AMES, Iowa — The man with the flaming red hair Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne — unleashed a temper to match Saturday when his seventh-ranked Huskers trailed Iowa State by a touchdown at halftime.
“I’ve never seen Coach Osborne like he was,” defensive end Broderick Thomas said. “He was highly upset.”
“He usually doesn’t raise his voice much,” said safety Bryan Siebler. “But he got our attention.”
“He talked about our season being on the line,” said offensive guard Stan Parker, “and about not wanting to see the Big Eight race and the Orange Bowl bid get away.”
Nebraska made sure those goals stayed within reach by rallying for 28 second-half points in a 35-14 win over Iowa State.
Fullback Ken Kaelin and I-back Tyreese Knox helped power the comeback. Kaelin, a senior from Westerville, Neb., carried 25 times for a career-high 126 yards. Knox, a sophomore from Daly City, Calif., making his first varsity start, finished a yard short of his best with 126 yards in 29 carries.
An ISU Stadium crowd of 48,007 about 2,000 short of capacity saw the Huskers move to 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the Big Eight. The Cyclones are 5-4 and 2-3.
Why was Osborne so riled up at halftime?
“I thought they were outplaying us,” he said. “Other than our first drive, we didn’t do anything offensively. And they were knocking us off the ball and getting 4 or 5 yards on running plays, which I was surprised at.
“We appeared to be a little flat, and they were really playing hard and playing well. We told our players that unless they started controlling the line of scrimmage better that we were going to get beat.”
Nebraska controlled it the first seven minutes, taking the opening kickoff and tromping 80 yards for a touchdown in 16 plays of smash-mouth football.
But Iowa State, which hadn’t scored a point against Nebraska since 1983, racked up 14 in a 45-second span of the second quarter.
Backup running back Curtis Warren, who entered the game with 59 yards for the season, bolted 58 on his first carry Saturday to set up one touchdown. Then on the ensuing kickoff, NU freshman Terry Rodgers lost a fumble that led to Alex Espinoza’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Robbie Minor, which made it 14-7 with 3:01 left in the half.
The Cyclone damage could have been worse in the second quarter if Siebler hadn’t intercepted Espinoza at the NU 6 and if ISU hadn’t botched a 28-yard field-goal attempt by dropping a snap.
“I thought we should have had 17 points minimum at half maybe 24,” Cyclone Coach Jim Criner said. “I feel really badly for my players. We played a good football game.”
Iowa State came close to setting a national record for single-game pass defense by holding Nebraska to a minus-3 yards. The all-time low in Division I is minus-16, which Virginia Military limited Richmond to in 1957.
“It obviously wasn’t a great day to throw the ball,” Osborne said, referring to the 12-degree wind chill and westerly 20-mph wind gusts. “And we didn’t throw it very well at all.”
Quarterback Steve Taylor was 1 of 9 before taking himself out of the game in the fourth quarter with a bruised back. His only completion was a swing pass to Knox with about 12 minutes left in the third quarter.
With the passing game on ice, Nebraska kept pounding on the ground.
On the Huskers’ second possession of the third quarter, they moved 80 yards in 15 plays to tie the game.
Knox had runs of 16 and 6 yards in the drive, plus a 1-yarder on fourth and one at the ISU 15. Kaelin bolted 11 yards once and had a 5-yarder on fourth and two at the ISU 29.
Taylor capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown on an option keeper. Dale Klein’s extra-point kick made it 14-14 with 2:53 left in the third quarter.
Three plays later, a Danny Noonan sack forced Iowa State to punt from its own 24. Kicker Rick Frank missed the low snap and chased it down at the goal line with NU defensive back Dante Wiley in pursuit.
“I thought I was going to get him for a safety,” Wiley said.
“But he lateraled the ball forward.”
Blocking back Anthony Hoskins caught Frank’s underhand pass. But NU defensive end Jeff Jamrog buried Hoskins for a 19-yard loss at the 5, giving Nebraska a chance for 7 points instead of 2.
The Huskers took advantage in one play as Kaelin ran up the middle to score. Klein’s PAT made it 21-14 with 52 seconds left in the period.
Nebraska outgained Iowa State 107 to minus-14 yards in the third quarter, but Husker coaches and players said no radical changes led to NU regaining control at the line of scrimmage.
“We just kept coming at them,” Parker said. “We didn’t play terribly the first half, but we were bothered by some mental errors where someone would blow an assignment and we would get somebody tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
“In the second half, we basically eliminated those mistakes and powered it right at them.”
That power led to another long touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, which Dana Brinson gave a head start by returning a punt 16 yards.
Backup quarterback Clete Blakeman led the Huskers 60 yards in 13 plays, using 6:43 of the clock. Knox’s 13-yarder and Kaelin’s 10-yarder were the big plays leading to Blakeman’s 1-yard sneak that made it 28-14 with 4:56 to play.
In the final minute, Robb Schnitzler fielded a line-drive punt from Frank, hurdled a defender on the east sideline and raced 70 yards for a touchdown to finish the scoring.
“The last punt return was a little bit of a gift,” Osborne said.
“The score was not indicative of the game.”
But the total yardage was.
In winning the first half 14-7, Iowa State held a 188 to 132 yardage advantage. But in Nebraska’s 28-0 second half, the Huskers outgained the Cyclones 175 to 12.
“We just started coming off the ball better,” Osborne said.
“And in the fourth quarter, it looked like we had worn them down a little as our size and strength asserted itself.”
Nebraska appeared to assert itself from the opening kickoff with 16 plays of old-time power football.
The Huskers, getting the ball after ISU won the toss and chose the wind, stomped 80 yards for a touchdown, all on the ground.
Nebraska went to third down only twice on the drive, aided by runs of 7, 10 and 12 yards by Knox and 7 and 11 by Kaelin.
Taylor capped the drive with a 1-yard sneak. Klein’s conversion made it 7-0 with 7:46 to play in the first quarter.
But the Husker offense sputtered from there, while Iowa State threatened twice before finally breaking a scoreless string against Nebraska that had reached 138 minutes and 10 seconds of game time over three years.
A 15-yard penalty against NU’s Rod Smith for illegally batting a punt gave ISU the ball at midfield.
Espinoza, thanks to his own 24-yard scramble, moved the Cyclones to the NU 23. But on third and six, Siebler intercepted Espinoza’s pass for Dennis Ross at the 6.
After stopping Nebraska on three downs, ISU moved 38 yards to the NU 11. Espinoza passes of 10 yards to Eddie Brown and 14 yards to Tom Schulting were the big plays.
On third and two at the 11, Espinoza threw to Minor in the end zone, but Charles Fryar broke it up, drawing boos from the crowd wanting an interference call.
On fourth down, backup quarterback Brett Sadek bobbled the snap on Frank’s 28-yard field-goal try, rolled out and was sacked at the 21.
After stopping NU again, ISU broke the scoring drought with a 70-yard touchdown drive in seven plays.
The backbreaker came when Warren, a transfer from Northeast Oklahoma Junior College, made his big run.
NU defensive tackle Chris Spachman appeared to have Warren trapped at the line of scrimmage, but he spun free and sprinted down the middle of the field for 58 yards before Brian Davis caught him at the 4.
Three plays later, Joe Henderson punched it in from the 1 and Frank kicked the extra point to tie the game at 7 with 3:46 left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, NU’s Rodgers dropped the ball, picked it up, then fumbled when hit by Tim Creasman and Mark Criner recovered at the NU 18.
Henderson slashed for 9 yards, then a holding penalty pushed the Cyclones back to the 19.
But Espinoza took a short drop back and found Minor between Fryar and Brian Washington for a 19-yard TD pass. Frank’s PAT pushed it to 14-7 with 3:01 to play.
Osborne, who at Colorado replaced Taylor with Blakeman to start the third quarter, said he didn’t consider a quarterback change Saturday for the second half.
“I thought Steve was playing OK,” Osborne said. “We just needed to do a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage. And it wasn’t just offensively, it was defensively, too.
“I don’t think we took Iowa State lightly. I think we were ready to play. Iowa State was ready to give a fanatical effort, and I’m just pleased we won the game.”
|Yards per carry||3.5||4.2|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa State.
|Florida State||Sept. 6|
|South Carolina||Oct. 4|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 11|
|Kansas State||Nov. 1|
|Iowa State||Nov. 8|
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