NORMAN, Okla. — It doesn’t quite have the ring of “Remember the Alamo” or “Remember the Maine.”
But a cry of “Remember Iowa State” was enough to jolt Nebraska into scoring 26 straight points in 27 minutes Friday for a come-from-behind 33-9 decision over Oklahoma.
The victory kept the Huskers, 8-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big Eight, in position to claim the conference championship outright. A victory one week from today in Tokyo over 5-5 Kansas State would send NU to the Orange Bowl for the third time in five years as the Big Eight titlist.
Miami wasn’t on Nebraska’s mind late in the second quarter Friday.
With the 12th-ranked Huskers trailing the unranked Sooners 9-7 and an Owen Field crowd of 69,770 roaring for an upset, NU’s Travis Hill said thoughts turned to the 19-10 loss suffered at Iowa State two weeks ago.
“We told guys to remember the taste they had in their mouth after Iowa State,” said the senior outside linebacker, ”and then to remember the taste we had after beating Colorado and Kansas.
“It came down to asking, ‘Which taste do we want?’ We made up our minds real quick.”
From that point, Nebraska drove for a field goal to take a 10-9 halftime lead.
Then the Huskers scored touchdowns on the first, fourth and fifth possessions of the second half as I-backs Calvin Jones and Derek Brown became the first pair of Nebraska backs to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.
Jones ran 22 times for 137 yards to boost his season total to 1,024 yards. Brown, who suffered a separated shoulder in the third quarter and will miss the K-State game, carried 16 times for 88 yards to get to 1,015 yards. The defense pitched in with an ironic piece of strategy — using a dime defense to blunt OU’s running game.
“It was weird,” NU Coach Tom Osborne said. “Usually you use that defense to stop the pass.”
Oklahoma gained 142 yards in the first quarter. But after the change, the Blackshirts held Oklahoma to 91 yards in the final three quarters. The defense also scored eight points on Hill’s safety and inside linebacker Ed Stewart 50-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Despite the sometimes eerie resemblance to the Iowa State game — Nebraska running only three plays in the first quarter and Oklahoma kicking three early field goals — no one panicked, NU quarterback Tommie Frazier said.
“The first half Oklahoma was playing on emotion and was able to do what it wanted,” he said. “After halftime, we just stuck with our game plan, and pretty soon we could run about anything we wanted.”
That rally with a back-to-the-basics performance should help Osborne rest.
He confessed that he has been tossing and turning since his team followed victories of 52-7 over Colorado and 49-7 over Kansas with the Iowa State loss.
“After the Colorado and Kansas games, I really thought we had a good football team,” Osborne said. “I could understand being a little flat for Iowa State.
“But it shook me a little because I wasn’t real sure how good we were.”
Friday’s rally wasn’t proof positive that the Huskers are world beaters, Osborne said.
“But I guess I feel a little more like the football team that showed up for Kansas and Colorado was more the real Nebraska team,” he said. “At least we showed we’re a good team and deserve to win the Big Eight, if we beat Kansas State.
“It wouldn’t be a fluky deal, and I feel good about that.”
Nebraska looked like it was in for another bad deal through most of the first half.
It was a virtual repeat of the Huskers’ game at Iowa State, with the opponent controlling the ball on the ground, milking the clock and kicking field goals.
Using mostly inside running plays, Oklahoma used drives of 13, 10 and 10 plays to set up field goals of 22, 42 and 33 yards for Scott Blanton, who now holds the Big Eight record for most consecutive field goals without a miss at 14.
But unlike at Iowa State, the Huskers squeezed out a lead just before halftime with an 11-play, 54-yard drive of their own for a field goal.
“That was a very important drive,” Frazier said. “We were determined to go into the locker room with the halftime lead.
“When we did that, and knowing we were getting the ball back to start the second half, we knew that would break the game wide open.”
Nebraska bounced out of the locker room to storm 64 yards in seven plays. Frazier hit tight end Gerald Armstrong with a 24-yard touchdown pass for a 17-9 lead with 12:02 left in the third quarter.
Hill made it 19-9 Nebraska by smashing OU quarterback Cale Gundy in the end zone for a safety 10 minutes later.
On the ensuing possession, an apparent 23-yard shovel pass touchdown from Frazier to Jones — a play borrowed from Iowa State — was called back by a penalty.
Then Frazier threw an interception into the end zone, NU’s first turnover in 6-1/4 games back to Mike Grant’s second-quarter interception against Arizona State on Sept. 26.
But the rout was on when Jones added touchdown runs of 14 and 2 yards in the fourth quarter, completing Nebraska’s biggest romp over Oklahoma since a 44-14 pounding in 1969.
Osborne said the Sooners played hard. But they were outmanned with only about 65 scholarship players available because of injuries this season and recruiting restrictions the previous three years stemming from NCAA violations.
“The second half our strength up front began to show,” Osborne said. “Defensively, they didn’t crack us much. Offensively, we were able to move the ball pretty consistently.
“I don’t know what else they could have done than what they did.”
The Sooners finished 5-4-2 overall, 3-2-2 in the league and out of the bowl picture for the third time in four years.
In the first half, Oklahoma looked like bowl material, marching 64 yards on the game’s first possession to set up Blanton’s first field goal, which broke the Big Eight record of 11 in a row set by Dodge Schwartzburg of Kansas in 1984 and matched by Tim Lashar of Oklahoma in 1985.
After holding Nebraska in three plays, Oklahoma marched 28 yards into Husker territory again.
On second-and-eight at the 49, Gundy looked for tight end Joey Mickey. But he threw the ball directly to NU’s Stewart.
His 50-yard return for a touchdown — NU’s third pass interception for a score this season — put the Huskers up 7-3 with 4:35 left in the first quarter.
Oklahoma chewed up the rest of the period with a 10-play drive to the NU 5, aided by back-to-back offside penalties, that resulted in a 22-yard Blanton field goal.
‘’The first quarter didn’t look too exciting for us,” Osborne said. “I wasn’t sure we were ever going to get the ball back.” That’s when Nebraska began using mostly dime defense — four linemen and six primary pass defenders — instead of its standard 5-2 alignment. The even front put defenders in the gaps between OU linemen.
“We got a little more penetration and seemed to stop the things they were doing a little better,” Osborne said. “I would suppose we were in the dime 70 to 75 percent of the time.
“Our defensive coaches did a good job of adjusting.”
Nebraska, pushed back to its 9 by an 11-yard holding penalty, got a 25-yard run from Jones and a 25-yard pass from Frazier to split end Corey Dixon to finally move into OU territory for the first time — at the 38 with 10:45 to go in the half.
The drive stalled at the 27, so Byron Bennett tried a 44-yard field goal. It hit the crossbar, glanced up, grazed the left upright and then fell back no good.
Oklahoma came back with its third drive of the half of at least 10 plays.
Eight runs and a 12-yard pass moved the Sooners to the Nebraska 26 before Blanton came on to kick a 42-yard field goal for a 9-7 Oklahoma lead with 2:23 left in the half.
Nebraska reclaimed the lead with a 54-yard drive for a field goal.
A Jones run of 15 yards and Frazier passes of 10 yards to Jones and 15 yards to wingback Vincent Hawkins helped move NU to the OU 24.
On fourth-and-two at the 16 with six seconds left in the half, Bennett kicked a 33-yard field goal to put Nebraska ahead 10-9.
“The drive and field goal right before half gave us a lift emotionally,” Osborne said.
Now the Huskers have just three days to recharge before flying 9,000 miles to Tokyo.
|Yards per carry||3.2||5.3|
Nebraska is 38-45 all-time against Oklahoma.
|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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