BOULDER, Colo. — So maybe it wasn’t a basketball score. Colorado held Nebraska to double digits. But even on the Buffalo scoreboard, Nebraska’s 45-7 victory Saturday was fairly decisive.
So the Cornhuskers didn’t match Oklahoma’s 82 points against the Buffs. Colorado didn’t score 42, as it did against the Sooners, either. Nebraska duplicated Missouri’s 38-point winning margin and was only two short of Oklahoma’s.
Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said he would gladly take it. In fact, he was downright relieved. “I’m glad it’s over,” he said.
With a sellout crowd of 51,989 in attendance at Folsom Field, the winless Buffs were plainly overmatched against one of the nation’s finest assemblies, which was destined to win for the sixth time in seven games.
But the Buffs, mostly helpless through the previous six losses, put up more than token resistance Saturday. Testimony came from Jarvis Redwine and Craig Johnson, Nebraska’s top two running backs who retired on consecutive plays with thigh and shoulder injuries, respectively, in the second Husker series.
Nebraska simply dipped three deep into the I-back roster and produced high-stepping sophomore Roger Craig, who pranced for 176 yards on 21 carries, scored three touchdowns and enhanced a rich tradition against Colorado defenses.
While playing the triggerman in a 13th consecutive Nebraska victory in the series with its western neighbors, Craig became the sixth Husker back to rush for 100 yards or more in the last seven years. The others were Redwine (206 last year), Rick Berns (132 in 1978), I.M. Hipp (172 in 1977), Dave Gillespie (106 in 1975) and Monte Anthony (157 in 1974).
“I still can’t believe it. I’m in a daze right now,” said the Davenport, Iowa, youngster. “But I don’t like to see anyone get hurt. It hurt me to see them (Redwine and Johnson) get hurt.”
Redwine, returning after two weeks off, made a test run with his flak jacket and cracked rib, gaining three yards on his first carry. Satisfied, he picked up 13 yards on his next try and fled 23 yards to set up Andra Franklin’s opening touchdown from the 3 on the first drive.
On his ninth carry, Redwine appeared well on on his way to his fifth 100-plus afternoon and reestablishment in the national rushing championship and Heisman Trophy derbies. But his trial ended at 64 yards when he crashed into the Buffalo bench and said that was enough for the day.
Johnson, who had logged a pair of century games as Redwine’s replacement, lasted one play, a two-yard loss, and came up with a lame shoulder.
“Our depth was very important to us,” Osborne said.
Especially since fullback Franklin, cornerback Andy Means and middle guard Curt Hineline also were unable to finish because of injuries.
With a multitude of bruises as evidence that the Buffs weren’t playing give-up, the Huskers voiced admiration for their beleaguered rivals, who refused to fold despite a 24-point Nebraska second quarter and a 31-0 halftime deficit.
“I’d like to congratulate them for a good effort. Their coaches prepared them well. I’m glad to get by this game and move on to Missouri (Saturday in Lincoln),” Osborne said.
Craig, with an ice bag taped to a sore shoulder, said, “They were tough. They were hitters. We knew it wouldn’t be an easy game.”
He said that of a defense that is dead last in the nation in rushing and scoring.
“Their defense played hard, better than they looked on film,” Osborne said.
The Husker coach also applauded the Buff offense, which “moved the ball more consistently than half the teams we’ve played.” Nebraska’s advantage in time of possession was only 31:18 to 28:42.
With Colorado’s ability to control the ball against the nation’s top-ranked defense, Osborne asked facetiously, “Isn’t anybody going to ask me about the field goal just before the half?” His question was in reference to criticism for trying to pad the score with a two-point conversion attempt against Kansas.
Nebraska reached its halftime margin against Colorado on a 52-yard field goal by Kevin Seibel, the Huskers’ first of the season, with one second remaining.
The boot was three yards short of the Nebraska distance record by Paul Rogers in 1969 and Billy Todd in 1977.
“Our feeling is, you’ve got to get all the points you can the first half and into the third quarter. We got flak from the stands about running it up. I guess we’ve got that reputation. But 28 points is not a safe lead,” Osborne said.
Nebraska was never in jeopardy after scoring on three of its first four possessions. A 16-yard punt return by Dave Liegl started a 38-yard drive to the second touchdown, by Craig from the 3, in the second quarter.
The next opportunity came from the Buff 24 after monster back Sammy Sims blind-sided freshman quarterback Randy Essington, and Daryl Holmes recovered a fumble. Quarterback Jeff Quinn, who improved his No. 2 national percentage rating with five completions in seven passes, sneaked to the 21-0 touchdown.
After Buff Ellis Wood and Husker Andy Means traded interceptions, Nebraska charged 91 yards to Craig’s second touchdown, from the 3.
The bulk of Quinn’s passing yards came during the drive when he hit wingback Anthony Steels for a 54-yard gain.
Osborne said he was “surprised we had the opportunity” for Seibel’s field goal. With six seconds left in the half, Essington missed on a fourth-down pass from the Nebraska 35. Osborne immediately sent out sophomore Seibel, who had missed his only field goal attempt during the season. Seibel, who had warmed up by drilling five kickoffs into or through the end zone, had plenty to spare.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Seibel said. “Finally! It took me seven weeks to get one. I’m going to move up here,” he joked. “It would be nice to kick in this air all the time. The ball flies a lot nicer. You still have to kick it straight, but it goes a lot farther.”
Nebraska outyarded the Buffs 514 to 240. Essington completed 15 of 27 passes for 151 yards and the lone touchdown on a 6-yard pass to tight end Bob Niziolek after the Nebraska lead had grown to 38-0 in the fourth quarter.
Craig’s most audacious contribution came during the fifth touchdown drive early in the third quarter. He stumbled at the line of scrimmage, righted himself, cut right and sped 60 yards before Wood trapped him at the Buff 10. Craig scored from the 3 to raise his team-leading touchdown total to 12.
Essington completed four passes in an 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter and unloaded his touchdown pass over Sims in the face of a Husker blitz.
Nebraska responded with a drive of the same distance, all on the ground, behind backup quarterback Mark Mauer, who kept the last 5 yards.
When the clock ran out, the Huskers were perched at the Colorado 2.
With the final gun, Osborne let out a “Whew!” and admitted he had been worried despite Colorado’s anemic record. “This game was difficult for us because of the general atmosphere surrounding the game. We were supposed to win with no difficulty. We’ve been sharper and more aggressive, but we weren’t flat, and we took care of the ball,” he said.
Nebraska’s only turnover was Quinn’s interception. Colorado lost the ball twice on fumbles and twice on interceptions.
“I gained a lot of respect for Colorado. They moved the ball fairly consistently, but they were hurt by turnovers. We’ve got quite a few bumps and bruises, and we played everybody a fair amount. I don’t think we can take credit for a ferocious defensive game, but we knocked the ball loose a couple of times. We didn’t get the ball back as much as we have in some games,” Osborne said.
End Derrie Nelson, the Nebraska defensive captain, insisted the Buffs “were not a bad team. They’re young, and they fought in there today. They did some good things, and they’re going to win some games.
“But their crowd is down on them. All they read about in the papers is how bad things are. If their crowd would get behind them and give them a little support, they might win.”
|Yards per carry||2.1||5.9|
Nebraska is 49-20 all-time against Colorado.
|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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