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No. 5 'Huskers feast on Sooner turnovers, 73-21

By Bob Hersom
The Daily Oklahoman

Ralph Brown picks off Oklahoma QB Eric Moore and weaves his way 83 yards the other way for Nebraska a touchdown.
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma and Nebraska used to play football around Thanksgiving. That tradition changed Saturday, when the Sooners and Cornhuskers played two days after Halloween. Now we know why.

The game was as strange as Halloween, and also as strange as the final score: Nebraska 73, Oklahoma 21 on Owen Field, before a capacity crowd of 75,004 and an ABC-TV audience.

The loss dropped OU to 2-6 overall and 2-3 in the Big 12. The Sooners have lost four home games for the first time in history. Fifth-ranked Nebraska rose to 7-1, 5-0, with its sixth straight success against the Sooners.

Strange: OU's defense played well -- but Nebraska scored 11 times and became the third team to hang half-a-hundred on OU this year (and the fourth team, all-time).

Strange: OU's offense didn't play well -- but scored three touchdowns in seven minutes against (parts of) a Cornhusker defense that had allowed only five TDs in seven games.

Strange: Nebraska set records for most points ever scored on OU (the mark was 59 by Kansas State in 1969) and most lopsided victory margin over OU (52; it was 47 by Oklahoma State in 1945). Yet the Sooners and Huskers were tangled in a terrific defensive struggle in the 60-minute game's first 24 minutes.

At that point, with six minutes left in the first half, Nebraska led 3-0, thanks to OU fumbling a punt at its 17-yard line. Both defenses had dominated, to say the least: OU had 32 yards on 22 plays and NU had 16 yards on 26 plays.

Moments later came what several Sooners later called -- strangely called, considering the 73-21 final -- the most important play of the game:

On first-and-goal from the OU 7, NU tight end Vershan Jackson caught a pass and, according to TV replays, lost a fumble to OU's Dale Allen at the 1-yard line. But the officials said no fumble, Nebraska ball at the 1, and the Huskers took a 10-0 lead on their next play.

"That play turned this game around," said OU coach John Blake. "They're too good and we're not good enough to come back after that."

"The fumble down on the goal line should have been our ball," said OU linebacker Tyrell Peters. "They (officials) said he was down. But we all saw it. He wasn't down. But it was just another break we didn't get."

"If we get the ball, it's a different game," Blake said. "We stop a good drive by them and we get some momentum, something to feed off of."

Mistakes continued to starve the Sooners. Saturday, they were 0-for-2 on field goals, they gave up an 85-yard kickoff return touchdown, and they had five turnovers (one fumble and four passes intercepted).

Nebraska returned one interception 83 yards for a touchdown, and OU's other turnovers set up four NU scoring "drives" of 9, 19, 24 and 17 yards. Those four "drives" totaled only 69 yards but also 24 points.

"Today our defense showed they're one of the best defenses in the country," said OU halfback James Allen. "If we just go out and back them up we win the game, hands down."

"The mistakes just keep happening over and over and over again," Peters said. "The same things we did wrong in the first game shouldn't be happening now."

Nebraska had turnover problems, too, losing two fumbles and throwing an interception. But OU capitalized on only one of the turnovers.

"Our turnovers bothered us. We're not that type of team," said NU coach Tom Osborne. "Fortunately, OU's mistakes offset ours and we were able to take advantage."

OU freshman halfback DeMond Parker was sensational against NU reserves in the fourth period, when the Sooners snapped their nine-quarter scoreless streak against NU.

During those final 15 minutes, Parker rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns, on runs of 17, 34 and 51 yards. Until then, OU had gone 14 quarters without a TD against Nebraska. Parker finished as the game's leading rusher with 151 yards on 13 carries.

But until the wild fourth quarter -- there were six touchdowns scored in the final 7:37 -- OU's offense had mustered just 89 yards on 44 plays.

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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