Telling the story of Husker football is no easy task

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A question posed on Twitter last week had my brain working a bit too much last week. The heavy smoke in town came from the Rhoden man cave.
The question posed came from Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald. The question was, a friend wanted to know the story of Nebraska football, but could only watch five games. Which five do you recommend?
With literally nothing else to do to keep myself occupied, I turned this question over so many times that it would be a waste of time if I didn’t write about it.
First of all, it’s all but impossible to tell the entire story of Husker football in just five games. However, that’s what makes this “game” fun and challenging.
At one point or another, I had entertained 10 or so games on the list, but I couldn’t get away from these.
1971 Nebraska defeats Oklahoma, 35-31.
They call it the game of the century for a reason. The rest are just imitations.
I’ve seen the game several times on YouTube and it gets better each time you watch it.
Everyone remembers the Johnny Rodgers punt return for a touchdown in that game, but it also shows where the Huskers started to rise up in prominence to what everyone recognizes them for now.
Down by a field goal late, Jeff Kinney toted the ball four times in a row on the ground to score the go-ahead touchdown.
The defense then rose up with a pair of sacks to hold the Sooner offense in check, defeating Oklahoma in Norman.
That game led to the Huskers eventually winning a second national championship as Nebraska began to stamp its place near the top of college football.

1984 Orange Bowl, Miami defeats Nebraska, 31-30.
This is a game I’m certain still haunts friend of the column Dave Bradley, and if I was around I wouldn’t be over it either.
I’ve watched several games from the 1983 season and that Husker team was a truck driving with cars.
This game against Miami is the keynote of showing Tom Osborne’s struggle to reach the pinnacle of college football for nearly two decades.
Not only that, but the decision to go for two at the end when a tie could seemingly secure the title is the representation of the state’s mentality.
You gotta love it.
It was the call to go for the win over the tie that almost requires this game to be on the list as a mentality for everything Nebraska football stands for.

1995 Orange Bowl, Nebraska defeats Miami, 24-14. Sweet redemption.
This game seems like a must-include for me, if trying to tell the story of Nebraska football.
It was with this game that Osborne finally reached the top of the college football world, winning his first national championship and doing so against a team that caused him angst in the past.
It’s like religion for any Nebraska football fan to watch this game, so I’ve been told. Not like I haven’t seen it dozens of times or anything.
Watching Miami’s Warren Sapp struggle for air in the fourth quarter never gets old. The Huskers ran it down the Hurricanes’ throats, thus telling a big piece of the Nebraska football story.
That is, the Huskers like to run the ball and be tougher than the opponent. That was all on display that night.

2001 Colorado def. Nebraska, 62-36.
I tried to do anything I could think of to keep this one off the list but without this game, the story of the Huskers has a huge hole in it.
As a matter of fact, the mentality of the Huskers seemingly was forever altered after this game and is still struggling after what happened that day in Boulder.
The Buffaloes’ 62 points were the most scored against a Nebraska team at that time, and their 380 rushing yards and 582 total yards were the most allowed in 2001 by a Husker defense.
The most devastating part of that paragraph is those numbers seem “normal” now. Excuse me while I throw up.

2017 Wisconsin defeats Nebraska, 38-17.
Unfortunately, this list isn’t just including the greatest Husker games in history.
In order to tell the story of Nebraska football, a game like this one in recent memory is needed to show just how far the program fell off the map.
It’s a classic game from the last 20 years where the Huskers were right in it with a top-10 team and like a lot of the others, blew it late.
The game was tied at 17 before the Badgers ran the ball 28 times in 30 plays for 177 yards.
Demoralizing.
It’s a fair list that includes former Big 8 rival Oklahoma, thorn-in-Nebraska’s-side Miami, the Colorado rivalry and Nebraska’s jump to the Big Ten with Wisconsin.
It has a couple national championship games, road environments and it would be impossoble to tell the story without a home game at Memorial Stadium.
We all have plenty of time over the next few weeks, so be sure to go back and check a few of those out, although I won’t blame you if the last two games on the list are passed over.
Happy quarantine.
RICHARD RHODEN can be reached at sports@hamilton.net.

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