AMES, Iowa — Never in 20 years as head coach at Nebraska had Tom Osborne lost to a team that would finish the season with a below-.500 record.
That’s when Iowa State, a 29-point underdog with five losses in its past six games, pulled what could be the stunner of the 1992 college football season — a 19-10 upset of the seventh-ranked Huskers in front of 42,008 fans at Cyclone Stadium.
“They just beat us,” Osborne said, sitting quietly at his postgame press conference with his hat in his hand. “They played well. They coached well. We’ve got to give them a lot of credit.
“It’s very, very disappointing because we had a lot of things going, particularly after the last two weeks. “We told our players that even though people were starting to say a lot of nice things about us that we could fix that in a week’s time.
“I’m afraid we have.”
How unlikely a victory was this for Iowa State, 4-6 with one game to play, over 7-2 Nebraska?
Only once before had the Cyclones beaten a team ranked as high as seventh. That was a 15-10 win over No. 7 Oklahoma State in 1985.
The star Saturday was quarterback Marv Seiler, a fifth-year senior making his first career start. He had more yards rushing Saturday — 144 — than in the rest of his career combined.
The Cyclones rushed for 373 yards, more than double their average. That’s the most against the Huskers in 60 games back to 1987 and the fifth-highest total against an Osborne-coached team.
Place-kicker Ty Stewart of Omaha Westside, 5 of 10 on field goals entering the game, gave ISU a 12-10 halftime lead with kicks of 37, 32, 45 and 30 yards.
Nebraska was coming off victories of 52-7 over Colorado and 49-7 over Kansas, both ranked in the Top 20.
The Huskers hadn’t lost to a Big Eight team other than Oklahoma or Colorado since a 35-31 setback to Missouri in 1978.
“It was a marvelous effort,” ISU Coach Jim Walden said. “It’s a little more overwhelming than I can handle.”
Osborne said the big difference was emotion.
“Our tank was a little dry today,” he said. “We played two very emotional games in a row against Colorado and Kansas. And we talked a lot about the dangerousness of this situation.
“I think the players listened. But I don’t know that it sunk in.”
“We were just too overconfident,” NU free safety Tyrone Byrd said. “We were looking ahead to Oklahoma and past Iowa State.
“I’m not making any excuses. They were the better team today.”
I-back Derek Brown agreed after gaining 64 yards, 43 under his league-leading average.
“On the outside, it looked like we were ready,” he said. “On the inside, we weren’t.
“We didn’t seem like the same team we have been, while Iowa State was as high as we were for the last two games.”
Despite the loss, Nebraska retains its Big Eight lead at 4-1 and can clinch the title and a trip to the Orange Bowl with wins Nov. 27 at Oklahoma and Dec. 5 over Kansas State in Tokyo.
But the upset was a gut punch to the Huskers, puffed up on a gale of positive national publicity from the past two weeks.
“It’s probably the worst loss I’ve had since I’ve been alive,” NU center Jim Scott said. “It was like one of those pinch-yourself-to-see-if-you’re-awake deals.”
Between blinks, Nebraska saw Iowa State control the game with two constants:
A ball-control and turnover-free wishbone offense that produced a time of possession advantage of 37:15 to 22:45.
A swarming 4-3 defense that held Nebraska, the No. 5 offense in the country at 469 yards a game, to a season-low 246 total yards.
“They shut us down on all circuits,” NU quarterback Tommie Frazier said. “They took our option away, they took our inside running away and they took our passing game away.
“We just couldn’t run the plays we normally run.”
One reason was injuries.
Nebraska’s top two tight ends — William Washington (arch) and Gerald Armstrong (knee) — missed the game.
“That probably limited our capability on offense 15 to 20 percent,” Osborne said.
Then late in the second quarter, Frazier limped to the locker room with a bruised left knee.
He played the whole second half, but Nebraska gained just 81 yards in the final 30 minutes. From the middle of the second quarter to the middle of the fourth, the Huskers punted on seven straight possessions.
“Frazier played hurt,” Osborne said. “He wasn’t able to do some things in the second half that he was in the first.
“But we can’t blame the loss on that. They just beat us.”
Iowa State’s defense also had a big hand in Nebraska’s offensive struggles.
“We just lined up in a base defense and tried to string out the option,” senior middle linebacker Malcolm Goodwin said. “We didn’t run one blitz today.
“We just pursued like crazy and made plays. When you think about it, if not for that one lucky pass to their fullback for a touchdown, you could be looking at an Iowa State defense that shut out Nebraska.”
Nebraska used that “lucky pass” — a 15-yard toss from a tumbling Frazier to fullback Lance Lewis — to take a 10-6 lead early in the second quarter.
But the Cyclones went up 12-10 at halftime, then extended that lead early in the fourth quarter when Seiler broke on option play for 78 yards to the NU 2.
On the next play, walk-on fullback Chris Ulrich — who ran for 105 yards — scored for a 19-10 lead with 10:50 to play.
Nebraska got the ball back twice, but made only one first down. ISU held the ball the final 5:14 of the game, then stepped aside to watch fans rip down the goal posts.
“This one was for the fans,” said Goodwin, who had 11 tackles. “I wish we could give them a bowl bid.
“But let them go have the time of their lives tonight because I am, and so is everybody else on this team. We’re tired of hearing people say we can’t beat teams that are ranked way above us.”
In the first half, the Cyclones scored field goals on their first four possessions.
ISU took the opening kickoff and, despite three fumbles, marched 60 yards.
Ulrich’s 32-yard run and Seiler’s 13-yard shovel pass to Ulrich were the big plays that set up Stewart’s 37-yard field goal.
Nebraska responded with a 56-yard drive for a field goal.
Frazier’s 11-yard option run and Brown’s 19-yard dash helped set up Byron Bennett’s 33-yard field goal. That tied the game at 3 with 5:17 left in the first quarter.
Iowa State used 12 plays on the next drive to get another field goal.
Seiler raced 32 yards on an option play, the only gain in the drive of longer than 7 yards. Stewart kicked a 32-yard field goal for a 6-3 ISU lead with 14:23 to go in the second quarter.
Frazier almost singlehandedly brought Nebraska back on the next possession.
After a 10-yard penalty for an illegal block pushed the Huskers back to their 10, Frazier bootlegged left for 52 yards to the ISU 38.
On first and 10 at the 15, Frazier scrambled left, avoided a tackle, then rolled right and threw a pass to Lewis while falling. The fullback turned it into a 15-yard touchdown, despite Walden’s screams that the Huskers had a lineman illegally downfield. Bennett’s extra point put NU up 10-6 with 11:49 to go in the half.
The Cyclones powered into NU territory again, using 13 plays.
Nebraska appeared to have ISU in a hole when defensive tackle John Parrella sacked Seiler for a 12-yard loss. But the Huskers were penalized 15 yards for Parrella’s taunting after the sack.
Two first downs later, Iowa State stalled at the NU 27. So Stewart kicked a 45-yard field goal to close the gap to 10-9 with 5:49 left in the half.
“One of the big problems we had,” Osborne said,”was we couldn’t get the ball away from them.”
Iowa State held Nebraska on three plays, and after Mike Stigge’s 25-yard punt into the 20-mph north wind, the Cyclones got the ball at the Husker 40.
Seiler’s shovel pass to fullback Sundiata Patterson gained 12 yards. After another first down and a fumbled snap on third and four at the NU 12, Stewart kicked a 30-yard field goal to put Iowa State ahead 12-10 with 1:38 left in the half.
Frazier was injured on the next series with 26 seconds left in the half. He said he took a helmet to his left knee.
Osborne said he considered using senior Mike Grant in the second half.
“We talked it over several times,” he said. “We just felt Tommie still was functioning well enough that he was OK, and that would give us the best chance to come back.
“In retrospect, maybe it was the wrong decision.”
Frazier said Iowa State’s ball control bothered NU’s offense.
“When you only have the ball four times in the first half,” he said,”you can’t really get anything done.”
Nebraska’s first series in the third quarter ended after three plays. Frazier limped off the field again after being stung for no gain on third down.
Iowa State, which snapped the ball in NU territory on 40 of 74 plays, barged across midfield again on Ulrich’s 22-yard run.
When the drive stalled, Stewart lined up a 51-yard field goal, but NU outside linebacker Trev Alberts blocked it.
Nebraska then drove from its 41 to the ISU 22.
On third and one from the 22, Cyclone linebacker Dan Watkins smothered Brown for a 7-yard loss. So Bennett came on to try a 47-yard field goal that would have given Nebraska the lead.
But a 5-yard penalty for delay of game pushed the Huskers out of field-goal range. After punting, they only got into ISU territory once on their final four possessions.
Scott said there was no panic in the Husker offensive huddle.
“It was just like any other game,” he said. “As we started the fourth quarter, Tommie came into the huddle and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to win it here.’
“He was believing in us and we were believing in him. But it just didn’t click today.”
Osborne called it a sad day for Nebraska, but a great day for Iowa State, which hadn’t beaten the Huskers since 1977.
“We’ve had a lot of good days against Iowa State,” Osborne said. “I want them to realize what they did, and they need to have credit for it.
“My hat’s off to Jim Walden and his staff and his players. They did a good job.”
|Yards per carry||5.3||4.9|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa 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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