Oklahoma State blitzed.
And paid the price.
Quarterback Keithen McCant made the reads. Fullback Lance Lewis helped pick up the blitzers. And Nebraska seemed to get back on track in its 1991 Big Eight opener at Oklahoma State.
McCant “knocked the breath out of me,” Cowboy Coach Pat Jones said.
He completed his first eight passes, 11 of his first 12 and finished with 17-of-19 for 231 yards and three touchdowns in at 49-15 Husker victory.
His .895 completion percentage was the second best in school history, the 233.2 pass efficiency ranking the third best. “Keithen wasn’t far off the mark at all,” Tom Osborne said.
That was an understatement. About the only negative was an interception, on a tip.
“He might be the best quarterback in this league,” said Jones.
McCant and I-back Derek Brown, who carried 18 times for 143 yards and three touchdowns, provided the punch Nebraska needed following an off-week, a lackluster offensive performance in an 18-9 victory at Arizona State and a 36-21 loss at home against Washington.
Osborne described the Arizona State victory as looking like “Chicago Bear football.
The Huskers, who trailed 9-8 early in the second half, had played well defensively, producing four sacks, recovering five fumbles and intercepting two passes and limiting Arizona State to 260 total yards.
McCant had accounted for Nebraska’s touchdowns, one by run, the other a 9-yard pass to split end Jon Bostick. He was only 7-for-15 passing, with one interception, however.
The victory snapped a string of six consecutive losses to teams ranked the in the Associated Press poll. The Sun Devils were 24th. Nebraska had dropped to 16th following the Washington loss.
The Huskers had climbed two places after the ASU victory. According to game notes, that meant Nebraska had broken the NCAA record for consecutive weeks in the AP poll, 161.
Interest in Tempe had been such that the second-largest crowd in Sun Devil Stadium, 79,812, was on-hand. In contrast, the game in Stillwater drew only 30,150. Lewis Field seated 50,440.
Oklahoma State was the perfect opponent at that point in the season. The Cowboys were winless in five tries, plus Nebraska had won 17 in a row in the series.
Still, the Huskers were looking for a confidence-builder going into conference play. They ran only 10 plays during the fourth quarter but scored three touchdowns, a reflection of their dominance.
If McCant looked like the best quarterback in the Big Eight, Brown was the complementary running back. He was the first Husker to rush for 100 or more yards in each of the first five games of a season since Bobby Reynolds did it, also as a sophomore, in 1950.
Brown had carried 102 times for 674 yards and seven touchdowns in the five games.
He would increase that streak to seven games, 937 yards and 12 touchdowns, in victories against Kansas State (38-31) and Missouri (63-6). McCant also would rush for 100 yards in those games, gaining 100 on 13 carries against the Wildcats and 124 on nine carries against the Tigers. He also completed 9-of-13 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns, without an interception, in the Missouri game.
Nebraska moved to No. 9 in the AP rankings following the Oklahoma State game and would remain there the next two weeks, leading up to a Big Eight showdown at No. 15 and defending AP national champion Colorado, which had defeated the Huskers the previous two seasons.
Tom's Time is a regular feature that will take a closer look at the life of Tom Osborne. Nebraska has a storied history in football that dates back to the earliest years of the game, but the tradition to which Husker fans hold Nebraska is mostly a reference to Osborne's 25 years as head coach. And that will always be worth exploring in greater detail. Click here for all of the entries in the series.