SECOND-HALF HUSKER SURGE
HOOKS TEXAS LONGHORNS, 19-3
By Don Bryant
Dallas, Texas — (January 1, 1974) — Nebraska's Cornhuskers shook off the humiliation inflicted by Oklahoma in the season finale and a stunning Texas goal-line stand to rip the mighty Longhorns, 19-3, in the 1974 Cotton Bowl game.
With some 67,500 fans — including 20,000 red-clad Nebraskans who were warmed by the sun and their beloved Huskers' return to grace — shivering in the historic bowl, Nebraska's defense sparkled all day. And the offense finally started producing haymakers instead of bee-stings in the second half, pepped by the insertion of alternate quarterback Steve Runty, to hang a convincing defeat on the proud legion of Darrell Royal.
Texas was ranked No. 7; Nebraska No. 11. Texas was favored by as much as a touchdown. But the Cornhuskers put it all together after a 3-3 first half and wound up No. 7, nationally, at the conclusion of another fine 9-2-1 campaign. It was NU's fifth straight bowl victory.
The bruising Nebraska defense that kept things under control until the offense shook off the 30-degree temperature effects and warmed to the task of hooking the Horns.
With John Bell, Steve Manstedt and John Dutton leading the charge, the Longhorns' All America fullback Roosevelt Leaks was held to only 48 yards, tossed for several losses and was forced to leave the game for a spell after another knee injury.
Ironically, it was a Leaks-to-Manstedt fumble that pulled the Huskers even at a field goal apiece in the second quarter. Leading 3-zip on Billy Schott's 22-yard field goal that followed a Nebraska fumble early in the first quarter, the Longhorns took advantage of an interception of a Dave Humm pass to threaten again at the NU 29. Then Leaks was jarred by a Husker tackle and fumbled, but the ball hit his shoe and bounced into the arms of Manstedt who promptly galloped 65 yards to the Texas 8.
Longhorn defenders were having a fine day, too, and the Huskers had to settle for a 24-yard Rich Sanger field goal.
Highwater time for Texas came in the closing seconds of the first half after Nebraska, with Humm passing and Tony Davis and Maury Damkroger churning out infantry yards, drove 79 yards to the Longhorn one-yard line. There, Texas staged a re-run of the Alamo with a little San Jacinto thrown in for good measure with a linebacker named Wade Johnston playing a dual role of Davey Crockett and Sam Houston. Four times Nebraska battered at the touchdown gates and four times Johnston slammed down the Husker invaders, the last time as the clock ran out. Nebraskans blushed and Texans cheered, but that condition was soon to be reversed.
Coach Tom Osborne, bidding for his first bowl victory, surprised the Longhorns and the Cornhuskers alike at halftime by turning the quarter-backing over to Steve Runty, the Huskers' outstanding back-up man. It took a momentum-change play by Bob Thornton to get the Huskers rolling, and with Runty providing a change of pace for the offense, Nebraska streaked to three-second-half scores and a convincing victory.
Texas bid for a 54-yard field goal with 7:37 left in the third quarter, but it fell short and Thornton returned it from the end zone 41 yards to get the Huskers off dead center. Eight plays later it was 10-3, with Ritch Bahe sprinting the final 12 yards on a reverse and Rich Sanger kicking the point.
A minute later, following the kickoff, John Bell pounced on a Longhorn fumble at the Texas 19 and it took only three plays for the Huskers to score again. This time it was Tony Davis — the leading gainer with 106 yards and the outstanding offensive player of the game — pounding over from the three for a 16-3 margin at the three-quarter mark.
Nebraska opened the fourth quarter by driving from its own 11 to the Texas 26, then called on Sanger for a 43-yard field goal and the final 19-3 margin.
It was an impressive Nebraska performance. The Huskers had a rushing bulge over the ground-oriented Longhorns of 240-106 and a total offense edge of 331-196.
So convincing was the Nebraska victory that Coach Darrell Royal of Texas paid a special visit to the Nebraska locker room to compliment the Cornhuskers with words that reflected the highest level of college football sportsmanship.
A great game between two outstanding college teams in one of the nation's most colorful bowl settings — that was the 1974 Cotton Bowl game as Coach Tom Osborne and the Nebraska Cornhuskers proved once again that they rate with the elite of intercollegiate football.
SOURCE: 1974 NU MEDIA GUIDE