LINCOLN — Memorial Stadium became the site of an honors convocation Saturday after Nebraska slugged Oklahoma 42-25.
Coach Tom Osborne honored his 10-1 and sixth-ranked Huskers with his words.
“I’m really proud of this football team,” the 17-year veteran said. “I told them that of the teams I have coached — at least through the regular season — that they probably have come as close to fulfilling their potential as any team we’ve had.”
Nebraska fans in the crowd of 76,404 honored the Huskers with their deeds.
Though the game was for second place in the Big Eight after Colorado locked up the title earlier Saturday, red-wrapped boosters offered a champion’s salute — a toppling of both goal posts, just like they fell after NU victories over OU in Lincoln in 1959, 1978 and 1982.
Then in the postgame interview room, teammates paid tribute to quarterback Gerry Gdowski.
The senior from Fremont, Neb., threw for four touchdowns, ran for a fifth and led Nebraska to its highest point total at home against Oklahoma since 1921 and the fourth-highest point total ever in the 70-game history of the series.
“I’ll take my hat off to him, I’ll take my shirt off to him and I’ll take everything else off to Gerry,” senior wingback Richard Bell said. “He is a great quarterback.
“I don’t know what else to say about him.”
If no words exist, try some numbers.
Gdowski completed 12 of 15 passes for 225 yards, no interceptions for the sixth straight game and touchdowns of 23, 24, 31 and 38 yards.
He sparked a 22-point first quarter, the most points NU has scored on OU in any quarter since at least 1929.
His 247 yards of total offense pushed the 6-foot, 190-pounder to second on NU’s single-season list with 2,251 yards — just 82 short of Jerry Tagge’s all-time record.
And after the Sooners closed to within seven points at halftime, he led touchdown drives on Nebraska’s first two possessions of the third quarter to scuttle OU’s comeback hopes.
On the first drive after halftime, passes of 16 and 18 yards to split end Jon Bostick preceded Gdowski’s 23-yard TD pass to tight end Chris Garrett, the sophomore’s second scoring catch of the day.
Then after cornerback Tahaun Lewis’ 28-yard interception return ended OU’s next possession, Gdowski found senior split end Morgan Gregory five plays later for a 38-yard touchdown and a 38-19 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Huskers’ passing prowess apparently stunned Oklahoma.
NU offensive tackle Tom Punt said he was standing next to OU defensive tackle Scott Evans watching a play continue downfield late in the third quarter when Evans turned and asked:
“When did you guys start passing so much?”
Oklahoma, which used an old Nebraska trick play — the fumbleroosky — for 16 yards to help a second-quarter scoring drive, used it again for 6 more yards to set up fullback Leon Perry’s 1-yard touchdown run with 12:49 left in the fourth quarter. That pulled OU back to 39-25.
But Gregg Barrios’ 35-yard field goal with two minutes left clinched the victory.
After the game, Osborne gave the first official word that Nebraska is headed to the Fiesta Bowl to play Florida State on New Year’s Day. Bowl bids can’t be formally accepted until next Saturday.
“To those who are disappointed in our schedule,” Osborne said,”and who somehow think Bob Devaney and I manipulated things, we are going to take on Florida State.
“We didn’t have to do that. There are a lot of other people we could have played who aren’t quite that good.”
The fifth-ranked Seminoles, who started the season 0-2, now are 8-2 with a game to play at Florida on Dec. 2.Touting Florida State
“At this point, I don’t imagine there is a better team in the country than Florida State,” Osborne said. “There are some as good, but I don’t know of anybody better.”
Osborne said there is a 10 percent chance Nebraska might finish No. 1 if things fall into place on New Year’s Day.
“But the thing I want for these guys,” he said,”is to finish it out right, play well and enjoy the game.
“I hope we win, and then maybe somebody will say Nebraska is pretty good.”
Only a 27-21 loss at Colorado stands between Nebraska and a perfect season. The Huskers outgained the Buffaloes 397 yards to 227, but gave up two long punt returns.
“I told the players I really didn’t feel like we’ve been beaten this year,” Osborne said. “That’s not taking anything away from Colorado.
“They won the game. But we didn’t lose it.”
Osborne’s glowing praise for his team got a warm response from Bell.
“That was great,” he said. “I wish I could have gotten it on a tape recorder. He usually doesn’t say things like that unless he means it.
“I’ll probably go home and write that down in my book. I like to keep little quotes and things like that.
Notetakers needed to have their pencils poised early Saturday.
The first half produced more points (43) than the two teams had combined for in their previous two games against each other (34).
Oklahoma scored on three of its first five possessions, while Nebraska struck on its first four.
“In my wildest dreams, I never would have thought we would score 42 points on them,” Osborne said. “We felt they might be vulnerable to play-action passes.
“But I had no idea we would be able to do what we did.”
But Punt said he did after about two possessions, even though the Sooners were ranked 13th nationally in total defense.
“We didn’t feel they came close to stopping us,” he said. “Everything was clicking.”
Bell added: “We only punted one time. When’s the last time you saw that in a Nebraska-Oklahoma game?”
NU’s defense set up the first score.
On the game’s second play, free safety Tyrone Byrd whacked quarterback Steve Collins to force a fumble that Lewis recovered at the OU 34.
The Huskers scored in four plays. Gdowski ran it in from the 8-yard line on an option to the left and Barrios kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead with barely three minutes gone in the first quarter.
Oklahoma tied the game three plays later.
On third and 12 at the OU 18, Collins fired a bomb into a 14-mph wind that split end Arthur Guess took away from Lewis and carried in for an 82-yard touchdown pass. R.D. Lashar’s extra point made it 7-7 with 11:58 left in the first quarter.
Nebraska sprinted back to take the lead behind Bell.
The senior ran 13 yards on a reverse to move the ball into OU territory. Then on third and two at the 31, Bell made a sprawling catch of Gdowski’s pass in the end zone after a play-action fake.
“When you lead the nation in rushing like we do, people have a tendency to bite on the options, so play-actions really work,” Bell said. “I knew I could get by the safety.
“The question was with Gerry throwing with the wind, would I be able to catch the ball? When he threw it, I didn’t think I would catch up to it. I just told myself I had to lay out for it, and I did.”
On the conversion, holder Jerry Dunlap bobbled the snap. But he scrambled left and found fullback Bryan Carpenter for a two-point play and a 15-7 lead with 8:23 left in the first quarter.
Wingback Tyrone Hughes’ 33-yard punt return set up NU’s third touchdown.
From the OU 36, the Huskers scored in five plays. Gdowski, under a heavy rush, lobbed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Garrett for a 22-7 lead with 3:33 to play in the first quarter.
The Sooners marched back to score in 13 plays, including a trick play they learned from Nebraska.
OU used the fumbleroosky for a 16-yard gain to the NU 1. Collins intentionally fumbled the snap, which guard Mike Sawatzky scooped up and took to near the goal line.
Perry pounded it in from the 1 on the next play. Collins ran for the two-point conversion to bring OU back to 22-15 with 12:45 left in the half.
Osborne said Nebraska practiced against the fumbleroosky last week. OU used it two years ago to score a touchdown in the Orange Bowl.
“I’m sorry we showed them how to do that,” he said. “Those kind of plays — when you’re kind of desperate — you use those, and they can give you a lift if they work.”
Nebraska came back with a 12-play drive that got to the OU 2. But on second and goal, Sooner linebacker Chris Wilson threw Gdowski for a 5-yard loss. After an incomplete pass, Barrios kicked a 24-yard field goal to put NU up 25-15 with 7:17 left in the half.
Ball control continued as Oklahoma chewed up 63 yards in 13 plays before stalling. Tackle Kent Wells and linebacker Chris Caliendo nailed Collins for back-to-back losses at the NU 12- and 15-yard lines.
Lashar came on to kick a 26-yard field goal to close the gap to 25-18 with 44 seconds in the half.
Oklahoma held a 239-220 edge in total yards at halftime.
“Defensively, we struggled at times,” Osborne said. “Oklahoma has really gotten healed up on offense. They’re good.”
Tailback Dewell Brewer, a true freshman whom Nebraska tried to recruit, ran for 137 yards in 27 carries — the first runner to top the 100-yard mark this season against NU.
But the yards came tougher for OU in the second half. The Sooners were held to 124, of which 76 came in their fourth-quarter touchdown drive. NU finished with a 461-363 advantage in yardage.
Osborne said Oklahoma’s fourth-quarter score to get within two touchdowns caused no worries of “Sooner Magic,” a term used to describe past OU rallies against Nebraska.
“I never felt, ‘Here we go again,’” he said. “I’ve never felt that way. Some people in the stands have. But I haven’t.
“We’ve won five of the last nine with these folks, so I think we’ve about got it squared up. We think we can beat them.”
Osborne complimented both teams for the intenseness of the rivalry, yet the clean play and class displayed. The game was devoid of late hits, fights or insults, the players said.
“We’ve been a quiet team,” Bell said. “We’ve been the kind of team that does the actions first, then we come back and talk about them.
“That’s the kind of person I am, and that’s the kind of team I like. Besides, this season speaks for itself.”
|Yards per carry||4.5||4.7|
Nebraska is 38-45 all-time against Oklahoma.
|Northern Illinois||Sept. 9|
|Oregon State||Sept. 30|
|Kansas State||Oct. 7|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 21|
|Iowa State||Oct. 28|
|Florida State||Jan. 1|
Nebraska has played 16 games on Nov. 18. See them all »
©2019 BH Media Group