AMES, Iowa — It’s a cold fact. Not too many spectators were interested in sticking around Saturday to find out the final score.
For the record, it was Nebraska 48, Iowa State 10 on a bitter cold afternoon in which the wind chill index of zero left at least one Cornhusker wishing that the Big Eight Conference championship showdown with Oklahoma wasn’t still two weeks away.
“I’d like to play them tomorrow, because the longer we wait the colder it’s going to get,” Husker wingback Irving Fryar said.
Nebraska’s victory over the Cyclones, and Oklahoma’s 41-14 win over Missouri Saturday set the stage for another NU-OU shootout for the league title and an Orange Bowl berth.
It will be Nov. 26 in Lincoln. Fans have to wait 13 days for the matchup between the 9-1 Cornhuskers and the 8-2 Sooners. Both are 6-0 in league play.
Iowa State had considerable success early moving the ball on Nebraska.
The Cyclones dominated play in the first quarter, giving hope to their fans in the crowd of 52,887 that the Cyclones were capable of an upset against the Cornhuskers, who were ranked third and fourth nationally.
The first quarter ended in a 7-7 tie, but the Cyclones had the ball for 25 plays and Nebraska just 10.
“The only bad thing about the ball game is that we didn’t slow them down very good in the first half,” Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said. “The second half we really played a fine defensive game. It was almost like two different defensive teams.”
Iowa State had 194 of its 273 total yards in the first half. Nebraska, the national leader in almost all offensive categories except passing, had just a 217 to 194 edge in total yards at halftime.
“In some respects we were fortunate to be ahead 21-7 at the half,” Osborne said.
Nebraska took that lead with the help of a big pass and a play that the Cornhuskers hadn’t run previously this season.
Quarterback Turner Gill put the Huskers ahead 14-7 in the second quarter with a 22-yard touchdown on a naked reverse. Gill faked a handoff to I-back Roger Craig. Craig and all of the blocking flowed to the left. Gill kept the ball on a sweep to the right for an easy touchdown, the longest of his career.
“It’s really the first big run I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Gill said.
Perhaps the biggest play of the game was a Gill pass. Nebraska attempted just seven, and completed four. This one was a 49-yarder to Todd Brown for a touchdown with 1:13 left in the first half. It put the Huskers ahead 21-7.
“I think it was a big momentum play,” Osborne said. “I thought we were still struggling. Even though we were up 14-7, we hadn’t slowed them down much.”
The play was sharply executed. Gill made a good fake to Fryar and got enough protection for Brown to get behind Iowa State defensive back John Arnaud. Brown was the secondary receiver on the play.
“It was a big play,” Brown said. “It kind of reinforced in their minds that they weren’t going to win.”
The Cyclones, now 4-5-1, may have thought it, but they didn’t show it. They got the ball after Brown’s score and drove into scoring position as quarterback Dave Archer completed six passes, one to tight end Doran Geise and five to backs all on the same sideline pattern.
The Cyclones failed to score when Alex Giffords missed a 43-yard field goal with six seconds left in the half.
Osborne said the combination of Brown’s touchdown, and the missed field goal were important.
“Those things kind of took the air out of them, and when we came right out and scored at the start of the second half we felt pretty secure about winning.”
Iowa State had its option to start the second half and kicked off. The strategy backfired as the Cornhuskers drove 83 yards to a 5-yard touchdown by I-back Mike Rozier that put the Huskers ahead 28-7.
Rozier finished as Nebraska’s leading rusher with 103 yards on 19 carries. He left the game early, and was the source of some concern because of a sprained ankle in the final minute of the third quarter.
Rozier, fullback Doug Wilkening and offensive guard Dean Steinkuhler all suffered sprained ankles against the Cyclones. Defensive tackle Toby Williams left with a strained knee.
“It’s probably fortunate we do have an open date coming up,” Osborne said. “We’re pretty beat up."
Osborne wasn’t certain if Rozier, the nation’s fifth-leading rusher, would be ready for Oklahoma.
“I’m not a miracle man,” he said. “We hope he will be.”
Spectators started to leave the frigid stadium in large numbers when Craig’s 1-yard touchdown gave the Huskers a 35-7 lead with 40 seconds left in the third quarter.
Nebraska center Dave Rimington couldn’t understand why any fans lasted as long as they did.
“I can’t see why anybody would have wanted to watch this game,” Rimington said. “They could have watched the replay on the Tom Osborne show or the Donnie Duncan show. It was cold out.”
Those fans that left early missed a Big Eight record. It came when Iowa State’s Giffords kicked a 32-yard field goal with 7:21 left in the game.
It was Giffords' 41st career field goal, breaking the record of 40 by former ISU kicker Tom Goedjens.
Another big moment, at least for Husker Tom Vergith, came in the late stages when he scored his first career touchdown. Vergith, a fifth-year wingback, scored on a 7-yard run to make it 42-10.
“I was chilled to the bone,” Vergith said. “My fingers and toes were numb. When Coach Osborne called that play, it was an instant surge of warmth in my body. I knew that was my chance to do it.”
Nebraska’s 42-10 lead was noteworthy because the Huskers entered the game averaging 42 points, and holding their opponents to an average of 10.
“These guys were supposed to be the No. 1 defense in the conference,” Fryar said. “We showed them we can score 40 or 50 points on anybody.”
Fryar set up Craig’s touchdown with a 59-yard return to the ISU 22. I-back Jeff Smith helped the drive to Vergith’s touchdown with a 46-yard run.
Nebraska’s last score, a 1-yard run by Smith, followed a fumble by Iowa State’s Archer and a recovery by NU’s Dave Ridder at the ISU 29.
Archer’s fumble was the only turnover of the game.
“It was a rather error-free day for as cold as it was,” Osborne said. “I expected a lot of turnovers and fumbles.”
Smith’s touchdown was unfortunate for kicker Kevin Seibel, who missed the extra point. Seibel’s miss ended a school record 68 straight successful kicks.
Nebraska’s biggest problem defensively was Cyclone back Harold Brown, who gained 115 yards on 16 carries.
“We were worried about their running,” said Charlie McBride, NU’s defensive coordinator. “Every game they’ve played, their backs have all done something. Brown came through and did a real good job of running the draw.”
McBride said the Huskers slowed Brown by slanting more to the middle in the second half.
Nebraska finished with a decisive statistical edge - 460 yards in total offense to 273 for the Cyclones. The Huskers rushed for 363 and passed for 97. Iowa State had 157 rushing and 116 passing.
McBride said he doesn’t pay attention to statistics. “All I know is scoring defense,” he said. “I know we met our goal this week to hold them to 10 points or less. Our kids do a good job, no matter who’s in there. When they get around the goal, they get pretty salty.”
Now the Huskers’ thoughts turn to Oklahoma.
“I’ll probably be more fired up than anyone, because I didn’t play last year,” Gill said. “It’s a big game to me. I can’t wait.”
|Yards per carry||3.2||6.1|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa 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 Nov. 13. See them all »
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