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January 3, 1983

Rozier Says Defense Rescues NU

By Dave Sittler

MiamiÑNebraska's Blackshirts picked the perfect night to produce their finest effort of the season.

"Without our defense last night, we would have been dead," Husker I-back Mike Rozier said Sunday.

With Nebraska's nation-leading offense bogged down for much of the game, the defense came to the rescue Saturday night in a 21-20 Orange Bowl victory over Louisiana State.

"We've carried the defense some times this season," Rozier said. "And now they have carried us. That's what team sports are all about."

Nebraska defensive coordinator Charlie McBride said he was pleased with the Blackshirts play.

I couldn't be happier or prouder of a bunch of kids than I was last night," he said. "They did exactly what we wanted them to do, and it was a great team effort."

McBride said the Husker defenders had three goals:

  • Contain the passing of LSU quarterback Alan Risher;
  • Hold the Tigers to 150 yards passing;
  • Limit them to 125 yards rushing

Risher threw for 173 yards. But the Huskers reached their goal in the other two areas.

Nebraska set a school bowl record by holding Tiger runners to 38 yards rushing. That broke the old mark of 45 yards set in 1965 against Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.

McBride said the most important achievement was allowing Risher to com- plete only 46.6 percent of his passes. The 6-2, 189-pound senior was the nation's fourth-ranked passer this season with a 63.7 percent completion rate. He was second in 1981 with a 63.0 mark.

Against the Huskers, Risher completed 14 of 30 attempts. Risher, who at one point this season threw 137 passes without an interception, was intercepted twice by Nebraska.

"The pass rush was the key," McBride said. "He was throwing off his back foot most of the night."

Defensive left tackle Toby Williams picked off the first pass at the Husker 7.

Burke Gets Interception

The other pass theft was by Husker cornerback David Burke in the final quarter. Nebraska safety Bret Clark tipped the ball intended for Tiger split end Eric Martin, and Burke caught it as he was falling to the ground.

"That was pure luck," Husker secondary coach Bob Thornton said. "Bret Clark made the play on the ball and David was lucky to fall at the right place."

Risher passed for 93 yards in the first half, using medium-range aerials.

LSU tailback Dalton Hilliard came out of the backfield to catch three passes for 51 yards.

Nebraska linebacker coach John Melton said sophomore linebacker Mike Knox, who had four tackles, played a key role in the second half.

"Mike is the only linebacker we had who had the physical tools to handle Hillard." Melton said. "Mike knocked him down a couple times, just to let him know he was there. Knox had an excellent game. He really did a job when we needed him."

With Knox hounding him, Hilliard caught five passes the final half for 31 yards.

McBride said Knox's major contribution was to knock Hillard off stride, giving the Husker pass rushers more times. The Huskers sacked Risher four times.

'Did a Job'

McBride said defensive ends Scott Strasburger and Tony Felici also covered the short passes well.

Felici produced a big defensive play when his pressure forced LSU punter Clay Parker to run with the ball.

Parker was back to punt for LSU on a fourth-and-19 at his team's 36-yard line early in the fourth quarter LSU led, 17-14.

Bothered by Felici's pressure, Parker tried to run for a first down. He came up short and Nebraska took over and marched to what proved to be the winning touchdown.

"I was trying to get as much pressure on him as I could all day," Felici said. "I almost got his first punt."

Nebraska defensive ends coach George Darlington said, "I think Tony Felici played the best game of his career. I didn't see one mistake."

An all-big Eight Conference selection, Felici did not start the last regular season game against Hawaii.

Felici, a senior from Omaha Central, said he didn't use his benching against Hawaii for motivation, when he started against the Tigers.

"The coach can play whoever he wants," Felici said. "Why I started the Orange Bowl, I don't know."

The Blackshirts have received some criticism this season for their play. That's what made the Orange Bowl win so sweet, according to monster back Kris Van Norman.

"A lot of people talked all year about the great offense we had and the average defense," Van Norman said. "But we had our backs to the wall all day because of the offense's mistakes and we came through. We didn't get frustrated; we just hung together. I think that's a sign of a great team."

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