Nebraska expects high emotions in rivalry

(c) Copyright the News & Observer Publishing Co. and The Associated Press, 1994

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Nebraska expects the resignation of Oklahoma coach Gary Gibbs to lift the Sooners to another level of emotional play for Friday's traditional meeting in the Big Eight Conference finale.

The top-ranked Cornhuskers have walked into that situation before -- just two games ago.

Coach Tom Osborne said Tuesday that he anticipates the Oklahoma players will try to send Gibbs off with a tremendous effort, such as the one Iowa State gave Jim Walden when Nebraska played at Ames, Iowa, on Nov. 12. That was the Saturday after Walden announced his resignation.

Nebraska won 28-12 over an Iowa State team that didn't win a game all season.

But just being Oklahoma and Nebraska is enough to inspire anyone wearing red.

"Growing up in Nebraska, I remember watching those Oklahoma-Nebraska games as a kid," said senior tackle Terry Connealy. "It was always a battle."

Last year's game came down to 14 fourth-quarter points by Nebraska in a 21-7 win in Lincoln. An 11-yard touchdown pass from Tommie Frazier to Abdul Muhammad broke the deadlock in the final period.

"This is a big game for me and the whole team," Muhammad said. "Last year it came down to big plays and I made a big play. I think this year will be the same. Whoever comes up with the big plays will win."

Two years ago, it was Ed Stewart's interception that sparked Nebraska to a 33-9 victory at Norman, Okla.

"We know going down to Oklahoma is going to be a tough game," said Stewart, one of three finalists for the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker. "I can remember my last home game, how much of an emotional game it was for us seniors, so I expect it to be the same for them."

But Nebraska is playing for plenty, too, Stewart points out. The Cornhuskers are 11-0, have wrapped up at least a share of the Big Eight title and still have their sights set on an Orange Bowl berth and national title shot.

"We definitely feel this is a national championship game," Stewart said. "We won't have a chance if we don't win."

"We are in control of our destiny," Connealy said. The co-captain from Hyannis said the team is comfortable knowing it holds its own cards, that winning Friday means the Miami bowl trip they want.

Oklahoma has dashed more than a few of those national championship dreams for Nebraska over the years, however. Nebraska entered the 1984 game ranked No. 1 only to lose 17-7 in Lincoln.

The Huskers were ranked No. 2 the next two years and lost 27-7 in Norman and 20-17 in Lincoln.

In 1987, it was No. 1 Nebraska against No. 2 Oklahoma and the Sooners took home a 17-7 win from Lincoln.

Nebraska quarterback Brook Berringer saw many of those games of television.

"I remember always watching the big Oklahoma-Nebraska game," said the Goodland, Kan., native. "The last couple of years it maybe lost a little bit of its hype. But it's a big game, an important game for both teams."