STILLWATER, Okla. — Nebraska nearly got its history lessons mixed up Thursday night before disposing of Oklahoma State 27-13.
The fifth- and seventh-ranked Huskers were supposed to cruise past the 18-point underdog Cowboys while making Coach Tom Osborne the 12th man in the 124-year history of college football to reach 200 victories.
Instead, they fell behind by 10 points in the second quarter, leaving their coach wondering if he was about to witness NU’s first loss to OSU in 32 years and first loss to open Big Eight play in 19 years.
“That wasn’t a thing of great beauty,” Osborne said.
It took quarterback Tommie Frazier’s 4-yard option run — the first rushing touchdown of the season against OSU — to tie the game with 5:24 left in the third quarter.
Then cornerback Barron Miles block a punt and recovered it in the end zone with 14:09 left in the game to give the Huskers their first lead.
The defense hung on from there and I-back Calvin Jones — who had 136 yards in 21 carries — added a late 44-yard touchdown run to make 5-0 Nebraska’s rally stand up against 3-2 Oklahoma State before a crowd of 35,580 at Lewis Field.
Ugly or not, the victory earned Osborne plenty of congratulations for his 200-46-3 record in 21 years as head coach.
After shaking hands with OSU Coach Pat Jones near midfield, defensive tackle Kevin Ramaekers dumped a water barrel over Osborne’s head and sprinted off laughing.
In the locker room, outside linebacker Trev Alberts spoke on behalf of the team while presenting Osborne the game ball.
And midway through his postgame interview, an old rival interrupted.
“Just go for 300, Coach,” said ex-Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer, now in private business in Norman, Okla.
A surprised Osborne shook hands with him and replied,”Hey, Barry, how you doing? Good to see you.”
But the happiest sight for Osborne was watching Miles block a punt.
The Roselle, N.J., junior’s heroics came after NU outside linebacker Trev Alberts’ sacked OSU quarterback Tone’ Jones for a 9-yard loss, setting up fourth-and-25 at the Cowboys 2.
Miles, rushing from right end, deked right, then shot left through a gap straight toward Cowboy punter Scott Tyner.
Miles smothered the ball on Tyner’s foot, and rolled over in the end zone with the ball for a touchdown and a 20-13 lead with 14:09 to play.
“That was a huge play,” Osborne said. “Barron’s one of the few guys who will look right at the football and put his face on it.”
Osborne said the kicking game — highlighted by Miles’ block and Byron Bennett’s two field goals — probably changed the outcome.
“We tell our players every year that there are two or three games to be won in the kicking game,” the coach said. “That probably was the case at UCLA, and it was the case today.”
The kicking game was important, Osborne said, because the Huskers struggled offensively and defensively the first half.
Oklahoma State outgained Nebraska 161 yards to 118 in the first 30 minutes. But in the second half, NU gained 241 yards to OSU’s 102.
Nebraska only committed one turnover, but it proved to have a big effect on the game becauwe it can on the fifth play.
Frazier fumbled a snap, bobbled it backward for 20 yards and then lost it to OSU defensive end Jevon Langford at the Husker 24.
“That first-quarter turnover gave them a lot of hope,” Osborne said. “It was a real momentum shift.
“If we had been able to knock it in there or kick a field goal, it could possibly have been a different game.”
After gaining one first down, the Cowboys were forced to settle for Lawson Vaughn’s 26-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 10:48 left in the first quarter. That was OSU’s first lead over Nebraska since 1989.
“When they kicked that field goal,” Osborne said,”I was afraid we’d struggle for quite awhile. And we did.”
Nebraska, pinned back at its 8 after a holding penalty on the ensuing kickoff, needed Bennett’s 53-yard punt to push OSU back into its own territory.
But the Cowboys, despite losing a 27-yard run to a penalty, held the ball for 12 plays before Vaughn kicked a 29-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead with 3:06 left in the first quarter.
Nebraska’s offense finally responded with the help of two 15-yard penalties against Oklahoma State.
Frazier scrambled for 17 yards and got 15 more when he was hit late out of bounds. Then on NU’s first snap in OSU territory — with 1:50 left in the first quarter — Frazier hit wingback Abdul Muhammad for 10 yards. But the gain grew to 25 as OSU was called for roughing the passer.
But in three plays from the OSU 15, Nebraska could gain only 4 yards. So Bennett kicked a 28-yard field to cut the Cowboys’ lead to 6-3 with 14:52 left in the half.
Oklahoma State — ranked 93rd nationally in total offense — bounced back with a third straight score on a 16-play, 80-yard drive in 8 minutes, 25 seconds.
On fourth-and-one at the OSU 41, Jones sneaked for 1 yard to keep the drive going.
The Cowboys then converted twice on third down, including a 12-yard screen pass from Jones to fullback Joe Jefferson to the NU 13. Three plays later, tailback Louis Adams vaulted in from the 1 to build OSU’s lead to 13-3 with 6:27 to go in the half.
Nebraska again went three downs and out, but the Husker defense forced an OSU punt to get the ball back at the NU 32 with 1:09 to go in the half.
Passes from Frazier to tight end Trumane Bell for 10 yards, Jones for 13 yards and split end Corey Dixon for 31 yards got the Huskers to the OSU 9 with eight seconds left.
After an incomplete pass in the end zone, Bennett kicked a 26-yard field goal on the last play to bring Nebraska within 13-6 at halftime.
“That was a big score,” Osborne said. “And the score early in the second half was, too.”
Nebraska, which had trailed since the first five minutes, finally tied the game with 5:24 left in the third quarter.
After an OSU punt, Frazier’s option runs of 9 and 15 yards got the Huskers to the Cowboys’ 30.
Jones’ 20-yard counter sweep run moved NU to the 4. Frazier ran it inon the next play to tie the game at 13.
After Miles’ blocked punt put NU ahead 20-13, OSU threatened one last time.
The Cowboys moved to the NU 45 before facing a fourth-and-eight. They faked a punt by snapping the ball to blocking back Scott Harmon, but the play fell 5 yards short of a first down with 4:32 left.
Three plays later, Jones rambled 44 yards for a touchdown to clinch the victory.
Even after reaching 200 wins, Osborne continued to downplay the feat.
“I told the players this afternoon that there would be talk about this 200 thing,” he said. “But the important thing is the moment and how you play.
“That’s where I get my enjoyment — seeing the team play as well as it can play.”
So how did Osborne feel about that Thursday night?
“I’ve got a little mixed feelings,” he said. “There were some great things that happened. And it’s nice to be a part of 200 wins.
“But we’ve got to play a little better than what we did.”
|Yards per carry||2.4||5.7|
Nebraska is 37-5 all-time against Oklahoma State.
|North Texas||Sept. 4|
|Texas Tech||Sept. 11|
|Colorado State||Sept. 25|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 7|
|Kansas State||Oct. 16|
|Iowa State||Nov. 13|
|Florida State||Jan. 1|
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