LINCOLN — It’s tempting to say Nebraska plowed Kansas State Saturday, but we won’t.
It’s also tempting to say the ninth-ranked Huskers used a 17-point first quarter to ice their win, but we’ll resist that, too.
Just say it was a day where both teams had s-no-w business playing football.
After a first-half snowburst that dropped 1 1/4 inches on Memorial Stadium, a 40-minute halftime to plow it off the field and a second half of drizzle and sleet, Nebraska skated off with a 38-0 victory.
“I think that’s the worst playing conditions we’ve had here in the 24-or 25-odd years I’ve been coaching,” NU’s Tom Osborne said.
Press box observers much older than Osborne said it was the worst home game day in 50 years.
“I’ve always been able to tell recruits, particularly from the South and the West Coast, that it gets cold, but we never play in snow,” Osborne said. “And we really haven’t. We’ve had some flurries, but it never collected on the field before.”
But it collected everywhere Saturday on the field, the fans and even the “Californians for Nebraska” sign.
The announced crowd was 75,893, but press box observers estimated the no-show total at kickoff when the temperature was 32 and the wind-chill index 13 degrees at about 5,000. The stadium was still at least 75 percent to 80 percent full at the start of the second half.
“I appreciate them showing up,” Osborne said. “They are amazing to come out on a day like this.”
Among those who remained were two Florida Citrus Bowl officials who shucked their overcoats on the sidelines and smiled broadly for a picture to prove to the folks back home what they had seen.
If they looked between the snowflakes at the game, they saw at least a partial return to form of Nebraska quarterback Steve Taylor and I-back Keith Jones.
Taylor, who last week rushed for just 27 yards and threw two interceptions in a loss to Colorado, ran for two touchdowns Saturday, passed for another and accounted for 128 yards in total offense.
Jones, the Big Eight’s leading rusher until the Buffs held him to 9 yards, gained 109 yards in 18 carries and scored two touchdowns.
Overall, the Huskers outgained Kansas State 385 yards (325 rushing and 60 passing) to 106 (90 rushing and 16 passing).
“We were really hoping to get our offense untracked a little bit today,” Osborne said. “The weather made it hard to do so, but I thought we played pretty well when we could get footing.”
But whether Nebraska, 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the league, made significant improvement after the loss to Colorado, no one quite knows.
“I don’t know if you can say,” Osborne said. “I think we executed pretty well. There’s going to be about one half of the ballgame we’ll be able to grade with some reliability and say, “This is kind of how we can play.’
“I think we played pretty well. But still, about half the game was pretty miserable.”
The snowflakes got bigger and the yard markers harder to see about 20 minutes before game time, when the first plowing began.
“I was really concerned when I saw the snow collecting,” Osborne said. “This is the kind of day that can be a tremendous equalizer.
“We felt we had a better football team. Yet you can envision somebody getting a quick, easy score and the field getting almost unplayable and staying that way, and then you lose the game.”
Nebraska eased Osborne’s fears with its early scores. The Huskers scored 17 points in the first 12 minutes, then played peek-a-boo through the flakes with K-State the rest of the first half.
The long halftime to clear the snow upset Kansas State Coach Stan Parrish, whose team dropped to 2-6 overall and 1-3 in the league.
“I was against waiting,” he said. “That sounds like a sore loser, but that’s life in the Big Eight.
“There’s no question that the weather in the first half helped us. It made unequals almost equal.”
When the snow stopped and the field was cleared for the third quarter, Nebraska scored touchdowns on its first and third possessions to end any Kansas State comeback hopes. Taylor scored from the 1 and hit Robb Schnitzler with a 33-yard pass for the other.
Jones’ 1-yard run with 11:50 left in the game finished the scoring.
Taylor’s touchdown bomb, after a play-action fake, was a booster shot of confidence for the sophomore. He completed 3 of 4 passes for 60 yards Saturday after connecting on 7 of 20 last week.
“It was helpful,” Osborne said. “He had one interception, but I could see his feet slip as he let go of the ball. So I couldn’t hold that against him.
“It really was a tough day to throw. You could see that in Kansas State. They are a throwing football team, and the weather really handicapped them.”
Nebraska’s defense also had a hand in capping any K-State outbursts.
For the third time this season, the Huskers took the ball away on their opponent’s first play of the game when Charles Fryar intercepted a pass. They didn’t allow a pass completion until the 8:40 mark of the fourth quarter. And thanks to a disputed missed field goal, the Husker defenders registered their first shutout since last year’s 49-0 blanking of Iowa State.
“It was long overdue,” linebacker Marc Munford said. “We went into the game wanting it. It’s a goal for every game.
“It feels great to see that goose egg up there on the board. It’s shows we did our job.”
Kansas State wasn’t convinced it was shut out.
When sophomore place-kicker Mark Porter tried a 27-yard field goal in the second quarter, the ‘Cats thought it looked good, which would have made it 17-3.
But the officials didn’t, calling it wide. That sent Porter sprinting to the end zone to complain.
“Our field goal was flat-out good,” Parrish said. “I didn’t ask the kicker I asked my holder, and generally he’ll give me a straight answer. You can sit here and be quiet about those things. But when they impede your play, you have to speak up for your players.”
When Kansas State chose to kickoff with a 14-mph north wind to start the game, Nebraska took the ball and didn’t give it back until all footprints led to the KSU end zone.
Husker fullback Doug Dalton returned K-State’s short kickoff 25 yards to the NU 47.
On the first play from scrimmage, Jones ran 27 yards on a sweep right to the KSU 26. Three plays netted 9 yards, and on fourth and one, Taylor sneaked for a first down by the length of a football.
When Wildcat defensive back Marcus Miller interfered with Rod Smith on a Taylor pass, Nebraska got the ball at the 2. From there, Jones popped in off left tackle for the touchdown. Dale Klein’s extra point made it 7-0 with 11:17 left in the first quarter.
KSU’s John Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 29 yards to the Wildcats’ 45. But on the first play, Nebraska took the ball away.
Quarterback Randy Williams found flanker Clark Brown with an 8-yard pass in the flat. But the ball slipped through Brown’s hands and into Fryar’s, who ran it back 7 yards to the K-State 45.
Nebraska skidded to the end zone in five plays.
Taylor gained 11 yards, fullback Ken Kaelin 19 and Jones 6 to the KSU 9. An illegal motion penalty set the Huskers back 5 yards. But Taylor ran the option left, following a block from Kaelin, and darted into the front corner of the end zone for the 14-yard touchdown. Klein’s PAT made it 14-0 with 8:35 left in the quarter.
After Nebraska stuffed Kansas State on three downs, Troy Faunce launched a 39-yard punt. But NU’s Smith grabbed it in the middle of field, shook loose from two tackles and skittered 60 yards to the KSU 4 before free safety Erick Harper made a saving tackle on the west sideline.
Smith said his dash through the snow was no fun.
“I hate this stuff,” said the junior from Thornton, Colo. “I’m a sissy. I play receiver. My hands are supposed to be warm.”
K-State stopped Nebraska this time. Kaelin gained 2 on first down, but nose guard Jim Oehm walloped Tyreese Knox for a 4-yard loss.
On third and goal from the 6, Taylor noticed the 25-second clock about to hit zero and stood up to call a timeout. But the ball was snapped and Taylor had to recover for a loss of 3. Klein came on to kick a 26-yard field goal, boosting Nebraska’s lead to 17-0 with 3:55 to play in the first quarter.
With the snow getting heavier, Kansas State got its first two first downs of the game and appeared ready to move deeper into NU territory when cornerback Brian Davis dumped receiver John Williams on a pass play. But the officials ruled Randy Williams’ pass was uncatchable, sending Parrish into a rage. Despite the argument, K-State faced fourth and eight at the NU 38 and decided to punt.
The decision proved to be the right one when NU fullback Micah Heibel fumbled on the first play after the punt and Harper recovered at the NU 16.
But the Wildcats couldn’t score. Nebraska tried to help with a piling-on penalty that gave KSU a first down at the NU 11. But a holding penalty the next play pushed the ‘Cats back, and on fourth and 9 from the 10, Porter missed his disputed field goal with 12:22 left in the half.
After an exchange of punts, Nebraska fumbled again.
Taylor pitched the ball to a slipping Knox. Linebacker Matt Wallerstedt flopped on it at the Nebraska 40. But the Blackshirts, the first-team defense, so named because of the black pullovers they wear at practice, forced another punt.
The NU offense made a final surge before halftime.
Taylor’s 17-yard pass to Smith, the first completion of the game, got the Huskers to the 49. Taylor then tried to hit an open Schnitzler deep, but his pass fell short and Miller intercepted, one of a season-high five turnovers by Nebraska.
“I was a little disappointed in the turnovers,” Osborne said.
“But I guess it was the kind of day where you’re going to have some.”
Nebraska received to start the second half and marched 61 yards in 14 plays. Jones’ 17-yard run and a 10-yard Taylor-to-Dana Brinson pass were the big plays before Taylor scored from the 1 to make it 24-0.
Clete Blakeman replaced Taylor on the next series, guiding NU to the KSU 19. But his pass for Brinson was intercepted by Miller at the 3.
Taylor came back the next time Nebraska got the ball to lead a three-play drive, capped by the 33-yard TD to Schnitzler.
Blakeman then returned to lead a nine-play, 56-yard TD drive.
Jones and Kaelin had 14-yard runs before Jones ended it with a 1-yard score with 11:44 left in the game.
Osborne said the good effort in bad conditions was important going into the final month of the season.
“Next week’s game will be a tough one at Iowa State,” he said.
“And then we go to Kansas. We really need to get some momentum built up going into the Oklahoma game.”
|Yards per carry||1.9||5.4|
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas State.
|Florida State||Sept. 6|
|South Carolina||Oct. 4|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 11|
|Kansas State||Nov. 1|
|Iowa State||Nov. 8|
Nebraska has played 18 games on Nov. 1. See them all »
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