LINCOLN — Kansas struggled through 60 minutes of football Saturday, failing to gain as many yards against the Nebraska defense as Husker Craig Johnson managed in about 10 seconds.
In the process of the 42-0 loss to NU, the Jayhawks discovered that Johnson wasn’t a missing person after all.
The highest marks as Nebraska opened the Big Eight Conference season on a positive note belonged to a Cornhusker defensive unit that completely shackled the Jayhawks. For the second straight week Nebraska had a shutout and for the second straight week the opponent managed only two possessions into Cornhusker territory.
The best match possible Saturday would have been the Nebraska offense against the Nebraska defense. The Cornhuskers enhanced their status as the national total offense leader with a 611-yard day that came on 430 rushing and 181 passing.
Nebraska probably also enhanced its position in the national ratings. Oklahoma’s loss to Texas and Southern Cal’s tie with Stanford could lift the Huskers to the third rung this week behind Alabama and Texas.
“I hope the shutouts are habit forming,” said Lance Van Zandt, Nebraska defensive coordinator. The last time Nebraska posted two successive shutouts was in 1975 when Kansas State fell 12-0 and Iowa State went down the next week 52-0.
The last time Kansas saw Craig Johnson before Saturday was last November when the junior from Omaha burned the Jayhawks for 192 yards on 10 carries during Nebraska’s 63-21 victory. In that game he had touchdown runs of 60 and 64 yards and caught a 78-yard scoring pass from Tim Hager.
But Saturday Kansas had to be wondering about Johnson’s presence in the Memorial Stadium crowd of 76,011 as the score continued to mount in Nebraska’s favor.
The count reached 29-0 before Johnson made his first appearance in the game with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. By the time the period had ended, he had made sure Kansas will never forget about him.
On the final play of the quarter Johnson took off from the Nebraska 6 on a play up the middle designed to get the Huskers out of dangerous territory. Johnson did much better as he broke 94 yards for a touchdown that ended with the Husker third-team I-back winning a foot race with Kansas defensive back Delvin Miller.
“Craig Johnson amazes me,” said Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne. “You time him in the 40 and he is just 4.6 or 4.65. But put a football under his arm and he can run with anybody.”
The run broke the Nebraska record for the longest touchdown from scrimmage, a mark that had stood for 25 years. John Edwards raced 84 yards against Air Force in 1954.
Johnson operates behind Jarvis Redwine, who was another thorn for the Kansas defense with 157 yards on 24 carries, and I.M. Hipp on the Husker depth chart.
The 94-yarder was Johnson’s second touchdown of the game and fifth in two weeks. He had a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:40 left in the third quarter.
He covered all 99 yards on two carries for the second score after defensive back Andy Means spoiled the best Kansas threat of the game with an interception that gave Nebraska possession at the 1.
Means' theft was only one in a bushel basket full of integral defensive plays that prompted KU coach Don Fambrough to say: “Nebraska’s defense is what beat us. We couldn’t run, we couldn’t pass, we couldn’t pass protect.”
The Husker defenders were unyielding throughout. Nebraska held Kansas to 79 total yards — 20 passing and 59 running.
The 611-79 yardage edge in total offense over Kansas had its foundation in the way Nebraska dominated possession of the ball. The Huskers ran 92 plays to 51 for the Jayhawks. Again the defensive contribution to that advantage can’t be overlooked.
“Any time you hold a team less than 100 yards you’ve got to be doing something right,” Van Zandt said. “If we made any mistakes, I’m sure we made them full speed ahead.”
For Osborne the beauty of the victory was the offense and defense putting together solid performances on the same day. For the first time this season, there were no Husker turnovers.
“I was proud of the defense,” he said. “The defense is starting to come around and be the kind of defense we thought it could be.”
There was at least one discomfort for Osborne in what was the 60th victory of his coaching career.
“I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get the ball in the end zone a little more in the first half,” he said. Nebraska oddly piled up all 42 of its points in the second and third quarters.
The Huskers struck for 15 points in the second quarter on a 54-yard touchdown by Redwine and three field goals by Dean Sukup. The 27-point third quarter featured the Johnson touchdowns and two scoring passes by Hager.
While Nebraska didn’t score in the first quarter, the pattern of the game was established as Kansas initiated only seven plays from scrimmage to 26 for Nebraska. After failing to score on its first two possessions, Nebraska produced points the next eight times it touched the ball.
Redwine created the biggest stir of the first half with a 54-yard touchdown run on an option pitch from Hager that was the first major breakthrough against the gritty play of the Kansas defense. Redwine used blocks by John Havekost and Kenny Brown as he picked his way down the sideline and back to the middle of the field toward the end zone.
Sukup’s three field goals were from distances of 36, 41 and 27 yards. The effort was tarnished somewhat as he failed on two of his five conversion attempts. They were his first misses after kicking 26 straight over the last two seasons.
For the second straight week Redwine had more than 100 yards by halftime. His output was 128 yards on 17 carries at intermission. Johnson gained 138 yards on nine carries.
Hager chipped in 104 yards passing at the half and 152 for the game on 10 completions in 17 attempts. Two of those throws were third-quarter touchdowns.
Junior Miller’s streak of taking three straight passes for touchdowns was snapped when he was stopped after 15 yards on a first-quarter reception. But the tight end now has four touchdowns in his last five catches following his 24-yard touchdown reception in the third period. That was the first score of the second half and a touchdown that rates an assist from monster Mark LeRoy, who provided good field position with an interception at the KU 29.
The next time Nebraska got the ball, Hager connected on a 12-yarder to Kenny Brown for the score that hiked the lead to 29-0.
The longest pass of the day was a 30-yarder from Jeff Quinn to Tim Smith that carried to the 1 and set up Johnson’s first touchdown. “Hager threw the ball pretty well and so did Quinn,” said Osborne. “We had pretty good passing.” Smith was the leading receiver with four catches for 82 yards.
While the outcome was typical of recent games in the series, the Kansas team was praised by Osborne for its tenacity. “I think Kansas came out and did a good job of hitting,” he said. “But we eventually cracked them.”
Nebraska trainer George Sullivan said the only injured players were Hipp, who reinjured his toe, and defensive back Paul Letcher, who suffered a strained knee.
Hipp, who needed 59 yards to become the career rushing leader, gained 19 on six carries.
The 5-0 Huskers continue Big Eight play next week at Oklahoma.
|Yards per carry||0.7||6.1|
Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.
|Utah State||Sept. 15|
|Penn State||Sept. 29|
|New Mexico State||Oct. 6|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 20|
|Kansas State||Nov. 10|
|Iowa State||Nov. 17|
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