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Kansas could hold off Nebraska onslaught for only so long

(c) 1995 Copyright Nando.net
1995 Scripps Howard

Kansas City Star

LAWRENCE, Kan. (Nov 11, 1995 - 23:06 EST) -- Kansas concocted a formula to compete with top-ranked Nebraska, then spilled it all over the Memorial Stadium field Saturday.

In the end the Cornhuskers, for the 27th consecutive year against the Jayhawks, cleaned the carpet. The final, in its familiar ugliness, was 41-3.

The 10th-ranked Jayhawks played a first half that surely will find its way onto the projector of whatever bowl opponent awaits Nebraska. Kansas outgained the Cornhuskers by nearly a 2-1 margin and surrendered one offensive touchdown to a team that entered the game averaging 34 points in the first half.

But Kansas trailed 14-3 because of a special-teams catastrophe and a fumble.

The Jayhawks' chance to make a statement, like most of the KU faithful in the crowd of 50,300, was gone by the third quarter. Nebraska usually pummels opponents from the start. Saturday, it started at the beginning of the second half.

The Cornhuskers scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions of the second half as quarterback Tommie Frazier continued his strong Heisman Trophy bid.

After halftime, Frazier became the school's career total-offense leader, scored a rushing touchdown and set up two others with his running and throwing. He emerged on crutches after the game, hobbling on a sore heel and ankle, but he said he doesn't expect to miss any action.

Frazier's final numbers weren't overly impressive, 10 rushes for 99 yards and 10 of 15 passing for 86 yards. But he was the difference.

"Mostly, he's a great leader," Kansas defensive tackle Kevin Kopp said. "He really makes the difference for them."

Kansas mistakes made the difference in the first half. On the teams' first possessions, the Jayhawks went 47 yards and Nebraska three and out after 8 yards. But before there was a second possession, the Corhuskers led 7-0.

Kansas punt returner Isaac Byrd took his eyes off a kick and fumbled it away at the 15. The ball was batted into the end zone, where Nebraska's Jon Vedral recovered for a touchdown.

A few minutes later, tailback June Henley, who hadn't fumbled all season, lost control after a 4-yard gain, and Nebraska had it on the KU 30. Frazier plowed over and broke through four tacklers on a 25-yard carry to the 1, then kept it for the score.

The Jayhawks answered by driving from the Nebraska 12 to their 2 but settled for a Jeff McCord 19-yard field goal.

At halftime, Kansas led in total yards 199-110, first downs 15-5 and in minutes of possession time 19-11. But handing Nebraska scores was no way to hang with a heavy favorite.

"For the great majority of teams, to play Nebraska and beat them, you have to play errorless football," Kansas Coach Glen Mason said. "Even with our mistakes I thought we were hanging in there pretty well."

Offensively, the Jayhawks were using what had worked so well against Colorado: short passes from quarterback Mark Williams to Byrd, Henley and Ashaundai Smith, and swing passes to tailback L.T. Levine. At halftime, Williams was on a school-record pace for completions and attempts, 22 for 31 for 185 yards.

But Kansas' best touchdown chance came late in the first half. The Jayhawks had driven from their own 17 to the Nebraska 19 when Williams appeared to have found Smith open at the 5. But the pass was slightly deflected and landed in the hands of cornerback Tyrone Williams.

For the game, Nebraska had 375 total yards to the Jayhawks' 345, and the Cornhuskers committed their first turnover in 18 quarters, then added two more before the game was over.

But they became the first team this season to keep Kansas out of the end zone.

"They had a few more yards than we would have liked," Nebraska defensive end Jared Tomich said. "But if you can keep the No. 10 team in the country out of the end zone, then you are doing a good job."

Ultimately, Nebraska, which won its 23rd consecutive game, did precisely what it had to do: win convincingly enough to remain the No. 1 team and control its bowl destination. A victory Nov. 24 over Oklahoma should put the Cornhuskers in the Fiesta Bowl, for a shot at their second consecutive mythical national championship.