NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma took a giant step toward the national championship Saturday by putting its foot down on Nebraska, squashing the second-ranked Huskers, 27-7.
It was Nebraska’s worst loss in 98 games since the Sooners beat NU 38-7 in 1977. Chris Spachman’s 76-yard touchdown return with a fumble with 26 seconds left in the game allowed the Huskers to avert their first shutout in 147 games. NU suffered its last shutout in 1973, when the Sooners beat the Huskers 27-0 at Norman.
The Sooners, rated No. 3 by United Press International and No. 5 by The Associated Press, wrapped up at least a share of the Big Eight title and a Jan. 1 berth in the Orange Bowl. The Sooners, 8-1 overall and 6-0 in the Big Eight, will meet top-ranked Penn State, which beat Pittsburgh Saturday night. If the Sooners beat Oklahoma State and SMU the next two weeks, the Orange Bowl probably will be for the national title.
Oklahoma’s win, coupled with Oklahoma State’s 15-10 upset loss at Iowa State, assured the Sooners of a share of the Big Eight championship. Nebraska, which finished conference play at 6-1, still can earn a share of the Big Eight title if Oklahoma State upsets the Sooners this week.
Oklahoma fans swarmed the field after the game and tore down the south goal posts at Owen Field.
Nebraska, 9-2, accepted a bid Saturday night to the Jan. 1 Sunkist Fiesta Bowl against Michigan in Tempe, Ariz. The No. 6-rated Wolverines, 9-1-1, Saturday defeated Ohio State, 27-17.
“This was our day. It’s as simple as that,” said Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer. “This was Oklahoma’s day. It’s a great feeling.
A lot of things went right for us today.”
Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne didn’t need to look at the game’s final statistics to confirm what he already knew.
“They are probably the best team in the country right now,” Osborne said. “They have as good a defense, I think, as they ever had.
Osborne didn’t make excuses for Nebraska’s loss. The NU coach said his team’s execution wasn’t good against Oklahoma, but that the Huskers gave it everything they had.
“I’m not too proud of the way we played today, but we tried hard,” Osborne said. “Our guys have had a great year. I think we were a little uptight at the start of the game.
“We tried as hard as we could, but we weren’t able to dominate the way we have a lot of others. It was their defense that dominated the game.”
The Sooners showed from the outset that, on this day, they were the better team. Oddsmakers favored OU by three points. The Sooners made it look easy. Oklahoma’s defense stopped Nebraska, the best running team in the country. The Huskers were held to 161 yards on the ground, far below their 395.6 yards average. Nebraska had 224 total yards.
The Sooner wishbone did its part, slashing through the Huskers for 461 total yards, including 423 on the ground. The game became a showcase for OU freshman quarterback Jamelle Holieway and sophomore tight end Keith Jackson.
A sellout crowd of 75,004 and a national ABC-TV audience saw Jackson shock Nebraska with an 88-yard touchdown run on a tight-end reverse that gave Oklahoma a 7-0 lead on its second possession. The touchdown triggered a flurry of orange-throwing from Oklahoma fans.
“That tight-end-around play hurt us very badly,” Osborne said.
“The tight end reverse and us not moving the ball early hurt us.”
Holieway made it 14-0 on OU’s next possession when he scooted 43 yards for another touchdown.
“That Holieway is hard to get hold of,” Osborne said.
Nebraska defensive tackle Jim Skow spent much of the day trying to corner Holieway. Skow said the task was not easy.
“He’s like a field mouse,” Skow said.
Oklahoma’s 14-0 lead proved more than enough because Oklahoma’s smothering defense, the nation’s best, simply smashed the Huskers.
“Kevin Murphy came to my office this week and said: “Coach, we’re going to shut them out. They don’t believe we can do that, but we believe it,’ “ Switzer said. “They played well enough to get that shutout.”
It was 17-0 at halftime and by then a few fans had already begun to leave.
Jackson ran three of those reverse plays one was an aborted option pass play for a total of 136 yards and finished as the game’s leading rusher. He also caught Oklahoma’s only successful pass, good for 38 yards.
Holieway used his quick feet to dart for 110 more on 25 carries, including touchdown runs of 43 and 17 yards.
Nebraska’s only score came with 26 seconds left in the game when Spachman picked off an Oklahoma fumble and rambled 76 yards for a touchdown. It was the first touchdown that Oklahoma had allowed in its last four games.
“Our defense deserved a shutout, and I think Nebraska knows that,” Switzer said. “We were disappointed we didn’t get it. They score with 26 seconds left on a fumble, but that’s football.”
Nebraska’s offense was overmatched by Oklahoma’s swirling band of hitters. Only twice did the Nebraska offense get inside the OU 20.
Both times the Huskers came away with nothing.
Trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, Nebraska used a reverse of its own to surprise the Sooners. Wingback Von Sheppard ran 52 yards to the OU 6, but the Huskers stalled. Two keepers by quarterback McCathorn Clayton gained 1 yard and on third down, Clayton’s pass to Robb Schnitzler was broken up by Oklahoma’s Ledell Glenn.
Nebraska place-kicker Dale Klein pushed his 23-yard field-goal try wide to the right.
In the fourth quarter, Nebraska freshman quarterback Steve Taylor got the Huskers to the Oklahoma 1, but on third and goal from the 2, Taylor fumbled the snap. Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth recovered.
It was a miserable day for Nebraska’s runners and passers. Husker Iback Doug DuBose, one of the country’s top runners, was held to 46 yards on 16 carries. Fullback Tom Rathman managed 29 yards on eight carries. Sheppard was NU’s leading rusher with 65 yards on two carries.
Clayton started at quarterback for Nebraska and completed a 16-yard pass to Schnitzler on Nebraska’s first play. Clayton completed 2 of 9 passes for 37 yards and threw two interceptions. Taylor came into the game with 9:19 left in the third quarter and Nebraska trailing 20-0. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 26 yards and threw an interception, too. Taylor also bobbled four center snaps and lost a fumble.
Travis Turner got into the game on Nebraska’s final series and threw two incomplete passes.
All told, Nebraska’s passers completed 4 of 15 passes for 63 yards and threw three interceptions.
Holieway did a senior-like job of operating Oklahoma’s wishbone.
The freshman completed only 1 of 4 passes, but there was little need to throw because between his own option runs and Jackson’s reverse rumbles, OU’s ground game rolled right along. Holieway’s only real mistake was on a botched handoff in the first quarter. Spachman turned Oklahoma’s only other turnover into a touchdown.
“I wouldn’t have dreamed we could have made over 400 yards against Nebraska,” Holieway said. “When our line blocks and our backs run, nobody can stop us.”
Oklahoma’s first touchdown came with startling suddenness.
Nebraska punter Dan Wingard put the Sooners back to the OU 9. On first down, fullback Leon Perry burrowed for 3 yards. It appeared Oklahoma would play it safe, especially since the Sooners were headed into an 18-mile per-hour north wind.
But on second down, Holieway scuttled down the line to his left on an apparent option play, only to hand the ball to Jackson on a reverse. The 241-pound tight end broke free down the sideline, avoided a desperation tackle attempt by NU’s Chris Carr at the Nebraska 15 and made it to the end zone to complete an 88-yard stunner. That made it 7-0 with 11:21 left in the first quarter.
On Oklahoma’s next possession, it was Holieway who showed his heels to the Huskers. The 175-pound freshman slid to his right on an option play and avoided a tackle by NU linebacker Mike Knox as he cut upfield. He slipped through tackle attempts by Brad Smith, Scott Tucker and safety Bryan Siebler for a 43-yard touchdown run. With 5:52 left in the first quarter, Oklahoma led 14-0.
“Jamelle is a great little football player,” Switzer said. “He had a great game today.”
Sheppard’s run gave the Huskers a chance to close the gap, but Oklahoma’s defense wouldn’t break. Klein was wide on his 23-yard field goal attempt.
Later in the second quarter, Jackson broke loose on another tight-end reverse, this one for 29 yards to the Nebraska 25. Four plays later, OU’s Tim Lashar kicked a 36-yard field goal to give Oklahoma a 17-0 lead at halftime.
Lashar kicked a 34-yard field goal on Oklahoma’s first second-half possession, giving the Sooners a 20-0 lead with 9:19 left in the third quarter.
In came Taylor to replace Clayton, but it didn’t matter who was at quarterback for Nebraska. Oklahoma’s defense simply ravaged the Huskers.
Nebraska couldn’t run up the middle where OU nose guard Tony Casillas and Bosworth waited. The Huskers couldn’t run outside because Oklahoma’s speed, mostly that of defensive end Kevin Murphy, chased them down. Bosworth had nine tackles, and Casillas and Murphy each had five .
When the Huskers tried to pass, Bosworth led a strong Sooner pass rush. The 235-pound sophomore had nine tackles, including two for losses, and recovered a fumble. Bosworth wasn’t too impressed with OU’s defensive domination.
“Today wasn’t our best defensive effort, in my opinion,” Bosworth said. “We played better defense against Texas.”
Oklahoma’s last touchdown came with 2:26 left in the third quarter. Jackson again tried the tight-end reverse, only this time he looked to pass. Nobody was open, so he tucked away the ball and ran for 19 yards to the OU 47. It took the Sooners seven plays from there and Holieway got the touchdown on a 17-yard option keeper around left end. Nobody touched him.
|Yards per carry||6.0||3.8|
Nebraska is 38-45 all-time against Oklahoma.
|Florida State||Sept. 7|
|New Mexico||Oct. 5|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 12|
|Kansas State||Nov. 2|
|Iowa State||Nov. 9|
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