NORMAN, Okla. — After sweating out a 13-3 victory Friday over Oklahoma, players from top-ranked Nebraska played it cool.
No whooping over winning the Big Eight title outright with a 7-0 record.
No hollering over earning the league's automatic bid to the Orange Bowl.
No celebrating a second straight undefeated regular season and just the fourth 12-win season in school history.
"It's not time to cut loose yet, " strongside linebacker Troy Dumas said. "All the work we've been doing has been toward one goal-the national championship.
"We aren't there yet. But if we win that, you'll see the real excitement come out."
Offensive tackle Zach Wiegert agreed.
"Sure, we're happy to be Big Eight champions," he said after accepting congratulations from Orange Bowl President Ed Williamson. "But this is our fourth Big Eight championship in a row. We're looking for more."
Nebraska stayed in contention to play for more by relying on a defense that held Oklahoma to a season-low 179 total yards-47 in the second half-and an offense that scratched out 10 points in the second half to break a 3-3 tie.
It was the fifth time in seven Big Eight games that the Blackshirts limited an opponent to seven points or less.
"I'm real proud of our defense, " NU Coach Tom Osborne said. "I thought they really carried the day."
The Blackshirts' work was vital to keeping national title hopes alive, because the Nebraska offense had problems carrying its share of the load in front of 70,216 fans at Owen Field.
The Huskers, who lost 10 yards rushing in the second quarter, finished with 136 on the ground. That was the lowest total since OU held them to 122 last year and was 222 under their national-best average.
The offensive line, with two first-team All-Americans in Wiegert and Brenden Stai, allowed three sacks. That group had given up only four sacks in the previous 11 games.
And I-back Lawrence Phillips saw his streak of consecutive 100-yard games snapped at 11 as he was held to 50 yards on 21 carries. He ends the season with 1,722 yards, the No. 2 total in NU history behind Heisman Trophy-winner Mike Rozier's 2,148 in 1983.
"We felt coming in that the strong part of Oklahoma's team was their defense, " Osborne said. "We were worried about moving the ball because their tackles and inside linebackers were outstanding.
"We didn't miss our prediction by much."
But the Nebraska offense, after failing to get a first down in the second quarter, scored on its first two possessions of the second half.
Quarterback Brook Berringer's 28-yard option run and 24-yard pass to wingback Abdul Muhammad were the key plays in a 76-yard march that ended with Tom Sieler's 26-yard field goal. That put NU ahead 6-3 with 7:03 left in the third quarter.
Berringer then marched the Huskers 82 yards and capped the drive with a 1-yard sneak for a 13-3 lead with 13:25 left in the game. The big play was another Berringer-to-Muhammad strike, this time for 44 yards.
Osborne said he had no quarrel with the work of Berringer, who finished with 48 yards rushing, 166 passing and ABC-TV's Nebraska player-of-the-game award.
"It was a tough day to play quarterback, " Osborne said. "He had a lot of pressure on him. I thought he did a nice job."
Standing a few paces away from Osborne on the sideline was former No. 1 quarterback Tommie Frazier, suited up for the first time since going down with blood clots in his right leg two months ago. Frazier, a Heisman Trophy candidate before his injury, supposedly was available only in an emergency.
So did Osborne consider a 3-3 tie at halftime or a 6-3 lead in the fourth quarter an emergency?
"I looked at Tommie a few times, " Osborne said with a laugh as he flipped an orange in his hands. "But it wasn't Brook's problem. He was doing a good job.
"We told the doctor we wouldn't put Tommie in unless Brook went down or something really catastrophic happened. I'd have felt real bad if we had put Tommie in and something had happened to him. It was a little quick, frankly, to have him here. But it was nice insurance to have him on the sideline."
Wiegert said anyone would have had problems moving the ball Friday on Oklahoma. The Sooners (6-5, 4-3) were playing their final home game under Coach Gary Gibbs, who has resigned effective at season's end.
"It's tough to beat a team that fired up, " Wiegert said.
There had been widespread speculation in Oklahoma newspapers that the Sooners might not play hard for Gibbs because some players are glad to see him leave.
Osborne pooh-poohed that idea.
"If you're any kind of a person," he said, "you're going to play hard in that situation."
Wiegert said he saw no signs of quit in the Sooners.
"Sometimes against a team like that," he said, "it will be hard to move the ball in the first half but then they will open up.
"But these guys were smoked up the whole game, even when they were down 13-3. I'm just happy to get out of here with a win."
Oklahoma was smoked up enough in the first half to hold Nebraska to 63 total yards, an average of 1.9 yards a play. NU's lone score was Darin Erstad's 46-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead with 14:11 left in the second quarter.
But Nebraska's defense was just as tough.
Roverback Kareem Moss intercepted OU quarterback Garrick McGee on the Sooners' second play.
Cornerback Barron Miles deflected Scott Blanton's 33-yard field goal try in the second quarter. It Miles' fourth block of the season and seventh of his career.
And the one time in the first half OU got inside the Nebraska 10-yard line, the Blackshirts forced the Sooners to settle for Blanton's 25-yard field goal.
"It was a true defensive struggle," said NU's Dumas, who led all tacklers with 11. "The best defense was going to win the game."
By the end Nebraska's defense, ranked seventh nationally, outplayed the Sooner defense, ranked 23rd.
NU held OU to 47 yards in the second half, sacked McGee three times and got an interception from Miles. Oklahoma allowed 239 yards in the second half.
As the Huskers made their way to the postgame interview room, one of the first questions they faced from reporters from Boston, Washington, New York and Dallas was whether they thought a 10-point win over Oklahoma might cause them to fall in the ratings.
"I wouldn't think so," Wiegert said. "I'd like to see any team in the country come in and play Oklahoma after their coach just quit. They had a lot of inspiration.
"So why would we drop? It's not like it went down to the wire."
In the final 15 minutes, Nebraska never let the Sooners past their own 20-yard line and held them without a first down.
An ESPN reporter asked Osborne if he thought Nebraska could stay No. 1 if the nation's two other undefeated teams-No. 2 Penn State and No. 3 Alabama-win out.
"I'm not going to get into that," he said. "That's something I didn't like last year with everybody getting on their soapbox and talking about the greatest this and that.
"Just let people decide on their own, and we'll try to settle it on the field."
|Yards per carry||3.4||2.7|
Nebraska is 38-45 all-time against Oklahoma.
|West Virginia||Aug. 28|
|Texas Tech||Sept. 8|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 8|
|Kansas State||Oct. 15|
|Iowa State||Nov. 12|
|Miami (FL)||Jan. 1|
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