NORMAN, Okla. — It must have been proper and legal. John Waldof, the supervisor of Big Eight officials, was there. So was the league commissioner, Charles Neinas. It came in full view of 61,826 Owen Field fans and a nation-wide television audience.
But Oklahoma invited Nebraska down to play a game of football Friday and only allowed the Cornhuskers to use half the field while the Sooners got to play with the full 100 yards.
"How can they beat you if they can't score?" asked jubilant Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer after his Sooners had swept aside the frustrated Huskers, 27-0, to lock up the Big Eight championship.
If they can't score, indeed. If six points were awarded for crossing midfield, the score still would have been 27-zip.
The final outing in Nebraska's 8-2-1 regular season was the first shutout suffered by a Husker offense since the 1968 Sooners stabbed Nebraska 47-0.
The outcome left the third-ranked Sooners with a 9-0-1 record going into next week's finale against Oklahoma State. But that game won't be needed to enhance Oklahoma's image as the strongest bowl cleaner of them all.
The Sooners can't go to a bowl game because of probation, but Nebraska, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, and maybe Southern Cal will carry Sooner-inflicted wounds into holiday games.
"The Cotton Bowl (with Nebraska and Texas participating) should be called the Loser's Bowl," said Oklahoma linebacker Rod Shoate. "But I'm glad Nebraska is going to represent the Big Eight."
This Oklahoma team was good, no question, but Nebraska's players were reserved in their praise of their conquerors. It is not the best Sooner team ever, as some have claimed, the Huskers generally felt.
"That team with (Greg) Pruitt and (Jack) Mildren in 1971 had to be the best one they ever put out," said safety Bob Thornton.
"Last year, Oklahoma had a better pass rush," said offensive tackle Daryl White. "Today, we had time to throw the ball. On another day, we could have beat them. You can't take anything away from them, but we've got a good team, too. We just didn't play like it."
After the Sooners assumed a 14-0 command in the first quarter, it was apparent the Huskers were outgunned. The major comeback weapon, Dave Humm's passing, was largely neutralized by a zone defense that had eight defenders in the passing lanes.
First Humm tried, then Steve Runty, then Earl Everett. But 10 completions in 30 tosses could produce only 100 yards. Although Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne had hoped to dominate with power running, Tony Davis, John O'Leary, Maury Damkroger, Ralph Powell, managed only a measly 74 yards.
The day obviously belonged to Rod Shoate, Mike Struck, Dave Smith and the Selmons Three.
Twice, it appeared the Huskers would shake the ignominy of playing an entire game on its own end of the field. But it was not to be.
In the third quarter, Humm passed to Ritch Bahe, who clawed his way a yard into Switzerland. An ineligible receiver was downfield.
Later in the period, Humm passed to tight end Larry Mushinskie for a 33-yard gain to the Sooner 33. Also, fate and defender Durwood Keeton decreed that Mushinskie should fumble away the ball to Randy Hughes.
The Oklahoma offense, meanwhile, was smashing and slashing at the overburdened Blackshirt defense for 317 yards rushing and 368 yards in total offense.
As expected, sophomores Steve Davis, who scored three times at quarterback and rushed 18 times for 114 yards, and Joe Washington, who gained 107 on 24 whirling thrusts, were the chief nemeses.
Washington was at his dancing best on a 34-yard journey that led to the first touchdown, and Davis got the big gainer of 47 yards and a touchdown when he was only trying to pick up a first down on a quarterback sneak.
“I was double-teamed on it (Davis’ run),” said Husker center John Bell, who started his first game in three weeks after shaking a knee injury. “He just ran right behind the blockers, and he was gone.”
Bell shook his head in wonderment when discussing Washington. “He’s that good,” he said, referring to this pregame buildup. And their defense is real good, except for Lucious (all-America middle guard candidate Lucious Selmon). Rik Bonness (Husker center) kicked the hell out of him.
“That was one of my goals, to show up Lucious. I think I did.”
Selmon had seven tackles, Bell a whopping 18.
Bonness was more generous in his appraisal of Selmon. Lucious is the oldest of the three Eufala, Okla., brothers who hold down the middle of the Sooner defensive line and make it possible to drop back eight pass defenders.
“He was tough,” said Bonness. “He and Hunt (Iowa State’s Larry) are pretty close, but Lucious is quicker.”
Bonness acknowledged that offensive guards Dan Anderson and Tom Alward helped him with Selmon, “but we could have done a lot better than we did.”
“There were a lot of dropped passes and missed blocks. You can’t do things like that against a team like Oklahoma. They were better today. They are really a great team.
“It hurts terribly to lose like that, especially on TV. We’ve got to keep our heads up and get the next one (Texas).”
Among the few bright spots for the Huskers were the 48.6 punting average for nine Rich Sanger kicks that helped keep the score from becoming worse, and the nation’s leading pass defense that limited Oklahoma to three completions in 10 attempts.
“I almost went nuts before the game. I was so keyed up,” said Sanger. “It’s a heck of a letdown now.”
Safety Thornton, whose secondary troops had easily handled Oklahoma’s passing threat until a late 41-yard Davis-to-Tinker Owens toss led to the final touchdown, said the Sooner’s passing scheme “isn’t too organized. They just throw to fool you.”
Osborne said Oklahoma’s defense was “definitely the best in the country, and they’re probably the best over-all in the country. Of all the teams I’ve seen, they’re certainly the best.
“I thought our defense hung in their pretty well most of the time, except for two or three big plays.”
Offensive captain White termed it a “real drag to get shut out. We just have to keep our heads up. But we didn’t quit. That’s a tribute to the type of ball players we’ve got. We’ll be back. I’m not worried about that.
“This will just make us work that much harder for Texas.”
Thornton was saddened by the fact that he had lost both games to Oklahoma since he transferred to Nebraska from a California junior college. He reflected on the fact that Oklahoma is a sophomore-junior dominated team that was expected to take its lumps this year.
“The way Washington and those guys played, maybe it’s a good thing I won’t be back next year,” he said.
“Washington is what’s making them go,” said Bell. “He’s a hell of a back. He’s better than Pruitt. He reminds me of Johnny Rodgers.
“Our defense just played too much. We just tired out. We didn’t get a break all day, but that’s discipline. I’m beat. I’ve never played that much defense.”
|Yards per carry||4.7||2.4|
Nebraska is 38-45 all-time against Oklahoma.
|North Carolina State||Sept. 22|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 27|
|Iowa State||Nov. 10|
|Kansas State||Nov. 17|
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