EL PASO, Texas — Nebraska University’s football team went behind closed doors to cook up secret plays for Saturday’s Sun Bowl clash with Mississippi State. Not all of them worked. But the Blackshirt defense took the ball away six times and kept Mississippi State wingback Mardye McDole out of the end zone as Nebraska took a 31-17 victory.
“I think we used about everything we worked on,” Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said after his team displayed the fruits of secret practices since arriving last Sunday.
After the game, however, Bulldog Head Coach Emory Bellard said he didn’t notice any “new” plays. “I don’t remember Nebraska doing anything today they hadn’t been doing. They just executed well,” Bellard said.
Mississippi State suffered two lost fumbles, one on a muffed punt, and an interception in the first half as the Huskers moved to a 17-0 lead.
Two more lost fumbles and another interception followed.
The Bulldogs did not cross midfield until the third quarter and threatened at 24-10 in the fourth before the Huskers put it out of the reach of their Southeastern Conference adversary.
The largest crowd — 34,723 — in the history of the nation’s smallest bowl saw the Huskers finish their season with a 10-2 record, win their first bowl game in the last three years and most likely assure a Top 10 finish for the 11th straight year. The Bulldogs, who were hoping to break into the Top 10 for the first time since 1940, ended at 9-3
Nebraska, therefore, became the last team to win in the 30,000-seat Sun Bowl Stadium. Another 27,000 seats are expected to be in place by the next game.
Nebraska junked the conservative approach at the outset when Jeff Quinn opened with a screen pass to wingback Anthony Steels.
Mississippi State got an indication of what was to come when All-American McDole muffed Kevin Seibel’s initial punt, and Nebraska tight end Steve Davies recovered on the MSU 23.
On the next play, split end Todd Brown took a reverse pitch to his right, avoided end Tyrone Keys in the backfield, nearly ran over his own tackle Dan Hurley at the 15 and cut inside a block by center Dave Rimington at the 10 for a 23-yard touchdown.
The rest of the first half, the Huskers tried to extend the lead and force the Bulldogs to rely more heavily on the pass.
Trick plays the Huskers used included:
— A lateral to I-back Jarvis Redwine after a pass completion to Brown. The play gained 8 yards.
— A pump fake and deep pass to John Noonan. Nebraska had not run the play in a game before. In the Sun Bowl, the pass was overthrown.
— A hand-back pass that went from Quinn to I-back Roger Craig to Quinn and then on to Steels. It also was overthrown.
— A wingback reverse pass from Steels that failed when Steels was forced to run.
— A fake field goal with Quinn passing five yards to reserve fullback Jim Kotera.
— A play designed to have Redwine pass back to Quinn.
The latter play, from the MSU 3 in the last 3½ minutes of the half, was foiled when Redwine could not launch the pass and took a loss. It was followed by a 22-yard field goal by Seibel.
Some observers may have thought Brown’s first touchdown came on a new play. The only thing new about it was that it worked. Nebraska had tried it against Oklahoma, but in that game it ended up as a broken play.
The Huskers sailed through the first half with a 175-63 yardage edge. In the second half, Nebraska relied more heavily on the fullback traps of Andra Franklin, NU’s leading rusher with 67 yards on 17 carries.
Quinn, who had earlier passed for an eight-yard touchdown to tight end Jeff Finn, extended the lead to 31-10 on a 52-yard touchdown pass to wingback Tim McCrady with 3:21 left in the game, and the Bulldogs earned a consolation touchdown with one minute remaining on an 11-yard pass from freshman quarterback John Bond to halfback Michael Haddix.
Nebraska led in total yardage 320-196 and in time of possession 31:37 to 29:23.
Quinn won the outstanding offensive player trophy after completing 9 of 19 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Besides the 52-yard touchdown, McCrady caught another pass of 56 yards while outmaneuvering cornerback Willie Jackson.
“It was more fun when you use those plays,” Quinn said. “I wish I was throwing better the first half. Maybe we would have thrown more later.”
Quinn, who was overcome with emotion as he left the field, said, “A lot of things just flashed by as I was leaving — five years of disappointments and happiness. I just wanted to go out a winner. That meant a lot to this program and the younger players.”
One of those younger players, junior end Jimmy Williams, was named the outstanding defensive player by a press box vote after he recovered two fumbles and made six tackles. “We had the character to lose a game to Oklahoma and come back and play like we can play. We really wanted to play. That last (MSU) touchdown didn’t sour anything,” Williams said.
The Bulldog offense failed to cross into Nebraska territory until Bond completed his first pass after seven incompletions and an interception in the first half. His 11-yard completion to McDole carried to the Nebraska 43, and Dana Moore followed up with a 47-yard field goal to make it 17-3.
McDole finished the game with 69 yards on four receptions.
Bond scored a touchdown from the 1 early in the fourth quarter. A 62-yard kickoff return by Glen Young preceded the final Bulldog touchdown.
MSU halfback Donald Ray King led all rushers with 96 yards on 23 carries, mostly dive plays over the left side.
“They were hurting us off tackle, but we made an adjustment in the middle of the third quarter,” Husker Defensive Coordinator Lance Van Zandt said. The adjustment involved some changes in defensive alignments.
“We eliminated the long run and the long pass. That’s what we were trying to do.”
Osborne said his defense “played well until the end. I think we got a little tired, but so did Mississippi State. It was as hot as any day since we’ve been down here.” The temperature was 61 degrees at kickoff and climbed into the 70s.
The Husker offense “didn’t move the ball like I thought we would. I was a little disappointed in our outside running. But with their 4-3 defense, it was a little hard to get outside. The I-back plays weren’t working because their tackles were giving us trouble. That’s why we went with the fullback traps,” Osborne said.
Craig Johnson, who started at I-back, carried only three times for four yards. Redwine, who entered the game in the second series and started the second half, gained 42 yards on 13 carries, and Roger Craig, who opened the second quarter at I-back, carried five times for six yards.
All of the Bulldog turnovers took place on the Mississippi State side of the field. The Huskers suffered an interception at the MSU 15 in the first quarter, were limited to a field goal after reaching the 3 in the second and were held on downs at the 12 in the fourth.
After Brown’s breakthrough on the reverse in the first 2½ minutes, the Huskers were handed another opportunity on MSU’s first series.
“We hadn’t tried to block a punt very much all season, and we tried to block one on the first punt,” Van Zandt said. Under pressure, punter Dana Moore fumbled the snap, and Daryl Holmes recovered for Nebraska. The Bulldogs survived the threat when Quinn’s pass bounced off tight end Davis and was intercepted at the 15 by Rusty Martin.
With the lead at 17-0 following Finn’s touchdown catch in the last two minutes of the first half, Toby Williams recovered King’s fumble at the MSU 27. Nebraska reached the 16 before Quinn was blind-sided, fumbled and Glen Collins recovered for the Bulldogs.
Jimmy Williams claimed a Bond bobble at the MSU 25 in the third quarter, and Franklin made it 24-3 from the 2 after a spinning six-yard pickup on a reverse by Steels.
The one Jimmy Williams enjoyed most, however, was a botched piece of razzle-dazzle by the Bulldogs after they had climbed back to 24-10 in the fourth quarter. Bond handed off to Tim Parenton on a reverse, and Parenton pitched out wildly to George Wonsley. “I batted the ball, it rolled on the ground, somebody tried to pick it up and I smacked it again (before falling on it at the MSU 33),” Williams said.
Nebraska marched to the 12 before Franklin failed to gain the necessary yard on third and fourth downs.
Franklin said the Bulldogs “slanted everybody to the left. It was hard to read the play, and it was hard for our tackles and guards to get their blocks. They made us work for what we got,” he said.
Earlier, Redwine was dropped for a two-yard loss on third down from the MSU 3 before Seibel’s field goal.
Osborne said, “Jarvis was supposed to throw the ball to the quarterback. He saw a guy standing there and thought he couldn’t get the pass off, but a guard got him. Jarvis tried to run, but Quinn was wide open.
“Overall,” Osborne said, “this game was a tribute to the players. They were able to concentrate and work hard after a disappointing loss. They played as hard as they could. In terms of raw talent, Mississippi State was as good as Florida State and Oklahoma (the only teams to defeat NU).”
|Yards per carry||1.8||2.9|
Nebraska is 1-0 all-time against Mississippi 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|
Nebraska has played 3 games on Dec. 27. See them all »
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