The Game of the Century



    Husker footballl under Bob Devany had hit the big time in 1971.The Cornhuskers had won their first National Championship the year before and so far had a perfect record intact.It was Thanksgiving Day at Owen Feild in Norman,Oklahoma and the undefeated and number 1 ranked Cornhuskers were to meet the number 2 team in the country the undefeated Oklahoma Sooner's in a game billed as the Game of the Century.The Huskers were invited  to the Orange Bowl in Miami and a shot at the national championship against Alabama before kickoff,and the Sooners were invited to the Sugar Bowl..It was one of those rare instances where the product was even better than the promotion,a game that went up and down with more thrills than a rollercoaster.Nebraska had a team on a mission outscoring its 12 opponents besides Oklahoma by an average score of 40-6.Oklahoma's team was the most prolific rushing team in college football history setting an NCAA rushing record of 472 yards per game.The Sooners Greg Pruitt rushed for 1,665 yards and averaged 9.4 yards per carry that season and Quarterback Jack Mildren ran for 1,140 yards ,a record for Quarterbacks.

        Nebraska had some bragging material of it's own in '71.Five Huskers from this team eventually became NFL first round draft picks.(Rodgers,Kinney,Tagge,Jacobsen,and John Dutton)Willy Harper was an All American at defensive end,and the secondary had three All Big 8 selections.Monster Dave Mason wasn't All Big 8,but he was Academic All Big 8.The offensive line had All Big 8 guard Dick Ruppert and Carl Johnson an all conference tackle.Tackle Daryl White was All Big 8 the following season,and an All American the season after that.Center Doug Dumer went on to play 5 years in the NFL,and guard Keith Wortman played for 10 NFL seasons.The late Bear Bryant recalled Bud Wilkinson warning him"that Nebrask's 1971 team had more great players than any team he had ever seen and after they embarrassed us,I decided Bud was right".

     Nebraska and Oklahoma were ranked 1 and 2 for seven  weeks.The anticipation was unbeleivable as a nation waited. Nebraska came in a 1 to 3 point favorite.There was a record crowd of 63,385 people jammed into Owen Feild,with a record number of newsmen.This would be the largest viewing audience in the history of college football at the time as ABC sent a live telecast via satalite around the world.

    It would be a day in which the lead would change 4 times,with Nebraska making  the first score.Oh what a score it was,three and a half minutes into the contest Johnny "the jet" Rodgers took a high deep punt ,took a hit from the Oklahoma coverage faked Greg Pruitt out of his cleats and spun around to keep from falling.He then started to the right,cut back left,and broke through the flow of Oklahoma defenders and into the clear.Now he only had one man to beat ,Wylie a fast punter.Wylie didnt have a good angle though and a block on him from Blahak left Rodgers with nothing but paydirt.Rodgers 72 yard punt return gave the huskers a 7-0 lead.Oklahoma's John Carroll kicked a 30 yard field goal to make it 7-3.Nebraska then converted a Pruitt fumble to go up 14-3.

     Just when you thought you could relax Jack Mildren went to work with the wishbone driving 80 yards to make it 14-10.Oklahoma then drove 78 yards in 46 seconds as Mildren shocked the Blackshirts wit a 24 yard TD pass to to SE Jon Harrison ,5 seconds before halftime.Oklahoma 17,Nebraska 14.It was the first time Nebraska had been behind all season.

  gave a little back in the third quarter by fumbling at mid-field .This opportunity allowed the Huskers to score on a 3 yard run by Kinney making the score 21-17 Huskers.Five minutes later Kinney made it 28-24 with another short plunge.Twenty eight seconds remained in the third quarter.

    Nebraska had only one fumble all day,but Tagge's turnover was costly.The Sooners made them pay with a 68 yard scoring drive.Oklahoma had again taken the lead 31-28 on Mildrens 17 yard pass to Harrison.The Cornhuskers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin had devised a defense to shut down Pruitt,and it worked,he had 53 yards on 10 carries for the day.The problem was in baiting Mildren to run and pass,they hadn't expected him to hold up all day from the punishment he was taking.He did hold up and carried the mighty Sooner offense on his shoulders all day finishing with 130 yards rushing.His passing for 137 yards and two TD's hurt just as much.

   7:10 was showing on the clock when the Husker offense took the field for that final scoring drive.Down 31-28 and the stripe that counts 74 yards away.Devany told Tagge"no mistakes"and thats what he got.A clinic in execution resulted in Kinney's 4 th touchdown of the day with 1:38 remaining on the clock.His final 2 yard plunge gave him 171 yards on the day.

  Bob Devany gets carried off by his team in Norman,Oklahoma.

     In the end it was Nebraska's explosive offense that won it,but how can you over look Rich Glover.The noseguard ended the day with 22 tackles,single handedly shuting down the fullback option of the wishbone.Oklahoma had come into this game averaging 653 yards and 45 points a game.

  It was pandamonium in Nebraska,as husker fans were out of controll in thier celebration.Over 32,000 people mobbed Lincoln airport,as fans lined the fences 10 deep.A fitting tribute to the Greatest team ever after winning the Greatest game ever,the Game of the Century.Nebraska went on to the Orange Bowl and crushed Alabama winning thier second National Championship in a row.


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         Nebraska                Oklahoma

              35              Final               31

Next Page. Game of the century continued.