LINCOLN — Perhaps it is time for the NCAA to create a new statistic and call it field goal defense.
Nebraska surely would rank in the bottom 10.
On Saturday, for the second time this season, an opponent kicked five fields goals without a miss against the Cornhuskers. Only this time Nebraska rallied to beat Kansas 31-15.
“I think our goal posts have magnets for the opposing team,” said Henry Waechter, Nebraska defensive tackle. “Everybody can hit field goals here.”
It’s true. Opposing field goal kickers are 11 for 11 at Memorial Stadium this season.
“In the past every time somebody has kicked five field goals against us we’ve lost,” said Charlie McBride, Nebraska defensive line coach.
True again. But it’s only happened one other time and that was five weeks ago when Brian Franco was five-for-five in a 30-24 Penn State victory over the Cornhuskers.
Bruce Kallmeyer matched that feat Saturday for Kansas. The difference between the Jayhawks and Penn State is that KU couldn’t find any other means of scoring and went home a loser, its 13th straight loss to the Huskers.
Nebraska needed Kansas turnovers to get the job done. Cornerback Rodney Lewis, making his first start since the second game of the season, figured in the big plays that helped Nebraska overcome a 9-3 halftime deficit.
Lewis intercepted a Frank Seurer pass to set up the first Husker touchdown and his tackle forced a fumble to set up the second touchdown.
The Jayhawks were the fifth straight team that hasn’t been able to score a touchdown against the Cornhsukers, and Nebraska’s fifth straight victim in a 6-2 season.
“It feels good, but I still feel bad they got the field goals,” said Waechter. “They moved the ball on us. We’ve got to work on that. If they had one more break they probably would have gotten in the end zone.”
Probably true again, particularly if the break would have been similar to the first one the Jayhawks received.
It came on Nebraska’s first possession. I-back Roger Craig lost a fumble at the Husker 3-yard line. With the help of Steve Damkroger dropping Walter Mack for a 4-yard loss on first down the Huskers didn’t bend or break and Kansas settled for Kallmeyer’s first field goal — a 25-yarder.
The theme of the game — which drew a homecoming crowd of 76,208 — was firmly established in that early skirmishing.
Kansas showed it wasn’t going to be the easy mark that it has been against the Huskers in losing every game between the two teams since 1968. The Jayhawks had been outscored 435-40 by the Huskers in the previous 10 games.
This time, the Jayhawks had the Huskers scrambling from behind for much of the game. Three Kallmeyer field goals gave Kansas a 9-3 halftime lead.
The Kansas offense, which has been the least productive in the Big Eight Conference all season, looked major league against the Huskers.
“I’m tired of hearing all this stuff that without Kerwin Bell they aren’t any good,” said Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne. “That’s a lot of baloney. They’ve got a lot of good players. I’m sure Kerwin Bell would have helped them today, but I promise you they’ve got people who can play.”
Quarterback Seurer is one. He passed for 142 yards and hurt the Huskers with his scrambling runs.
Tailback Garfield Taylor, one of the replacements for the injured Bell, is another. Taylor ran for 98 yards and was most effective on draw plays.
McBride said Taylor is the best back Nebraska has seen since Penn State’s Curt Warner. “He is a much better back than Kerwin Bell,” McBride said. “I don’t think they missed him. He’s stronger and more physical.”
But the Husker defense did enjoy some moments against Seurer and Taylor. The biggest were an interception of a Seurer pass and a recovery of a Taylor fumble that turned the game’s momentum in the Husker’s favor.
“Those two turnovers really fired us up,” said Waechter.
With the Huskers trailing 9-3 early in the third quarter, Lewis intercepted a Seurer pass and returned it 31 yards to the Husker 15.
Lewis’ return put Nebraska in position for its first touchdown of the game. Eddie Neil provided the first half points with a 32-yard field goal that was also set up by a Jayhawk turnover — a Jeff Merrell recovery of a Seurer fumble after the quarterback was hit by Waechter.
The Husker defense forced five turnovers in the game — two fumbles and three interceptions.
Lewis’ interception led to a 2-yard touchdown run by Phil Bates that put the Huskers ahead 10-9 with 9:54 left in the third quarter.
Ironically, the last time the Cornhuskers had trailed Kansas before Saturday was in 1973, a game the Huskers rallied to win 10-9.
Kallmeyer made the Husker lead short-lived when he kicked a 49-yard field goal with 5:04 remaining in the third quarter to put KU back on top 12-10.
Nebraska was forced to punt on its next drive before getting its next break. It came when Taylor fumbled on a hit by Lewis and linebacker Brent Evans recovered at the Kansas 26 just before the ball went out of bounds.
Three plays later, Bates scored his second touchdown of the game and third in a row for the Huskers, counting last week’s game-winner against Missouri.
Bates set up the touchdown with a 16-yard run to the 3 and scored on the next play to make it 17-12 with 2:03 left in the fourth quarter.
Kallmeyer’s work for the day ended when he connected on a 47-yarder into the wind with 12:36 left in the game.
Kallmeyer’s successes, which produced a school record for most field goals made in a game and a season (8), were from 25 yards in the first quarter, 27 and 49 yards in the second quarter, 49 yards in the third quarter and 47 yards in the fourth quarter.
“People do a tremendous job of field goal kicking against us,” said Osborne. “That guy was amazing.”
For the season, opposing kickers have made 13 of 15 field goals against the Huskers. Counting Neil’s kick Saturday, Nebraska improved its figures to 6-for-17.
Nebraska dropped Kansas’ record to 5-3 overall and 1-3 in the Big Eight, but Osborne heaped praise on the Jayhawks.
“They controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half,”. “They were knocking us off the football. Their quarterback had a lot of time compared to what our quarterback had. We thought if we had any edge in the game, it would be up front. We didn’t have that edge.”
Nebraska made certain it couldn’t be beaten by Kallmeyer with a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter — a 17-yard pass from Gill to tight end Jamie Williams with 9:19 remaining and a 49-yard run by Mike Rozier with 1:25 left.
The pass to Williams gave Nebraska its first breathing room in the game, hiking the Husker lead to 24-15.
Williams said the play caught Kansas by surprise. It was just one of nine passes thrown by Nebraska in the game.
“Kansas was really keying the run,” Williams said. “It was a great call by Coach Osborne. It really caught them off balance. I had a delay pattern. Mitch Krenk ran a crossing pattern from the other side and their linebackers went with him. Nobody picked me up.”
Williams also credited Osborne with providing the spark that sent the Huskers to their 28-point second half.
“I knew we could beat them, even in the first half, but we had to get excited to beat them because they really came to play,” Williams said.
Williams said it was Osborne who finally got the Huskers excited.
“At halftime he said if we want to be Big Eight champions we’ve got to do it now,” Williams said. “The guys kind of woke up after that and went out and started to play football.”
Rozier’s 49-yard touchdown capped his productive day as a Husker back. He finished with 179 yards on 22 carries.
The Huskers rushed for 340 yards, just above their average of 335.9. Nebraska entered the game ranked second in the nation in rushing offense.
Kansas, which had been averaging only 116.6 yards per game on the ground, outgained Nebraska 126-99 in rushing yards in the first half. The Jayhawks controlled the ball for 18:51 in the first half to 11:09 for Nebraska.
Osborne said he wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance in the first half.
“I told the players I’m proud of the way we came back and I’m proud of a lot of things we did today,” said Osborne. “But we can’t rely on that kind of finish anymore. We’ve shown we can come back. Now we’ve got to show we can get out in front and play.”
Osborne hopes that happens Saturday when the Huskers take their 4-0 Big Eight record to Oklahoma State. “I’ll promise you if we don’t play any better than we did today we may not win any of our next three,” he said.
|Yards per carry||3.4||6.2|
Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.
|Florida State||Sept. 19|
|Penn State||Sept. 26|
|Kansas State||Oct. 17|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 7|
|Iowa State||Nov. 14|
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