LINCOLN — Often there’s a fine line between winning and losing. Nebraska has two of them.
Nebraska offensive and defensive lines dominated Kansas and helped the second-ranked Huskers swat the Jayhawks 56-6 Saturday before 75,863 at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska lines manhandled the Jayhawks and helped set up the Big Eight showdown Saturday at Oklahoma. The Sooners did their part by blanking Colorado 31-0.
If Nebraska defeats Oklahoma in the nationally televised game on ABC starting at 2:30 p.m. CST, the Huskers would win the Big Eight championship. An Oklahoma victory would give the Sooners the inside track to the title, but they still must play once-beaten Oklahoma State on Nov. 30.
The Huskers piled up 639 total yards, including 498 on the ground, and the NU defense limited Kansas to 144 total yards. Nebraska now is 9-1 overall and 6-0 in Big Eight play. Kansas dropped to 5-6. It was the 17th straight Nebraska victory over Kansas.
The Huskers spotted Kansas a field goal in the first minute. After that, Nebraska dominated the game. It was 38-3 at halftime after the Huskers scored 28 points in the second quarter.
“We played well today on defense,” said Tom Osborne, NU head coach. “Even our second-and third-unit players played very well.
Kansas has moved the ball, but they haven’t been scoring a lot of points.”
The Jayhawks haven’t scored a touchdown in 15 quarters. Their only real chance came after the Huskers’ Paul Miles fumbled away the opening kickoff at the 2-yard line. But Kansas could manage only a 19-yard field goal by Jeff Johnson to take a 3-0 lead with 53 seconds gone.
That was as good as it got for the Jayhawks.
Nebraska sacked Kansas quarterback Mike Norseth nine times.
Norseth, the leading Big Eight passer, rarely had time to throw. Most of the time, the Nebraska secondary shadowed Jayhawk receivers, leaving Norseth to the onslaught of the pass rush. Defensive tackle Jim Skow had one of those sacks, giving him 40 career tackles for losses, a school record. Nebraska’s nine sacks netted 68 yards in losses.
Norseth completed 8 of 25 passes for 77 yards.
“They had a good pass rush but, regardless, we still had time to execute,” Norseth said. “There were some times when I was hurried, but I don’t think that was the case all of the time.”
Kansas Coach Mike Gottfried had no excuses.
“We got beat by a good football team,” Gottfried said. “It was just one of those days when you come out and can’t get anything going, both ways. I have to give Nebraska a lot of credit. They’re a great football team.”
While the NU defense took the air out of Kansas, the Huskers’ ground game mauled the Jayhawks. NU amassed 438 total yards in the first half and never let up. The NU offensive line overwhelmed Kansas.
It was fitting that the Nebraska offensive line turned in a great effort. Cletus Fischer, NU offensive line coach for the past 17 years and a member of the coaching staff the past 26 years, will retire after this season.
Saturday was the last home game for Fischer, and his linemen gave him a going-away present with their dominating performance.
“I can seldom remember that kind of production in one half,” Osborne said.
Fullback Tom Rathman led Nebraska with 159 yards on nine carries, including a 44-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Rathman also had a 56-yard run. The senior fullback has 852 yards this season, bettering the school record for fullbacks of 717 by Dick Davis in 1967.
I-back Doug DuBose added 109 yards on 17 carries and scored on an 11-yard run. DuBose has 1,115 yards this season. Third-team I-back Keith Jones gained 84 yards on eight carries, scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and stunned Kansas with a 98-yard kickoff return for another touchdown.
It was an impressive Nebraska win and showed that the Huskers are nearing their peak heading into the confrontation with the Sooners.
But the win didn’t come without a price.
NU starting weakside linebacker Marc Munford reinjured his right knee and will undergo surgery today. Osborne said Munford suffered ligament damage and will be out the rest of the season. Munford had arthroscopic surgery on the knee after the Oklahoma State game but missed just one game and returned to play against Colorado.
Osborne said there’s a chance Munford may miss spring practice, too.
Senior tight end Todd Frain sprained his right knee in the second half and probably won’t be able to play against Oklahoma.
“You need big-play players like Munford and Frain in that big game down there, “Osborne said.
Nebraska had many big-play players against Kansas. After the Jayhawks got their early field goal, Dale Klein tied it at 3-3 with a 32-yard field goal, his 13th of the season. That broke the record of 12 set by Billy Todd in 1978 and tied by Dean Sukup in 1979.
Rathman’s 44-yard touchdown run gave Nebraska a 10-3 lead with 2:48 left in the second period.
The Huskers made it 17-3 early in the second quarter when quarterback McCathorn Clayton hit wingback Von Sheppard with a 35-yard scoring pass. Sheppard wrestled the ball away from Kansas safety Travis Hardy in the end zone.
Jones and DuBose scored in the second period on runs of 1 yard and 11 yards to make it 31-3.
Then it was Sheppard’s turn again. Travis Turner came in at quarterback and hit the sophomore wingback with an 82-yard touchdown pass. A brilliant fake handoff to Jones fooled the Kansas defense, and Turner held the ball on his hip waiting for Sheppard to get clear.
Sheppard caught the ball at the Kansas 25, broke to the outside and made it to the end zone. That gave Nebraska a 38-3 halftime lead.
Nebraska quarterbacks completed four of seven passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Clayton hit two of three passes for 47 yards and one score and Turner connected on one of two for 82 yards and another touchdown. Freshman Steve Taylor completed one of two passes for 12 yards. Turner threw the only Nebraska interception.
Nebraska substituted liberally in the second half. The Husker defense continued to smother the Jayhawks.
Jeff Tomjack blocked the punt of Kansas’ Rob Dickerson out of the end zone for a safety to make it 40-3 in the third quarter. Johnson got his second field goal of the game moments later, and it was 40-6.
But Jones quickly took away that little bit of Kansas’ momentum when he zoomed 98 yards with the ensuing kickoff. The sophomore speedster fumbled the kickoff at his own 2, picked up the ball and headed up the middle. He broke through a cluster of players at the 25, then cut toward the sideline. A Kansas tackler spun Jones sideways, but he regained his balance and turned on the speed. Jones, the Big Eight indoor 60-yard dash champion, cut down the sideline and outraced everyone to the end zone. That made it 47-6.
Dickerson fumbled the punt snap on Kansas’ next series and the ball rolled out of the end zone for another safety. It was 49-6 at the end of three quarters.
“The kicking game was nonexistent,” Gottfried said.
Nebraska’s only touchdown in the fourth quarter came with 12:25 left when Taylor scored on a 9-yard run. Moments earlier, Taylor had broken loose on an apparent 23-yard scoring sprint, but a holding penalty wiped out the play.
On a fourth and goal from the 9, Taylor dropped back to pass, but his receivers were covered. He ran through the middle of the Kansas pass rush for the touchdown.
Osborne said that Clayton will start at quarterback against Oklahoma and that Turner will probably see action. But the NU coach also indicated that Taylor, the fastest of the Nebraska quarterbacks, will play against the Sooners.
“I hope he has the maturity to play in a big game like next week,” Osborne said. “He’ll probably figure in there somewhere.”
Osborne said Oklahoma, 7-1, will be Nebraska’s toughest opponent of the season. He said the Sooners are on a roll right now.
“My impression is that they’re as good as they’ve ever been,” Osborne said. “I wouldn’t have said that earlier in the year, but they’re a very fine football team right now.”
The NU-Oklahoma winner will be in position to win the national title.
Osborne said the Huskers will miss the quickness of Munford and Frain against Oklahoma. The game will be decided by the swift, not the strong, Osborne said.
“Those people down there can run,” Osborne said. “You’re going to need as much speed as you can.”
|Yards per carry||1.6||7.9|
Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.
|Florida State||Sept. 7|
|New Mexico||Oct. 5|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 12|
|Kansas State||Nov. 2|
|Iowa State||Nov. 9|
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