NORMAN, Okla. — Nebraska’s game Friday at Oklahoma was a losing proposition from beginning to end.
The Huskers lost their quarterback in the first quarter, their shutout in the second quarter, their chance to win in the third quarter and their respect in the fourth quarter of a 45-10 bombing by the Sooners before 74,910 fans at Owen Field.
“I am totally embarrassed. I thought we had a better football team than that,” said NU Coach Tom Osborne, who suffered his worst loss in 18 years as a head coach.
Osborne’s biggest setback before Friday’s 35-pointer was by 31 points — 38-7 — to the Sooners in 1977. But that came to an OU team ranked third nationally.
This year’s Sooners, 8-3 overall and 5-2 in the Big Eight, were unranked. Nebraska, 9-2 and 5-2, was rated sixth and 10th by the wire services.
History was made in categories other than margin of loss.
The 45 points was the most ever scored against an Osborne-coached team, topping the 42 by Oklahoma State in a 63-42 loss to NU in 1988. The last time the Huskers gave up more points was 22 years ago in a 47-0 loss to Oklahoma.
NU’s seven turnovers (three fumbles and four interceptions) also matched the second-most ever by an Osborne team.
The high is eight (six fumbles and two interceptions) in a 23-23 tie with Iowa State in 1973. The other game with seven (six fumbles and one interception) was in a 37-28 loss to Iowa State in 1976.
“This is probably one of the poorer performances we have had in the 28 years I’ve been at Nebraska,” Osborne said. “And I feel very badly about it.
“Obviously, I’m the guy who bears the responsibility because I thought we were ready to play — or at least more ready to play than that. I certainly have to take whatever blame there is for that kind of performance.”
Four of Nebraska’s turnovers were committed by backup quarterback Mike Grant, pressed into duty in the first quarter when starter Mickey Joseph suffered a scary injury on the Oklahoma sideline.
NU Head Trainer George Sullivan said Joseph suffered a three-inch long gash in the middle of his right shin bone when he crashed into a metal bench on the OU sideline after a 13-yard scramble.
Sullivan said Joseph told trainers he didn’t consider the hit a cheap shot. Joseph indicated that he and OU linebacker Reggie Barnes slipped on the worn sideline turf, and Joseph’s shin hit an angle-iron brace on the base of the bench below the bench seat.
The nearly vertical cut, Sullivan said, was deep into muscle and tissue but didn’t expose the bone. Oklahoma trainers already were tending to Joseph, trying to stop the bleeding, when NU trainers arrived from across the field, Sullivan said.Surgery Friday Night
X-rays taken in the OU training room indicated no fractured bones, Sullivan said, but Joseph was scheduled for exploratory surgery late Friday night in Lincoln to look for nerve and tissue damage.
Osborne said he didn’t have a clear view of the play, which happened on NU’s second possession just 5:07 into the then-scoreless game.
“Losing Mickey, I’m sure, didn’t help,” Osborne said. “But I can’t necessarily say that was the difference in the game. We can’t use that as an excuse or an alibi.
“Mickey had been playing most all the time the last few weeks. But we just had a lot of turnovers, and that’s the name of the game.”
Nebraska, which led 3-0 after the first quarter but was down 21-3 at halftime, appeared to be building momentum early in the third quarter.
Outside linebacker Mike Croel bopped Sooner quarterback Cale Gundy on the second play of the half, forcing a fumble that cornerback Tyrone Legette recovered at the OU 35.
Grant found split end Jon Bostick for 24 yards to set up I-back Leodis Flowers’ 2-yard touchdown run. That cut the Sooner lead to 21-10 with 12:04 left in the third quarter.
“I thought that would be a turning point for us to come back,” Husker guard Will Shields said. “Things were starting to click.”
The NU defense held again after four plays and the offense got the ball back at its 20 with a roar of approval from the estimated 6,000 Nebraska fans in attendance.
But Oklahoma fans drowned that out two plays later.
Grant’s soft toss over the middle for tight end Johnny Mitchell was intercepted by OU linebacker Frank Blevins, who returned it 3 yards to the NU 20.
“That turnover just killed us,” Osborne said. “After that, it got real tough.”
Four running plays later, fullback Mike McKinley bolted in from the 7 to rebuild the Sooner lead to 28-10 with 7:41 left in the third.
Wingback Tyrone Hughes tried to fire up the Huskers by taking the ensuing kickoff 5 yards deep in the end zone and returning it to the NU 40 before kicker Brad Reddell — the last man — tackled him.
A pass interference penalty moved the Huskers into OU territory, but Grant fumbled three plays later and defensive end James Goode recovered at the Sooner 40.
After exchanging punts, McKinley romped 48 yards for his third touchdown — stiff-arming free safety Tyrone Byrd to the ground at the 25 — to boost the lead to 35-10 with 42 seconds left in the third quarter.
On the next series, Grant overthrew I-back Scott Baldwin in the flat and strong safety Greg DeQuasie intercepted and ran it back 43 yards for a touchdown to increase the lead to 42-10 with 14:42 to go in the game.
OU then let senior R.D. Lashar kick a 24-yard field goal with nine seconds left. That gave Lashar, who missed field goals from 48 yards in the first quarter and 51 in the fourth quarter, the Big Eight all-time kick-scoring record with 320 points.
When asked about his team’s effort, Osborne said:
“I think they tried hard. I can’t tell until I watch the film whether it was very intense or not.
“It just didn’t seem like we played with the kind of heart that I thought we’d play with. Of course, sometimes when turnovers and mistakes multiply, it makes it harder to play.
“We tried awfully hard to get them ready. Apparently, we didn’t get the job done.”
Oklahoma outgained Nebraska 396 yards to 229.
The Huskers’ 118 yards rushing was their fifth-lowest total in the past 13 seasons. In passing, NU was 9 of 25 for 111 yards and four interceptions.
“We had a hard time getting a running game going,” Osborne said. “I guess those who like to see us throw, we threw it today.
“We like to pick our spots and throw it 10 to 15 times a game. When you do that, you’re not playing as high-risk a style of football. But today we were throwing a lot when they knew we were going to throw it.”
Though Nebraska scored first, Oklahoma threatened first.
The Sooners stopped NU on three plays to open the game, then bolted into Husker territory on tailback Dewell Brewer’s 16-yard run and Gundy’s 18-yard pass to split end Otis Taylor.
On second-and-five from the Husker 34, fullback Kenyon Rasheed fumbled after a 1-yard gain but referees blew the play dead.
When OU fell short on third down, Lashar tried a 48-yard field goal that drifted just wide left.
On the next possession, Nebraska lost Joseph for the game and probably the Jan. 1 date with Georgia Tech in the Citrus Bowl.
The junior scrambled right on third-and-eight at the NU 33 and gained 13 yards before going out of bounds in front of the OU bench.
As Joseph began his fourth step out of bounds, OU’s Barnes made contact and Joseph hit the bench.
Play was delayed nearly 10 minutes as trainers worked to stop the bleeding. A utility cart was used to drive Joseph off the field.
Though Joseph later said the hit wasn’t dirty, Nebraska players didn’t feel that way at the time.
“We were upset because we thought it was a cheap shot,” Shields said. “Maybe we got a little too tight after that.
“We didn’t relax and just play football. It wasn’t that we got overpowered. It was more mental than physical.”
The 15-yard penalty for the late hit moved the ball to the Oklahoma 39. But on third-and-three from the 32, Barnes hammered Flowers for a 4-yard loss on the option to force a punt.
After the Huskers held on three downs, Hughes returned the punt 16 yards to the OU 45.
Grant hit Mitchell for 11 yards to the 32 and NU marched on to the 12 before falling short again on third down as Baldwin was snuffed for no gain on a sweep right.
So the Huskers called on Gregg Barrios, who broke two school records with his 30-yard field goal that gave NU a 3-0 lead with 2:24 left in the first quarter.
It was Barrios’ 14th field goal of the season, breaking Dale Klein’s mark of 13 in 1985. It also gave the senior out of Omaha Creighton Prep 204 career points, topping the 203 by Rich Sanger from 1971-73.
Oklahoma bounced back to drive into NU territory on a quarterback scramble and late hit as Gundy ran for 18 yards and got 15 more when Croel dumped him out of bounds.
But Croel got even two plays later, forcing a fumble from tailback Earnest Williams that tackle Kenny Walker recovered at the NU 45.
OU held on three downs, then started a seven-play, 86-yard touchdown drive.
Sandwiched between two fumbles that Oklahoma got back, Brewer sprinted 32 yards on a sweep right. Then on second-and-10 from the NU 36, Gundy dropped back and calmly waited for tight end Adrian Cooper to beat Byrd before lofting a touchdown pass to him. Lashar’s point-after kick put the Sooners up 7-3 with 11:19 left in the half.
After exchanging punts, Oklahoma set up its second touchdown with a big defensive play.
Grant floated a pass to wingback Nate Turner, but Barnes leveled him to force a fumble that Blevins grabbed and returned 13 yards to the NU 12.
Four plays later, Gundy burrowed in from the 1 for a 14-3 lead with 4:33 left in the half.
Despite Grant’s mistakes, Osborne said, the junior showed no nervousness.
“Mike was all right,” Osborne said. “He just hadn’t played a whole lot lately and probably didn’t feel real comfortable.”
The Sooner defense struck again on Nebraska’s next possession.
Grant, trying to find reserve split end Dan Pleasant, instead hit OU linebacker Joe Bowden at the NU 46.
On first down, Brewer lost 3 yards. But on second down, Gundy and Cooper hooked up again on a deep pass.
The 6-foot-6 Cooper was double-teamed by the 5-9 Legette and the 5-11 Byrd, but he outjumped and outwrestled both for the ball at the Husker 9.
“They apparently ruled a simultaneous catch,” said Osborne, who jumped off the sideline to protest. “Some of our guys thought we came up with it, but I couldn’t tell.”
On the next play, McKinley bolted up the middle to score, putting OU up 21-3 with 2:22 left in the half.
The junior from Perryton, Texas, had three touchdowns through the first 10 games, but matched that total Friday. He gained 87 yards on eight carries, mostly trap plays.
“Anytime you run trap play after trap play after trap play,” NU Linebackers Coach Kevin Steele said,”there’s a good chance to hit for a nice gain.
“But I never thought they’d run one in for as nice a gain as that long one.”
Steele said he found no fault with Nebraska’s effort.
“I don’t think anybody was loafing or not concentrating,” he said. “You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Oklahoma.
“This game was a prime example that records and rankings don’t mean a thing in the Nebraska-Oklahoma game.”
|Yards per carry||4.5||3.1|
Nebraska is 38-45 all-time against Oklahoma.
|Northern Illinois||Sept. 8|
|Oregon State||Sept. 29|
|Kansas State||Oct. 6|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 20|
|Iowa State||Oct. 27|
|Georgia Tech||Jan. 1|
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