|New Mexico State||0||0||0||0||0|
LINCOLN — New Mexico State had as much chance as an old cow in a bullring. Nebraska took the ears, the tail, the works.
With a Memorial Stadium turnout of 76,135 shouting the Midlands equivalent of olé at every thrust, the Cornhuskers carved up the overmatched visitors 57-0 Saturday.
As its reward for providing fodder for an army of Huskers, the Aggies returned to Las Cruces with a guarantee check for $50,000. For them, it was a big payday. It took all of 5,405 paying customers to provide the Aggie share. Nebraska was dealing in other big numbers on this sunny, breezy autumn afternoon.
— Like 94 players in suit and 91 in action.
— Like 15 ball carriers and 376 rushing yards. The total-yardage edge was 569-156.
— Like 120 yards for Jarvis Redwine in the first half and the rest of the afternoon off.
— Like 80 yards on a punt return by Kenny Brown, his second for a touchdown as a Husker.
— Like 14 unassisted tackles and 5 assists for linebacker Kim Baker.
Some smaller numbers were no less significant, such as three touchdowns for Craig Johnson — two at I-back and one at fullback — and nine freshmen on the field in the final minutes.
It was the worst thumping of a New Mexico State team since a 76-0 frolic by Utah State in 1964. Worse yet, the Aggies lost their leading rusher, Ray Locklin, with a shoulder injury late in the second quarter when he was decked by linebacker Brent Williams.
New Mexico State crossed midfield only twice. It reached the Husker 46 in the second quarter and the 48 in the fourth against a defensive lineup that included scout team middle guard John Minor, freshman linebackers Steve Damkroger and Steve McWhirter and backup middle guard Oudious Lee, taking a crack at tackle.
It went about as expected for an unbeaten, fifth-ranked Big Eight team playing the fourth-place team, now 2-4, in the Missouri Valley.
At the end, the only irritants Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne could find, without benefit of film, were four lost fumbles (the first after the game was well in hand at 28-0), two missed extra points by No. 2 man Tim Bergkamp and a foot-dragging band that did not clear the field fast enough at halftime and cost the Huskers 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Nebraska’s regulars went about their business with brutal efficiency before turning things over to the subs. They filed quietly into the locker room afterwards, showered quickly and left. No need for wild celebration after this one.
“It was good from the standpoint of getting to play a lot of players,” Osborne said, “but it wasn’t helpful from the standpoint of competition.”
The issue was virtually settled in the first 12-½ minutes when the Huskers made it 21-0 on 19 scrimmage plays while New Mexico State failed to make a first down on three series. It was 28-0 in 23 Husker plays after Brown’s punt return early in the second quarter, 31-0 at the half on Dean Sukup’s 21-yard field goal as time ran out and 50-0 at the end of three quarters.
Nebraska did not score in the last 12:21, partly because Osborne banned the pass, and partly because newcomers restricted the play selection. “I had to ask the freshmen what plays they knew,” Osborne said.
For the first time in four games, Nebraska won the coin toss. Osborne elected to take a 15 mph breeze from the north, and New Mexico State elected to take the ball.
Nebraska also scored first for the first time this season, and the wind decision was influential. Aggie Marc Brandt punted into the wind for 23, 13 and 25 yards in the first quarter. Each time, Nebraska set up on the Aggie side. “Every time they kicked, the wind took 10 to 15 yards off the punt. We got good field position,” Osborne said.
Eleven ground plays, starting from the 48, produced Johnson’s 2-yard touchdown. Redwine earned the next from the 1 to end a 36-yard march in seven plays.
To speed things up, Tim Hager passed 43 yards to tight end Junior Miller on the first play after the third punt. Miller thus turned his third straight reception into a touchdown. He was 2-for-2 the week before against Penn State.
Hager faked into the middle, threw deep down the middle, just over leaping Anthony Watson, and Miller dragged cornerback Michael Armand into the end zone.
Brandt finally got the wind at his back in the second quarter and nailed a punt for 45 yards. He surely preferred the short-kick results.
Brown angled off to his right from the 20, turned the corner on Jeff Krejci’s block and fled 80 yards to the touchdown, with Jimmy Williams shielding him from the last threat inside the 10.
After Brown’s punt return made it 28-0, Hager retired in favor of Jeff Quinn with 5:26 left in the second quarter. Few of the other regulars played much after intermission.
The only players in uniform who did not play were top I-back I.M. Hipp, who was resting a sore toe, punter Scott Gemar, who did not play because the Huskers punted only twice, and split end John Noonan, who was on his way in when the reserves fumbled late in the game.
“It was a good game from the standpoint of morale. The lower units played over a half,” Osborne said.
“You like the easy days. The younger players deserved a chance to play,” offensive guard John Havekost said. Five busloads of fans had come from Scribner for “John Havekost Day,” but the hometown hero played only half of the second quarter and only the first series of the second half.
“I’m sure they’d rather watch the backs anyway,” Havekost said. “I would just as soon have been playing. You get more tired standing around.”
New Mexico State noticed a little dropoff in the second half when Quinn, Johnson and Jim Kotera opened in the backfield.
“I thought Nebraska’s second string was better. They came across and hit you,” Aggie defensive tackle Bernard Johnson said.
Hager completed three of five passes for 57 yards before sitting down. Quinn came on to complete 7 of 11 for 123 yards, and Mark Mauer, who went in late in the third quarter went 1-for-2 and a 13-yard touchdown to Scott Woodard. Freshman quarterback Nate Mason, who played in the final moments, did not pass.
Quinn was at his passing best in the closing seconds of the first half. The Huskers started from their 33 with 1:01 left. Quinn hit passes of 11 yards to Jeff Finn, 19 to Tim Smith and 25 to Anthony Steels.
A pass interference penalty put the ball on the Aggie 4 with four seconds left, and Sukup kicked the 21-yard field goal.
Quinn also hit three passes in Nebraska’s opening 86-yard drive in the second half, with Johnson making it 37-0 from the 1. The first of two straight misses by Bergkamp followed.
Quinn sneaked to the 43-0 touchdown following a 21-yard punt return by Dave Liegf. Mauer, with freshman Kevin Seibel’s extra point, raised the count to 50-0 when he scrambled away from a rush and hit Woodard in the far right corner of the end zone.
“There wasn’t much pressure on me. It wasn’t like it was up to me to win it,” said Mauer, a St. Paul, Minn., sophomore. “Everybody else established the outcome before I got in.”
Johnson, who started the season as a probable redshirt, scored his third touchdown from the 11, as a fullback. He had been replaced at I-back by freshman Roger Craig of Davenport, Iowa, the younger brother of ex-Husker wingback Curtis Craig.
On the play before Johnson’s touchdown, Craig had gained 11 yards on his first varsity carry.
“I was really excited,” said Craig. “It was called a 42 roll. It went off right tackle. I was looking for the end zone. All the older players were giving me encouragement.”
It wasn’t that way last Monday when the varsity reserves whipped Craig and his teammates, on what is called Nebraska’s best freshman team, 14-0 in a scrimmage.
“I didn’t expect to be up with the varsity. I love it,” Craig said.
The other freshmen who played Saturday were I-back Dennis Rogan, wingback Ricky Simmons, fullbacks Doug Wilkening and Craig Holmon, middle guard Jeff Merrell, tight end Todd Spratte and monster back Randee Johnson.
“Going into the game, we had a lot of things we wanted to improve on,” Osborne said. “We wanted a good defensive effort, and the defense did quite well. They (Aggies) never had much of a running game.”
New Mexico State gained 88 yards rushing. The biggest gainer was a 21-yard reverse by flanker Bobby Humphrey.
“We didn’t want to give up the big play, and we didn’t,” Osborne said. New Mexico State passers Butch Kelly and Jamie McAllister combined for 10 completions in 24 attempts for a meager 68 yards.
“We wanted a big punt return, and we got one,” Osborne said.
Brown, the nation’s top returning punt returner, broke out of a slump with the 80-yard return. “The whole return team had a hand in it. Jeff Krejci, Dave Liegl, Mark LeRoy and Jimmy Williams, all threw good blocks,” Brown said.
Brown’s only other punt-return touchdown was for 52 yards last year against Hawaii.
“We also didn’t get behind in the first quarter,” as was the case against Utah State, Iowa and Penn State, Osborne said. “I was satisfied with our lower units. We didn’t play sloppy football. It think we’re a pretty doggoned good football team.”
The Huskers thus concluded the non-conference season at 4-0 for the first time since 1975 and will open the Big Eight season Saturday at Memorial Stadium against Kansas.
|Yards per carry||2.2||6.0|
Nebraska is 3-0 all-time against New Mexico State.
|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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