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Nebraska Football, Cornhuskers NCAA Gear

Aug 6, 2008
I will be describing the 1971 Nebraska-Oklahoma football game as seen through the eyes of a 20 year old die hard Nebraska football fan. I was born in Nebraska and spent my first 10 years there. In that time, my dad ,who was a huge Nebraska fan from way back instilled what has lasted to this day a love for Nebraska football.

In the late 50's we moved to Illinois and there was hardly any type of media coverage available for Nebraska football. By 1963 Bob Devaney had brought the Corhuskers to National prominence. The 1963 team won the Big 8 Conference and was headed to the Orange Bowl. At that time the game started in the morning. There were only 4 bowl games of national significance going on at that time, the Orange which the Big 8 was contracturally tied in with, the Cotton which had a team from the Southwestern Conference, the Sugar Bowl which had an SEC team, and the Rose Bowl which pitted the Big 10 against the Pac 10. In the Orange Bowl Nebraska was playing Auburn. Nebraska jumped out to an early lead on the first series with a QB keeper that went for around 67 yards. Oh Boy, they had it in the bag. Not exactly. The final series found Auburn deep in Nebraska territory, but with a break here and there the Cornhuskers prevailed 13-7.

By 1965 the cover of Sports Illustrated had Nebraska on its cover predicting them to finish number 1. Big Red fever was taking on a national fan base. The 1965 team had a chance at winning the national championship game except for the fact that Bear Bryant, Alabamas head coach found out we couldn't field an onside kick.

This trend continued, with a couple of lean years thrown in to become a stage setter for what was to be the 1971 game of the century.

The Oklahoma Sooners were good, really good. Their offense was nearly unstoppable, and they had a respectable defense. Nebraskas defense was considered excellent while their offense was quite good with Jerry Tagge, future Heisman winner Johnny Rodgers, and future first round draft pick Jeff Kinney. The Sooners had Jack Mildren guide the Oklahoma offense which ran a wishbone attack. It was a triple option offense that didn't rely much on the pass. It didn't need to, Mildren had rushed for over 1000 yards at this point an Greg Pruitt was averaging 9.5 yards per carry. The teams had been ranked 1 and 2 for the entire season and something had to give.

I remember listening to Howard Cosell do a 5 minute radio show every morning, and doing nothing but talking about the Nebraska Oklahoma game. Life magazines cover featured the game, along with Sports Illustrated. In 1971 there was usually only one game broadcast and the others you had to read about or try and catch some highlights on a Sunday morning college football show. I had seen Nebraska play Colorado earlier on television that year in which they won 35-7 and had gone to two other games in person (Missouri and Iowa St. where they won easily). They were now on the big stage. It was something I could have only dreamt about 10 years ago.

This football game itself ended up living up to all of its hype. Mildren who hadn't been much of a passer all year was killing Nebraska with his arm. Johnny Rodgers 1st quarter punt return for a touchdown was probably the deciding factor that couldn't be changed, as these two team competed evenly down to the final minutes.

After the game was over and Nebraska had prevailed by a score of 35-31 I felt a sense of pride and relief. I had just witnessed two great teams go at it for 60 minutes and my team came out on top. The 1971 Nebraska team regularly is ranked as the best college football team of all time, I'm always surprised Oklahoma wasn't usually ranked second. After the 1971 season concluded, Nebraska ended up with a unanimous number 1 ranking, followed by Oklahoma in second, and Colorado, which only losses came to Nebraska and Oklahoma as third in the polls.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane. It was a lot of fun to bring back the old thoughts of what happened that season. If you want more thought on the upcoming season come to: bigredfb.com
About the Author
New Page 1 Dan has been a lifelong Cornhusker fan for the past 45 years. He lives and dies Red. You can get more of his comments on the season and game reviews at http://bigredfb.com
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