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Before the season, Coach Tom Osborne had made no secret of the fact that he expected the defense to be the strongest part of his 18th Nebraska team, and the "Blackshirts" didn't let him down in shutting out Baylor, 13-0, before a national television audience (ESPN) in the opener for both teams.
It was the first time since 1964 that Nebraska had opened the season with a shutout, as the seventh-ranked (AP) Huskers held the Bears to 13 first downs and 164 total-offense yards. And, in the end, it was a big defensive play which forced a Baylor fumble inside the Husker 10 early in the fourth quarter and enabled NU to win.
"The defense has got to be the strong part of our football team, particularly in the early going," Osbome said. "Tonight, they saved our bacon."
Nebraska took a 6-0 lead into the final period on two second-quarter Gregg Barrios field goals, but, early in the final quarter, Baylor had driven to the Husker 5-yard line, and appeared to be headed in for the go-ahead points. Fullback Frankie Smith took the handoff on second-and-goal, but was immediately slammed by Husker linebacker Pat Tyrance, fumbled, and Travis Hill recovered for Nebraska at the 3.
"That was one of the two big plays of the game," Osborne said. "The other came just after that to get us out of that hole."
That other "big play" came from quarterback Mike Grant and split end Jon Bostick. The Huskers faced third-and-7 at their 6, when Grant rolled to this right after nearly tripping over one of his linemen, and hit Bostick in full stride down the right sideline for a 23-yard gain and a first down.
"That was a miraculous throw and catch," Osborne said. "If we had had to punt from down there, they would have been right back at us and had a chance to go ahead 7-6."
On the first play after the Grant-to-Bostick aerial, sophomore I-back Scott Baldwin sprinted 53 yards to the Baylor 18, and three plays later, made an 11-yard gain to the Bears' 2. But the drive ended on the next play when Baylor recovered Grant's fumble in the end zone.
The Blackshirts forced a punt, and Tyrone Hughes' 18-yard return set the Huskers up at the Baylor 37 with 4:12 left. Nebraska then ground its way to the 2, where Baldwin leaped over the line and into the end zone for the game's only touchdown with 22 seconds left.
"I was very apprehensive going in," Osborne said. "If I had been told before the game that we were going to win by 12 or 13 points, I'd have been very happy. I was really pleased with the shutout. We knew the defense was going to be the strength of our team early, and they showed it. I thought our offense played reasonably well. I wasn't that disappointed."
Tyrance's fumble-causing tackle on Smith was one of his career-high 12 on the night, in a performance that earned him Big Eight defensive player-of-the-week honors. Baldwin, who was celebrating his 21st birthday, finished with 92 rushing yards in his first varsity appearance and was named player-of-the-game by ESPN.
Baylor was in Nebraska territory only three times, getting to the 32 in the second period, to the 44 at the start of the second half, and, of course, to the 5 early in the final period. The Huskers came up empty twice inside the Baylor 10, as Barrios missed a 21-yard, "chip-shot" field goal in the first period, followed by the end-zone fumble in the fourth.
The game was played in late-summer heat. Temperature at the 6:37 p.m. kickoff was 92 degrees, with a heat index of 104.
SEASON STATS | NU ROSTER
Sept. 1, 1990
Baylor 0 0 0 0 — 0
Nebraska 0 6 0 7 — 13
NU — FG Gregg Barrios 37, 8:27 remaining.
NU — FG Barrios, 20, 0:02.
NU — Scott Baldwin 2 run (Barrios kick), 0:22.
Attendance — 76,184.
Weather — clear, 92 degrees, wind E 15.
First downs 13 16
Rushes-yards 56-136 49-249
Passing yards 28 86
Returns-yards 2-0 4-77
Passes 2-8-1 5-8-1
Sacks by 0-0 4-34
Punts-average 7-31 2-29
Fumbles-lost 4-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 4-30 3-15
Time of poss. 33:03 26:57
Rushing: Baylor, Eldwin Raphel 18-76, David Mims 6-45. Nebraska, Baldwin 14-92, Leodis Flowers 11-40.
Passing: Baylor, Steve Needham 2-8-1-28. Nebraska, Mike Grant 5-6-0-86, Mickey Joseph 0-2-1-0.
Receiving: Baylor, Greg Anderson 2-28. Nebraska, Jon Bostick 3-69, Tyrone Hughes 2-17.
Missed field goals: Baylor, Jeff Ireland 49. Nebraska, Barrios 21, 48.
Interceptions: Baylor, Mike Welch 1-0. Nebraska, Tyrone Byrd 1-28.
Tackles (UT-AT-TT): Baylor, Curtis Hafford 5-9-14, Welch 3-7-10, Daniel Morgan 1-8-9. Nebraska, Pat Tyrance 8-4-12, Mike Croel 3-8-11, Mike Petko 3-8-11, Reggie Cooper 5-5-10.
Sacks: Baylor, none. Nebraska, Pat Engelbert 1-9, Tyrance 1-9, Croel 1-8, Kenny Walker 1-8.