LINCOLN — Producers of Nebraska’s football highlight film for 1992 likely will spend hours sifting through footage of Saturday’s 55-0 bombing of Oklahoma State.
The 11th- and 14th-ranked Huskers opened defense of their Big Eight title before 76,116 fans at Memorial Stadium with the help of:
A defense that allowed only three snaps in NU territory, gave up no completions and posted its first shutout since 1990.
Four touchdown passes — two each from starter Mike Grant and freshman backup Tommie Frazier — the most in a game since 1989.
I-back Calvin Jones’ 90-yard scoring run, the longest for a touchdown since 1986.
Mike Stigge’s 87-yard punt, the longest since the school began keeping kicking records in 1966.
“This was a big confidence-builder,” senior outside linebacker David White said. “As a team and coaching staff, we know how good we can be.
“But we still have the Doubting Thomases, the pollsters and others who rank us who just don’t give us respect. It’s to the point now that we have to go out and show other people week in and week out how good we are.”
Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said it wasn’t the 4-1 Huskers’ best game of the season.
“In terms of intensity,” he said, ”Washington was our best game.
“But considering the circumstances, it was good today because nobody gave Oklahoma State a great chance to win. In a game like this, it’s easy to let down.”
The 2-3 Cowboys, 32-point underdogs and last in the country in total offense, left its No. 1 quarterback, No. 1 split end and No. 1 flanker home for disciplinary reasons.
Then No. 1 tailback Rafael Denson, bothered by a neck stinger suffered a week ago, spent the day on the bench resting.
So there appeared to be little left to inspire the Huskers.
“I think the players were a little embarrassed by their performance in the latter part of the Arizona State game,” Osborne said.
In that 45-24 win two weeks ago, the Huskers gave up 514 yards — the second-most against Osborne in his 20 years as head coach — and were outgained by 145 yards.
So Osborne started the open date week after that game with a call for consistency.
The assistant coaches read from the same chapter and verse.
“We talked about that a lot,” Defensive Coordinator Charlie McBride said. “In almost every meeting we had — overall or by position — we preached that we can’t be an up-and-down thermometer team.”
But the message didn’t sink in, McBride said, until White and fellow outside linebacker Travis Hill jumped into the pulpit.
“That stuff can only come from the coaches so much,” McBride said. “Then the kids have to do it.
“We got great leadership in that respect from Travis and David. They were on everybody.”
White said he boiled the message on consistency into the easy-to-understand version.
“Our goal from now on,” he said, ”is to beat the good teams and dominate the not-so-good teams. And we dominated Oklahoma State today.
“It doesn’t matter whether the opponent comes in at 100 percent or not. That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to give 100 percent. From now on, we don’t care who it is or what their situation is. We are going to play hard every play of every quarter of every game.”
Nebraska turned words into action early Saturday, taking the opening kickoff and rolling 81 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown.
I-back Derek Brown ran for 23 yards on the first four plays, then lost a shoe. So Jones came in and broke a 36-yarder to the OSU 22.
On a third-and-goal at the 5, Grant found tight end William Washington with a touchdown pass — the fifth-year senior’s first TD catch in a regular-season game — for a 7-0 lead just four minutes into the game.
Osborne called that a key drive because of the north wind the Huskers were moving into. The wind at game time was blowing at 16 mph with gusts to 30.
“Driving down and scoring and controlling the ball a high percentage of the time in the first quarter was critical,” Osborne said. “Defense was the strength of Oklahoma State’s team, and I’m sure they were hoping they could get us three downs and out.”
After an exchange of punts, OSU appeared to have Nebraska in a hole at its own 10.
But Jones found a hole of his own on the next play.
He bolted off left tackle, swivel-hipped past Cowboy safety Todd Fisher at the OSU 40 and sailed on to complete a 90-yard touchdown run. That was the longest Nebraska TD run since Tyreese Knox went 92 yards against Missouri in 1986.
Jones smiled as he recalled his thoughts from that run.
“What was going through my mind,” he said, ”was my teammates and what they would say if I didn’t get it into the end zone.”
The run came out of NU’s new formation that uses Brown as an offset fullback and Jones as the I-back. So did Jones’ 48-yard TD run in the third quarter.
“Calvin obviously had a great day,” Osborne said. “It must have been because of the great blocks Derek threw for him.
“I think on two of Calvin’s touchdown runs that Derek was in the game as a blocker. I’m sure Derek will take credit for that.”
Jones finished with 176 yards on just seven carries. Brown had 72 yards on 18 carries.
Byron Bennett’s extra point after Jones’ first score sailed wide right — his first miss after 32 straight conversions — keeping the score 13-0 with 4:53 left in the first quarter.
Oklahoma State finally made a first down with 14:25 left in the second quarter on quarterback Andy Loveland’s 1-yard sneak. But the Cowboys still had to punt from their 21-yard line.
Frazier came on at quarterback and made the most his initial first-half appearance of the season.
The freshman sneaked for 3 yards on fourth down to keep the drive alive. Then on the next play, he lobbed a pass deep down the middle to split end Corey Dixon.
OSU free safety Scott Harmon, last year’s Big Eight co-leader in interceptions, appeared ready to pick the ball off. But the pass sailed over his head and into the hands of Dixon, who ran the last 10 yards to complete the 42-yard touchdown. That gave Nebraska a 20-0 lead with 10:18 to go in the half.
“It felt good to go in that early,” said Frazier, who hit 4 of 9 passes for 66 yards. “It makes me more confident to know they trust me to put me in earlier.”
Asked about his comfort level with the offense, Frazier said:
“It’s high — real high. I wouldn’t say it’s at the top of the ladder, but it’s way up there.”
An 8-yard punt by Oklahoma State’s Scott Tyner set up Nebraska’s next drive at the OSU 32.
On the third play, Grant rolled right from the 15 and couldn’t find a receiver. So he wheeled back left, found Washington as a blocker and followed the 260-pound earth-mover all the way to the end zone for a 27-0 lead with 7:44 to go.
Oklahoma State finally entered Nebraska territory on its sixth possession. Tailback John White’s 44-yard run got the Cowboys to the Husker 39. OSU’s biggest gain before that had been 6 yards.
But middle guard Terry Connealy and outside linebacker Trev Alberts combined on an 8-yard sack to push Oklahoma State out of field-goal range.
OSU misfired on the only three passing attempts it tried. Nebraska has held opponents to no completions and no yards passing eight times. The most recent was in a 17-14 win over Oklahoma in 1978.
Nebraska got field position for its final first-half touchdown when Stigge punted 87 yards — 47 in the air and 40 more in roll — to bury the Cowboys at the 5.
The Huskers eventually got the ball at the OSU 41 with 1:38 to play and scored with 11 seconds to spare.
After a sack, Grant found wingback Vincent Hawkins for 20 yards and wingback Abdul Muhammad for 15.
Then he lobbed a fade pass to 6-foot-3 split end Trumane Bell, who outdueled the 5-11 Fisher in the back corner of the end zone for a 34-0 lead.
Grant completed 8 of 13 passes for 74 yards to boost NU’s overall passing to 12 of 22 for 140 yards.
That average of 6.3 yards per attempt topped the Huskers’ mark of 4.8 per passing attempt in their first four games.
“We recognized that we needed to throw it better than we have,” Osborne said. “This was probably one of our better performances.”
In the second half, Jones’ second TD run, Frazier’s 8-yard pass to tight end Gerald Armstrong and reserve quarterback Jon McMillen’s 11-yard run finished the scoring.
Nebraska didn’t commit a turnover, was penalized just three times for 15 yards and outgained Oklahoma State 506 yards to 155.
Such a dominant performance was important, Jones said, as Nebraska tries to win another Big Eight title, which the Huskers shared last year with Colorado.
“We’re not like two years ago or the year before that when Colorado was the Big Eight champion and no one took Nebraska seriously,” he said. “Since we were Big Eight champions last year, a lot of teams want to come after us now instead of Colorado.
“So we have to improve every week from now on.”
|Yards per carry||2.8||7.2|
Nebraska is 37-5 all-time against Oklahoma State.
|Middle Tennessee State||Sept. 12|
|Arizona State||Sept. 26|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 10|
|Iowa State||Nov. 14|
|Kansas State||Dec. 5|
|Florida State||Jan. 1|
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