The Top 5 Games of the Nebraska vs. Oklahoma Rivalry
Back before the BCS, before the Big 12, the rivalry between Nebraska and Oklahoma was unmatched by any in college football.
Back then, the teams would meet over Thanksgiving weekend, families would gather around the TV, and they'd watch as some of the greats in college football lore crafted gridiron masterpieces on an annual basis.
In the 1970s and 80's, no matchup created as much hype or drama as the Sooners and Huskers, and with it's return this weekend, I thought it would be fitting if I recounted the top 5 games (at least in my opinion) in the history of the series.
1971--Nebraska 35, Oklahoma 21
This game is one of the few that actually still lives up to it's moniker all these years later. It pitted the No. 1 Huskers against the No. 2 Sooners, and it was watched by 55,000,000 viewers, the largest TV audience ever for a college football game.
Playing in front of a raucous Oklahoma crowd of 61, 826 at Owen field, the Huskers came from behind twice in the second half, winning 35-31 when Nebraska stopped the Sooners with 1:30 to go in the game.
There are many memorable performances from the game, with Jeff Kinney running for 171 yards and four touchdowns and Rich Glover piling up an astounding 22 tackles in what was perhaps the most dominant performance by a defensive lineman that anyone will ever see.
But the most memorable moment came early in the first quarter, when Johnny Rodgers took a punt took it 72 yards to the house, launching his Heisman campaign in the process.
Every time I hear the call, I still get goose bumps:
"HOLY MOLY! Man, Woman, and Child, did that put 'em in the aisles! Johnny the Jet Rodgers just tore 'em loose from their shoes!"
1976--Oklahoma 20, Nebraska 17
Leading the Sooners 17-7 at the end of the third, the Huskers, in what would become the norm over the next 15 years, watched the Sooners snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in heartbreaking fashion.
OU scored on a 50-yard run three minutes into the final quarter to narrow it to 17-14. With 3:30 left in the game and deep in their own territory, OU used something seen rarely from their conservative wishbone offense: the forward pass.
OU handed off to Woodie Shepard, who pulled up and threw a 47-yard bomb to split end Steve Rhodes. The play moved the ball from the Oklahoma 16-yard line to the Nebraska 35.
After that play, the Blackshirts got OU to third and 19, making it likely the best OU would get would be a tie. Again, the Sooners passed to Rhodes, who lateraled to Elvis Peacock coming around the left side.
Peacock carried it 32 yards to the 2-yard line, and scored on the next play, sealing the game with just 38 seconds left.
1978--Nebraska 17, Oklahoma 14
In a game that pitted No. 4 Nebraska against No. 1 Oklahoma, the Sooners came in with their eye on a potential berth in the National Championship game.
The Blackshirts, playing against a vaunted attack that featured eventual Heisman winner Billy Sims, forced nine fumbles, six of which they recovered.
In typical Husker vs. Sooner fashion, the game came down to the end with OU driving for the potential winning score.
The Huskers forced Sims to fumble at the NU 3-yard line with just over three minutes to play, and Nebraska prevailed 17-14.
1986--Oklahoma 20, Nebraska 17
With 6 seconds left, OU's Tim Lashar booted a 31-yard field goal that capped an Oklahoma rally from a 17-7 hole in the final quarter, enabling the Sooners to claim their second-straight undefeated Big Eight title.
The Sooners marched 94 yards on 11 plays in 1:26 to tie the game at 17 on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Jamelle Holieway to Keith Jackson with 1:22 left.
Oklahoma then forced a Nebraska punt, and then got into field goal range on a 41-yard completion (that Jackson hauled in one-handed). Typical Sooner magic.
2001--Nebraska beats Oklahoma on Crouch TD
C'mon, you know I had to include this one. No. 1 vs. No. 2, Crouch's Heisman moment, the last memory of real relevancy of this rivalry?
"1st down and 10. ... On the end around, the double reverse. ... and they're gonna throw off of it!!. CROUCH IS OPEN! HE'S GOT IT! ... FOOTRACE TO THE END ZONE, THEY WON'T CATCH HIM! All he didn't do is pose for the Heisman down in the end zone there, folks!"
It is truly depressing that this rivalry, once as or more heralded than OU vs. Texas or Alabama vs. Auburn, has fallen this far.
There's plenty of blame to go around.
Money. The formation of the Big 12 came about so schools could profit off of a lucrative conference championship game, and while that may have happened, it also threw the competitive balance of the league out of whack, making the South division the top dog.
But while that may be depressing, the real loss here is that fans who grew up on Oklahoma and Nebraska were robbed of something of great importance to them.
How would Crimson Tide fans feel if the Iron Bowl had to take a two-year hiatus every two years? How would Texas and OU feel if they were stripped of their media-hyped Red River Rivalry, something that only really came into existence thanks to the formation of the Big 12.
The real losers here are the people of my generation. Sure, it sucks for the long-time fans who had the rivalry stripped of them. But I was too young to remember or even properly comprehend the magnitude of the rivalry.
Hell, all of the players currently on the teams have to watch highlight videos to even have a clue of what they are participating in.
For fans my age, the rivalry only lives on through YouTube, and I for one feel robbed of something very special.
Please, for the love of all that is good and holy in college football, please find a way to alter the scheduling to bring this rivalry back.