We interrupt this offensive discussion to talk about defense, specifically as it was played by the Huskers in 1989’s final non-conference game against Oregon State.
Granted, the Beavers would finish with a 4-7-1 record, and Nebraska would drop back to No. 4 in the Associated Press poll after two weeks at No. 3 despite the 35-7 victory. But even though Oregon State passed for 264 yards, Beaver quarterbacks Nick Schichte and, briefly, Matt Booher, spent a long and painful afternoon at Memorial Stadium—repeat, long and painful.
“We got pretty good pressure from the ‘dime,’” Tom Osborne said. “We thought we’d get pressure to their quarterback. Overall, I think our defense played a fine game.”
“Pretty good” pressure? Schichte, who accounted for all of the passing yards, was sacked 10 times. And no, that’s not a misprint, 10 times. And when Booher came in, he was sacked once for a total of 11 for 89 yards in losses, which explains why Oregon State finished with a minus-36 yards rushing.
Even without the sack yardage, the Beavers managed only 53 yards on 27 carries.
“Defensively, we played a decent football game,” said Osborne.
Uh, yes, decent . . . defensive coordinator Charlie McBride’s Blackshirts were relentless.
The 11 sacks were a school record, since tied against Maine in a 25-7 victory under Bill Callahan in 2005, the sack yardage still a record. The rushing yardage still ranks third. The only lower totals were minus-45 yards against Kansas State in 1976 and minus-42 against Kansas in 1971.
So here are the record-setters: middle guard Pat Engelbert, 2 for minus-18 yards; tackle Le Andre Anderson, 2-17; outside linebacker Mike Croel, 2-15; defensive tackle Ray Valladao, 1-10; outside linebacker Travis Hill, 1-10; defensive tackle Kenny Walker, 1-7; corner John Reece, 1-7; and outside linebacker Jeff Mills, 1-5.
The Huskers went three-deep on defense that day, using 36 players.
In the previous game, a 48-0 victory at Minnesota, Nebraska had seven sacks for 34 yards in losses, and intercepted three passes, the same as in a 42-30 victory against Utah in the second game. The Huskers had four sacks for 38 yards that day, giving them 22 for the season.
They hadn’t had a sack in the opening game against Northern Illinois.
Nebraska’s defense would finish the season with 39 sacks for 244 yards in losses, neither of which was a record, even though sacks weren’t included in official statistics until 1981. The 1985 team, also with McBride as defensive coordinator, held the record for both at the time, 49 sacks for 393 yards in losses. The 1999 team, McBride’s last as defensive coordinator, had 53 sacks for 395 yards in losses.
On the other hand, the Huskers allowed only seven sacks for 50 yards in losses in 1989, both records and both since broken—the 1995 national championship team didn’t allow a sack.
Oregon State didn’t sack Gerry Gdowski, or Mickey Joseph, or Mike Grant, who had been pulled from a redshirt. But the Beavers did contain Nebraska’s offense, relatively speaking.
“Offensively, I wasn’t very happy with our play today,” Osborne said. “We were sporadic.”
The Huskers didn’t have a 100-yard rusher. In fact, wingback Richard Bell, who had 225 all-purpose yards against Minnesota the week before, led them with 82 yards on just five carries.
Ken Clark was limited to 59 yards and a touchdown, on 20 carries. Gdowski carried 12 times for 47 yards and a touchdown and completed 5-of-14 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown to split end Jon Bostick, a 60-yard play early in the fourth quarter. Grant completed the scoring with a 9-yard touchdown pass to back-up wingback Mark Dowse with 4:24 remaining.
Valladao would sack Booher on Oregon State’s final series as the clock ran down.
“Our pass protection was inconsistent,” Beaver Coach Dave Kragthorpe said. “It wasn’t the best pass rush we’ve seen. I don’t think Nebraska did anything unexpected or out of the ordinary.”
Seriously? Makes one wonder what would’ve happened if the Huskers had.
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.