Photo by Randy Hampton
Nebraska Football

Tom's Time: Offense Galore in October '88 Meeting with Oklahoma State

October 17, 2019
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Yes, Tom Osborne’s 1983 team was nicknamed the “Scoring Explosion.” But the 1988 team had scored 63 points twice in its first six games in 1988 and a combined 95 in two others.

So was this going to be the “Scoring Explosion II” team?

Well, no, UCLA defeated the Huskers during that stretch, 41-28 at Pasadena in the third game. The 41 points were the most ever allowed by an Osborne-coached team.

In fact, the 38 the Bruins had at halftime were a record.

It was a surreal evening at the Rose Bowl. UCLA led 28-0 at the end of the first quarter, before Mark Blazek’s 75-yard interception return early in the second quarter broke the shutout. 

Except that Blazek was down after picking off the Troy Aikman pass. The Husker safety rolled over, got up, raised the ball in celebration, then since the officials hadn’t blown the ball dead took off running, while most of the players on the field stood and watched him run.

No replay back then.

So the UCLA loss erased any thought that Nebraska would make a national title run as the “Scoring Explosion” team had. Still, the Huskers got on a roll after returning from Pasadena, defeating Arizona State 47-16, UNLV 48-6 and Kansas 63-7 to open Big Eight play. They had regained their momentum going into a Homecoming match-up against No. 10-ranked Oklahoma State.

Nebraska, which had dropped from No. 2 to No. 9 after the UCLA loss, was back to No. 7.

Oklahoma State was 4-0 and had averaged 50 points a game with its version of the “Triplets,” the nickname given to Nebraska’s “Scoring Explosion” igniters Turner Gill, Mike Rozier and Irving Fryar by Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer. The Cowboy “Triplets” were: quarterback Mike Gundy, running back Barry Sanders, who would win the Heisman in 1988, and wide receiver Hart Lee Dykes.

Nebraska’s defense held the Cowboys under 50—they scored 42, breaking UCLA’s record against an Osborne-coached team. But I’m getting ahead of myself . . . 

On the game’s first series, Oklahoma State managed one first down and punted. Nebraska took over at its 27-yard line, and here’s how the first quarter went from there:

  • On first down, Ken Clark ran 73 yards for a touchdown. Chris Drennan kicked the extra point. The Huskers led 7-0 with 13:55 remaining.
  • Cornerback Charles Fryar intercepted a Gundy pass and returned it 86 yards for a touchdown. Drennan’s kick made it 14-0 with 11:29 remaining.
  • After Blazek intercepted Gundy, Taylor ran 33 yards, Richard Bell ran 38 yards on a reverse, and Taylor ran nine yards for a touchdown. Drennan’s kick made it 21-0 with 9:16 remaining.
  • Taylor ran 60 yards for a touchdown.  Drennan’s kick made it 28-0 with 4:09 remaining.
  • Taylor ran 43 yards for a touchdown. Drennan’s kick made it 35-0 with 1:05 remaining.

Nebraska opened the second quarter with a seven-play, 68-yard drive, capped by Clark’s touchdown from two yards out. Drennan’s kick made the score 42-0 with 11:42 remaining in the half.

The Huskers’ start was “Scoring Explosion II” worthy. And they would add three more touchdowns, two on Taylor passes to tight end Todd Millikan the other on a Taylor run, to finish with 63 for a third time that season. Turns out they needed at least one of the final three touchdowns because Oklahoma State scored 21 unanswered points to finish the first half and added 21 more.

The final score was 63-42.

“If we had needed to score 100, I think we could have done it,” said Taylor, who completed six-of-11 passes for 92 yards and the two touchdowns and rushed for 140 yards and the three touchdowns.

Clark out-rushed Sanders, gaining 256 yards and scoring three touchdowns on 27 carries. Sanders carried 35 times for 189 yards and four touchdowns.

Gundy completed 17-of-30 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns, with three interceptions. And Dykes caught seven passes for 125 yards and one touchdown.

There you have it. Offense was the order of the day on a warm afternoon in mid-October.

The 6-1 Huskers climbed two places in the rankings, to No. 5. But that was as high as they would be ranked the rest of the season. Oddly, two wins later they were back at No. 7, where they remained following a 51-16 win at Iowa State—as they prepared for a visit from No. 19 Colorado.

“Scoring Explosion”-type scores appeared to have become the AP voters’ standard for Nebraska. 

And they had struggled against a 2-4-1 Missouri team in Lincoln, managing just one first down and 17 total yards in the first half before coming alive in the second to win 26-18.

All of the Tigers’ points came on field goals.

It was that kind of season. And it would continue. A trip to Norman, Oklahoma, would follow the Colorado game. But again I’m getting ahead of myself.

 
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