brown was late and intercepted by cornerback Jesse Johnson.
Moments later, Means, the Husker sophomore cornerback, intercepted and returned 23 yards to the C.U. 42. Todd’s 27-yard field goal followed.
Colorado packed its scoring into 1:55 of the first quarter with Ballage’s dash and the fumble return to set up Mayberry’s touchdown.
“The plays they scored on were not basic football, and it took them four plays to get it in from the 3,” said Means, who later intercepted another pass for his third of the season.
With the Huskers cruising at 31-14 late in the third quarter, Todd, who had kicked field goals of 27, 24 and 45 yards, missed badly from the 32. “I guess I need that pressure,” Todd quipped.
As the Buff frustration mounted, freshman Davis entered the game as an apparent replacement for Solomon. Loud cheers from Buff fans. But Davis lined up at I-back, took a pitch to his left, then fired deep down the right sideline to Solomon for a 34-yard gain, the Buffs’ longest.
Two plays later, Davis was indeed the quarterback, and Jim Pillen ripped him on a monster blitz. Means intercepted the wobbling pass.
“I’ll take those over interference calls any day, especially when they set up scores,” Means said. He leads the Huskers with four pass interference penalties.
Following the Means theft, Berns went out for a change of tearaway jerseys, and Wurth shifted from fullback to I-back. Wurth was chased to the sideline on a pitch play, managed to turn the corner and set off on his 43-yard dash to make it 38-14.
On the following kickoff, Ballage appeared on the verge of breaking another one, but he left the ball behind, and Darrell Walton recovered on the Buff 33. Hipp scored from the 1 four plays later, and the reserves took over.
“We weren’t trying to run the score up,” Osborne said. “We played everybody. I just think our players like to play out here.
“They (Buffs) didn’t play very hard in the second half. They didn’t play as hard as our players. We just started blowing people out in the second half.”
While the Huskers improved to 6-1 (3-0 in the Big Eight) and have a chance to improve on their No. 5 national ranking, the Buffs lost for the second time after winning five in a row.
And Osborne said he anticipates that Mallory, who has now lost five straight games to the Huskers, “will catch a lot of flak.
"For you guys from Colorado,” he told a group of writers, “I want to say Bill’s a good football coach. Maybe we’ve had a little Indian sign on them, but he’s a hard worker, a good recruiter and a good coach. Colorado is still 5-2 and has a good team.”
Sorley added an amen to that: “Colorado sticks you real good. It’s a class team, not the kind to fold up. I just think we were more aggressive in the second half.”
Defensive end George Andrews said, “Colorado has the talent, just like it always does. I don’t know what it is...but we weren’t worried at all early in the game. We knew Colorado had past tendencies.”
|Yards per carry||2.4||6.6|
Nebraska is 49-20 all-time against Colorado.
|Iowa State||Oct. 7|
|Kansas State||Oct. 14|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 28|
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