STILLWATER, Okla. — The way the Nebraska defense sees it, Oklahoma State tailback Thurman Thomas would have been better off running his legs Saturday afternoon instead of his mouth Friday night.
At a Stillwater theater complex the night before No. 2 Nebraska humbled the No. 12 Cowboys 35-0, Thomas the nation’s leading rusher and his teammates bumped into the Huskers as the teams were leaving the building.
“Thurman walked by,” NU defensive end Broderick Thomas said, “and right in front of our whole defense said, “You guys won’t be able to stop me one-on-one. It will take all 11 of you.’
“He went off like the Tasmanian devil had jumped in his heart. I almost fell on the ground laughing.”
But Nebraska’s other first-team defenders weren’t amused.
“That really pumped the defense up,” tackle Neil Smith said.
“If we had lined up last night, it might have been worse than it turned out today.
“We couldn’t settle the fellas down until we got back to the hotel. But we got together and saved that frustration so we could use it on the field instead.”
In blowing off steam before a sellout crowd of 50,440 at Lewis Field, Nebraska blew Thurman Thomas away.
His 140-yard average per game and streak of five straight 100-yard games crashed in the face of a Blackshirt blast that limited him to 7 yards in nine carries.
“His number is 34,” cornerback Charles Fryar said. “And 3 and 4 is 7. That’s what he got.”
For Thomas, it was a career-low in his 41 games at OSU. In four games against Nebraska, he has rushed for 123 yards in 59 carries, a 2.1 average.
The defense also saved some anger for the other members of Oklahoma State’s “Triplets” quarterback Mike Gundy and receiver Hart Lee Dykes, players OSU Coach Pat Jones hoped would lead the Cowboys to their first win over NU in 26 years.
Gundy, a 64 percent passer and ranked eighth in the country, completed 20 of 42 for 221 yards, but feared for his life doing it.
Nebraska sacked him four times one more than in his previous five games combined and Fryar picked off a pass in the end zone to blunt one of only two OSU scoring threats.
Dykes, No. 6 nationally in receiving, caught five passes for 113 yards. But television replays indicated he committed pass interference on a 47-yard catch. Officials did not penalize OSU on the play.
Overall, Nebraska held the nation’s fifth-highest scoring team without a point and the No. 8 total offense machine to 264 yards — 182 yards below average.
“I wouldn’t want to say this was our best game because I’d want to sit down and think,” NU defensive coordinator Charlie McBride said. “But it was one of the better games we’ve played since I’ve been at Nebraska.
“That’s a big accomplishment against a team like that. They’re legit.”
NU head coach Tom Osborne said it wasn’t just the defense that played well.
The Husker offense did its part with 617 total yards, the best effort since running up 639 against Kansas in 1984.
I-backs Keith Jones and Ken Clark, both questionable early in the week with injuries, combined for 198 yards in 30 carries and four touchdowns.
Quarterback Steve Taylor, who missed the Oct. 10 game with a bruised left shoulder, came back to complete 7 of 12 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. He also ran 11 times for 43.
“I thought this was one of the better games Nebraska has played in a long time,” Osborne said. “We really felt coming down here that it was anybody’s game.”
So did Associated Press college football editor Herschel Nissenson, who was at the game and earlier in the week had picked OSU to upset Nebraska 28-27.
“Where’s Herschel?” Osborne asked, feigning anger and then smiling. “Really, I felt the same way he did. I felt there was a good chance they could win the game.”
But OSU 4-0 in 1983, 4-0 in 1984, 4-0 in 1985 and 5-0 this year heading into the Nebraska game came out a loser again.
The reason Nebraska improved to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the Big Eight, Osborne said, was what occurred at the line of scrimmage.
“The big factor was what we hoped would happen that we would be dominant up front,” he said. “Our offensive line did a great job today.”
Defensively, McBride said the same about his people up front.
“We’ve got some quick kids and that was the difference,” he said. “Our kids did a great job rushing the passer, but not overrunning him. That’s the biggest thing against a quarterback like that.”
Gundy, whom Osborne likened to 1984 Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie of Boston College because of his scrambling, completed three straight passes on OSU’s second possession.
But three plays later, Smith sacked him for an 8-yard loss to snuff a drive.
After a punt and a clipping penalty, Nebraska was pinned at its own 7. But six plays later, the Huskers were in the end zone.
Taylor hit tight end Tom Banderas for 23 yards and wingback Dana Brinson for 26 on back-to-back plays. He finished the drive with a quick slant pass to split end Rod Smith, who broke a tackle and sprinted the rest of the 29 yards to the end zone. The first of Chris Drennan’s five extra points gave Nebraska a 7-0 lead with 5:48 left in the first quarter.
OSU’s Thomas fumbled on the next play and NU’s Jeff Jamrog recovered at the Cowboy 29. But Drennan hooked a 43-yard field-goal attempt wide right four plays later his first miss this season in six tries.
Nebraska churned into OSU territory on its first six possessions but didn’t score again until Clark made his first appearance.
The sophomore out of Omaha Bryan ran for 12, 7 and 14 yards before breaking off left end for a 28-yard touchdown run, dragging Cowboy defensive back Wade Weller into the end zone with him.
“When I looked up and saw him running like that, it reminded me of Mike Rozier,” McBride said.
While Nebraska kept plowing ahead, OSU found itself with first-half situations such as fourth and 7, fourth and 20, fourth and 12, fourth and 9 and fourth and 18 twice.
McBride said he called several “inline stunts or twists,” where an end and a tackle loop around each other before rushing the passer.
“We always had one guy coming up the chute and one guy containing outside,” he said. “I think that kind of confused them.”
The Cowboys figured things out long enough to get to the NU 2 in the second quarter.
The big play was Gundy’s 47-yard pass to Dykes, who appeared to push down Husker safety Mark Blazek to catch the ball.
“He kind of pushed, and I kind of stumbled and looked down for a second,” Blazek said. “I should have put my hands up, but I wasn’t expecting the ball to come that soon. I thought it should have been pass interference, but either way I probably should have stopped it.”
Two plays later, OSU had first and goal at the NU 2. Gundy made a quick drop and lobbed the ball in the end zone toward flanker Ronnie Williams.
But Fryar got into position, jumped and intercepted the pass to preserve the 14-0 lead with 9:20 left in the half.
“They had us down there with our backs to the wall,” McBride said. “But it was great to come out without them scoring. That was a big lift.”
After collecting back-to-back sacks on Gundy late in the half to stop an Oklahoma State possession, Nebraska moved 62 yards in six plays for its third touchdown.
Taylor’s passes of 18 yards to Brinson and 16 yards to Smith set up Jones’ 5-yard TD run. That put the Huskers up 21-0 with 33 seconds left in the first half.
Still, the offense wasn’t satisfied, Smith said.
“When we got in the locker room, we felt it could have been 35-0,” he said. “We really didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.
“I can’t say we were down. Anytime you’re ahead 21-0, you can’t be down. But were were ready to get back out there and put more points on the board.”
The Huskers did that on the second possession of the third quarter.
Smith’s 21-yard reception and fullback Micah Heibel’s 17-yard run were key plays before Jones bolted 17 yards up the middle to score.
Nebraska added another touchdown on its next possession as Clark capped a 14-play, 72-yard drive with a 1-yard run. That made it 35-0 with 11:43 left in the game.
Oklahoma State threatened just once more, moving to the NU 7. But a fourthdown pass was out of bounds in the end zone.
Nebraska got to the OSU 1-yard line in the final minute. Backup quarterback Gerry Gdowski attempted a quarterback sneak on fourth and goal, but the snap slipped away. I-back Jon Kelley picked up the fumble, but was tackled at the 1.
Osborne said he hopes the overall performance impresses others like it impressed him.
“I hope people feel like we’re a good football team because we played a good football team,” he said. “I think we’re good, but I don’t want to get carried away.
“We’ll have a chance to do well in the Big Eight and nationally. For now, the problem is to make sure we don’t get complacent.”
|Yards per carry||2.0||6.3|
Nebraska is 37-5 all-time against Oklahoma State.
|Utah State||Sept. 5|
|Arizona State||Sept. 26|
|South Carolina||Oct. 3|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 17|
|Kansas State||Oct. 24|
|Iowa State||Nov. 7|
|Florida State||Jan. 1|
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