The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, December 01, 1971, Page PAGE 12, Image 12

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Nebraska breaks Wshbone, 35-31
Not just another game
by Jim Johnston
It wasn't just another game.
From the moment the Nebraska football players
boarded the chartered jet at the Lincoln airport last
Wednesday, they realized that this was something
special. The Nebraska-Oklahoma showdown had
stimulated such a build-up, that the reality of actually
playing the game seemed only a dream.
But now, perhaps for the first time, the
Cornhuskers realized that this classic battle between
Nos. 1 and 2 was for real. . .just one day away.
A gathering of 400 Nebraska fans greeted the two
team buses at the Lincoln airport. Head coach Bob
Devaney spoke briefly to the group. The players,
however, headed quickly from the buses into the
THERE WAS LITTLE conversation when the jet
departed from Lincoln. The players sat quietly. Some
were reading magazines. The pass receivers and
quarterbacks were taking the written test that
assistant coach Tom Osborne always hands out. Other
players just looked out the window.
After an hour's flight, the jet landed at Oklahoma
City. A new world greeted the Cornhuskers, a world
of television cameras, news photographers and
The players headed directly for the buses. Devaney
spoke briefly with reporters.
One television photographer entered the bus. He
was asked to leave.
AS THE BUSES left from the airport, a small
gathering of Oklahoma fans met the Cornhuskers
with signs reading: "Boomer Sooner," "Oklahoma's
No. 1," and "Sooners will have popcorn for
Things didn't get any easier as the buses started on
a 45-minute trip to Norman for a workout at Owen
Field. Nearly every car bumper displayed a sticker
reading: "OU No. 1" or "Mildren & Co. No. 1 ."
One elderly, well-dressed lady, riding in a fancy
car, was going past the buses when she realized it was
the Nebraska football team. She quickly extended her
middle finger toward one bus. (It's doubted that she
was signifying No. 1).
The Cornhuskers went through a light workout at
Owen Field. It was a relaxing practice. The linemen
set up an offensive backfield unit with linebacker Bob
Terrio at quarterback and Jim Branch as a receiver.
MEMBERS OF THE Oklahoma University band
and several other bystanders, watching the practice
from the stadium, went wild everytime a Cornhusker
dropped a pass. Devaney called the team to the center
of the field after a 30-minutc workout.
As the team left the field, Oklahoma coach Chuck
Fairbanks joined Devaney in the center of the field
for a brief discussion. Devaney was then greeted by at
least 50 reporters as the Sooners started their final
Devaney entertained several questions. One
reporter asked if the Huskers had a special defense
planned to stop Oklahoma's Wishbone.
"Sure," said Devaney. "We're going to try Pepper
kodgers' defense that he used in the Orange bowl. He
used 1 2 players."
After a 15-minute session with reporters, Devaney
said it was time to go back to the motel in Oklahoma
"Let's go home," Devaney said to his team. "I
could use a good night's rest."
THE CORNHUSKERS went to a show Wednesday
night and were in their rooms by 10:30 p.m. But few
coaches had a good night's rest.
Defensive line coach Monte Kiffin, who is always
one to worry, was drinking coffee in the motel cafe at
3 a.m. Linebacker coach, John Melton, secondary
coach Warren Powers and Jim Walden also spent late
hours at the cafe.
The team ate breakfast early Thursday morning.
Nebraska, for the first time this season, took its own
food to Oklahoma.
"With a game of this magnitude you can never be
too careful," explained Nebraska trainer Paul
Schneider. "There's too much at stake to risk getting
some 'bad' food."
The Cornhuskers loaded the buses for Norman.
The trip took over an hour. It was quiet all the way.
A few players talked aboui the oil wells near the
highway, but conversation was usually limited.
WHEN THE HUSKERS arrived at Owen Field, a
mob of Nebraska fans cheered as the players left the
bus. The players went immediately to the dressing
room. Just like the rest of the trip, the locker room
was quiet.
Outside the stadium, however, the atmosphere
proved that this was to be the game of the century.
Radio announcers were interviewing fans. Younsters
were selling buttons and newspapers with front page
headlines reading: "Who's No. l?""Big Reds Battle
Today," and "Wishbone Meets Blackshirts."
The stadium exploded when the Sooners and the
Huskers arrived on the field. Fans and bands went
through their own battle before the game started.
All the preparation. All the space in newspapers
and on radio stations. All that talk. And here it was.
Game time. Eighty million people were watching via
national television.
The Cornhuskers scored quickly on a 72-yard punt
return by Johnny Rodgers and held a 14-3 lead
before the Sooners scored two quick touchdowns to
take a 17-14 lead at the halftime. It was the first time
the Huskers had trailed all season.
DEVANEY AND HIS team, however, went to the
locker room confidently. The Cornhuskers felt they
had beaten the Sooners in the first half.
"Are you just going to lay down and quit?"
Devaney asked the Cornhuskers.
The Huskers didn't quit. I-back Jeff Kinney, who
had been held to only 20 yards rushing in the first
half, was determined as he entered the field for the
second half.
The Huskers, who depended on the pass in the
first half, decided to run over the Sooners. Kinney
was elected to handle most of the running.
Nebraska quickly gained a 28-17 lead and things
looked good for the Huskers again.
But, as in the first half, the Sooners came back on
two quick scores for a 31-28 lead with 7:10 left in
the game.
THE CORNHUSKERS understood their situation.
They had to move on their next drive and put the ball
across the goal line. Quarterback Jerry Tagge took a
drink of water, talked with Devaney and assistant
Carl Selmer and went on the field to direct the
Husker attack.
"Kverybody was talking in the huddle,"
remembered Johnny Rodgers. "We usually don't do
that, but everybody knew we had to move."
And so they did. Tagge directed a 74-yard drive in
12 plays and 5:32 minutes concluded by Kinney's
two-yard scoring run. Rich Sanger's kick made it
35-31 in favor of the Cornhuskers.
All the Nebraska defense had to do was hold. And
they did.
The Nebraska bench exploded. Devaney was given
a ride off the field atop several padded shoulders.
Devaney, for the second straight time at
Oklahoma, received a victory shower.
DEVANEY TALKED with reporters in the next
room. Was this the greatest team Devaney has ever
"I don't know," said Devaney. "I'll answer that
Jan. 2 after the Orange Bowl."
Tagge was next in line for the reporters. Wearing
Fxon's wet, red hat, Tagge was asked to describe the
Huskers winning touchdown drive.
"I can't remember every play," said Tagge. "All I
know is that we knew we had to score and we did it."
One hour later, the Cornhuskers left the dressing
room. It was cold and dark outside. Traffic was lined
up for blocks. The team buses were delayed for 30
minutes more.
Finally, they were allowed to leave for Oklahoma
City. The bus ride took another hour. The buses were
again quiet. Only it was a different type of quiet.
Everybody was resting.
BUT WHEN THE team boarded the jet back to
Lincoln they started their celebrating. Center Doug
Jamail, the showman on the Husker team, took
charge of the public address system before the plane
departed and informed the players of the safety
precautions of the aircraft.
Just before the plane departed, Devaney (quiet
and smiling) walked through the plane and talked
briefly with most players. As a national publication
had described him a year earlier, Devaney looked like
the worst -dressed coach in the nation.
His post -game shower forced him to change into a
pair of baggy, khaki practice pants. He wore a red
coaching shirt with his red coat.
AS THE PLANE became airborne and the players
full of turkey sandwiches, Jamail took charge of the
"I have an announcement to make," said Jamail
over the PA system. "It's now official that Sports
Illustrated has named Nebraska No. 1 in the
The pilot informed the team that there were some
people waiting at the airport for their arrival. "Some
people" turned out to be 30,000. As the Huskers'
plane arrived, fans surrounded the aircraft and forced
the team to unboard on the runway.
"LINCOLN, NEBRASKA, how do you do it?"
asked one player. "This is too much."
It wasn't just another game.
Huskers meet Wyoming
The curtain goes up on the 1971-72 Nebraska
basketball season tonight as Coach Joe Cipriano's
Huskers tip off against the Wyoming Cowboys at
7:35 at the Coliseum.
The Huskers have nine returning lcttermcn from
last year's 18-8 team, but must find replacements for
the school's all-time leading scorer, Marv Stewart, and
the all-time leading rebounder, Leroy Chalk. Those
arc the only losses from the 1970-71 squad, but they
leave key holes.
en you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer.
Calvert-Beyer DlSt. CO. SOO S Street Lincoln, Nebraska