Nebraska’s defense held center stage for most of Saturday’s 41-3 win over Kansas State. But in the final two minutes, a bit player stole the show.
The Huskers, third-ranked in the UPI poll and now 7-1, manhandled Kansas State, 1-7, before 41,200 at KSU Stadium. It was the 600th win in Nebraska’s football history.
NU’s defense held the Wildcats to 186 total yards and forced three turnovers as Nebraska ran its Big Eight record to 4-0.
With 2:10 left, freshman quarterback Steve Taylor entered the game. The kid didn’t have many lines in the game’s final scene, but he ran a 32-yard option that created some excitement. Husker fans yelled loudest for Taylor’s run and some will call for an encore.
Taylor uncorked his run to the K-State 4-yard line. Fourth-team I-back Jon Kelley took it in from the 1 on the game’s final play, completing a 58-yard march.
Taylor’s performance caught the fancy of Husker fans, who appeared to make up more than half of the crowd. Quarterbacks Travis Turner and McCathorn Clayton combined to hit 6 of 17 passes for 75 yards and two interceptions. NU head coach Tom Osborne didn’t rule out the possibility of more varsity action for Taylor.
“We want to look at the film,” Osborne said.
The film will show that Nebraska’s defense flat stuffed Kansas State, never allowing the ‘Cats to muster any kind of attack. The film will show that Nebraska rushed for 375 yards and gained a total of 450. Many of those yards came grudgingly against a K-State defense loaded to stop the run.
With Turner and Clayton in the game, NU’s offense seemed to slow dance much of the time.
Taylor, though, jitterbugged those 32 yards and made it look, oh, so easy.
“You have to remember that what happened when it was 34-3 is not the same as playing when it’s still a ballgame,” Osborne said.
K-State interim head coach Lee Moon, too, was aware of the score when Nebraska punched in its last touchdown. Moon seemed to think the final NU touchdown was unnecessary.
“I’ll remember it,” Moon said.
The Husker defense has become dominating at times. The Nebraska ground game, as usual, is a consistent weapon. The sporadic passing game and the inconsistent play at quarterback, though, concern Osborne.
“We need to get stabilized a little bit at quarterback,” Osborne said.
Taylor has 4.54-second speed in the 40-yard dash, the school record for quarterbacks.
“He’s awfully fast,” Osborne said.
For only the third time in the past 32 games, a Nebraska runner failed to gain at least 100 yards. Two of those games have come against Kansas State. Yet three Husker runners gained more than 80 yards Saturday, led by fullback Tom Rathman who rumbled for 84 yards on 11 carries and scored twice.
One of those Rathman rambles was a 37-yard touchdown sprint in the first period that gave Nebraska a 7-0 lead. On that run, Rathman tiptoed through a crowd at the line of scrimmage, found a crease in the middle and zoomed to the end zone.
“Andra Franklin was close, but Tom is probably the best running/blocking fullback we’ve ever had,” Osborne said.
I-back Doug DuBose picked up 83 yards on 18 carries, and backup Paul Miles added 82 on 11 attempts.
Once again, Nebraska’s passing game sputtered. Turner, who started the game, completed 5 of 11 passes for 56 yards and an interception.
Clayton completed 1 of 6 for 19 yards. He, too, had a pass picked off.
“Our passing game, at times, wasn’t very good,” Osborne said.
After Rathman’s first score, Kansas State made it 7-3 on Mark Porter’s sixth straight field goal of the season, a 44-yarder.
But Miles shook loose on a 21-yard touchdown dash to make it 14-3 and Rathman got his second touchdown on a 5-yard smash. It was 21-3 with 3:38 left in the first half.
Dale Klein’s 39-yard field goal gave Nebraska a 24-3 halftime lead.
Nothing, though, came easy against Kansas State. The Wildcats’ offense never got untracked, but their defense hung tough.
“We felt coming in that the strength of the Kansas State team was its defense,” Osborne said.
Nebraska improved its lead to 27-3 in the third quarter when Klein hit a 50-yard field goal, longest of his career. It also was the 12th field goal this season by Klein, tying the NU record for most field goals in a season.
Miles scored again in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard run to make it 34-3 with 8:58 left. Nebraska got the ball back and Osborne put in third-teamer Clete Blakeman at quarterback. Five plays later, Blakeman was replaced by Taylor, drawing applause from Husker fans.
The first two plays hardly were auspicious. Twice Husker linemen twitched, resulting in illegal-procedure penalties. Keith Jones then ran for 11 yards.
On a second-and-nine play from the Kansas State 36, Taylor skittered down the line to his right on an option. When a hole opened, he darted through. He left one tackler sprawled near the line and raced down the sideline before a KState player bumped him out of bounds at the 4.
Kelley got the touchdown two plays later.
NU’s defense gave a tremendous performance. The Huskers allowed K-State just 58 rushing yards on 39 attempts. Wildcat quarterback John Welch hit 15 of 34 passes for 128 yards, but most were short ones.
Kansas State’s longest play of the day was a 23-yard completion to split end Gerald Alphin.
A key third-down play for Nebraska was a second-quarter, 22-yard screen pass from Turner to Rathman. The Huskers led at the time, 7-3.
The pass caught K-State in an all-out blitz. Rathman rolled to the Wildcats’ 21 for a first down. On the next play, Miles scored and it was 14-3.
Nebraska’s defense took over after that. The Huskers sacked Welch five times, three by defensive tackle Jim Skow, and repeatedly harassed the K-State quarterback into hurried throws.
The Nebraska defense smothered K-State’s rushing game. Todd Moody led the ‘Cats with 62 yards on 14 carries. Alphin caught five passes for 62 yards.
NU linebacker Mike Knox, cornerback Brian Davis and safety Bryan Siebler all intercepted Welch passes. “Overall, I thought we played a pretty good game,” Osborne said.
Top-ranked Iowa lost to Ohio State 22-13, making it likely that the Huskers will jump in the national rankings.
“We hope we might move up a notch or two,” Osborne said.
Osborne said he would decide Monday if Taylor would stay with the varsity or return to the freshman team.
|Yards per carry||1.5||6.0|
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas State.
|Florida State||Sept. 7|
|New Mexico||Oct. 5|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 12|
|Kansas State||Nov. 2|
|Iowa State||Nov. 9|
Nebraska has played 19 games on Nov. 2. See them all »
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