STILLWATER, Okla. — The first hunk, the word quarterback Turner Gill used to describe it, came easy Saturday and in a fashion that reminded Oklahoma State’s defense it was playing Nebraska and not Louisville or North Texas State.
With early evidence that the Cowboy defense did have a soft underbelly the Nebraska offense could attack, the Cornhuskers launched an assault that produced a 54-7 win and yardage in stunning hunks against a team not familiar with that sort of thing.
This was the biggest challenge of the season for an Oklahoma State defense that had built a No. 2 national ranking in total defense against less powerful opponents, Louisville and North Texas State included.
The Cowboys couldn’t pass the test, which was apparent when the Huskers drove 85 yards for a touchdown on the game’s first drive.
“That probably took a little hunk out of them,” said Gill. “Nobody had ever done it on them all year. That probably shocked them right there.”
Oklahoma State did manage a consolation prize while absorbing its worst defeat at Lewis Field since being defeated by Oklahoma 53-0 in 1956.
The Cowboys scored on an 8-yard pass from Rusty Hilger to Ron Ingram in the third quarter. The Huskers had prevented their previous five opponents from scoring a touchdown.
With the streak stopped, the only suspense remaining in the day was whether Kansas State would hang on to upset Oklahoma. The Sooners were trailing 21-6 when Nebraska’s game ended, but rallied to win 28-21.
A K-State upset would have meant Nebraska could have wrapped up the Big Eight championship by beating Iowa State in Lincoln Saturday. Nebraska, 7-2 overall and 5-0 in the Big Eight, leads the league with Oklahoma still in striking position at 3-0-1.
Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne predicted Oklahoma would rally.
“I’d suspect they’ll win the game” said Osborne. “I told the players if that (a K-State win) did happen I didn’t want a lot of elation or talk about playing Iowa State for the championship. I want them playing well the next two weeks. We don’t want to back into something.”
Nebraska will play at Oklahoma Nov. 21.
Gill started Nebraska’s scoring against the Cowboys with runs of 4 and 9 yards. Oklahoma State had allowed one other touchdown in the first quarter this season.
When the first quarter ended against Nebraska, the Huskers had 17 points and ABC had to be wondering about its decision to televise the game.
The first quarter featured Husker offensive versatility in the form of a 21-yard pass from Gill to Mitch Krenk, runs of 16 yards by Mike Rozier, 24 yards by Roger Craig, 29 yards by Anthony Steels, 30 yards by Gill on a scramble and a 27-yard field goal by Eddie Neil.
It had to be somewhat of a shock to the Cowboys and their fans in a crowd of 48,500 at Lewis Field. In comparison, Oklahoma State’s longest play of the season has been a 24-yard run by Shawn Jones.
But the greater shocks were yet to come.
They came as the Huskers continued rolling to 546 total yards — 425 by ground and 121 by air. Oklahoma State had become the nation’s No. 2 team in total defense by limiting opponents to an average of 216.1 yards per game.
They came as Craig bolted for 69 yards for a third-quarter touchdown that hiked the Husker lead to 31-0. That run was for more yards in one play than the average of 67.7 yards the Cowboys had allowed to their seven previous opponents.
They came as Rozier bolted for a 93-yard touchdown on a third-quarter kickoff return. Rozier’s burst came on the kickoff following Ingram’s touchdown.
It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown by a Big Eight Conference player this season and the first by a Cornhusker since Johnny Rodgers ran 98 yards against Texas A&M in 1971.
The return didn’t come as a shock to Rozier. He was hoping for an opportunity after listening to the scouting report on the Cowboys. “The coaches told us we could break one,” said Rozier. “They said a lot of teams were getting yardage against them on kickoffs.”
Rozier thought his return of the opening kickoff also could have gone for a touchdown.
“I wanted to break one because I thought I could have broken the first one if I hadn’t slipped,” Rozier said.
“I had no idea we would score 30 points let alone 50 against the defensive team we had been seeing on film,” said Osborne.
“I think because of the way Oklahoma State had been playing to this point it might be our best offensive game.”
Craig had 121 yards on 12 carries and Rozier 102 on 19 in a strong 1-2 rushing punch from the Husker I-backs.
Gill completed eight of 10 passes for 89 yards before leaving the game with bruised ribs in the third quarter. He had a 9-yard touchdown pass to Mitch Krenk to start the Husker scoring in the third quarter.
Mark Mauer was 1-for-4 passing with a 32-yard touchdown to Todd Brown.
Tackle Dan Hurley said the Husker offense was “pretty fired up because they were ranked second in the nation (on defense). We went out and played like we can. When we play like we can, we can run on anybody.”
John Melton, linebacker coach, sensed the offense felt it had something to prove and did it.
“I think we were tired of hearing how good Oklahoma State’s defense is,” said Melton. “Our offense really got after them and so did our defense.”
Ingram’s touchdown for Oklahoma State came with 6:00 left in the third quarter. The Husker defense hadn’t surrendered a touchdown in the previous 350 minutes, 2 seconds. Penn State was the last team to score a touchdown on the Huskers — in the third game of the season.
The Cowboy touchdown “was really a blow,” said Tony Felici, NU defensive end. “But we were ahead by 31 points at the time so it wasn’t so bad.”
“It was disappointing not to shut them out but at the same time it was great to beat them like we did. We played better defense than they did. That was our goal.”
Melton said, “If we score 54, we’ll let them score seven.”
The Cowboys’ touchdown drive was aided by a 15-yard penalty for grabbing the facemask and a pass interference call on Ric Lindquist that gave the Cowboys a first down at the Husker 8. Two incompletions preceded Hilger’s touchdown pass.
“We probably could have done a little better job on that pass,” said Osborne. “We could have called a better defense and we could have covered it better. But that’s fine. Oklahoma State earned it. I don’t worry too much about records so it’s no problems.”
The Husker defense was in the right coverage enough times to intercept six Cowboy passes, one shy of the school record set against Kansas State in 1971. Defensive end Jimmy Williams and cornerback Allen Lyday each had two interceptions.
Oklahoma State did pass for 221 yards, most of that in the second half. The Cowboys were held to 41 yards rushing on 31 carries.
Nebraska was held scoreless in the second quarter although it continued to dominate ball possession. The Huskers had the ball for just over 20 minutes out of 30 in the first half.
The best show of Cowboy defensive strength in the game came in the second quarter when the Huskers drove to the 1 where Rozier was stopped twice short of goal.
“I was really disappointed because we needed to keep our momentum going,” said Rozier.
Momentum did return in the third quarter when the Huskers struck for 28 points.
“I’ve got to give Oklahoma State a little credit for the second quarter,” said Hurley. “They stopped us down deep. We had them on the hook and let them off.”
“At halftime, Coach Osborne got on us a little bit and said to go play in the third quarter like we did the first quarter.”
|Yards per carry||1.1||5.8|
Nebraska is 37-5 all-time against Oklahoma State.
|Florida State||Sept. 19|
|Penn State||Sept. 26|
|Kansas State||Oct. 17|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 7|
|Iowa State||Nov. 14|
Nebraska has played 20 games on Nov. 7. See them all »
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