LINCOLN — Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne offered a vocabulary lesson after Saturday’s 51-14 thumping of Kansas.
He made it clear that the victory, in front of 76,232 fans at Memorial Stadium, wasn’t a bounce-back effort after last week’s 27-21 loss to Colorado.
“To me, you bounce back when you play poorly,” he said. “We didn’t play poorly at Colorado. We played well.
“So I don’t feel this was a bounce-back game. It was a game where we just had to focus. It was kind of in-between two so-called big games, and I thought it was a credit to our players that we played as well as we did.
“We’ve been sharper. But it wasn’t bad.”
Kansas scored on its second possession of the game, giving the 3-7 Jayhawks their first lead over the Huskers since the first quarter of the 1985 game.
But Nebraska scored the next 44 points to secure its 21st straight season with at least nine victories.
The Huskers also may have locked up a major bowl bid with the win.
Osborne said he thinks the top bowls might have deals cut as early as Monday or Tuesday. The players voted after the game, and those interviewed said the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., held a slight edge over the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
With 28 seconds left in the first quarter, some might have held out hope for a return to the Orange Bowl.
That’s when the public address announcer boomed: “Here’s a first-quarter score — Oklahoma State 10, Colorado 0.”
The crowd roared back with its approval.
But the No. 2 Buffaloes rallied for a 41-17 victory, and now have only 1-9 Kansas State to beat in order to finish an undefeated regular season and earn their first outright Big Eight title since 1961.
CU is 6-0 in the league and 10-0 overall. NU is 5-1 and 9-1. Oklahoma, which comes to Lincoln next Saturday, is 5-1 and 7-3.
Three Husker backfield stars showed off for the other bowl scouts Saturday.
I-back Ken Clark dashed for a season-high 177 yards on 20 carries and scored twice on 33-yard runs.
The senior out of Omaha Bryan moved up to second on NU’s all-time rushing list with 2,946 yards. Mike Rozier is first with 4,780. Clark also pushed his season total to 1,105 — the 14th 1,000-yard season in NU history. He ran for 1,497 last year.
Quarterback Gerry Gdowski continued his sterling play with 75 yards rushing on six carries, 105 yards passing and three touchdowns among his four completions in eight attempts and no turnovers for the fifth straight game.
Gdowski improved his season totals to 1,101 yards passing and 903 rushing in his drive to become the fifth player in NCAA history to hit the double-thousand mark. Quarterback Dee Dowis of Air Force reached the double-thousand standard Saturday.
Wingback Richard Bell, recovered from a bad hamstring, had 11- and 45-yard touchdown catches, rushed for 42 yards to set up a touchdown and returned two kicks for 30 yards.
Kansas was within nine points — 16-7 — entering the final two minutes of the first half.
But Bell’s second TD catch pushed the spread to 16 at halftime. Then Nebraska scored touchdowns on its first three possessions of the third quarter to blow the game open.
“It would be really embarrassing if we had come out and lost to Kansas,” Bell said. “I just think the guys finally put their hats on and started playing.”
In the first quarter, the Jayhawks knocked NU’s hats back, driving 78 yards for a touchdown in 12 plays. That included seven running plays for 50 yards against the nation’s No. 7 rushing defense.
Tony Sands, KU’s 5-foot-6 tailback who finished with 86 yards and a like number of bruises in 26 carries, had runs of 19, 8 and 11 yards in the drive.
Fullback Maurice Douglas ran over two Huskers from the 6 to complete the march. Brad Fleeman’s extra point put KU up 7-0 with 7:01 left in the first quarter.
“That got our attention,” NU offensive tackle Doug Glaser said. “We came out a little flat, they stuffed us in three plays and then scored on us.
“It took people awhile to put the Colorado game out of their minds. But that touchdown got us thinking about Kansas.”
Nebraska tied the game in two plays.
Clark rambled left on a sweep for 38 yards, then raced right for 33 more and a touchdown to tie the game at 7 with 6:16 to go in the first quarter.
The Huskers struck quickly again after a Kansas punt.
Bell’s 38-yard run on a counter sweep moved the ball to the KU 11. Two plays later, Gdowski hit Bell from there for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead with 34 seconds left in the first period.
Nebraska added two points on the ensuing kickoff.
KU fullback Maurice Hooks backtracked to field Chris Drennan’s bouncing kickoff near the 5-yard line. Hooks’ momentum carried him into the end zone, where he appeared ready to down the ball.
The junior out of Omaha South then stuttered-stepped on the goal line before dropping to one knee in the end zone. After a conference, the officials ruled a safety.
On the ensuing free kick, Kansas’ B.J. Lohsen punted out of bounds three straight times. Those 15 yards in penalties forced the Jayhawks to kick from their own 5.
“That was a first,” Osborne said. “I thought they were going to end up behind their own goal line.”
Bell finally returned Lohsen’s fourth try 22 yards to the Kansas 33.
Gdowski ran 25 yards to the 8. But an illegal procedure penalty stopped the Huskers. Gregg Barrios — perfect on 48 conversions and four field goals to that point in 1989 — then missed for the first time, sending a 27-yard field-goal try wide right.
Nebraska stalled again after a Bruce Pickens interception at the KU 33. Jayhawk safety Hassan Bailey hammered Clark down 2 yards short of a first down on fourth-and-three at the 26.
“Kansas played a lot of goal-line defense in normal situations,” Osborne said. “A lot of trouble we had in the second quarter was from them using an eight-man front and some different spacing.”
KU’s defense — called a wide-tackle six — hadn’t been shown before this season, Osborne said.
“We eventually hurt it pretty bad,” he said. “But it took us until halftime to figure it out.”
The Huskers used one more quick strike before halftime.
Tyrone Hughes returned Lohsen’s 60-yard punt 26 yards to the NU 48. After fullback Bryan Carpenter ran for 7 yards, Gdowski found Bell wide-open with a 45-yard touchdown pass. Barrios’ PAT put NU ahead 23-7 with 1:49 left in the half.
“Those are some of the hardest passes to throw,” Gdowski said. “You don’t want to overthrow it or underthrow it.
“I just tried to throw it in there to make sure we got a big gain.”
Clark’s second 33-yard TD, Jon Bostick’s 19-yard touchdown pass from Gdowski and Leodis Flowers’ 1-yard run — all in the first 9 1/2 minutes of the third quarter — pushed Nebraska’s lead to 44-7.
Through that point, no Husker drive had taken longer than six plays or 2:39. They finished with 608 total yards — 503 rushing and 105 passing.
“I thought we played OK,” Gdowski said. “Everybody knows we could have scored a couple a more times.
“But anytime you gain more than 600 yards, you’ve got to be doing something right.”
Kansas senior quarterback Kelly Donohoe scored on a 2-yard run to bring Kansas back to 44-14 late in the third quarter. The native of O’Neill, Neb., hit 14 of 23 passes for 214 yards.
NU reserve tailback Lamont White added a 3-yard TD run with 1:15 left in the game to complete the scoring.
Osborne said he was pleased after the game’s first seven or eight minutes.
“We settled down and played pretty good defense and got a couple of turnovers,” he said. “Offensively, we played our second straight game without a turnover, which I think is a pretty good accomplishment.
“It was a little hard after a game like Colorado. We were probably a little flat. But as the game went on, we settled down.”
|Yards per carry||3.3||7.3|
Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.
|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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