So many storylines . . .
Nebraska defeated Kansas State in 1994 at Manhattan, before an overflow crowd of 42,817. The 17-6 victory was the Huskers’ sixth in a row. The loss was Kansas State’s first after four victories.
“We went into this game with a lot of confidence and expected to win,” said Wildcat quarterback Chad May, who had thrown 128 passes without an interception in the four victories.
His streak was 168 going back to the 1993 season.
May would throw 20 passes without an interception during the first two quarters against Nebraska to break the Big Eight season record (138) set by Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy in 1986.
With 1:43 remaining in the first half, however, on first-and-10 at the Nebraska 21-yard line, Husker linebacker Troy Dumas, who had missed the Oklahoma State game with a sore knee, picked off a May pass and returned it 54 yards to the Kansas State 29-yard line.
Nebraska was unable to capitalize, however.
The Dumas interception reflected one of the game’s storylines. The Blackshirts stepped up in a big way. On Kansas State’s third play from scrimmage, true freshman outside linebacker Grant Wistrom sacked May, who had been sacked seven times total in the first four games. The Huskers would sack him five more times, including a second by Wistrom on the game’s final play.
Linebacker Ed Stewart, who had a sack, led Nebraska with nine tackles. Tackle Christian Peter, who also had a sack, finished with eight tackles. Dumas had seven.
Cornerback Barron Miles covered All-America-candidate wide receiver Kevin Lockett and broke up six passes, bringing his season’s total to a school-record tying nine.
May didn’t complete 50-percent of his passes; he was 22-of-48 for 249 yards and the Wildcats’ lone touchdown 5 seconds into the second quarter. Dumas blocked the extra-point kick.
May had no help from the running game. Kansas State finished with a net of minus-7 yards on 23 carries. Taking away the sacks, the Wildcats still managed only 47 yards on 17 attempts.
“We just got buried in our own territory and couldn’t get out of it,” May said.
The lead storyline was probably sophomore walk-on Matt Turman’s start at quarterback. Brook Berringer, wearing a special flak jacket to protect his left lung, was on the sideline, available, but Turman played all but the final series of the first half, leaving with the score 7-6 Nebraska.
Though the Huskers, who had been averaging a nation-leading 430 rushing yards per game, were limited to a season-low 210 yards on the ground, the “Pipeline” provided protection for Turman and then Berringer, neither of whom was sacked, and opened the way for Lawrence Phillips.
Forty of Nebraska’s 50 rushing attempts were between the tackles, with Phillips carrying 31 times for 117 yards and the game’s first touchdown 6:12 into the first quarter. The possession began at the Kansas State 28-yard line, thanks to the defense and a 14-yard Tyrone Williams punt return.
Phillips, who carried 16 times for 53 yards and also caught two passes for 15 yards in the first half, wasn’t on the sideline at the start of the second half.
With less than 5 minutes remaining in the second quarter, on an incomplete screen pass from Turman, Phillips’ left thumb was jammed by a Wildcats’ helmet. Because the thumb swelled and was painful, Phillips was taken to a hospital at halftime to have it checked.
The thumb wasn’t fractured, so Phillips returned soon after the second half began and was back in the game midway through the third quarter.
Fullback Jeff Makovicka scored the Huskers’ second touchdown on a 15-yard run, capping an 11-play, 75-yard drive to start the fourth quarter, and Darin Erstad kicked a 24-yard field goal with 1:32 remaining.
“We’re all hurt right now,” said May. “We expected to come in and win the ball game.”
The Wildcats’ great expectations weren’t realized because of the Blackshirts, Turman stepping up behind an offensive line reflective of its “Pipeline” nickname and the grit of Phillips.
Any one of those made a good storyline for Nebraska’s sixth victory.
Next: On to Missouri, too much of Miles, Phillips ties a record and yes, more concern at quarterback
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.