It has become an obsession with Onofrio to try to celebrate wins moderately and minimize agony over defeats. The coaches have talked about the problem and this year are stressing individual and team goals for each game—trying to establish that an intercepted pass against Kansas State is as important as one against Oklahoma. "What I wonder," says Onofrio, staring into a dish of strawberry ice cream, "is whether we are overachieving and winning, or underachieving and losing."
There was no underachieving against Nebraska. Missouri got in the first licks when Rob Fitzgerald intercepted a Vince Ferragamo pass. Woods promptly connected on a 44-yard pass play to Joe Stewart, described by his coaches as roughly 200% improved over last year. Woods then ran it over from a yard away.
After that the points came like a blizzard. Larry Valasek zipped through the Mizzou defense and blocked a Monte Montgomery punt. Kent Smith jumped on it in the end zone, and the Nebraska fans saluted the effort with a barrage of oranges, to hint at where they expected to be the night of Jan. 1. Before the half, Monte Anthony got another Nebraska touchdown; Mizzou answered with a Woods-to- Kellen Winslow nine-yard touchdown pass. Less than a minute later, a Nebraska fumble on its own 20 set up another Missouri score by Woods on a sneak, but then Missouri returned the favor by fumbling and Ferragamo soon got it over. To which Missouri countered with a field goal. Toting up, the score at halftime was Missouri 23, Nebraska 18.
A key to the game came in the third quarter as Missouri bogged down and Nebraska went smoothly from its 18 to the Missouri 21. Although Dodie Donnell, a rugged fullback who insists he does not mind blocking because "I just like to knock people down, and it's better I do it in football than out on the street," lost the ball on a fumble, the Cornhuskers kept at it. An Al Eveland field goal narrowed the gap, and another put Nebraska ahead 24-23. The Cornhuskers were purring now and seemed to have the game under control, particularly when Missouri botched the kickoff return. Pinned back at his two with third and 14, Woods was standing in the mist and fretting about life's cruel ways.
Then came the play. In the dry press box above, Assistant Coach Dick Jamie-son ordered the "pro-left, tight, fake dive, 127 Z-Streak." From out of a running formation, Woods let loose a wobbly but true toss that landed in Stewart's hands way down yonder. And at this inopportune moment, a Cornhusker defensive back stumbled. Stewart, who said he was thinking of the importance of holding the ball tight, like while he was running, was alone and home free at last. The 98-yarder was the only pass Woods completed in the second half; the 98-yarder was also a Big Eight record.
A two-point conversion put Missouri ahead 31-24 with 12:50 to play and it was all over when Mark Kirkpatrick, who earlier this year broke a bone in his foot while running backward, intercepted a Ferragamo pass. Tim Gibbons then got his second field goal of the afternoon to give the Tigers their final 10-point margin.
"I've noticed one thing about football," said Onofrio when it was over. "You don't have a chance to beat these big teams if you don't play 'em." For a bunch of Yo-Yos, things were sure looking up once more.