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O.K., Time To Fasten Those Seat Belts
Jack McCallum
October 04, 1982
Penn State, off and winging to new offensive heights, beat Nebraska in a thriller
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October 04, 1982

O.k., Time To Fasten Those Seat Belts

Penn State, off and winging to new offensive heights, beat Nebraska in a thriller

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The Penn State bench called for a 71 Y-Corner, a play designed as a short throw to Tight End Mike McCloskey, who reads the defense and runs his pattern accordingly. In this case Nebraska showed three-deep coverage—McCloskey's cue for a square-out. Blackledge hit him with a 15-yard completion near the sideline. But was McCloskey out-of-bounds when he made the catch at the Nebraska two?

"I skidded my feet a little, trying to get them down," said McCloskey. "For a second I thought I was out, but it's in the record books now, right?" Right, but did you think you were out? "I have to see the films," said McCloskey with a smile.

Now, with nine seconds left—time for only two plays—Penn State showed the Huskers a running formation, a power I with two tight ends. It was all a decoy because the play—41 Shoot—called for the ball to be thrown to either McCloskey or Stonehands Bowman. McCloskey got held up at the line, but Bowman, coming off the right side, found a seam and slanted across the middle toward the back of the end zone, just as he had done when he caught a 14-yard TD pass from Black-ledge in the first period. Bowman put his hand up to indicate he was open, but Blackledge, under pressure, didn't see him until the last moment. He delivered the ball low, but Bowman reached down and got it "about six inches off the ground, I think."

If Bowman was the unlikely hero, the game produced more than its share of likely ones, too. Like Nebraska's Rozier, who squeezed 60 second-half yards out of Penn State's charged-up defense and scored a third-quarter touchdown on a two-yard pass from Gill.

To get Rozier and senior I-Back Roger Craig, Nebraska's ninth-leading career rusher, into the same backfield, Osborne not only had moved Craig to fullback last spring, but also had installed a new formation called the "weak set," in which Rozier moves out of the I to play beside Craig. The result: 1,020 yards rushing and 10 TDs on the ground in the Huskers' first two games of the year, wipeouts of Iowa (42-7) and New Mexico State (68-0).

But the strategy was for naught on Saturday—Craig had suffered a badly bruised thigh in the game against New Mexico State and hardly practiced for Penn State. He picked up 27 yards on seven carries in the first half but was unable to play at all in the second.

Another predictable Husker standout was Wingback Irving Fryar, who had seven catches for 112 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown with 38 seconds left in the first half that cut Penn State's lead to 14-7. Fryar is fast enough to beat Rozier and Craig in the 40 by a few ticks and strong enough to break tackles, as he did when he bulled over Penn State defensive backs Roger Jackson and Mark Robinson to get into the end zone.

Forget, though, about Craig and Rozier and Fryar. And forget about Dave Rimington, the Cornhuskers' Out-land Award-winning center who is even stronger this year because Osborne has been spelling him occasionally with backup Brad Johnson. Nebraska's season revolves around Gill. He can throw from the pocket. He can roll out either way. He can both scramble and run the option. On Saturday he was Nebraska's second-leading rusher with 60 yards on 12 carries in addition to completing 16 of 34 passes.

Gill is that rare Texas blue-chipper (he's from Fort Worth) who escaped from both the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma. The former held no interest for him, but he concedes he'd be a Sooner today if not for Barry Switzer's wishbone offense. "I wanted to throw the ball," says Gill. "This offense is perfect for me here." Maybe so, but Gill still gets hate mail for rejecting Oklahoma. "I got a letter two weeks ago from a guy in Tulsa bad-mouthing me," says Gill, shaking his head. "He even had his return address on it. What's the matter with some people, anyway?"

"What's the matter?" is the question people have been asking about Penn State's Warner lately. The success of Air Paterno made Warner—a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate—a somewhat forgotten man in Penn State's first three victories. He set out to change that on Saturday.

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