Nebraska win may hold place in record book

Todd Henrichs

NORMAN, Okla. - Just like 1971, Nebraska and Oklahoma played a Game of the Century Saturday at Owen Field.

And Nebraska's 73-21 win may hold its place in the record book as long as the 1971 contest has stayed in the forefront when discussion turns to the greatest college football games of all time.

Even after punting the first six times it had the ball, fifth-ranked Nebraska embarrassed the once-proud Sooners by magnifying Oklahoma's many weaknesses. The Cornhuskers forced five turnovers that led directly to 31 points in a one-for-the-ages victory.

Nebraska not only beat Oklahoma for the sixth straight year, but beat them to near submission. The 73 points were the most Oklahoma has given up in 101 years of playing college football.

"I never thought that anybody could put up 73 points against OU. No matter what," said Nebraska rover back Mike Minter, who grew up in nearby Lawton, Okla.

In fact, the 73 points were two touchdowns more than the 59 Kansas State scored in 1969 to set the previous standard against Oklahoma.

At Norman, Kansas owned the dubious distinction, scoring 52 on the Sooners earlier this season.

IT'S BEEN THAT kind of year for the 2-6 Sooners and Saturday was the season in a microcosm for Oklahoma. The Sooners battled hard - even coming up with 21 fourth-quarter points after the game was decided - but made mistakes that blew up in their collective Schooner.

The fumble on a punt return. The interceptions. The penalties.

The more-than-12,000 Nebraska fans in a soldout stadium of 75,004.

The deck indeed has been stacked against first-year coach John Blake this season.

Blake, a former Sooner player and assistant coach, remembers the glory days in the Oklahoma program. In fact, the theme for this year's Oklahoma media guide is "Bringing the Family Together."

I guess that means Howard Schnellenberger is an estranged uncle.

Blake's ties with the Sooners go back to 1979 when he joined then-Sooner coach Barry Switzer's squad as a nose guard. He lettered four times as Oklahoma compiled a 36-11-1 record.

But those days are only history in Norman these days. Oklahoma's record the last four seasons (5-5-1, 6-6, 9-3, 5-4-2) is about as ugly as the Sooners' recent scores against Nebraska (37-0, 13-3, 21-7, 33-9).

So it was interesting Saturday to see the Sooners parade their potential recruits into the stadium before the game. Do they know the tradition that is Sooner football?

It's hard to say. None was in higher than the third grade the last time the Sooners won a national championship.

NEBRASKA-OKLAHOMA HAS been a storied rivalry since 1912. And in all of the previous meetings, no game rivaled the 77th staged Saturday at storied Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

Nebraska's front-line defenders had the Sooners completely tied up before Oklahoma was able to uncoil against lower-unit players.

Offensively, the Huskers struggled for a time, but took advantage of nearly every opportunity they were presented. Thank goodness for the Sooners, they didn't cash in every chance or we might really be talking about a century mark.

The once-proud Oklahoma program has proven it has a long way to go before approaching the level of Nebraska or other top teams in the Big 12. They'll win a game like this year's surprise of Texas from time to time, but how many years will it be before the Sooners can beat Texas, Texas A&M and either Colorado and Nebraska in the same campaign?

Will the good ole days ever be back?

The Huskers almost sounded surprised that Saturday's game was so easy. It was almost as if they had convinced themselves they were playing an OU team of old.

"You never know with an OU-NU game," Nebraska defensive lineman Jason Peter said. "You can throw the records into the garbage."

Oklahoma would certainly like to put out Saturday's record with the trash.

Todd Henrichs is sports editor of The Independent.
© 1996 The Grand Island Independent
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