The pursuit on both sides was astounding. What few pass plays Harmon called seldom had time to materialize. UCLA got off only nine passes, four by John Sciarra who alternated with Harmon after Mark bruised his knee in the first quarter. And marked man McAlister was never able to find enough AstroTurf to run on. He wound up with just 48 yards in 13 carries.
A blond, stumpy sophomore named Tony Davis (not to be confused with USC's Anthony Davis) and Runty, the inspired quarterback imitator, starting their first game as Cornhuskers, made their intentions known immediately. On the Cornhuskers' first series Runty took them 56 yards to a touchdown, giving UCLA enough things to worry about to last the game through: counters, reverses, quick-developing screens and an option pitch to Davis that was a pip.
Runty got the first touchdown on a one-yard drive, and less than two minutes later the pride of Alliance, Randy Borg, returned a punt 77 yards for a score. Behind 14-0, UCLA was granted a stay of execution by a fumble that set up a Bruin touchdown. Then Runty passed to Frosty Anderson to make it 20-6 Nebraska, but UCLA still was not ready to die. Just before the half Kermit Johnson slipped away with one of the few pitchouts allowed him and ran 43 yards to set up a UCLA touchdown and it was 20-13.
Osborne said later that he was afraid his boys had lost the momentum at that point and he implored them to get it back. In answer, the Cornhuskers drove 80 yards in 14 plays with the second-half kickoff. The most significant play was the last, not because it was the touchdown but because it demonstrated what Tony Davis is made of. On fourth down inside the two, Davis slanted off the left side where he was embraced, first by Tackle Fred McNeill and then by Safety Jim Bright. Had Davis fallen right there none could have blamed him, but he kept his feet, recoiled and sprung again, sliding off the defenders and into the end zone.
Early in the fourth quarter Davis got the last of his 147 yards on a pitchout, running 43 yards to the end zone. His second touchdown completed a remarkable first day on the job. He clearly enjoyed it because he kicked the end zone flag as he whizzed by and then took a swipe at the chain-link fence with his fist. "I was charged up," he said. "I mean, I never was so charged up. I yelled so much before the game I got hoarse."
Nebraska assistant coaches, many of them Devaney veterans, dropped by to shake Osborne's hand as he stood holding the game ball after the 40-13 victory.
"What time tomorrow, Tom?" John Melton asked. Melton was with Devaney 16 years. "How about 12:30, John?" Osborne said. "That O.K.?" "Whatever you say, coach," Melton smiled. "From now on, whatever you say."