LINCOLN — Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne abandoned his plan to pass more Saturday when the Cornhusker receivers started to dribble the ball.
It was that kind of day. Nebraska lost fumbles on its second and third pass completions of the game, and one other time, all of which kept the Husker score from looking like a basketball game.
As it was, Nebraska overpowered Kansas State 42-13.
The Wildcats were the team with problems. Nebraska didn’t need to open up its offense with passes the way Osborne would have liked.
Husker I-back Mike Rozier was a wide-open offense all by himself with 204 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
“Mike had a good day,” Osborne said. “I don’t think too many backs will have 10-yard averages against Kansas State.”
The crowd of 76,266 at Memorial Stadium saw Rozier become the second back in Nebraska history to have consecutive 200-yard games. Rozier ran for 212 yards against Colorado Oct. 9. I.M. Hipp ran for 254 against Indiana and 207 against Kansas State in 1977.
Kansas State coach Jim Dickey wasn’t around in 1977, but he figures he’s seen all he’s wanted in coaching five years against the Cornhusker offense. He said this is the best Cornhusker attack he’s seen.
“I hope I live long enough for them to run out of material,” Dickey said.
Rozier’s average of 9.7 per carry was just one of the impressive figures produced by a Cornhusker back.
Quarterback Turner Gill’s 97.1 percent passing was another. He completed 11 of 12 passes for 101 yards. His 97.1 percent accuracy broke the school and Big Eight Conference record of 82.4 by Dave Humm against Kansas in 1974.
Humm completed 22 of 24 passes. Osborne wanted to throw that much against the Wildcats.
“I guess when you are running for a 6 and 7-yard average, and then turning the ball over in the passing game, it tends to make you go away from it,” Osborne said. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to put it in the air 25 times.”
The fumbles were Nebraska’s biggest problem as they improved their record to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big Eight. Kansas State fell to 3-2-1 and 0-1-1.
Rozier scored Nebraska’s first touchdown on a 27-yard run. The Cornhuskers’ next three possessions ended in fumbles.
“We still just stopped ourselves,” Gill said. “They didn’t do anything to stop us. On our first eight drives, we scored four times and we fumbled four times. We moved the ball. We just didn’t take care of the football.”
The first fumble was especially costly. It came after a Kansas State gamble failed. The Wildcats tried for a first down on fourth-and-1 from their own 29 in the first quarter. K-State’s Iosefatu Faraimo was stopped for no gain in a run up the middle.
Nebraska wasn’t able to capitalize because two plays later split end Ricky Simmons fumbled after catching a pass from Gill.
On Nebraska’s next possession, tight end Jamie Williams fumbled after a catch and Wildcat Greg Best recovered at the Husker 30.
Kansas State took advantage of the turnover for a 44-yard field goal by Steve Willis.
Nebraska couldn’t add to its 7-3 lead until late in the first half because Gill fumbled on the Huskers’ next possession. Gary Morrill recovered for Kansas State at the 50.
“I just didn’t take care of it,” Gill said. “When you’re in a crowd, you’ve got to tuck it in.”
Rozier was the key as Nebraska scored twice in the last five minutes to take a 21-3 halftime lead.
Fullback Doug Wilkening scored on a 3-yard touchdown with 4:27 left in the half. The first play of the 65-yard drive was a 28-yard run by Rozier. He had 49 of the 65 yards on five carries.
Rozier’s next contribution was a 46-yard run with a pitch to score with 1:43 left.
Rozier said if he could be considered a wide-open offense by himself, so could a lot of other players.
“We’ve got a lot of talent on this team,” he said. “I had to get past the line before I could do anything. They did a good job too.”
Center Dave Rimington said Rozier is too modest.
“Mike probably gives us more credit than we deserve,” Rimington said. “He does a lot of things on his own with his cutting. He does some things I wish I could do. I’m too big to do that stuff.”
Osborne said he was surprised Nebraska ran the ball as well as it did against the Wildcats. “I thought they’d be real tough to move the ball on,” he said.
Nebraska finished with 496 total yards - 384 rushing and 112 passing. Kansas State had 124 rushing and 131 passing for 255 yards against a Husker defense that has concerned Osborne.
“We still didn’t look great, but I think we looked better on defense,” he said.
The Wildcats attempted 27 passes, half as many as Colorado tried against the Cornhuskers Oct. 9. K-State completed 11, but had some others dropped.
Bob Thornton, Nebraska’s secondary coach, said he was pleased except for the fact that the Cornhuskers didn’t get any interceptions.
“An interception or a fumble recovery is just like a touchdown for the defense,” Thornton said. “We didn’t get either one today. That bothers me.”
Thornton agreed with Osborne that the defense showed improvement.
“Overall, we played very well,” he said. “I think we showed some intensity that we really haven’t showed the last couple of weeks. I guess we’re kind of losing our baby fat.”
Kansas State fought back for 10 points in the third quarter after falling behind 28-3 when Nebraska scored on its first possession of the second half. The touchdown was a 2-yard pass from Gill to Williams.
The Wildcats used the fourth Husker fumble as the impetus for their first touchdown. Tight end Mitch Krenk fumbled and KSU defensive end Vic Koenning recovered at the Nebraska 27. Quarterback Darrell Dickey scored on a 1-yard sneak with 7:11 left in the third quarter.
Kansas State got possession for its next score when Nebraska failed to gain any yardage on a fourth-and-a-foot play from the Husker 46. Gill fumbled the snap and recovered it, but for no gain.
Kansas State drove for a 45-yard field goal by Willis, whose kicks against the Huskers were the two longest of his career.
Osborne blamed himself for the last field goal because of his call on fourth down.
“I probably made a very stupid decision there,” he said.
Osborne said his thinking was that Nebraska was moving the ball well, and he wanted to keep it from Kansas State.
“I felt maybe the best defense was a good offense,” he said.
Osborne changed his mind in retrospect.
“I would have sure been kicking myself if we had lost by a couple of points,” Osborne said. “I’m sure my name in history would have gone down as the village idiot.”
Nebraska clinched the victory by following Willis’ second field goal with an 80-yard drive on nine plays to Jeff Smith’s 19-yard touchdown. Smith took over for Rozier, who left the game with a hip pointer.
“It doesn’t look very serious,” Osborne said. “Hip pointers can keep a guy out two to three weeks. We hope it’s not that kind of hip pointer.”
Quarterback Bruce Mathison wrapped up Nebraska’s scoring on a 5-yard run with 5:38 left in the game. Mathison completed his only pass, giving the Huskers 12 completions in 13 attempts as a team.
Gill said his only miss of the game should have been a completion. The miss was on an attempt to Roger Craig late in the first half.
“I misread it,” Gill said. “It was a screen, and I probably should have thrown to the tight end. They had the screen covered really well.”
Overall, Rimington said Nebraska is in good shape heading into this week’s home game against Missouri.
“Everything’s going pretty much as planned right now,” he said. “We want to keep on improving and keep it steady. It’s a good feeling because I know we didn’t do everything perfect today and we still had a good score.”
|Yards per carry||2.8||6.6|
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas State.
|New Mexico State||Sept. 18|
|Penn State||Sept. 25|
|Kansas State||Oct. 16|
|Oklahoma State||Nov. 6|
|Iowa State||Nov. 13|
Nebraska has played 17 games on Oct. 16. See them all »
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