Scoring explosion III

Nebraska racks up 73 points in another win vs. rival Oklahoma

The Associated Press

Oklahoma quarterback Justin Fuente (12) is thrown for a loss by Nebraska's Jason Peter during first quarter action Saturday. No. 5 Nebraska remained perfect in the Big 12 with a 73-21 triumph over Oklahoma.

By Todd Henrichs/The Independent

NORMAN, Okla. - Nebraska waited patiently for Oklahoma to make a mistake. And the Sooners obliged.


And again.

And again.

Oklahoma, ranked 101st in NCAA Division I-A in turnover ratio, gave the ball up five times. Nebraska converted the miscues into 31 points and coasted to a 73-21 victory in the renewal of the storied rivalry Saturday at soldout Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

Fifth-ranked Nebraska (7-1 overall, 5-0 Big 12) not only extended its conference winning streak to 28 games, but beat Oklahoma (2-6, 2-3) for a record sixth straight year. An Oklahoma team had never given up more than 59 points in a game, but an Owen Field crowd of 75,004 saw Nebraska explode for 56 points in the second half alone.

"In some ways, it wasn't our best game," Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said, noting his team's own turnovers problems (NU had three) and the fact Oklahoma scored 21 points late. "But when you look at the final score, it was kind of amazing. I thought the way Oklahoma has played the last three weeks that we would have to come down here and play a pretty solid game to just win."

The Cornhuskers outgained Oklahoma only 387-275 and had just four more first downs than the Sooners. What did tell the story were the turnovers and mistakes that have plagued Oklahoma throughout the season.

Two Sooner quarterbacks threw four interceptions - one that NU freshman Ralph Brown returned 83 yards for a touchdown - and the Sooners lost a fumble on a botched punt return that led to Nebraska's first score. The loss dropped the Sooners to 0-4 at home and all but assured Oklahoma of its first losing season since 1965 and only its third since 1943.

Oklahoma would have to win its last three games, qualify for and win the Big 12 Conference championship contest, then win its bowl game just to finish 7-6.

"Again we made too many mistakes," Oklahoma middle linebacker Tyrell Peters said. "It shouldn't keep happening like this. You'd think we would learn."

Oklahoma didn't have to wait long to find out if Nebraska had come to play defensively. The Huskers' Jason Peter sacked OU quarterback Justin Fuente on the first play of the game and the Sooners didn't net positive yardage on a play until their sixth snap offensively.

The Sooners had but one first down and 19 yards in the first quarter.

But Nebraska also struggled offensively against a game Oklahoma defense. The Huskers finally moved the sticks for the first time on the next-to-last play of the first quarter and finished the quarter with just seven net yards.

The Huskers' offensive woes continued into the second quarter before Nebraska finally got the break - or breaks - it needed. A punt that OU returner Jarrail Jackson fumbled and Chad Kelsay recovered at the Sooner 17 set up a 25-yard Kris Brown field goal to snap a scoreless tie.

Jay Foreman's one-handed interception of a Fuente pass and return to the OU 19 set up the next Nebraska score. The Huskers nearly gave the ball back when receiver Vershan Jackson lost the ball near the goal line, but officials ruled him down at the 1. DeAngelo Evans dove over for the score on the next play.

Nebraska's only true drive of the first half accounted for only 35 yards. After a short OU punt, NU quarterback Scott Frost threw for 18 and 12 yards to Jon Vedral, setting up Ahman Green's 4-yard scoring run that sent Nebraska into halftime ahead 17-0.

"When you can win 70-some to 21, to say the key to the game is defense doesn't make much sense," Osborne said. "I didn't feel like we'd played well at the half other than on defense. Obviously, we played very well defensively through most of the game."

Oklahoma has been noted for slow starts this season, being outscored 179-68 in the first half of games.

But the Sooners were hit Saturday with an all-out assault after the intermission.

Brown stepped in front of an Eric Moore pass after the Sooners had driven to the Nebraska 24 and got a key block from teammate Terrell Farley to push NU's advantage to 24-0.

The Huskers then hit their stride offensively by scoring on four straight possessions after twice dodging bullets. Two personal-foul penalties moved Oklahoma into field-goal range, but Jeremy Alexander missed on a 41-yard attempt. Then after an Evans fumble gave Oklahoma the ball at the NU 23, Alexander missed from 46 yards.

"We really gave them a chance to get back in the game to some degree," Osborne said. "The turnovers offensively bothered me, but fortunately we got enough turnovers from Oklahoma to more than offset that."

Frost, who was 10 of 22 throwing for 163 yards and an interception, capped a 6-play, 71-yard drive with a perfect 41-yard scoring toss to wide receiver Lance Brown.

Frost hit Vedral with a 10-yard TD pass to cap a 24-yard drive set up when Peter tipped and Oklahoma native Mike Minter intercepted Fuente's pass.

But the Sooners weren't finished giving up the ball. Again on the first play following a Nebraska score, Fuente served up a pass intercepted by the Huskers' Eric Warfield. Evans ran seven yards to cap the ensuing 17-yard drive. The Huskers' three touchdowns in a span of 3 minutes, 56 seconds, pushed the lead to 45-0.

"You just can't give Nebraska the ball on the 20- and the 30-yard line and expect to fight back with a team of Nebraska's caliber," first-year Oklahoma coach John Blake said.

With the game decided, the teams combined for 59 points in a wild fourth quarter.

Nebraska scored on Frost's third TD of the game - a 51-yard bomb to Jeff Lake early in the period - and an 85-yard kickoff return from Kenny Cheatham. In between, Jay Sims scored twice on runs of 1 and 22 yards. Sims, playing exclusively in the fourth quarter, led the Huskers with 98 yards rushing on seven carries.

Oklahoma freshman De'Mond Parker had 151 yards rushing to lead the Sooners. He scored on fourth-quarter runs of 35, 17 and 51 yards to end Nebraska's string of shutout quarters against the Sooners at nine. The Huskers' defense had not given up a rushing touchdown in 27 quarters or any touchdown in 17 quarters dating to the win over Colorado State.

Nebraska, which has outscored opponents 313-50 since its loss at Arizona State, now turns its attention to contests with North Division cellar-dwellers Missouri and Iowa State before the showdown with Colorado Nov. 29.

Like Saturday, Minter said defense - and forcing turnovers - will be the key to keeping Nebraska on a roll.

"Each week, we want to keep working to get better," Minter said. "We want to be the greatest defense to ever play at this level."
© 1996 The Grand Island Independent
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