From the Sidelines
Has it really been 50 years? Oh my.
I used to have that famous poster of NU quarterback Jerry Tagge, on top of a pile, stretching the football over the goal line with just eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, scoring the winning points to give the Huskers and coach Bob Devaney their first ever National Championship.
Time does definitely fly.
I remember watching the game like it was yesterday. I remember the announcers, Jim Simpson and Al DeRogatis, the pre-game show, the Huskers in their home red jerseys, and LSU in their traditional white jerseys and yellow helmets.
On this historic night, in front of more than 80,000 fans in attendance and millions more watching on the tube, Nebraska suddenly became the center of the college football universe. We were “the” team, and boy did it feel good.
Besides Tagge, there were running backs Joe Orduna and Jeff Kinney, wingback Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers, defensive end Willie Harper, fullback Dan Schneiss, wide receiver Guy Ingles, defensive tackle Larry Jacobson, tight end Jerry list, linebackers Bob Terrio and Jerry Murtaugh, offensive tackle Bob Newton and kicker Paul Rogers.
Names long gone to most, but not to me.
Now thanks to You Tube, I can re-watch it however many times I want.
The 10-0-1 Huskers, fresh off a 28-21 win over Oklahoma in Lincoln to end the regular season, did catch a couple colossal breaks that day after No. 1 Texas lost to Notre Dame and Joe Theismann in the Cotton Bowl (in a rematch from the previous season), and #2 Ohio State to Stanford and Jim Plunkett in the Rose Bowl.
That opened the door for No. 3 Nebraska in the night cap, needing just a win over the #5 Tigers to claim the championship, but it wouldn’t come easy, LSU looking to secure their fifth straight bowl win.
That night Nebraska was attempting to get an Orange Bowl victory against a SEC team after failing five years earlier against Alabama by the score of 39-28, a game played under eerily similar circumstances.
That ‘65 Husker team came to Miami with a perfect record of 10-0, but couldn’t keep pace with Tide quarterback Steve Sloan and receiver Ray Perkins. Nebraska was ranked #3 then, too, and just like in 1971, No. 1 Michigan State had been upset by UCLA, and No. 2 Arkansas was upset by LSU, leaving the Huskers as the only unbeaten team in America.
The stats against LSU showed the Huskers won the game by shutting down the Tiger rushing attack, holding them to just 51 yards on the ground, and it gave the Big Eight its first national champion since Oklahoma won it in the mid-50s under Bud Wilkinson.
But this night was all about the Scarlet and Cream, and boy did my mom, dad and sisters soak it in. After the final gun, we all grabbed our coats and went next door to the neighbors, starting a “We’re No. 1” chant outside their back door, much to their surprise and delight.
So this Jan. 1, just about 7 o’clock at night, think back to that Orange Bowl game, and what it meant for the Husker program and to Husker Nation, to be the best of the best, finally.
DAVE BRADLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.