Lincoln Journal Star from Lincoln, Nebraska on May 15, 1997 · 42
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Lincoln Journal Star from Lincoln, Nebraska · 42

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Lincoln, Nebraska
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Thursday, May 15, 1997
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42
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0 C Lincoln Journal Star Thursday. May 15.1997 t-VV:V-jr:V-f?r;' '' fji r (n- . V V'x: X- ( X Ac JOURNAL STAR FILE PHOTO A Johnny Rodgers breaks loose from an Oklahoma tackle attempt at midfield and picks up blocking from teammates Willie Harper (81), John Adkins (57), Joe Blahak (27) and Larry Jacobson (75) en route to a 72-yard punt return touchdown that opened the Game of the Century's scoring. Game of Century was all that and more Beating Oklahoma was Devaney BY KEN HAMBLETON Lincoln Journal Star In all his years of coaching, Bob Devaney said he never worked harder and never saw a coaching staff and a football team work harder than they did in preparation for Oklahoma in 1971. , No. 1 and defending national champion Nebraska vs. No. 2 Oklahoma on Nov. 25, 1971 at Norman, Okla. "It should be quite a game," Devaney said. It was and still is called "The Game of the Century." With a national television audience watching and the biggest buildup ever for a college football game, Nebraska was tabbed the "Immovable Object" against Oklahoma's "Irresistible Force" by Sports Illustrated. . "I know it's the biggest game I've ever been in," Devaney said. The legend of the game was born in names and personalities. Nebraska had Devaney, Johnny Rodgers, Rich Glover, Jeff Kinney and Jerry Tagge, while Oklahoma countered with Jack Mildren, Greg Pruitt, Tom Brahaney and Joe Wy-lie. A total of nine AU-Americans, 17 first-team All-Big Eight players and every "Man, Woman and Child" as radio announcer Lyell Bremser would say, were swept up in the Thanksgiving Day game. . By the end of the battle, Nebraska won 35-31, Rodgers had the most famous single play in Nebraska history with a 72-yard punt return, Kinney scored four touchdowns and rushed for 171 yards with the help of good blocking and his first experiment with a tear-away jersey, and Tagge had engineered the most important drive in Husker history. Rodgers opened the scoring with the famous punt return late in the first quarter. He took the punt from Wylie at the NU 28-yard line with Pruitt right in his face. Rodgers spun away at the 30, planted his left hand on the artificial turf, avoided OU's Ken Jones, took off to his right, then cut left through a cluster of Sooners. Joe Blahak screened for the final block on Wylie to break Rodgers loose. Rodgers scored, returned to the bench and threw up. sugar Bowl observer Mickey rH: Iff SzJ AJU. JOURNAL STAR FILE PHOTO A Nebraska's John Adkins (57) gets a hand on Oklahoma halfback Greg Pruitt (30) and stops one of the Sooners' vaunted sweeps. ' s greatest win pww)ijW.'M'tHiiw'."ijijjjiii.j4lMHff.wiH.ilwa.' (Nov. 25, 1971) Nebraska 35, Oklahoma 31 Nebraska 7 7 14 7 35 Oklahoma 3 14 7 7 31 Neb Johnny Rodgers 72 punt return (Rich Sanger kick) Okla FG John Carroll 30 Neb Jeff Kinney 1 run (Sanger kick) Okla Jack Mildren 2 run (Carrol kick) Okla Jon Harrison 24 pass from Mildren (Carroll kick) Neb Kinney 3 run (Sanger kick) Neb Kinney 1 run (Sanger kick) Okla Mildren 3 run (Carroll kick) Okla Harrison 16 pass from Mildren (Carroll kick) Neb Kinney 2 run (Sanger kick) A 61,826 Neb First downs 19 Rushes-yards 59-297 Passing yards 65 Total yards 362 Passing 6-13-0 Return yards 80 Punts-average 5-36 Fumbles tost 1 Penalties-yards 1-5 Holmes said, "They should go out in the stands and tell everyone that if they want to watch the second half, they're going to have to pay another six dollars. There wouldn't be a one of them who would refuse to pay." The Nebraska defense struggled through its toughest game of the year, giving up 31 points, 467 yards (nearly 300 more than its average), but stopped the Sooners on fourth down-and-13 from the Oklahoma 16 with 1 : 10 left in the game. "This is a great Oklahoma team we beat and our kids really came up with the super effort we needed to win it," Devaney said. "I did not feel, my staff did not feel, and I don't believe the players thought we could lose. "When that drive (NU's winning march) started, I felt fairly confident that if we didn't make a mistake, we could go down and score. I don't remember being despondent, just because we were behind or ever thinking that the game was lost We had enough time and I figured that if we kept moving the ball and didn't panic that was the big thing that we'd be OK." Tagge's final scoring march proved the point. Trailing 31-28 with 4:40 left in the game, Nebraska faced third-and-8 at the Oklahoma 46. Devaney sent in a play for Tagge to pass to Rodgers over the middle. Rodgers broke through the line. Tagge faced heavy pressure from All-Big Eight end Okla 22 iiLi 64-279 4111 188 , '5 ? I 467 V y 6-11-0 u- 4 j 7 & . 3-36 f ,f 1-f DEVANEY: HIS GREATEST GAME ..- X i 9 $ C v ' ' I W . Nebraska middle guard Rich Glover delivers a hard hit on Oklahoma who had 22 tackles in the game, sealed the Huskers' victory by batting down with seconds to play. Ray Hamilton and sophomore nose guard Lucious Selmon and lofted the pass. Rodgers leaped for the ball and made a diving, fingertip grab for an 11-yard gain and the first dowa Tagge said he was about to run when he spotted Rodgers open over the middle. "It wasn't thrown very well, but he made a great diving catch to keep the march alive," he said. Kinney carried the brunt the rest of the way, picking up 50 yards on the 74-yard drive. He scored on the second of two plunges into the line from the 2 behind a block by Maury Damkroger. Defensively, Glover was the key. Glover had 22 tackles, and that was against Sooner All-America center Brahaney. "Kinney and Rodgers got a lot of attention from the Game of the Century against Oklahoma," Devaney said later. "But if we hadn't had Glover, we never would have stopped Oklahoma that day." Nebraska defensive line coach Monte Kiffin said Devaney and the staff worked hard to prepare for the game. "Bob didnt put pressure on us, but he took advantage of the 12 days we had between the Kansas State game and the Oklahoma game. "Still, we were caught in a track meet in the first half on defense. We stopped Pruitt pretty welL But Mildren was getting loose and they were passing more than ever before," Kiffin said. "We had moved Bill Kosch to cover their receivers man-to-man because we were worried about their running up the middle. Poor Bill had never been in man-to-man coverage before." Devaney said of Kosch, "I was so happy for Bill Kosch when we won that game so that he wouldn't have '"' . . '"" rr ;. if 1 lis- ", , .vv N r .f j i uj ""Zlt' "'-.- 'sir. -.: iUi' 1. , 4 I tl. 1 't 6 I know it's the biggest game I've ever been in. NU Coach Bob Devaney to live with the trouble he had. And it wasn't that he wasn't trying. We just put him in a tough position." The coach praised the play of defensive ends Willie Harper and John Adkins, who were to cover the pitch-outs and keep the plays inside. Kiffin remembered, "At the half, Oklahoma led 17-14. Bob put his arm around me and asked, 'Are we going to figure something out?' We decided to get Kosch back to bis safety position more and we moved Joe Blahak back outside to help the coverage. It didn't work all that well and Bob kept looking at me and John Melton (linebacker coach) like he didn't know if we knew what we were doing. "Finally, on Oklahoma's last drive, it worked great Bob never Suestioned us, that wasn't his style tut we really wanted to deliver, too." Devaney later admitted that he yelled at his defense, "Why don't you guys give Rich Glover some help once in a while?" When the dust cleared, the two teams produced 829 yards of offense, Oklahoma had come from 11 points down twice, and Nebraska put together one of the most dramatic offensive drives in college football history to win the game. "I am proud for Coach Devaney and for his team," said Oklahoma Coach Chuck Fairbanks. "Nebraska has a great team; they are true champions." Sports Illustrated staffer Dan W !. "I aOPWilUluWr n.rji)Hiiill'illll"'Ti.ii 1 , v JOURNAL STAR FILE PHOTO quarterback Jack Mildren. Glover, down a Mildren pass on fourth 9 Jenkins wrote of the game : . ' ' "In the land of the pickup truck, and cream gravy for breakfast, down where the wind can ' blow through walls of a diner and into the grieving lyrics of a country song on a jukebox down there in dirt-kicking Big Eight territory they played a game on Thanksgiving Day that was mainly for the quarterbacks on the field and for self-styled gridiron intellectuals . everywhere. The spectacle itself was for everybody, of course, for all those who had been waiting weeks for Nebraska to meet Oklahoma, or for all the guys with their big stomachs and Stetsons, and for all the luscious coeds who danced through the afternoons drinking daiquiris out of paper cups. But the game of chess that was played with bodies, that was strictly for the cerebral types, who will keep E laying it into the ages and wonder-tg whether it was the greatest collegiate football battle ever. Under the agonizing conditions that existed, it may have been." . Devaney said, "It's the greatest victory of my career. The way we did it coming from behind against a great Oklahoma team makes me very proud of this team It will make for a very happy Thanksgiving for everyone back in Nebraska." ' More than 30,000 Husker fans mobbed the airport when the team returned Thanksgiving night "It looked like the movement of the Israelites," Devaney joked. -Li v Page design: Karl VogeT if iirirrtiV iWii trrryrr?yiiiii f.--iifili-ffliV'riilii ur n It was billed as the Game of the Decade. It turned out to be the Game of The Century. And Nebraska Coach Bob Devaney called it "the greatest victory of my career. It was a game in which Nebraska found a way to beat the Oklahoma wishbone-T outscore it, which the Huskers did . : ., driving 74 yards in the closing minutes for a come-from-behind 35-31 victory with the Big Eight as well as the national championship riding on every signal barked by quarterback Jerry Tagge during the do-or-die march. Hal Brown, The Lincoln Star Most of them had been there before . . . staring defeat in the eyes. They didn't panic. And the new Cornhuskers, who hadn't been in a come-from-behind situation all season, didn't panic, either, in Nebraska's gutty fourth-quarter drive that put the Cornhuskers on top in the Game of the Century, "The pride they have in Nebraska football has been built up in the guys who have played for us for three years," Nebraska Coach Bob Devaney said. . . . "And the young kids who haven't been beat don't want to be beat." Don Forsythe, Lincoln Journal P.T. Bamum and Ben Hur met on a football field Thursday. It was one of those rare occasions in sports where the product was as great as the promotion. No. 1 -ranked Nebraska defeated No.-2 ranked Oklahoma, 35-31 , but it was one of those games that had no loser. The ' conflict transcended the victory. Charlie Smith, UPI Nebraska's No. 1 . But Nebraska won't argue if you want to rank Oklahoma No. vsin the world. Sometimes sensational and sometimes methodical but always relentless and always poised, Nebraska conquered explosive but fumbling Oklahoma, 35-31, this chilly Thanksgiving afternoon before a crowd that was 61 ,826 officially, but 63,386 counting newsmen and officials. Volney Meece, Daily Qklahoman The Oklahoma Sooners found out Thursday afternoon at Owen Field that when you try to shuck a Nebraska Cornhusker, you don't find com underneath, you find true grit Lynn Garnaud, Dally Qklahoman Nebraska beat Oklahoma . . . at its own game. Not only did the Cornhuskers defuse Oklahoma's volatile wishbone attack, but they outrushed the nation's best rushing team 297 yards to 279. Nebraska's top-rated defense, although it was stretched for 467 yards by the nation's most , . offensive-minded team, never . snapped, and, in fact, took away the fuse that ignites the Sooner attack the end sweeps by . -speedy Greg Pruitt. Her ache! Nlaawon, AP The Big One was all it was . billed to be. All those newspaper articles, magazine features and radio and television specials were not a lot of hogwash. The Game of the Decade was exactly that as the powerful clutch-playing Nebraska Cornhuskers proved their claim to the No. 1 ranking in college football. Tom Wright, Oklahoma Journal

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