COLUMBIA, Mo. — Nebraska had a better blitz than Missouri did Saturday.
The Huskers’ lasted an entire quarter.
They pounded the Tigers with 26 points in the first quarter and cruised to a 50-7 win before 55,620, the largest crowd at Faurot Field since the 1985 Nebraska-Missouri game.
It was Nebraska’s biggest first quarter since a 35-point spree in last year’s Oklahoma State game. And it came against a Tiger defense using some of the same blitzes that had the Huskers reeling through much of their 26-18 win last year in Lincoln.
“They blitzed quite a bit today,” said NU Coach Tom Osborne, whose third- and fourth-ranked Huskers improved to 6-0. “But we did a better job with the blitz.
“We were better prepared to play today. We audibled better and did a better job.”
The man calling the audibles, quarterback Gerry Gdowski, ran 11 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns and threw for another score in the first half as the Huskers sprinted to a 36-0 lead.
In last year’s Missouri game, by contrast, Nebraska had no points and 15 total yards by halftime.
“I think we were a lot more emotionally charged this week than maybe any week except for Minnesota,” said split end Morgan Gregory, who opened the Huskers’ scoring by catching a 19-yard touchdown pass from Gdowski.
“Just off what they did last year, we had to give them the proper respect — no matter what they had done this year,” Gregory said. “We knew they had the capability to play with us.”
The 1-5 Tigers didn’t do that until Nebraska had almost covered the 26 1/2-point spread on the game.
The Huskers did more than score on their first five series. They also scored on Missouri’s first two.
The Huskers’ Mike Croel blocked Mark Plunkett’s first punt through the end zone for a safety.
Travis Hill blocked Plunkett’s second kick, and Reggie Cooper recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. That put Nebraska up 23-0 just 6 1/2 minutes into the game.
“We made every mistake possible,” Missouri Coach Bob Stull said. “You don’t have a chance to beat a good team when you play like that. You won’t beat any team.”
When the Huskers weren’t blocking Missouri’s kicks, they usually were returning them for big yards. They brought back seven punts for 166 yards, a 23.7 average, and had kickoff returns of 45 and 24 yards.
“The kicking game was much better today,” Osborne said. “I think we had a 180-degree turnaround as far as that was concerned.”
Richard Bell started the turnaround with his 45-yard return on the opening kickoff. Nine plays later, Gdowski beat an all-out blitz with his touchdown pass to Gregory. Gregg Barrios’ first extra point made it 7-0 with 11:16 left in the first quarter.
“The kickoff return that Rich had boosted everybody up,” Gregory said. “Missouri was real charged before that.”
The Tiger fans’ loudest cheer of the first half came after Plunkett’s third punt — the first one that wasn’t blocked.
A bad snap did Plunkett in on the first blocked kick. He stepped to his right in hopes of avoiding the 10-man rush, but he drilled his punt off Croel and through the end zone for a safety.
The Huskers needed only two plays after the free kick to score again. I-back Ken Clark faked a reverse to Bell and ducked up the west sideline for a 28-yard gain. The Huskers then ran an option the opposite way, and Gdowski accelerated past several Missouri defenders for a 34-yard touchdown.
Three plays later, the Huskers again sent 10 players after Plunkett. It paid off with Hill’s block and Cooper’s touchdown.
Chris Drennan’s 48-yard field goal with 2:08 left in the quarter gave Nebraska 26 points before the Tigers had so much as a first down. They finally got untracked on the next series, marching 66 yards in 10 plays to the Husker 1. But linebacker Pat Tyrance stuffed Michael Jones on a dive over the top on fourth down, and the Huskers took over.
Fifteen plays, 74 yards and 6 1/2 minutes later, Drennan added another field goal, a 42-yarder, to make it 29-0 with 5:52 left in the half.
After stopping Missouri again, Nebraska scored on its fifth straight possession. This one was set up by Gregory’s 29-yard punt return to the Missouri 36. A 17-yard run by Gdowski and a personal foul against Missouri put the Huskers in position for Gdowski’s second TD run, a 2-yarder on a broken play. Gdowski missed connections with I-back Leodis Flowers on a handoff to the left side, but the quarterback spun around, found nobody to his right and waltzed into the end zone. Barrios’ kick made it 36-0.
The Huskers scored again on their first drive of the second half. Clark started the seven-play march with a 36-yard run and ended it with a 5-yard touchdown run.
Clark finished with 125 rushing yards, 3 more than Gdowski. The senior I-back out of Omaha Bryan topped 100 yards for the fifth time in six games. He pushed his career total to 2,589, moving past Keith Jones to third on Nebraska’s all-time list, behind Mike Rozier (4,780) and I.M. Hipp (2,814).
The Huskers fumbled on their next two series after Clark’s TD. The second set up Missouri’s first touchdown in 13 quarters — a 1-yard dive by Jones. Dan Baker’s extra point made it 43-7 with 5:01 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers, who had 10 total yards in their first three series, finished with 265.
“At times we gave up a few yards on defense,” Osborne said. “At times we sputtered on offense in the second half. But a lot of that was due to playing a lot of people.”
Nebraska scored only once with its second offensive unit — a 1-yard sneak by quarterback Mickey Joseph with 7:40 to go. The Tigers set that up by losing a fumble at their own 30.
“I felt like maybe our second unit would play better than they did,” Osborne said. “And maybe we’ll look at some and find that they did play well.
“But I was a little disappointed with the fact that we were kind of ragged and sporadic at times in the second half.”
Nevertheless, the Huskers racked up their 11th straight win over the Tigers — and their most lopsided one in Osborne’s 17 years as head coach. Nebraska’s biggest win in the series was a 62-0 romp in 1972.
“We probably played a more solid football game at Minnesota front to back,” Osborne said. “But we played well today.
“I would have liked to be sharper in the second half. But we’ve still got to be satisfied to play like we did. Especially in the first half.”
|Yards per carry||3.3||5.7|
Nebraska is 65-36 all-time against Missouri.
|Northern Illinois||Sept. 9|
|Oregon State||Sept. 30|
|Kansas State||Oct. 7|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 21|
|Iowa State||Oct. 28|
|Florida State||Jan. 1|
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