Disgruntled Fans Watch Nebraska Stain Sooners' Worst Season (5-4-2) in 27 Years
BY Bill Connors
Nov 28, 1992
NORMAN - Nebraska did not look in the first half Friday
like a football team headed for the Orange Bowl. The Cornhuskers
were ragged and inept. They racked up more penalties than
first downs and were shackled by Oklahoma's patched-up defense.
But they did something Nebraska's teams almost never do:
they lived on defense - a touchdown return of an interception
off Cale Gundy gave Nebraska the lead and a second interception
off Gundy at the goal line broke Oklahoma's back - until
tailback Calvin Jones celebrated his 22nd birthday by taking
over the game.
Jones, a sophomore who is no doubt the best second-team
running back in the nation, scored two touchdowns and gained
most of his 137 yards after Oklahoma led 9-7, as the Cornhuskers
methodically scored the game's final 26 points to win 33-9
and end the Sooners' worst season in 27 years.
The loss left the Sooners with a 5-4-2 record, in fourth
place in the Big Eight Conference, and eliminated them from
all bowl possibilities. A victory would have put them in
the Aloha Bowl.
A national television audience and a Memorial Stadium crowd
of 69,770, which booed Gundy after the game got out of hand,
saw Nebraska move within a victory over Kansas State next
week in Tokyo of clinching the Big Eight championship and
a ticket to the Orange Bowl.
Gary Gibbs, closing what he admitted was a disappointing
and frustrating fourth season as head coach, said he was
"proud of our team. We played hard. I thought our effort
was outstanding in the first half against a very good team."
But the Sooners' fate was sealed while they were dominating.
They outgained Nebraska 142 yards to 6 in the first quarter.
But they could not score touchdowns. They had to settle
for three field goals by Scott Blanton, who set a Big Eight
record with his 14th consecutive successful kick.
Then the game turned into what has become a common experience
for Oklahoma. The Sooners' new-found running punch disappeared.
Gundy's passing went sour and he was sacked for a safety.
And the defense, without four regulars and starting three
freshmen, wilted from the assaulting combination of power
blocking and power running.
Nebraska outgained the Sooners 394 yards to 91 in the last
three quarters. The Huskers had a touchdown pass to Jones
nullified by one of their nine penalties.
Nebraska's wakeup call came as soon as Blanton's 42-yard
field goal gave OU its 9-7 lead with 2:23 left in the first
The Cornhuskers drove 64 yards to regain the lead 10-9 on
Mike Stigge's 33-yard field goal. They drove 64 yards with
the second half kickoff to widen their lead to 17-9 on quarterback
Tommie Frazier's 24-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gerald
After cornerback Kenny Wilhite made an impressive interception
off Gundy at the one to thwart OU's last threat, Travis
Hill's sack of Gundy in the end zone made it 19-9 with 2:28
left in the third quarter.
Jones ran 14 yards and 2 yards for touchdowns in the fourth
quarter to send the Cornhuskers home with an 8-1-1 overall
record, 6-1 in the Big Eight.
Tom Osborne cited Nebraska's defense for not only keeping
the Cornhuskers in the game in the first half, on linebacker
Ed Stewart's 50-yard touchdown return of an interception,
but also by making an adjustment that set the stage for
the second-half landslide.
Once the Cornhuskers adjusted to counter the running of
Kenyon Rasheed and Dewell Brewer, Oklahoma's offense was
Gundy, who passed rarely but effectively on OU's early drives,
became the target of OU's frustrated fans.
Late in the third quarter, with OU trailing 17-9, Gundy
was booed as he went onto the field. When Rasheed gained
two yards on first down, the fans booed again. When Gundy
was almost intercepted on second down, the fans booed louder.
When he was sacked for a safety on the third down, the booing
reached a level that Gundy's teammates called "embarrassingly
The boos turned to cheers when backup quarterback Steve
Collins replaced Gundy with 3:45 remaining and Nebraska
Gundy, who completed nine of 20 passes, declined to appear
at a postgame press conference.
Collins and linebacker Reggie Barnes said they were disappointed
in the booing of Gundy. Barnes said he wished the fans had
displayed the same kind of passion in a positive way when
the game was close.
"Fans will be fans," Rasheed said.
The fans seemed to be quite passionate at the outset, as
the nine-point underdog Sooners made drives of 64, 75 and
46 yards for Blanton's field goals.
During this time, Nebraska's offense did nothing. But Stewart's
return of his interception put the Cornhuskers on the scoreboard
and kept them in the game.
Once OU's offense ran out of gas, the Cornhuskers dominated
with the kind of running that Oklahoma was noted for when
this series captivated the nation.
Derek Brown was held in check, except for a 43-yard run
that led to a drive that ended with an end zone interception
by cornerback William Shankle off Frazier. It was Nebraska's
first turnover in 25 quarters.
Brown finished with 88 yards. That left him with a total
of 1,015 yards, but in second place in the Big Eight as
Jones boosted his total to 1,024. It was only the eighth
time for a school to have two 1,000-yard rushers and a first
Jones' 14-yard run for Nebraska's next-to-last touchdown
underscored his and his team's superiority.
It was a third-and-14 play. Gibbs said the Sooners anticipated
the play and had a player assigned to Jones.
"But he missed the tackle," Gibbs said. "I don't fault
our player. It was mainly Calvin. He will do that to a lot
of teams and there isn't much you can do about it."
Once Nebraska displayed the defensive resourcefulness to
keep the game close until Jones arrived, there was nothing
the outmanned Sooners could do about the outcome.