LINCOLN — The pregame notes from Oregon’s sports information department Saturday said no future football games with Nebraska have been discussed.
That’s the best news the Ducks got all day.
Nebraska, 3-0 and ranked fourth and fifth nationally, buried Oregon 48-14 before a Memorial Stadium crowd of 76,185, the 145th consecutive sellout.
Adding that score to previous NU wins over Oregon of 63-0 in 1985, 61-7 in 1974 and 34-7 in 1971 means the Ducks left Lincoln a loser in the past 15 years by a combined score of 206-28.
Oregon Coach Rich Brooks said before the game that if the Ducks turned the ball over in their own end of the field that “it will get over with and ugly in a hurry.”
He was so right.
Nebraska’s defense snatched turnovers on Oregon’s first three possessions at the Ducks’ 22, 28 and 22-yard lines and a total of five in the first half as the Huskers roared to a 35-7 lead.
“When you can give our offense the ball on the other team’s 25-yard line, that’s instant points,” senior linebacker Marc Munford said. “It’s a great way to start a game.”
Though Nebraska gave up a season-high 271 total yards, the defense is near the pace of two of the Huskers’ best units in the 1980s. The defense of 1984 had allowed 603 yards after three games and the 1980 group 612. The 1986 unit has given up 651.
“I don’t think we look at the stats that heavily,” Munford said.
“But we care. We want to be a great defense.”
Brooks, whose team fell to 2-2, is convinced.
“I didn’t think we demonstrated the type of team we have today,” he said. “But part of that is because Nebraska has a great defense.”
All-Pac 10 quarterback Chris Miller learned that again first-hand.
Miller, who had the worst day of his career a year ago when he completed 6 of 20 passes for 24 yards against Nebraska, hit 6 of 17 Saturday for 110 yards and three interceptions.
The senior from Eugene, Ore., missed the second half with a bruised nerve in his elbow and might miss this week’s game against USC.
“He’s a good quarterback,” Munford said. “But in the long run, we just had so much pressure on him and kept beating on him that he didn’t want any more of it.”
Though Nebraska was dominant, Coach Tom Osborne said that overall, “it was not a real polished performance.”
“The effort was pretty good, but I think we can play better than what we did,” he said. “Defensively, early on, we didn’t look too bad. As long as we kept the first two units in there we were pretty dominant.
“Offensively, I guess I was a little disappointed in the way we knocked them off the ball. I thought we could run it right at Oregon a little better than we did. We did some good things, but we sputtered, too.”
Nebraska gained a season-low 396 total yards after getting 427 against Florida State and 543 against Illinois. The Huskers rushed for 301 yards, but completed just 6 of 17 passes for 95 yards with two interceptions.
“I’d like to be a little more consistent passing the ball,” Osborne said. “We missed some people who were open.”
Those late for the game on a sunny, 80-degree day also missed something.
For the second straight game, Nebraska’s defense swiped the ball on the first play from scrimmage.
Miller took the snap, but fumbled as he pulled away from center.
The ball flew into a pile and Nebraska defensive end Broderick Thomas pulled it out at the Oregon 22 the first of three recoveries by Thomas.
But the Huskers couldn’t take advantage. They got to the Oregon 6 with the help of Keith Jones’ 6-yard run and a 7-yarder by fullback Ken Kaelin. But on third and goal at the 6, Oregon linebacker Mike Blakey tipped Steve Taylor’s pass and linebacker Dan Devaney made a diving interception in the end zone.
Three plays later, Nebraska got the ball back when cornerback Charles Fryar stepped in front of Duck split end Jan Cespedes and intercepted Miller’s pass at the Oregon 28.
On the fourth play of the ensuing drive, Taylor rolled left on an option, gained 11 yards, then fumbled. As the ball bounced toward the sideline, Jones scooped it up on the bounce and carried it the final yard for the touchdown. The first of Dale Klein’s six extra-point kicks made it 7-0 four minutes into the game.
The Blackshirts the first-team defense, so named for their black practice jerseys claimed a third straight turnover a minute later when Miller scrambled and Thomas stripped him of the ball and recovered at the Oregon 22.
It took the Huskers 44 seconds to convert. Taylor dropped back to throw, stepped up to avoid the rush and drilled a 22-yard touchdown pass to tight end Todd Millikan to make it 14-0.
“We started the game like we wanted to give it away,” Brooks said. “We were in terrible position after giving up three quick turnovers.”
The Ducks were in terrible position all day. Of their 15 possessions, the best starting field position was their 27-yard line.
Oregon struck back with its longest drive of the season, marching 83 yards in nine plays for a touchdown.
Passes of 26 and 13 yards from Miller to flanker J.J. Birden and a 9-yarder to tight end Bobby DeBisschop helped the Ducks move to the NU 25.
Miller then found fullback Alan Jackson open down the middle behind Munford with a pass to the 5. After the catch, Jackson sidestepped another defender to score. Matt MacLeod’s 64th straight extra point of his career cut the gap to 14-7 with 3:59 left in the first quarter.
“They had two wideouts and then sent their fullback down the chute,” Munford said. “It’s the same thing Florida State used for a touchdown.
“That play really puts us in a bind. It’s something we have to work on.”
Nebraska came right back with a 15-play, 71-yard touchdown drive.
Kaelin’s 13-yard run and a 12-yard scramble by Taylor, NU’s leading rusher with 85 yards in nine carries, were the only plays of 10 yards or longer on the drive.
Oregon had a chance to snuff the threat on fourth and two at the 7. But Jones swept right for 3 yards and a first down. On the next play, backup fullback Micah Heibel stepped over bodies for a 4-yard TD, giving Nebraska a 21-7 lead just three seconds into the second quarter.
The Huskers forced a punt, which Oregon’s Mike Preacher boomed a school-record 78 yards. But NU’s Dana Brinson carted it back 31 yards to put the Huskers at their own 38.
A pass interference call against Oregon got Nebraska an automatic first down on third and 11 at the 37.
Then came one of the wildest Nebraska runs since Mike Rozier’s sideline-to-sideline dash for a 2-yard touchdown against UCLA in 1983.
From his own 42-yard line, Taylor rolled right on the option, sidestepped one man, reversed his field and raced left while retreating as far as his own 30. He then bolted up the sideline behind a block from Stan Parker before being dumped at the Oregon 12 a 46-yard gain.
Osborne said the run didn’t make him fear an injury to his top quarterback.
“I’m not going to tell him not to do that,” he said. “It takes a heck of a player to make that kind of play.
“I don’t think you can make a living doing it. But he’s got the talent to get away with some things like that.”
Four plays later, quarterback Clete Blakeman, subbing for the winded Taylor, sneaked in from the 1 to make it 28-7.
After an interception by NU’s Bryan Siebler and a Nebraska punt, Oregon got the ball back only to lose it for the fifth time of the half.
Husker strong safety Jeff Tomjack, making his first collegiate start, intercepted Miller near midfield, returned it 36 yards, then fumbled forward.
But NU’s Thomas grabbed the loose ball and carried it the final 4 yards for the TD, giving NU a 35-7 lead with 3:27 left in the half.
Osborne said Nebraska was fortunate to have friendly bounces produce two touchdowns, but might have scored a couple more touchdowns if it weren’t for Husker mistakes.
“I wasn’t trying to embarrass Oregon,” he said. “We weren’t trying to run up the score. I’d just like to see us execute well.”
In the third quarter, Jones capped a five-play, 53-yard drive with a 10-yard TD run, helped by a Heibel block. Klein missed the PAT, breaking a streak of 60 straight, eight short of Kevin Seibel’s school record set over the 1981 and 1982 seasons.
On NU’s next possession, Millikan grabbed his third touchdown pass of the year, a 29-yarder from Blakeman that was tipped near the goal line by Oregon defensive back Anthony Newman. That put the Huskers up 48-7 going into the fourth quarter.
With 1:03 left in the game, Oregon capped an 80-yard drive against third-, fourth-, and fifth-team defenders with a 1-yard run by James Harper, making the final 48-14.
|Yards per carry||1.4||4.8|
Nebraska is 6-2 all-time against Oregon.
|Florida State||Sept. 6|
|South Carolina||Oct. 4|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 11|
|Kansas State||Nov. 1|
|Iowa State||Nov. 8|
Nebraska has played 11 games on Sept. 27. See them all »
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