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The Osborne Dynasty
story image 1 Program Cover From Osborne's First Game
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Osborne Memories - The First Game

A Look Back At Some Of The Defining Moments Of The Osborne Era

by Mark Fricke
December 20, 1997


Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne was probably facing higher expectations than any football coach would ever confront in his first game as head coach.

Osborne found himself replacing the man who single-handedly transformed the Husker program from an also-ran into one of the nation's premier football programs. Bob Devaney had hand picked Osborne as his successor; such endorsements can often place more burdens on a coach. It also made expectations high among the college pollsters as Nebraska entered the 1973 ranked #4 in the country.

To make matters worse Osborne's first assignment was to defeat the UCLA Bruins, something that Devaney failed to do in his final season as coach. Osborne would also have to do so without his starting quarterback. Dave Humm was injured and backup Steve Runty would be called on to make his first start ever. The UCLA Bruins were ranked number ten in the nation and returned many of the same players that defeated Nebraska 20-17 in 1972 and ended the Huskers 32 game unbeaten streak.

The final bit of good news/bad news for Osborne was that his debut would take place at home in Lincoln's Memorial Stadium. While there is always the benefit of the home field advantage, it also meant 75,000 critical eyes watching his every move and second-guessing his every decision. Not to mention a nationwide television audience courtesy of ABC.

The Husker players didn't waste time in getting things rolling. On the first possession of the game Runty and company drove 56 yards to score, with Runty diving over from one yard out for the game's first score. The PAT was good and quickly the Huskers were up 7-0.

It then became time for the Husker defense to prove they were up to the task, and they delivered. After shutting down the Bruins' first three plays, UCLA punted. Husker Randy Borg hauled in the kick at the NU 27 and raced 77 yards to score. The Huskers found themselves up 14-0 with 6:13 left in the first period.

It appeared early is if the game would turn into a Husker rout, but a Husker fumble late in the opening period was recovered by Bruin Jim Bright at the Nebraska 14 yard line. The Bruins took advantage of the opportunity to score on a 12 yard Kermit Johnson run. The PAT kick was no good leaving the margin at 14-6 after the first period.

The two teams traded second period touchdowns. Nebraska scored first on a 10 yard Runty to Frosty Anderson pass, and UCLA added a score on a quarterback Mark Harmon 3 yard run with :11 left in the half. At the break the Huskers lead 20-13.

In the second half the Husker defense figured out the UCLA wishbone offense and kept the Bruins off the scoreboard for the rest of the day. Meanwhile Nebraska added three more touchdowns. Tony Davis provided a third quarter score with a one-yard run and added a fourth quarter tally on a 43-yard dash. The final Husker score came on a 2 yard Jeff Moran run.

The Husker offense amassed an impressive 410 yards of total offense while the defense held UCLA to just 259. Davis lead all rushers with 147 yards in his Husker debut, while Runty made the most of his spotlight by completing 9 of 11 passes for 105 yards. For their efforts both Davis and Runty were named National Backs of the Week by the Associated Press.

In his book "More Than Winning" Tom Osborne recounted his memories of taking over the duties of head coach. He wondered if the experience of being on the sidelines would alter the way he would respond and think. "I found out I did not (respond differently)" Osborne said "I was no more nervous, uptight, or upset thatn I had been as an assistant. I discovered I responded in just about the same way."

The Huskers went on to win eight more games in 1973 with losses only to Missouri and Oklahoma. The freshman head coach's reward for the season was a trip to Dallas, Texas and a Cotton Bowl victory over the University of Texas.

 end of article dingbat


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