LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska defense shut out the lights on Oklahoma State so emphatically Saturday that the Cornhusker offense was permitted a midgame snooze without missing a thing.
The Husker offense gulped a 14-0 eye-opener in the first 5 minutes, 19 seconds, took a siesta and came back reinvigorated to mop up the remains of a 48-7 outing. While it was gone, the Blackshirts were busy choking the life out of an undernourished Cowboy attack.
Despite six straight dismal possessions in the first and second quarters, four of seven fumbles lost, a blocked punt and a turnover that led to the only Poke points, the Cornhuskers breezed through their second straight Big Eight victory. A homecoming crowd of 76,021 was treated to a fifth win in six games.
Such offensive blahs became only simple irritants because the Blackshirts were saddling an opponent with deficit rushing for the first time since Kansas State went minus 45 in 1976.
Nebraska, ranked second nationally in rushing defense, knocked the 0-5 Cowboys’ spurs off with a minus net 13 yards in 39 carries.
The rushing yards told it all. Nebraska bettered its national-leading pace by 30 yards while 13 backs mustered 405 yards in 79 carries.
With its national rushing leader, Jarvis Redwine, sitting out a second game with a rib injury, senior I-back Craig Johnson gained 105 yards on 20 carries and scored three touchdowns. Quarterback Jeff Quinn ran the keeper 17 times for a season-high 81 yards and completed 10 of 14 passes for 155 yards and the first two touchdowns.
Sophomore I-back Roger Craig gained 69 yards on 10 carries and scored the last two touchdowns, increasing his team lead to nine. Fullback Andra Franklin picked up 61 yards — two short of his season’s best — on 11 carries.
The Nebraska defense so neutralized Oklahoma State runners that its all-Big Eight fullback, Worley Taylor, managed a trifling eight yards on nine attempts.
Searching for a flaw in the Blackshirt garment, Poke quarterbacks Houston Nutt and Jim Traber combined for 156 yards on 12 completions in 31 attempts. Two were intercepted.
Nebraska’s total offense advantage was a resounding 560-143. The Huskers bettered their top-ranked total offense figure by 46 yards and No. 1 scoring pace by 7.8 points.
“We won as a team,” chortled end Derrie Nelson, the defensive captain. After giving up a touchdown as the result of a fumble on the first play of the second half and missing a third shutout of the season, Nelson said, “That’s no biggie. I’ll give up seven any time to win by that much.”
Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne saluted his defense for playing “a great game.” He had been uneasy, he said, because Oklahoma State “had some good athletes. A team that is 0-4 you might take it lightly.
“We did a good job of stopping the run. They hit a few passes, but they weren’t going to kill us with the pass."
“I felt we had it pretty well in hand if we didn’t help them out. We were kind of on the verge of breaking it open. If we had played a little more flawlessly, we could have had it out of reach by the middle of the third quarter.
“We lost a little momentum when we scored 14 points. One or two of the turnovers were due to hard hits, and one or two due to a lack of concentration. But we run a high-risk offense.” Nebraska asserted its rushing authority from the outset. Starting from its 20 with the opening kickoff, 11 consecutive running plays carried to the Poke 13. Then Quinn faked into the middle and pitched neatly over the middle to tight end Jeff Finn for the touchdown.
Cornerback Rodney Lewis recovered Ernest Anderson’s fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and still bright-eyed, the Huskers made it 14-0 when Quinn’s 30-yard pass was tipped by Cowboy safety Chris Rockins before nestling into the grateful arms of wingback Anthony Steels.
From there, Nebraska matched the visitors in offensive inefficiency. The next six series went punt, fumble, blocked punt, fumble, punt and short on fourth-and-two.
The Cowboys were no better: Punt, interception, lost snap and 20-yard loss on field goal attempt, punt, punt, fumble.
Twice during the yawning stretch, the Huskers lost fumbles after completions to Finn and Todd Brown. “I think everybody was trying to take care of the ball,” Finn said. “I thought I had it tucked away. But the defense has been playing super. They got us out of the holes the offense put us in.
“But it works both ways. We’d like to play one game where we put it all together. I don’t think too many teams could stop us.”
Osborne tried to shake things loose by going “a little hog wild with a couple of trick plays.” A double-handoff pass and a reverse failed before the Huskers returned to basics for a 21-0 halftime lead.
Late in the second quarter, fullback Andra Franklin popped trap plays for 13 and 12 yards on consecutive plays. Quinn kept for 12 and passed to Finn for 19 before Johnson dived over from the three.
The Huskers rated an assist on the Cowboy touchdown early in the third quarter. Franklin lost a fumble on the Nebraska 26. The Cowboys reached the 1 on an interference penalty against Lewis. “I had him covered, but I have a bad habit of putting my hand on the receiver to keep track of him. It was a good call,” he said.
The Pokes made the touchdown the hard way. Shoved back to the 14 after a sack by Jimmy Williams, Nutt lofted the ball over cornerback Andy Means for the touchdown to Ronnie Ingram, a one-time Husker recruit.
Nelson said Means, with his back to the passer, didn’t hear his teammates call for him to turn around because of the crowd noise. Means said, “That’s no excuse. I should have turned around and looked.”
Despite a one-sided outcome, Means said, “It bothers me a lot. I lost the shutout for us. I should have made the play. That’s the A-B-C of it. I just got beat.”
Freshly aroused, the Huskers responded with consecutive touchdown drives of 80, 66 and 96 yards. The touchdowns came on a fake-reverse 17-yard sweep by Johnson and an option pitchout to Craig from the 10.
Craig scored the final touchdown on another option pitch from the 17 following a 25-yard punt return by Dave Liegl.
After its near-success on the earlier goal-line stand, the Blackshirts made good in a similar situation in the fourth quarter. Traber completed four passes to rally his team to a first down on the Nebraska four. Traber sneaked to the 1 before Steve Damkroger and Jimmy Williams stopped Ed Smith for minus 3 on a sweep and Lewis knocked down the fourth-down pass.
“I should have caught it, but I’m not disappointed. To stop them at the one, that’s something,” Lewis said.
After his second straight 100-yards plus game while spelling Redwine, Johnson said, “The way Jeff (Quinn) was audibling and the line was getting downfield, when you get that going, it’s really something any back could do. We put the ball on the ground way too much. Everybody’s heard that before. There’s no excuse for it, but we overcame it.”
Despite his top rushing production of the season, Quinn said “I’d just as soon throw it and let the other guys run it. I used to like it, but I’m getting older. I feel it more.
“We really didn’t think I’d run that much. We weren’t planning on it. We felt like we’d pass more. It was just what they gave us. But we’ll take it any way we can. The defense was super. I figure if we can score, we’ll win.”
With Oklahoma State safely out of the way and Colorado, another winless team, up next week in Boulder, a relaxed Osborne, who angrily defended a two-point conversion attempt the previous week against Kansas, opened his post-game analysis with: “I promise I won’t get mad.”
|Yards per carry||-0.3||5.1|
Nebraska is 37-5 all-time against Oklahoma State.
|Penn State||Sept. 27|
|Florida State||Oct. 4|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 18|
|Kansas State||Nov. 8|
|Iowa State||Nov. 15|
|Mississippi State||Dec. 27|
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