Hey all, we’re back at it once again for another installment in our 2019 Countdown to Kickoff! With 86 days left to go until the Oklahoma Sooners start their season, I wanted to take this opportunity to look back on one of the most epic and storied rivalries in college football history — OU and Nebraska.
Since 1912, Oklahoma and Nebraska have met on the football field a grand total of 86 times, and the Sooners lead the all-time series with a 45-38-3 record. Unfortunately, the Cornhuskers packed their bags in 2011, leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten. Ever since, fans on both sides have been resigned to reminiscing on the glory days of this heated — yet respectful — rivalry. Fortunately, the two schools are schedule to rekindle the series in 2021, 2022, 2029 and 2030. Maybe the latter two will be played as conference games...
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the more memorable meetings and moments between Oklahoma and Nebraska!
1971 - Game of the Century
Even for as long as the rivalry had been alive by this time, no other matchup before this one had as much hype and anticipation surrounding it as this one did. Fortunately, it lived up to its lofty billing and then some. For two programs known for tough, hard-nosed football, an unexpected high-scoring affair erupted on the field that day in Lincoln. In the end, the No. 1 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers would come away with the 35-31 victory over the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners.
1976 - A hook, a ladder and a Peacock named Elvis
After being down by ten points going into the fourth quarter, Barry Switzer’s Sooner squad needed a miracle, or rather, they needed some magic. Tailback Elvis Peacock scored early in the quarter on a 50-yard run, then in the late stages of the contest, a perfectly timed halfback pass from Woodie Shepard to Steve Rhodes brought Oklahoma within striking distance.
Finally, a play that would go down in OU history saw a sprinting Peacock on the receiving end of the wild hook and lateral call to put the Sooners inside the Huskers’ five yard line. Peacock paid it off moments later, giving Oklahoma the 20-17 win and effectively stunning the Nebraska faithful.
1978 - The Rematch
Barry Switzer and his Sooners were well on their way to playing for another national championship, but Tom Osborne and his Cornhuskers had other plans. Unfortunately, Billy Sims and Thomas Lott couldn’t get the job done late, and ultimately saw their program’s streak of six-straight wins over their rival snapped as Nebraska fans tore down the goal posts in celebration of their 17-14 victory.
The late-season loss caused Oklahoma to miss out on playing for the national title, but a consolation prize was the 1979 Orange Bowl versus the same team that knocked them out a couple months prior. Getting revenge would be sweet, but it certainly wasn’t going to be easy. After the Sooners built a 31-10 lead behind Sims’ running and nose guard Reggie Kinlaw’s stout defense, Nebraska rallied in the fourth with back-to-back touchdowns. Fortunately for OU, the Huskers ran out of time, leaving Oklahoma with a 31-24 Orange Bowl win.
1984 - Danny Bradley seals the deal
A tied-up ball game heading into the fourth quarter, OU was looking to upset top-ranked Nebraska in its own backyard and put an end to a three-game losing streak. Kicker Tim Lasher nailed a 32-yard field goal to retake the lead, then QB Danny Bradley capped off the night with a 29-yard dash. The Sooners would win, 17-7.
Fun fact: this was also the one and only season eventual Texas head coach Mack Brown was on Oklahoma’s staff, when he was the Sooners’ offensive coordinator.
1986 - Tim Lasher and a comeback for the ages
Coming off a national championship season, the dominant Sooners were 9-1 heading into Lincoln and had shut out five of their 10 previous opponents. Of course, this was a top-five Nebraska matchup on the road, so you just had to figure it wouldn’t be easy.
It was an ugly game with both teams trading turnovers throughout the night. As a result, the Cornhuskers led 17-7 going into the fourth, but that’s when the Sooners began their rally. QB Jamelle Holieway put the team on his back and marched the offense down the field time and again. Keith Jackson’s big gain gave OU a late opportunity to seal it, and with six seconds remaining, Tim Lasher kicked a 31-yard field goal through the uprights, and Oklahoma danced off the field with the 20-17 win.
1987 - Game of the Century II
16 years after the original “Game of the Century”, the No. 2 Sooners found themselves back in Lincoln versus the No. 1 Cornhuskers. You can’t ask for a better regular season finale in college football, so you know the entire nation was watching this one.
Nebraska struck first in the opening quarter, but that was the last time Osborne’s bunch would score that day. After that, Oklahoma rattled off 17 unanswered points with touchdown runs from running backs Anthony Stafford and Patrick Collins and a field goal from Tim Lasher.
1995, 1996 & 1997 - Nebraska beats down Oklahoma over and over again
The 90s was a dark time in Sooner history, and the bleakness was never as obvious as it was during Nebraska week. From ‘95 to ‘97, the Cornhuskers completely destroyed Oklahoma by scores of 37-0, 73-21 and 69-7, respectively. Also, the 1997 loss gave Big Red its seventh consecutive win over the Sooners. That’s not ideal.
2000 - Bob Stoops and the Red October rally
In his second season in Norman, a young Bob Stoops led OU on the kind of run that would make today’s college football powers blush. After walloping No. 11 Texas at the Cotton Bowl and taking down No. 2 Kansas State in Manhattan, the Sooners welcomed No. 1 Nebraska to Owen Field. The Cornhuskers were still enjoying their seven game winning streak over Oklahoma, but this was their first chance to go against Big Game Bob.
Nebraska opened up the game with a flurry, jumping out to a quick 14-0 lead before Oklahoma had a chance to breathe. Once the Sooners settled in, it was over. Josh Heupel, Quentin Griffin, Curtis Fagan and Josh Norman all pitched in to take a 24-14 lead into the half. Derrick Strait’s 32-yard pick six in the third made the score 31-14 and all but guaranteed the win. On the following Monday, OU finally reached the top of the polls and the college football world.
2001 - That dadgum Eric Crouch
OU and Nebraska were all tied up at 10 at the half in another top three matchup, but the Huskers were determined to get the win as well as a little payback. How determined were they? Well, they were willing to take a risk on this trick play that put eventual Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch on the receiving end of a halfback pass. Fortunately for the home team, the risk was worth the ensuing reward, as Oklahoma fell to its rival in heartbreaking fashion, 20-10.
2005 - “I’M BAAACK”
After being severely limited for about a month with an ankle injury, sophomore Adrian Peterson returned to the field with a fire. Amongst Sooners fans this game is known as the “I’M BAAACK” game, because that’s what AD wrote on his pads that day. His 146 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries led the way for a 31-24 Oklahoma ‘W’ over Nebraska.
2010 - The last one.
There are so many little things about this game that I remember fondly, and not just the happenings within the game. As OU trailed 17-0, I turned to my nephew on the couch and asked him, “Do you think OU will win?” The 10-year-old shook his head twice while having the biggest grin on his face. It was strange, but I think he was onto something.
If you recall, 2010 was the last season in which there were actually a dozen teams in the Big 12, the last time there were North and South divisions, and it was the last time there was a conference championship game until it made a return in 2017. Back then, Oklahoma won the South, and Nebraska claimed the North. Hello, Arlington.
As I mentioned earlier in one of my memories of this night, Bo Pelini’s Cornhuskers jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead in the first half thanks to RB Roy Helu Jr. and a stout supporting cast on both sides of the ball. Oklahoma’s offense needed a spark in a big way, and it finally happened when Landry Jones connected with Kenny Stills for a 49-yard TD.
The battle waged on through the second half, as the Sooners continued to chip away at Nebraska’s lead. OU finally took the lead in the middle of the fourth behind Jimmy Stevens’ 27-yard field goal. Down the stretch, LB Travis Lewis, S Tony Jefferson and crew were able to hold the Huskers off, and in the end, Oklahoma would defeat its long-time rival for the Big 12 Championship, 23-20.
While the annual battle between these historic programs is now a thing of the past, there have been efforts made to renew the rivalry in the future. Currently, Oklahoma and Nebraska are scheduled to play two home-and-home series in 2021-22 and 2029-30. The Sooners will play host in ‘21 and ‘29, then the contests will shift to Lincoln in the subsequent seasons. Once those games finally kick off, you better believe college football enthusiasts everywhere will be watching.
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