Tom's Time
Photo Credit: Randy Hampton

Tom’s Time: Snyder Calls NU ‘Epitome of Football’ After First Meeting

December 05, 2019

John Roschal, Nebraska’s second-string right guard, couldn’t suit up for the Huskers’ Big Eight opener against Kansas State at Memorial Stadium in 1989. He had an ankle injury.

The senior from Houston had battled knee problems throughout his college career.

After the game, despite not playing, he had neck discomfort as well. Rather than standing on the sideline, Roschal opted to stand underneath the South Stadium with wife Lori. She had a seat in the stands, but because there were no empty seats nearby, they stood and watched.

Roschal had a transistor radio and headphones to follow the action.

By the fourth quarter, they could have found seats together. The soldout stadium was clearing out. Nebraska led 58-7 after three quarters. And it was raining.

So John and Lori continued to stand, the stadium above them providing some cover. 

If not for the rain and a temperature in the high 40s, most Husker fans probably would’ve remained, though the fact that Kansas State was the opponent might’ve had something to do with the fourth-quarter disinterest as well. The victory would be Nebraska’s 21st in a row in the series.

Neither team scored in the fourth quarter. 

Even though Kansas State had the optimism of a new head coach—Bill Snyder had come from Iowa, where he had been the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for 10 years under Hayden Fry—the game was another “Thanks for coming; drive safely on the way home.”

Afterward, Snyder graciously described Nebraska as the “epitome of college football.”

His Wildcats, who came to Lincoln with a 1-3 record, would finish 1-10.

Nebraska’s first possession ended with a Gerry Gdowski pass interception, his second of the regular season. It would also be his last of the regular season. The Huskers punted only twice in the first 30 minutes, scored on their next two possessions and led at halftime 35-0.

Gdowski who directed a 12-play, 87-yard touchdown drive to start the second half, then gave way, finishing with 81 yards and a touchdown rushing, on 10 carries, and 4-of-6 pass completions for 112 yards, 41 of them to split end Jon Bostick for a touchdown late in the first half.

Mickey Joseph, the first quarterback off the bench, and tight end Todd Carpenter teamed up on a 28-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter, and Mike Grant, who replaced Joseph, connected with Bostick for 16 yards and a touchdown on the third quarter’s final play.

It was the first time three Husker quarterbacks had thrown a touchdown pass in a game since 1982, when Turner Gill, Nate Mason and Bruce Mathison did it in a 68-0 victory against New Mexico State. You remember that game. Nebraska rolled up a then-NCAA record 883 yards of offense.

The Huskers managed “only” 723 yards against Kansas State in 1989, 542 of them rushing. The total might have been even more if not for six fumbles, three of them lost. 

Kansas State also had three sacks for 27 yards in losses, a number subtracted from a team’s rushing total in official NCAA statistics. That subtraction helped account for the Wildcats’ finishing with 16 yards rushing on 22 carries against the Blackshirts—who had four sacks for 30 yards in losses.

“We came up here with the idea that we were going to mix it up with the run and pass,” said Snyder. “But we got put in a situation where we were down early and had to play catch up.”

Husker I-back Ken Clark carried 22 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Thirteen others carried in the game, all of them gaining yards except Jerry Dunlap, the fourth quarterback to play.

Nebraska used 99 players in all.

Clark and roommate Leodis Flowers, also an I-back (who carried four times for 77 yards), watched film clips of Mike Rozier, Nebraska’s Heisman Trophy winner in 1983, on the night before the Kansas State game—remember, Clark was featured on the cover of Nebraska’s 1989 media guide under the heading: “Heisman Trophy Candidate Ken Clark.”

Clark told the Sunday Journal-Star he “wanted to get back to running the way I was at the end of last season, and I don’t think I had gotten there yet.”

Mission accomplished against the Wildcats.

Roschal could attest to that, craning his neck to see.

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.

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