"Great catch" for a touchdown... Jason Gamble catches Travis Turner's 8-yard touchdown pass with 6:36 left in the first quarter. "When I first threw it, I didn't think Jay saw it," Turner said. "But he made a great catch. He's going to be a great, great receiver." Phil Johnson/World-Herald
Lincoln—Nebraska didn’t exactly play perfect football in Saturday’s 62-14 win over Kansas State.
No, not exactly.
Perfect isn’t flubbing up the way the Huskers did in the first half. After all, they didn’t score on every possession in taking a 48-7 halftime lead—just seven of eight.
And what’s wrong with the passing attack? Quarterbacks Travis Turner and Craig Sundberg combined to complete nine of nine in the first half. But things fell apart. For the game, the Huskers finished just 10 of 12.
Close to Perfect
On third-down plays, the offense suffered the same fate. The Huskers converted just 10 of 12 times on third down.
Flaws, flaws, flaws.
Heavens, Dale Klein even missed an extra point.
Not perfection by any means, but what the crowd of 76,068 at Memorial Stadium saw Saturday is about as close to perfect as the 7-1 Huskers will get.
“It’s certainly better than we’ve done in the past,” said wingback Shane Swanson. “I don’t know if I’d call it perfect, but it’s something we needed confidence wise for the offense.”
Nebraska is now perfect in its last 25 straight Big Eight Conference games, setting a school record Saturday for consecutive victories in conference play.
Kansas made the day even more perfect for Nebraska with a 28-11 upset victory over Oklahoma that left the Cornhuskers as the only undefeated team in the Big Eight Conference and in good position to capture a fourth straight championship and Orange Bowl trip.
NU Is 4-0 in Big Eight
The Huskers are 4-0 with games left against Iowa State, Kansas and Oklahoma. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are tied for second at 2-1.
The Cowboys and Sooners must still play each other and Missouri.
Swanson said Nebraska’s players didn’t get too excited when they heard the Oklahoma score.
“I don’t think anyone was overwhelmed by it because we’ve still got to play them,” Swanson said. “It’s certainly going to help us out winning the Big Eight and going to the Orange Bowl, but we can’t look ahead to that. We’ve got to take them one game at a time.”
That’s how the Huskers took Kansas State. They also folded, spindled and mutilated them.
The Huskers’ 62 points were the most ever scored against a Jim Dickey team in his seven seasons as Kansas State coach. Missouri set the previous high in a 61-21 win over the Wildcats last week.
The Wildcats are a team beaten down by injuries. They’re missing their best quarterback, Stan Weber, and their two best linebackers, Stu Peters and Bob Daniels.
Several other linebackers are injured. To compensate, the Wildcats used a 6-1 defense, with just one linebacker most of the game.
“We figured they would just come with one linebacker,” Nebraska’s Turner said. “We ran pretty well against it.”
The Huskers ran for 346 yards and passed for 145 for a total offense of 491 yards. Nebraska held the Wildcats to 190.
“I thought our effort as good,” Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said. “I was a little concerned we might come out a little flat today. I don’t think we were.”
Not in the first half anyway.
The Huskers struck for seven touchdowns and 321 yards in the first half, while holding the Wildcats to 52 yards and a touchdown.
Nebraska led 19-0 when Kansas State defensive end Grady Newton sacked Turner to force a fumble. Renneth Reed recovered for the Wildcats at the Husker 25-yard line.
After a 3-yard loss, Kansas State scored on a 28-yard halfback pass from Todd Moody to Kent Dean, wide open in the Husker secondary.
If the Wildcats gained any hope from the first-quarter touchdown, it didn’t last long.
The Husker scoring parade continued with four touchdowns in the second quarter. I-back Jeff Smith scored twice on runs of 1 and 16 yards, fullback Tom Rathman added a 1-yard touchdown and Turner a 2-yarder with 41 seconds left in the half.
‘Needed to Score’
Turner started the Husker scoring with a 2-yard run to cap Nebraska’s opening drive—a 79-yarder in 13 plays that chewed up five minutes and 31 seconds.
“It was really critical that we took the opening drive into the wind and took it in to score,” Osborne said. “That was somewhat different than what we’ve had happen in preceding weeks. We’ve kind of given the opposition some encouragement.”
Kansas State didn’t benefit from that kind of good fortune.
After scoring on its first possession, Nebraska stopped the Wildcats and got good field position at the Kansas State 34 after a 23-yard punt by Scott Fulhage.
The Huskers needed just four plays to score on an 8-yard pass from Turner to freshman split end Jason Gamble. Nebraska led 13-0 after Klein missed the extra point.
Nebraska got even better field position on its next possession, thanks to linebacker Mark Daum’s interception of a Randy Williams pass. Daum returned the interception 14 yards to the Wildcat 13.
Three plays later, I-back Doug DuBose made it 19-0 with a 5-yard touchdown run. On a two-point conversion attempt, DuBose caught a pass from Turner but was tackled just short of the goal line.
With 3:59 left in the first quarter, Nebraska led 19-0 and Kansas State didn’t seem capable of doing much against the Husker defense.
“We had them 19-0 before they had much opportunity to do anything,” Osborne said. “And that was due to a turnover.”
“He was hit blindside from the backside,” Osborne said. “We just had a lineman that didn’t get out backside to protect him on an audible quickly enough. I don’t think he ever saw the guy that hit him.”
Kansas State’s only other touchdown of the game followed a Husker turnover in the third quarter. Defensive back Bryan Siebler fumbled a punt that John Stonner recovered at the Husker 23.
Two plays later, Williams threw 25 yards to Gerald Alpin for a touchdown that made it 55-14 with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.
Williams, a redshirt freshman, made his first college start against the Huskers. Weber, Kansas State’s regular quarterback, missed his second straight game with a collapsed lung.
’83 Game Remembered
With a 48-7 halftime lead, Nebraska wanted to make sure it didn’t repeat its performance of last year against the Wildcats.
In Manhattan, Kan., a year ago, the Husker led 38-5 at halftime. But Kansas State rallied for 20 straight points to get back in the game.
“They embarrassed us in the second half last year,” Nebraska defensive coordinator Charlie McBride said. “Even though we won the game, you had the feeling you really got beat. This year we weren’t going to let that happen.”
The Huskers started the second half the way they left off in the first. Swanson returned the second-half kickoff 47 yards to the Kansas State 48-yard line.
From there, Nebraska marched to a 1-yard touchdown by Rathman to make it 55-7.
“That kickoff right at the start of the second half kind of cooled any momentum they might have gotten,” McBride said.
Swanson, besides getting the Huskers off to a good start in the second half, helped get things going at the start of the game—catching a 20-yard pass from Turner on the first play.
Osborne said last week that he wasn’t happy with Nebraska’s passing, and that he wanted to throw more against the Wildcats.
’Made Good Calls’
The Huskers didn’t pass much, but Osborne had to be happy with the results. Turner was five of six for 73 yards, and Craig Sundberg was five of five for 72.
Turner said Osborne made good calls on Nebraska’s passes.
“We were fairly efficient in just hitting the open guy,” Turner said.
Swanson led the Huskers with three catches for 51 yards.
“It’s good we had a chance to air the ball a little,” Swanson said, “because I think we’re going to need it down the road.”
Osborne seemed most pleased about using a lot of players. Nebraska suited up 11, and 98 got in the game—58 on offense and 40 on defense.
“Obviously, the top units did a good job,” Osborne said. “I was pleased to get so much playing time to the second, third and even fourth-unit players. It’s been a long time since we’ve had that happen.”
Defense Plays Well
The lower-unit defenders enjoyed a bright moment in the fourth quarter when they kept the Wildcats from another touchdown with a goal-line stand. Linebacker Todd Proffitt stopped Wildcat James Ricketts for no gain on fourth down from the 1.
McBride said the defense performed well in holding the Wildcats to 190 yards.
“I think that’s more of a credit to the younger players,” he said. “I expect it out of our first bunch. Even when the younger players lined up wrong, they played the ball well.”
Kansas State, 2-6, will try to regroup next week against Oklahoma State in Manhattan.
Nebraska travels to Ames, Iowa, to play Iowa State, which tied Missouri on Saturday and almost beat Oklahoma last week.