NORMAN, Oka. — Oklahoma set off for familiar surroundings on the beach, and Nebraska reluctantly had to work up an appetite for chicken fried steak and country music Saturday because a Fumbleroosky is an inadequate answer for a Billy Sims on the loose.
Oklahoma, following habit and the hotfooting of the irrepressible Sims, wrecked yet another Husker shot at the ultimate glory in a drama-packed 17-14 victory before a howling mob of 71,180 at Owen Field.
The Sooners, therefore, made it eight out of nine against their primary antagonists and kept intact Coach Barry Switzer’s record of an outright or shared Big Eight championship for each of his seven years as head coach.
With the title, Oklahoma was headed back to the Orange Bowl for the third straight year and the fourth out of five. With another frustrating runnerup finish, the Huskers, losing for the first time after 10 victories, were destined for the Cotton Bowl in Dallas against Arkansas, Texas or Houston.
When it came to offensive efficiency, the best Nebraska could muster was the Fumbleroosky.
Never heard of it?
It was an intentional fumble, with an offensive guard winding up playing running back. It was as befuddling to the Sooner defense as the fake-punt Bummeroosky that helped beat Missouri in 1975.
Trouble is, Nebraska ran only two. John Havekost made a first down with an 11-yard gain, and Randy Schleusener ran for a 15-yard touchdown the first time he ever handled the ball in a real live game.
Those plays stacked up nicely against Sims’ 8.8-yard rushing average. But...Sims lugged the pig 28 times, mostly on lightning bolts into the meat of the nation’s No. 1 defense against the rush.
When the totals were in, Sims had gained 247 yards against a defense that had been giving up 67.2 per game, and it was Sims with the ball when the Sooners most needed the yards, and the Huskers knew who was going to get it.
Sims’ devastating performance included a 68-yard run for an apparent touchdown on the opening series that was trimmed to a 53-yard gain because of a clip and a 71-yard run to the Nebraska 8 in the last quarter to set up the touchdown that decided it.
That left Switzer throwing around more “greatests” than Muhammad Ali and left the Huskers just wondering.
The trick plays reflected a mounting frustration over failure of the nation’s most prodigious rushing offense (it was Nebraska’s, really) to convert third-and-short plays.
Eventually, the Huskers would turn to the pass and the trick to trim a 17-7 deficit to the final 17-14 in the fourth quarter. But the Sooners even had the passing edge in this one as the last two Husker bids resulted in an interception and a run of incompletions.
Sooner quarterback Julius Caesar Watts Jr., who goes by J.C., found the Huskers working with a patchwork secondary because of injuries in the third quarter and promptly threw a 58-yard touchdown pass to tight end Forrest Valora, who was left uncovered because by that time the Huskers were so Sims-conscious.
That pass overcame a 7-3 Nebraska halftime lead, provided by an 11-yard swing pass from Jeff Quinn to I-back Jarvis Redwine. Oklahoma opened scoring on freshman Mike Keeling’s 31-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Although Sims failed to score, his 247 yards were 13 more than were managed by seven Nebraska backs, a tight end named Junior Miller and two guards.
Oklahoma’s 352 rushing yards were about on the button for its season average while Nebraska was 122 below par against a charged-up Sooner defense the Huskers thought they could overpower.
With 130 yards in passes to Quinn’s 102, the Sooners held the total offense edge, 482-336.
The Sooners, matching Nebraska’s 10-1 record, played the “greatest game of any team I’ve been associated with,” Switzer said. “This was the best ever, men.”
Husker Coach Tom Osborne said “Oklahoma just played better. We had our chances to win, but on third-and-one and third-and-two, we just couldn’t come up with the big play. They had ball control. We didn’t think anybody could rush like that (against NU), but they did it. They just beat us on both sides of the football.”
Cotton Bowl representatives Field Scovell and Jim Brock tried hard to keep from grinning in the somber Husker quarters afterwards while officially inviting Nebraska to Dallas. The outcome loosened their stomach knots created by the possibility of a Texas-Oklahoma rematch in the Cotton Bowl.
“The Cotton Bowl is proud to have Nebraska. That’s a great football team and a great program,” Scovell said.
Brock added: “They’re a class outfit. We’ll have an outstanding game. Coach Osborne told us they’ll do their best to give us a good show.”
The final score was the same as last year when Nebraska ended a six-year losing streak against the Sooners. In that one, Oklahoma fumbled nine times and lost six, including one by Sims on the Husker 3 in the final minutes.
Oklahoma fumbled only once this time, officially. The Sooners lost it, but it was of no consequence. However, they came precariously close to a history repeat while driving 94 yards to the touchdown that made it 17-7.
Again, it was Sims charging to the Husker 3. Again, he fumbled when he was whacked by safety Russell Gary. Husker Rod Horn recovered, but the officials ruled the ball dead before the fumble.
Two plays later, Switzer disdained the field goal on fourth-and-three and sent Watts off on an option left. Watts hit the goal line, and the ball popped free again. The officials ruled he had made it in.
“Things just didn’t fall in place this time,” Husker I-back I.M. Hipp said. “It’s just the breaks. It’s a bad feeling because we’ve worked so hard, but that’s the game of football. Somebody has to lose, and today it was us.”
Said quarterback Quinn: “It just wasn’t in the plans today for us to make it.”
Nebraska went into the game ranked second and third by the news services while Oklahoma was seventh and eighth. But Switzer said, “Comes the big ‘un, we come to play.”
Sims surely did. On his first carry, he gained 11 yards. On his second, he shot up the middle from his 32 and fled to the Husker end zone. As Sims was prancing in, split end Freddie Nixon was back at the 15 brushing the backside of Husker cornerback Andy Means.
“I was just trying to get out of the way,” Nixon said. Means admitted he was “just acting.”
But the ball was set back to the 30 on a clipping penalty anyway, and Means killed the opening drive with an end zone interception.
The first quarter ended 0-0, but the tone was set with Sims gaining 113 yards in the opening period.
After Keeling made it 3-0 with a 31-yard field goal in the second quarter, Nebraska played bold and cute for the first time while driving to the Quinn-Redwine touchdown.
The Huskers were bold when Osborne ordered Quinn to sneak on fourth down with a tad to make from the OU 47. He made it by two tads. Later, Quinn would make another successful fourth-down sneak from his own 32.
The Huskers were cute when Junior Miller made five yards on a tight endaround, and Quinn followed up by faking the same play and keeping up the middle for 24 yards.
Late in the second quarter, Keeling was wide with a field goal after Derrie Nelson pinned Sims for his lone loss to kill a drive that reached the Husker 19.
A Barry Burget interception, however, gave the Sooners another chance 18 seconds before halftime, and Watts padded his passing total with a wild scramble and 42-yard completion to Nixon on the Nebraska 3.
Oklahoma had illegal receivers downfield on the play, but the Huskers decided to give the Sooners the gain and let the half stand at 7-3, Nebraska.
But the first of a pair of ominous developments for the Huskers occurred on that final play. Cornerback Ric Lindquist, who pounded Nixon out of bounds, suffered a severe concussion. He was examined by a neurosurgeon and allowed to return to Lincoln with the team, but he was hospitalized at home. Paul Letcher replaced Lindquist in the second half.
On Oklahoma’s first series of the third quarter, Means was carried off on a stretcher after making the tackle on a Watts-Nixon-David Overstreet flea-flicker pass for 13 yards. What was feared to be a broken leg turned out to be a badly bruised thigh, but the Huskers were in trouble because Means “is our best man-to-man player, and Lindquist is probably next,” Osborne said.
With Dave Liegl replacing Means, the secondary changes did not go unnoticed on the Sooner side. Two plays later, Watts faked an option and threw deep in the direction of tight end Forrest Valora.
Watts had missed badly on a similar play in the second quarter when Valora was clear in the end zone. After that one, Switzer told Watts to simply lob the ball if the receiver was so open.
This time, Letcher went for the fake, Valora found himself alone, and Watts lobbed for a 58-yard touchdown.
“We were so conscious of the run. You have to be so aware of Sims, that opens up a lot of things for them,” Letcher said later. “I was just hoping he would overthrow it. It’s so frustrating when there’s nothing you can do but hope for the bad pass.”
Keeling’s kick made it 10-7, but Nebraska steadied and put together a drive from its 23 to the Oklahoma 18 before Dean Sukup was wide on a field goal from the 35.
Along the way, Quinn sneaked to the first down in his own end, Redwine picked up 30 of his team-leading 65 yards in one gulp and the Huskers unveiled “19 special reverse right.”
That was the official nomenclature for Fumbleroosky No. 1 on third-and-five from the Sooner 47. Center Kelly Saalfeld slapped the ball into Quinn’s palm. Quinn let the ball drop to the AstroTurf. With everybody else heading left, left guard Havekost picked up the ball and hiked 11 yards to the right.
“If the ball starts bouncing around you just fall on it. It was just sitting there. It was one of our better-average plays,” Havekost said.
Nebraska ended up punting from its 35 after recovering a Sims fumble on the OU 25 late in the third quarter, and ominous development No. 3 surfaced on the first play of the fourth quarter. Redwine, coming back from an ankle injury, limped off, never to return.
Shortly thereafter, a 61-yard punt by Tim Smith backed up the Sooners to their 6. A stand there, and the Huskers would have good field position to regain the lead.
Overstreet escaped for 13 yards on the first play. Two plays later, there went Sims again. Seventy-one yards this time before Gary collared him eight yards from the Nebraska goal. Watts and Keeling made it 17-7 with less than 8 minutes remaining.
Quinn hitched up and took his team downfield with passes of 25 yards to Junior Miller, 15 to Tim McCrady and 28 to Smith, the last carrying to the Sooner 7.
Following a Sherwood Taylor blitz and sack, it was third-and-14 from the 15. Time for “11 option special reverse left,” with right guard Schleusener scooting for the touchdown on Fumbleroosky No. 2. “I’d never even touched the ball except for recovering fumbles,” he said.
With the score at 17-14 and 4:43 left, “That gave us some encouragement. We didn’t have to come from so far back,” Schleusener said.
The offense got its chance from the Husker 30 with 2:59 left after the Blackshirts held and forced a punt. Three plays later, Oklahoma got the ball back when Mike Babb intercepted a Quinn pass to Smith.
The Huskers got one final shot from their 20, but 54 seconds were not enough.
“The whole story was that they had their day, and we didn’t have ours,” Quinn said. “I don’t like having to use trick plays. That shows your offense isn’t going right.”
|Yards per carry||6.0||4.4|
Nebraska is 38-45 all-time against Oklahoma.
|Utah State||Sept. 15|
|Penn State||Sept. 29|
|New Mexico State||Oct. 6|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 20|
|Kansas State||Nov. 10|
|Iowa State||Nov. 17|
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