Nebraska Football: Top 5 Controversies in Husker History
Every team in college football faces controversies. Most of the time the controversy centers around the officials—notice the word "most."
While it's true that an official's or group of official's call is the center for most controversy in college football, other controversies emerge as well. It could be a coach's call, a result of a game (look up Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 by Kevin Rafferty) or a dispute in who is leading in the series.
Like most schools, Nebraska football is not immune to controversy. In fact, the Cornhuskers have faced their fair share of it over the years.
Nebraska vs. Penn State, 1982
Catch or not? You decide
For the elder Husker fans, this has got to be vivid, albeit, painful memory. With almost no time left, Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge dropped back and threw a pass downfield to tight end Mike McCloskey. The referees ruled it a catch within the 5-yard line. Penn State eventually scored and won the game.
It turned out to be the Huskers' only loss that season. Penn State, meanwhile, lost the next week to Alabama but won the national championship later that season.
Years later, McCloskey himself admitted he was out of bounds.
Needless to say, this is still a loss that pains long-time Husker fans.
Nebraska vs. Miami, 1983
Coming into this game, few people—if any—gave Miami a chance. The Huskers had rolled through almost every opponent in their way and were looking to come out of Miami 13-0.
After the first quarter it became apparent Miami had other ideas, leading 17-0. Nebraska cut the lead to three by the time the third quarter began. Miami added two more scores in the third and the Huskers kicked a field goal.
Then came the fourth quarter. Nebraska scored the two touchdowns it needed. On the last one, though, instead of kicking the PAT that would have tied up the game, head coach Tom Osborne chose to go for two and the win.
As every Husker fan knows Turner Gill's pass fell to the ground and the Huskers lost the national championship.
Some argued and criticized Osborne's call, while many Husker fans, and even some others, respected Osborne's call.
Hard to say what exactly would have been the right call.
Nebraska, Michigan, 1997
Photo courtesy of The Journal Star (http://www.my.journalstar.com)
This isn't a controversy that happened on the field. Instead, this controversy came at the very end of the season. Nebraska went through the season racking up wins and blowing out Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship, finishing 12-0. Nebraska then went on to demolish Peyton Manning's Volunteers in the Orange Bowl, 42-17.
Michigan, similarly went through the regular season undefeated. It ended up playing Washington State in the Rose Bowl but only beat the Cougars 21-16.
The voters were left with a decision to make: Vote Nebraska national champions though they went to overtime against Missouri, or vote for a Michigan team that only had a five-point margin of victory in the Rose Bowl.
Ultimately Nebraska and Michigan shared the title with the coaches poll voting for Nebraska and the AP Poll voting for Michigan.
To this day Husker and Wolverine fans think they should have won the title outright.
Side Note: ESPN bloggers Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg recently had a vote in their Big Ten Championship playoff series to see which team the fans thought was better. Nebraska won by a large margin.
Nebraska vs. Texas, 2009
Photo courtesy of sbnation.com
In what proved to be a defensive stalemate, the '09 championship between Nebraska and Texas came down to the last play—er, make that second-to-last play. It really depends whom you were rooting for.
The key controversy is when Texas quarterback Colt McCoy threw a pass up after scrambling around. When the ball hit out of bounds, the clock hit zero. Nebraska fans and players rejoiced, but their celebration was short-lived. Officials conferred and agreed that a second should be added back onto the game clock. That gave Texas just enough time to kick the game-winning field goal.
This is still a sore subject around Nebraska and understandably so. Husker fans felt cheated by the Big 12 and coach Bo Pelini said the refs made the call because of the BCS.
Nebraska vs. the Big 12
Eric Francis/Getty Images
The following year after the infamous Big 12 Championship against Texas, Nebraska entered its last season in the Big 12.
Many Husker fans felt the officials and even Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe wouldn't give Nebraska a fair shake in the games, and in three games (against Texas, Iowa State, Texas A&M), it appeared Husker fans were right.
They were reffed by the same group of officials in each of the games, and in nearly every game, the Huskers faced an abnormally high amount of penalties. Some were fair, others—notably the late hit on Aggies quarterback Ryan Tannehill—were not.
Nebraska's record in those games was 1-2. The lone game the Huskers won was an overtime thriller in Ames, Iowa, over the Cyclones.
Whether or not this conspiracy holds any grain of truth is hard to say, but a majority of Husker fans (like the one in the photo above) believe it.