On a night where fans in Lincoln got to salute some of the greats who played for both Nebraska and Oklahoma, the modern-day Huskers and Sooners put on a throwback show of their own at Memorial Stadium.
It was always interesting that a good number of the old Big 8 title shootouts between these two schools turned out to be relatively low scoring, defensive affairs. This coming despite the fact that Oklahoma’s wishbone and Nebraska’s option “I” usually put up monster numbers in the other 10 games of the regular season.
Having a great offense is always fun to watch. Lots of big plays, lots of points. But when the old cliche “defense wins championships” is pulled out, it still rings true. A great defense will always keep you in the game, no matter how anemic or ineffective your team’s offense. This was never more true that Saturday night. Somewhere Bill Callahan must have been smiling. That’s right, Bill Callahan. We basically saw the 2006 USC offensive game plan replayed against Oklahoma. Only this time, the result was victory. Neither quarterback was asked to do anything remotely dangerous (with one glaring exception that I will elaborate on later). It was run, run, run, run all night long. Hang onto the ball. Ask Alex Henery to punt. Cover the punt and then play great defense. Not pretty, but it worked.
Now this team and Husker Nation can bask in the glow of this win. Any win over Oklahoma is special, no matter the record. Bo Pelini was particularly satisfied, though he won’t go very far to show it. He respects his mentor Bob Stoops too much to gloat and he knows that the final three games of the regular season will be just as challenging as this one to get too excited.
Yes, I said the final three games will be just as challenging.
Because just as a great defense will keep you in most any game, a poor offense will also keep you from getting too comfortable in most games. So my advice is to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst because every game left on this schedule is pretty darn close to 50-50 – except maybe Colorado. But even then, it’s maybe 60-40.
How does a play in the final minute get run in its entirety, have no penalty flags and still not count?
When Big 12 officials are involved.
After Ryan Broyles broke his 35 yard punt return with :41 seconds remaining, there was some question as to whether or not he may have stepped out-of-bounds. Yet despite the time it took to move new offensive and defensive personnel on the field, set the ball and start the play clock, the replay officials couldn’t get the signal to the field officials in time before OU snapped the ball and ran the entire play. Seriously! What are these guys doing up there? Broyles was very close to stepping out as he tightroped the sidelines. Awareness is usually heightened to close or controversial plays in the final seconds of a close game. But it took over a minute to signal that they wanted to review the play to the field?
Fortunately, the phantom play (a deflected pass by Barry Turner) did not change the outcome of the game. What if OU had struck a big play? Or the Huskers forced a game-winning turnover? You would have had a near-riotous situation on one of the sidelines.
The Big 12 has had issues with their replay paging system all year. I don’t know if that was the case here or if it was just very slow reaction upstairs, but the league needs to look into it. Not after the season. Right now, before it causes a huge controversy that gets played out on SportsCenter.
Third Verse, Same As The First
At this point just write the starting quarterback’s name in light pencil, because you are bound to erase it. Zac Lee may have relieved Cody Green in the second quarter, but he is no closer to being Nebraska’s starting quarterback next week than he was this week. Nebraska’s offense – the worst since 1968 – is still without an identity. The way Shawn Watson calls plays, you really can’t say NU is a “throwing team” when Lee is in the game or a “running team” when Green is behind center.
You never want to be mired in a quarterback controversy in the month of November, but that is where the Huskers find themselves. Lee did nothing to justify his starting at Kansas no more the Green did to keep the starting job. That means another week of questions and another tryout in practice.
There was a sweet coincidence to Saturday’s win. As the 1959 team celebrated it’s 50th reunion and its signature win – the 25-21 upset of Oklahoma that ended the Sooners’ 74 game conference unbeaten streak – the 2009 offense put up anemic numbers in their 10-3 win. 180 yards. Total. In 1959, the Huskers gained just 160 yards in the win over OU. However it was another win over the Sooners in Memorial Stadium, the 21-7 victory in 1993, where the Huskers gained just 179 yards that rates as the lowest offensive yardage total in a winning effort by a Nebraska team since at least 1961 (my research could not find game stats for contests prior to 1962.) Here are some other low-yardage efforts in winning games.
vs. Auburn – 234 (1964 Orange Bowl)
vs. Wyoming – 206 (1968)
vs. Minnesota – 237 (1968)
vs. Kansas – 213 (1973)
vs. LSU – 219 (1975)
vs. Kansas State – 220 (1994)
vs. Oklahoma State – 215 (1998)
vs. Southern Mississippi – 185 (1999)
vs. Missouri – 235 (2004)
vs. Wake Forest – 234 (2005)
The 1962 Gotham Bowl vs. Miami, the Huskers won despite being outgained by 206 yards. Miami 502, Nebraska 296. The Sooners outgained NU by 145 yards on Saturday.
Time To Let It Go
It pains me to write, but any real chance of rekindling this rivalry between Nebraska and Oklahoma is gone. I know Big 12 athletic directors will try to tweak the schedules, but as long as there is a North/South split there will not be an annual game between these two schools.
Yes, I am ticked off that this rivalry, my rivalry, is dead. Killed by the 10-gallon hat wearing Big Texas Conference. Strange how the merger of this conference was spun in its early days. I was at the press conference in the chancellor’s office when the Big 12 was announced to the Nebraska media. To those of us in Nebraska, it was spun as “the Big 8 was adding four teams from Texas”, but in reality, a new conference was born. All remnants of the Big 8 were dead, including the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry – the best rivalry in all of college football (as voted on by fans in a USA Today poll taken in the late 80s.) Nebraska and Oklahoma were the two programs that gave the Big 8 legitimacy. The two programs that made the conference a force to be reckoned with. Now with the laundering of the “dirty” Southwest Conference schools, a great national tradition was scrapped.
I will always have fond memories of the NU/OU series. It made Thanksgiving week so special. And while losing to the Sooners usually ruined many a Turkey Day memory, it was the reward of beating them that made the effort worthwhile. I can always take satisfaction in that in the last years of the every-season series, Nebraska went 9-1 against the Sooners and most of the games were not even close.
Sunday School Top Ten
6) Boise State
7) Georgia Tech
10) Ohio State