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Ranked No. 1 by the pollsters before the season, Nebraska's Cornhuskers had their 1976 debut spoiled by a stubborn Louisiana State team which battled to a 6-6 tie.
With 70,746 fans jammed into the Tiger Pit, Nebraska struck for a 6-0 lead in the first four minutes, then had to hang on for dear life as the aggressive Tigers refused to yield another point. Nebraska's Black Shirts refused the Tigers a touchdown, but field goals in the third and fourth quarters produced the deadlock.
The Cornhuskers' kicking game went sour at key times to create conditions favorable to LSU's catch-up game. After Vince Ferragamo threw a TD pass to Ken Spaeth with 11:01 left in the first quarter, most folks thought Nebraska would live up to its pre-season billings. But a bobbled snap from center kept the score from becoming 7-0 on the extra point try and that point loomed larger and larger as the game progressed.
Then, in the third quarter Al Eveland booted a 34-yard field goal try low and to the right, so instead of a 9-0 lead the Huskers saw LSU storm back to pull up 6-3. In the fourth quarter, Eveland's 39-yard field goal try was blocked and the Tigers promptly gained new hope and moved to the tying score with 7:09 left in the game.
LSU tried for a winning 44-yard field goal with 40 seconds left in the game, but the boot just missed to the right. Nebraska wound up intercepting a Tiger pass on the last play of the game and Ray Phillips' theft and lateral to Jim Wightman who ran into the end zone went for naught when officials ruled Phillips had stepped out of bounds as time ran out.
It was the first time since 1961 that Nebraska had gone three straight games without a victory, a fact that took the lustre off a 91-yard rushing performance by fullback Dodie Donnell, some outstanding defense by Tony Samuel, Jim Wightman, Cletus Pillen, Dave Butterfield, and Mike Fultz, as well as a 13-for-25 (125 yards) passing night by Ferragamo.
LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR
SEASON STATS | NU ROSTER
Sept. 11, 1976
Baton Rouge, LA
Nebraska 6 0 0 0 — 6
LSU 0 0 3 3 — 6
NU — Ken Spaeth (3, pass from Vince Ferragamo;
kick try failed when snap was bobbled), 11:01
LSU — Mike Conway (35, field goal), 2:42
LSU — Mike Conway (18, field goal), 7:09
First Downs ................ 18 15
Rushing Net................ 131 169
Passes Comp-Att-Int ... 13-25-1 8-19-1
Passing Net ............... 125 60
Total Offense.............. 256 229
LEADING NU RUSHERS:
Dodie Donnell 91; Monte Anthony 37.
LEADING NU PASSER:
Vince Ferragamo 13-25-1 for 125 yards.
NU TOTAL OFFENSE LEADER:
Vince Ferragamo 104.
NU OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Dodie Donnell.
NU DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jim Wightman.