LINCOLN — Nebraska’s offense warmed to its task, and the Husker defense gave Iowa State the cold shoulder.
Nebraska steamrollered the Cyclones 49-0 before 75,920 Saturday at Memorial Stadium. A few hundred seats in the south stands were empty at kickoff, but because all the tickets were sold, NU officials called the game a sellout, the 142nd straight.
Under a slate-gray sky, the 28-degree temperature and a 23-mph north wind combined to plummet the wind chill to minus 5 degrees. The Husker defense chilled the Cyclones, too, holding Iowa State to 137 total yards. Nebraska’s offense churned out 573 total yards, including 538 on the ground.
The Huskers, ranked No. 2 by United Press International and No. 3 by The Associated Press, raised their record to 8-1. Nebraska has outscored the Cyclones 93-0 in their last two meetings. The Huskers won 44-0 last year in Ames. Iowa State fell to 3-6.
“I think our defense is getting better every ballgame, which is encouraging,” said Tom Osborne, Nebraska’s head coach. “I think the first four or five games of the season we weren’t playing badly, but we were giving up a lot of yards and giving up some big plays on occasion.
“The last two or three weeks we’ve done better. Iowa State with (Alex) Espinoza a week ago really looked pretty good and today we shut them down.”
It became apparent early in the game that Iowa State probably wouldn’t score against Nebraska’s swarming defense. Espinoza suffered through a miserable day, completing 9 of 25 passes for 86 yards. The Cyclones’ ground game managed 42 yards on 29 attempts. Nebraska had 28 first downs in the game to seven for Iowa State.
Iowa State’s longest gain of the day was a 22-yard pass from Espinoza to tight end Jeff Wodka. The Huskers intercepted one Cyclone pass and recovered a pair of fumbles.
Espinoza’s receivers provided little help. They dropped at least nine passes.
“Offensively, we didn’t perform well enough to get the job done,” said Jim Criner, Iowa State’s head coach. “You can’t turn the ball over and drop that many passes against a team like Nebraska.”
Only once did Iowa State get into Nebraska territory. That came late in the third quarter when the Cyclones reached the Husker 49.
Iowa State never threw in the towel. Most of the Huskers wore one.
The blue hand towels on their belts signifying support for a student campaign to protest cutbacks in the university’s budget. The student section also released dozens of blue balloons after Nebraska’s first touchdown, in contrast to the red balloons that always go skyward.
The Huskers led 21-0 at halftime. Quarterback McCathorn Clayton got Nebraska’s first touchdown on a 3-yard run in the first quarter.
In the second period, I-back Doug DuBose scored on a 3-yard run and Clayton hit tight end Tom Banderas with a 12-yard touchdown pass.
The Huskers continued their assault in the third quarter with three touchdowns. Fullback Tom Rathman broke loose on a 32-yarder, third-team I-back Keith Jones scored from the 1 and wingback Von Sheppard scooted 20 yards for the other.
Nebraska’s final touchdown came with 11:16 left in the game. After the Huskers recovered a fumble at the Iowa State 4-yard line, freshman quarterback Steve Taylor zipped in for the touchdown on his first play of the game.
Osborne said that every player who suited up for the game saw action against Iowa State. Six NU quarterbacks played in the game.
DuBose led all NU rushers with 114 yards on 26 carries and pushed his season yardage total to 1,006, the 11th time a Nebraska back has topped the 1,000-yard mark. DuBose, who gained 1,040 yards last year, also raised his career total to 2,050 and passed Joe Orduna and Jeff Smith to become the 10th-leading career rusher at Nebraska.
Rathman added 97 yards on 10 carries and second-team fullback Ken Kaelin had 74 yards on two attempts. One of those was a 72-yarder that was the big play in a 99-yard scoring drive.
“I thought Rathman again played pretty well,” Osborne said. “He seemed to be able to make six, seven or eight yards most anytime you gave him the ball on almost any kind of a play. And then Kaelin popped one in there, too. So we’re getting pretty good production out of our fullbacks.”
It was Nebraska’s defense, though, that set the game’s tempo. The Huskers never let the Cyclones establish any sort of offensive momentum. “We probably played overall today about as well as we have at any time,” Osborne said. “I really can’t find a whole lot of fault with anything. We played well on offense, we played well on defense and the kicking was pretty good.”
Nebraska quarterbacks threw only eight passes in the game, completing three for 35 yards and one touchdown. But there was little need of any aerial antics because Nebraska’s running game simply wore down the outmanned Cyclones.
Nebraska’s first score came on a 65-yard drive that took 12 plays, all on the ground. Clayton got the touchdown on a 3-yard option keeper.
DuBose got the Huskers’ second score with 12:51 left in the half when he capped a 50-yard drive with a 3-yard run.
Linebacker Mike Knox intercepted an Espinoza pass and returned it 3 yards to the Iowa State 25. It took Nebraska five plays to make it 21-0. Clayton rolled to his left a few steps and waited for Banderas to find an opening in the end zone. Clayton hit him with the 12-yard pass and the Huskers led 21-0 at halftime.
Rathman’s 32-yard touchdown run on a trap play in the third quarter made it 28-0. After that, many fans started to leave the stadium.
A Knox hit late in the third period forced a fumble that defensive tackle Lee Jones recovered at the Cyclone 20. His younger brother Keith got the touchdown four plays later on a 1-yard dive and it was 35-0.
After an Iowa State punt rolled dead at the Nebraska 1, Kaelin uncorked his 72-yard run. He was pushed out of bounds at the Iowa State 27, but two plays later Sheppard scored on a 20-yard reverse to make it 42-0. Sheppard finished with 55 yards on four carries.
Second-team middle guard Todd Proffitt forced a Cyclone fumble that teammate Dan Thayer pounced on at the Iowa State 4. Taylor came into the game at quarterback and scored on the next play to make it 49-0.
The Huskers ran 91 plays to 56 for the Cyclones and controlled the ball for 37 minutes and 26 seconds in the game.
Mostly, though, it was Nebraska’s defense that took the wind out of the Cyclones.
“Their down linemen are very big and physical and they put a lot of pressure on us,” Criner said. “They made it awful tough to get outside.”
The Huskers posted only two sacks of Espinoza, but constantly harassed the Cyclone junior. One of those sacks was by defensive tackle Jim Skow for an 8-yard loss. That gave Skow 39 career tackles for losses, tying the school record held by Kerry Weinmaster. Skow’s yardage total for losses now is at 237, a career school record.
After Florida was beaten 24-3 by Georgia, Nebraska was assured at moving up to second in the AP poll, too, trailing only Penn State.
Osborne said his Husker are in a position to make a run at the national title, but sounded a note of caution.
“I guess we might move up a notch, but we’ll have a tough game with Kansas,” Osborne said. “I think (Mike) Norseth is the best throwing quarterback in the league. He’s a fine player and they’ve got a good football team.
“They’re certainly in a category with Colorado and Oklahoma State. Hopefully, Nebraska and Oklahoma are thought by most people to be the top two teams in the league right now. And then there’s a second echelon. Oklahoma State, Colorado and Kansas are in that echelon.
“If Norseth gets a hot hand and we don’t play well, they can beat us. So we’ll have to play very well. That’s our main concern.
“I guess we are in a good position now. You like to be up there in striking distance and we are, but we’ll have to play very well the next two weeks to have things come off the way we’d like to have them work.”
|Yards per carry||1.4||6.5|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa State.
|Florida State||Sept. 7|
|New Mexico||Oct. 5|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 12|
|Kansas State||Nov. 2|
|Iowa State||Nov. 9|
Nebraska has played 17 games on Nov. 9. See them all »
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