Jan. 1, 1973
MIAMI, Fla. — Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers proved the award was justified by scoring four touchdowns and passing for another as ninth-ranked Nebraska smashed Notre Dame 40-6 in the 1973 Orange Bowl.
Although he left the game in the third period with 81 yards rushing on 15 carries, Rodgers scored on runs of eight, four and five yards, galloped down the sidelines on a 50-yard touchdown pass play from quarterback David Humm and tossed a 52-yard scoring aerial to Frosty Anderson as the Cornhuskers rolled to their third consecutive Orange Bowl conquest.
The defeat was the worst for the Irish since Ara Parseghian took over the Notre Dame coaching reins in 1964.
Nebraska, a Big Eight power, bolted to a 20-0 halftime lead and added three more touchdowns – all by Rodgers – in the third period before Notre Dame managed a meaningless touchdown in the final quarter. That six-pointer, a five-yard scoring pass from Tom Clements to Pete Demmerle, kept Notre Dame’s streak of scoring in 72 straight games alive.
Rodgers scored his first touchdown in the first quarter on an eight-yard run that capped a 76-yard drive. That march also included scampers of 13 and 10 yards by Rodgers as well as runs of 12 and six yards by Dave Goeller. Rick Sanger’s kick made it Nebraska 7, Notre Dame 0.
In the second quarter, Gary Dixon helped the Huskers go 80 yards in 11 plays with a 36-yard burst. He then plunged over from the one-yard line and Sanger’s kick gave Nebraska a 14-0 lead.
On Nebraska’s next possession, Humm lateraled to Rodgers on the first play from scrimmage.
Rodgers then heaved his 52-yard pass to Frosty Anderson. That put the Irish in a 20-0 hole, and they never recovered.
Notre Dame’s first-half problems resulted mainly from its inability to take advantage of excellent field position. During the first 30 minutes the Irish had first downs at the Nebraska 30, 29 and 25-yard lines but couldn’t score. On two other occasions Clements’ passes were intercepted, once at the Husker 18 and once at the Nebraska 41.
The Rodgers extravaganza continued after intermission. He scored on runs of four and five yards. He then took a screen pass from Humm and dashed 50 yards down the right sideline for the final Nebraska touchdown, its sixth of the day. Rodgers then retreated to the bench for the rest of the game.
The Huskers already had inflicted enough damage on the Irish, who finished the year at 8-3.
Nebraska bested Notre Dame in just about every statistical category. The Huskers rolled up 560 yards total offense to Notre Dame’s 207. Nebraska had 300 yards on the ground and 260 through the air, while the Irish had 104 yards rushing and 103 yards passing. Notre Dame managed only 13 first downs to Nebraska’s 30.
Humm completed 13 of 19 passes for 185 yards, while his Irish counterpart Tom Clements was successful on nine of 22 attempts for 103.
In addition to his 81 yards rushing, Rodgers caught three passes for 71 yards. Nebraska ended the year at 9-2-1, losing only to UCLA and Oklahoma and tying Iowa State. The victory proved a fitting end to the 11-year Nebraska career of head coach Bob Devaney.