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Tue, 03 Jan 1989

'Canes' Defensive Fury Blasts NU

Lee Barfknecht

Nebraska's bookkeeping from Monday night's 23-3 Orange Bowl loss to Miami will be done almost exclusively in red ink.

That's because the Huskers played one of their poorest offensive games in years, as witnessed by the fourth-largest crowd - 79,480 - in the 55-year history of the bowl and a national television audience.

The damage:

Second-ranked Miami held NU to its lowest point total ever in a bowl game. Nebraska's previous low in 26 other bowl apperances was seven points in the 1955 Orange, the 1965 Cotton and the 1967 Sugar Bowls.

The lone field goal marked NU's skimpiest point total in 135 games, stretching back to a season-opening 20-3 loss to Alabama in 1978.

But maybe worst of all was Nebraska's 135 yards of total offense. That's the lowest back through 1962, the first year of the 27-year Bob Devaney-Tom Osborne coaching era. The closest total in futility since that time was 146 yards in a 12-0 loss to Kansas State in 1968.

"I felt a lot of frustration on the sideline," Osborne said. "We would find something that would work a little bit, but we couldn't find anything that would work consistently."

The frustration was deepest in the first half as the Huskers never penetrated Miami territory. They gained 29 total yards and earned two first downs.

But use the term "earned" loosely.

The initial first down came after the Hurricanes gave the Huskers a 5-yard head start with an offside penalty 12 minutes into the game. The second was all a gift - a roughing the kicker penalty in the final minute of the half.

"I felt very bad for our seniors," Osborne said. "I was embarrassed for them that we didn't play better, but we just got beat by a better team.

"I really thought before the game that we would have a good chance to win. We played hard, but we weren't real sharp for some reason."

Osborne said NU's offensive woes added to the pressure Husker defenders already felt against a team averaging 35 points a game.

"Our big problem was we couldn't generate enough offense to keep the pressure off of our defense," he said. "I really felt our defense played well enough to win a lot of games."

Miami, averaging 452.5 yards a game, fell nearly 100 yards short of that, gaining 354. And the Huskers intercepted All-America quarterback Steve Walsh three times, including two by cornerback Charles Fryar, named NU's most valuable player.

But Walsh, the Hurricanes' most valuable player, threw touchdown passes of 22 and 42 yards to halfback Leonard Conley as the Hurricanes jumped to a 20-0 halftime lead.

Kicker Carlos Huerta also kicked two of his three field goals in the first half, one of which came after safety Bubba McDowell blocked a school-record 10th punt of his career.

UM, 11-1, cruised from there to claim a 26th straight victory in the Orange Bowl stadium, a 21st straight night victory and lock up the No. 2 spot in the final ratings.Miami Dominates Line

Despite the loss, No. 6 Nebraska - at 11-2 - is expected to stay in the Top 10 for the 19th consecutive year.

Miami Coach Jimmy Johnson said the Hurricane defensive performance was stunning.

"I felt we had the better team," he said. "But I thought they would move it better than they did.

"We were pretty well zeroed in on everything they did. We dominated the line of scrimmage more than anything else."

No. 1 Notre Dame won the Fiesta Bowl 34-21 over No. 3 West Virginia Monday, but the Hurricanes - a 31-30 loser to the Irish - still aren't convinced that No. 1 translates into "best team."

"The polls won't say we're No. 1," said Walsh, who broke bowl records with 21 completions and 44 attempts. "But we really believe we are the best team in the country."

Johnson was a little more emphatic after pooh-poohing the idea that his team was ripe for a letdown after Notre Dame won in the afternoon.

"More than anything else tonight," he said, "we wanted to prove to the country that we were the very best.

"We might not be No. 1. But at this time we are the best football team in the country."

Lewis Sets Up Kick

Nebraska's lone score came on Gregg Barrios' career-best 50-yard field goal with 9:06 left in the third quarter, cutting the gap to 20-3. It was set up when sophomore Tahaun Lewis intercepted a Walsh pass and returned 31 yards.

"At halftime," Osborne said, "we thought we still had a chance. We needed to score and get it to 20-7 quickly. But we didn't do that."

The Huskers didn't do much else, either. NU, the top rushing team in the country with a 382.3-yard average, gained just 80 yards in 38 carries.

"We wanted to run the ball at them," Osborne said. "We thought we could hammer at them. But once you get down 14-0 or 20-0, it makes it hard to run up the middle.

"And they stopped our running game early. We usually get a lot of second-and-fives or second-and-fours. We had a lot of second-and-10s and second-and-11s tonight."

NU I-back Ken Clark, the nation's No. 5 rusher averaging 124 yards a game, finished with 36 yards in 14 carries.

Quarterback Steve Taylor carried 17 times for 12 yards, running for his life under Miami's pass rush. Taylor hit 8 of 21 passes for 55 yards. The Huskers converted only 1 of 14 third-down plays.21-Yard Return

Miami's special teams and Nebraska's turnovers created the field position for three of four Hurricane scores in the first half.

Punter Tim Kalal and punt returner Darryl Spencer combined to set up Miami's first touchdown.

Kalal's punt after Miami's first possession was downed at the NU 3. After three Nebraska plays produced 7 yards, Spencer returned John Kroeker's 44-yard punt 21 yards to the Husker 33.

In six plays, Miami scored. On third and 10 from the 22, Walsh found Conley wide-open down the middle for a touchdown. Huerta's extra point made it 7-0 with 7:00 left in the first quarter.

Nebraska went three plays and out, then held Miami. The Hurricanes tried a fake punt, snapping the ball to blocking back Maurice Crum, who ran 28 yards to the NU 26. But a holding penalty nullified the play, forcing Miami to punt.

Nebraska got its initial first down on the next drive, but again had to punt.

After another exchange of punts, the teams swapped interceptions.

Fryar picked off a Walsh pass intended for split end Randal Hill at the Husker 41. But two plays later, Taylor's swing pass bounced off I-back Tyreese Knox's hands and into Crum's at the NU 49.

Miami churned to the Husker 1 with the help of a 20-yard pass deep down the middle from Walsh to tight end Rob Chudzinski.

Fullback Stopped

But on third and goal at the 1, Nebraska's Jeff Mills and Lawrence Pete stuffed fullback Cleveland Gary for no gain. So Huerta kicked an 18-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead with 8:58 left in the second quarter.

Nebraska appeared to finally break a long one on the next drive as a scrambling Taylor fired a 40-yard pass to Morgan Gregory to near midfield.

But offsetting penalties - Taylor was beyond the line of scrimmage, and Miami roughed Taylor after the pass - negated the play and the drive stalled one play later.

Miami promptly whistled 60 yards in four plays. Walsh and Chudzinski hooked up for an 18-yard gain. Then Walsh and Conley dazzled again.

Conley grabbed Walsh's short pass near the NU 35, swiveled-hipped out of cornerback Lorenzo Hicks' tackle, raced down the sideline and picked up split end Dale Dawkins' block on Fryar near the 10 to score. Huerta's conversion made it 17-0 with 5:49 left in the half.

"I may have won the MVP award," Walsh said. "But it ought to have an asterisk beside it because Leonard Conley was terrific tonight."

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Conley finished with four catches for 94 yards and 10 rushes for 40 yards.

Nebraska again went three plays and had to punt, where again special teams' disaster struck.

Blocked Punt

Miami's McDowell blocked a Kroeker punt and linebacker Rod Carter recovered at the NU 11. But the Husker defense rose up for a second time to deny a touchdown with some help.

Walsh worked the Hurricanes to the 4. But a delay penalty and a personal foul pushed UM back to the 20. Huerta kicked a 37-yard field goal for a 20-0 lead with 2:28 left in the half.

Nebraska defenders Lawrence Pete, left, and Jeff Mills, No. 42, combine to stop Miami fullback Cleveland Gary for no gain on a third-down-and-goal play from the Husker 1-yard line in the second quarter...Miami kicker Carlos Huerta expanded the Hurricanes' lead to 10-0 on the next play when he kicked an 18-yard field goal.


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