LINCOLN, Neb. – When Saturday's Oklahoma-Nebraska game was scheduled 10 years ago, the intention was to celebrate what once was among college football’s greatest rivalries.
It turned out to be further confirmation the Cornhuskers are just a shell of the program that decades ago battled the Sooners for conference titles year in and year out.
Dillon Gabriel threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and sixth-ranked Oklahoma hammered Nebraska 49-14 in the Huskers' first game following the firing of Scott Frost.
OU (3-0) posted its most lopsided victory over Nebraska (1-3) since a 45-10 win in 1990 and scored its most points in Lincoln in 43 all-time visits. The Sooners have won seven of eight against the Huskers. The next meetings are set for 2029 and '30.
“We’ve not done anything but win our first road game,” first-year OU coach Brent Venables said. “No one here is beating their chest. Today was a good, strong win and I think we improved today in lots of different ways.”
The Huskers have lost 19 straight against Top 25 opponents and nine in a row against Bowl Subdivision teams.
Frost's tenure, which lasted four years plus three games, was marked by close games. The first one under interim head coach Mickey Joseph was never in doubt after the opening quarter, and Memorial Stadium began emptying at halftime.
Joseph said it was apparent he didn't get his team ready emotionally.
“It's not my kids' fault, not my assistant coaches' fault, this is on me," he said. "I've got to accept responsibility for it, and I have. We're going to get better next week. We've got eight games left, and we're going to get ready to win some games.”
Oklahoma scored 49 straight points after Nebraska opened the game with a six-play, 77-yard touchdown drive. The Huskers totaled just 71 yards on their next 37 plays in the first half and didn't score again until backup quarterback Chubba Purdy ran for a late touchdown.
Gabriel was 16 of 27 for 230 yards and turned things over to backup Davis Beville on the third series of the second half. The Sooners finished with 580 total yards, 312 on the ground.
“I’m extremely critical of myself and felt like I left a lot of things on the field,” Gabriel said. “We were a couple explosive plays away from making us feel really good about how we played.”
Gabriel got the Sooners started with a career-long 61-yard touchdown run on a quarterback draw. “What sweet feet he had,” Venables said.
Gabriel then threw a 25-yard pass to Jalil Farooq to put his team ahead. Marcus Major scored the next two TDs. The first score was a short run and the second on a trick play where Gabriel lateraled to tight end Brayden Willis, who lofted a 24-yard pass to the wide-open Major.
Eric Gray's 16-yard run made it 35-7 at half, and then the Sooners mostly kept it on the ground to chew up clock.
The Huskers' Casey Thompson was 14 of 20 for 129 yards and a touchdown and got sacked four times. He was replaced by Purdy after the Huskers went down 49-7 in the middle of the third quarter.
Nebraska and Oklahoma combined for 44 of 48 Big Seven and Big Eight championships and 11 national titles from 1948-1995.
Nebraska and Oklahoma players from the 1970s and ‘80s made a weekend of it. The Huskers' 1970-71 national championship teams held a reunion and Johnny Rodgers was honored on the field to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his winning the Heisman Trophy.
Joseph said he didn't see such a poor performance coming.
“Yes, it's surprising,” he said. “But I wanted them to continue to fight, and they did. It's on me. I've got to fix this problem.”
Oklahoma: After scoring seven first-half points against Kent State last week, the Sooners had 35 by half and will go into Big 12 play off their most complete game of the season on both sides of the ball.
Nebraska: The defense continues to flounder, having given up more than 500 yards to a third straight Bowl Subdivision opponent. The offensive line doesn't give Thompson a chance to create a rhythm.
The Sooners should hold their place in the AP Top 25 and, with all the teams above them winning, probably will have to wait to crack the top five for the first time since the middle of last November.
Oklahoma's DaShaun White was ejected for targeting in the second quarter when he hit Thompson with the crown of his helmet after Thompson released the ball.
Nebraska left tackle Teddy Prochaska didn't dress because of a shoulder injury and is out for the season, Joseph said. Turner Corcoran, who started the first three games at left guard, took over Prochaska's spot.
Oklahoma: hosts Kansas State on Saturday in Big 12 opener.
Nebraska: open date before hosting Indiana on Oct. 1.
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