NORMAN, Okla. — Have you ever seen a team punt the first six times it had the ball and go on to score 73 points?
Fifth-ranked Nebraska did it Saturday, surviving a first-half struggle to inflict an unprecedented beating on Oklahoma 73-21 before a sellout crowd of 75,004 at Owen Field.
OU fans in that throng were going berserk watching their defense — running a new scheme — hold the fifth — ranked Huskers to 7 yards and no points almost to the midway point of the second quarter.
But NU, to the delight of the estimated 12,000 Husker fans in attendance, scored 10 touchdowns and a field goal from there to stick the Sooners with:
Their worst margin of defeat in history. The 52-point spread topped the 47-0 loss to Oklahoma State in 1945.
The most points allowed in history. The old mark had been 59 in a 59-21 loss to Kansas State in 1969.
The worst margin of defeat by either team in the NU-OU rivalry. The biggest deficit previously had been 48 points in Oklahoma wins over Nebraska in 1949 (48-0), 1954 (55-7) and 1956 (54-6).
The game’s transformation from barnburner to blowout left many of the Huskers shaking their heads.
“I was worried about losing this game,” NU middle linebacker Jon Hesse said. “Really, I was. No matter what the records coming in, this was Oklahoma.
“I can’t believe we scored 73 points. I never thought I would ever see Oklahoma give up 73 points.”
Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne also wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.
“In some ways, it wasn’t our best game, ‘’ he said. “But in some ways, if you look at the final score, it was kind of amazing.”
The one constant in the game that allowed Nebraska (7-1 overall, 5-0 in the Big 12 North) not to worry too long about being upset by Oklahoma (2-6, 2-3 in the South) was defense.
“When you beat somebody 73-21 and you say the key to game was defense, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Osborne said. “But we played very well defensively through most of the game.”
Nebraska shut out Oklahoma for three quarters and the defense had a hand in four of the touchdowns-including freshman cornerback Ralph Brown’s 83-yard interception return — that helped the Huskers build leads of 17-0 at halftime and 45-0 entering the fourth quarter.
“Our defensive line ate their offensive line alive,” Hesse said. “When those guys play that well, it’s almost impossible to move the ball on us.”
Defensive tackle Jason Peter started the surge on the game’s first play by sacking OU quarterback Jason Fuente for a 7-yard loss. Nebraska held Oklahoma to 19 yards in the first quarter, 1 in the second and 69 in the third, giving the Husker offense sufficient time to smooth out the new wrinkles OU showed defensively.
The Sooners still used their 4-3 alignment, but they had their linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage than in previous games, used blitzes and stunts not seen before and had their defensive backs playing man-to-man coverage instead of zone.
“We finally figured out what they were doing by the start of the second quarter,” Osborne said. “But we weren’t able to communicate very well with our players and establish a very sound strategy until halftime.
“I don’t think I did a very good job early in the game. But what Oklahoma did was so different from what we had seen them do that we really had to reorganize.”
Still, Nebraska scored 17 points in the second quarter with the help of its defense and special teams.
Early in the second quarter, Oklahoma’s Jarrail Jackson bobbled a punt and Nebraska rush end Chad Kelsay recovered at the OU 17.
The Huskers moved to the 2, but lost 6 yards in the next three plays. So they had to settle for Kris Brown’s 25-yard field goal for the game’s first points with 7:57 to go in the half.
On OU’s next possession, Husker linebacker Jay Foreman reached back and intercepted a Fuente pass one-handed at the Sooner 19.
Two plays later, NU quarterback Scott Frost hit tight end Vershan Jackson with a 6-yard pass to the 1. Jackson lost the ball as he went down, and two officials near the play disagreed on whether it was a fumble.
The play eventually was ruled a catch, leading to a cascade of boos.
“I don’t know if I fumbled or not,” Jackson said. “I was having trouble controlling the ball from the time it was thrown to me, but I was trying my hardest to score.”
I-back DeAngelo Evans did score on the next play to put Nebraska ahead 10-0 with 5:43 to go in the half.
After Oklahoma went three downs and out for the sixth time in the first nine possessions, Nebraska got the ball at the OU 35 following a weak punt and wingback Shevin Wiggins’ 10-yard return.
Frost completed passes of 18 and 12 yards to wingback Jon Vedral in the drive, which I-back Ahman Green capped with a 4-yard run to put Nebraska ahead 17-0.
Vedral said some of the offense’s struggles in the first half reminded him of NU’s woes during a 19-0 loss at Arizona State with one big exception.
“The thing that was different today was nobody got frustrated,” he said. “We knew our offense was going to produce. We just had to take our time and get adjusted to the new things Oklahoma was showing.”
The Sooners showed signs of making it a game early in the third quarter when safety Terry White intercepted a Frost pass and returned it to the NU 42.
But after two first downs, Ralph Brown intercepted quarterback Eric Moore’s quick slant pass at the 17, bolted down the sideline and picked up a late block from linebacker Terrell Farley to complete an 83-yard touchdown return.
“I think we really needed that play,” Brown said. “At that point, neither offense was really coming through.”
Oklahoma missed field goals of 41 and 46 yards on its next two possessions. Then Nebraska’s offense got as hot as the Blackshirt defense.
Frost hit wingback Lance Brown with a 41-yard touchdown bomb for a 31-0 lead.
On Oklahoma’s next play, Peter tipped a Fuente pass and roverback Mike Minter intercepted at the Sooner 24. Six plays later, Frost hit Vedral with a 10-yard touchdown pass for a 38-0 lead.
Nebraska free safety Eric Warfield intercepted Fuente on the first play of the next series at the OU 17, setting up Evans’ 7-yard touchdown run for a 45-0 lead.
In the fourth quarter, with NU’s first offense still in the game, Frost completed a 51-yard bomb to split end Jeff Lake for a 52-0 lead with 12:04 to play.
Osborne defended the play when asked if he was trying to run up the score.
“The way they were crowding us,” he said,”we had to throw deep.”
Osborne also made no apology for having Frost in the game with a 45-point lead and 12 minutes to play.
“The reason we had Scott in there was because Oklahoma had come back so well in the fourth quarter in other games,” Osborne said. “We weren’t trying to embarrass them.”
Osborne said Oklahoma’s style of defense left Nebraska with few options but to pass.
“It wasn’t real comfortable what we were having to do,” he said. “But they were crowding the line of scrimmage, blitzing a lot and their secondary was playing a lot of man-to-man. “
“When you do that, you’re asking for the deep pass. “
Nebraska finished with 179 yards passing and 208 rushing for a total of 387 yards.
In the final eight minutes, Oklahoma got touchdown runs of 34, 17 and 51 yards from De’Mond Parker-all against NU’s No. 2 and 3 defenses. The freshman tailback finished with 151 yards in 13 carries. Oklahoma gained 186 of its 275 total yards in the fourth quarter.
But Nebraska matched OU score for score, getting touchdown runs of 1 and 22 yards from I-back Jay Sims and an 85-yard kickoff return from split end Kenny Cheatham.
“I don’t know if this was a step forward or a step sideways for us,” NU center Aaron Taylor. “But it definitely wasn’t a step back. We can take some good from this game because we got great effort from everybody. “
|Yards per carry||4.6||4.1|
Nebraska is 38-45 all-time against Oklahoma.
|Michigan State||Sept. 7|
|Arizona State||Sept. 21|
|Colorado State||Sept. 28|
|Kansas State||Oct. 5|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 19|
|Iowa State||Nov. 16|
|Virginia Tech||Dec. 31|
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