|Harry, Alex and me at Notre Dame vs. Nebraska game in 2001|
Dad would walk through the corn fields in pursuit of the "wiley ringneck" with headphones on so he could listen to the Husker football game. Now, I'm talking about the early version of radio headphones that were the size of shoe boxes on each side and weighed about 10 pounds. He never hit many pheasants with those on but he never MISSED a Husker touchdown. We'd be walking through the field and, all of a sudden, he would start whooping it up, celebrating the latest Husker venture into the end-zone.
I was ten years old in 1970 when the Huskers made a big trip to the west coast to play the USC Trojans. Dad and Mom invited some friends to our house to listen to the game on the radio. The game started at like 9 pm Central Time and Dad told me I could sit up with them and listen to it. We sat around the kitchen table as the reception faded in and out (needless to say, out at the most inopportune moments!) into the wee hours of the next morning. It was a classic and ended in a 21-21 tie.
Later that season, Dad and Mom took me to the Nebraska-Oklahoma game in Lincoln. We were guests of then Husker head coach, Bob Devaney. We stayed where the Huskers players stayed the night before the game and I remember what a thrill is was to see those guys walking through the lobby. I still have the sweatshirt (though it is closer to pink now than it is "scarlet"!), game program and ticket stubs from that weekend.
The Huskers won a hard-fought battle over the Sooners that day, 28-21. But the outcome wasn't decided until the final play, when Husker defensive back Jim Anderson picked off Jack Mildren's heave aimed for Jon Harrison in the end zone.
Nebraska finished 10-0-1, its first undefeated regular season since 1965, and ranked No. 3 in both wire service polls, behind two unbeaten and untied teams: No. 1 Texas and No. 2 Ohio State. The UPI didn’t conduct a poll after bowl games, so Texas was its national champion for 1970.
Notre Dame upset Texas 24-11, and Stanford staged a fourth-quarter comeback to defeat Ohio State 27-17. Nebraska learned of the latter result during the Orange Bowl’s pregame warmups.
The Huskers took care of business with a fourth quarter rally over the LSU Tigers in the Orange Bowl that night and captured their first national title. My Dad smiled for a month about that.
Then, after running the table on the first 10 games, Nebraska’s 1971 season came down to a single game at Owen Field in Norman, OK on Thanksgiving Day. The #1 Cornhuskers played #2 Oklahoma in what still is regularly regarded as college football’s "Game of the Century".
Both teams entered the game undefeated and untied. Nebraska had the nation’s top-ranked defense. Oklahoma had its most productive offense.
The cover of Sports Illustrated (Nov. 22, 1971) published the week of the game included photographs of Nebraska linebacker Bob Terrio and Oklahoma running back Greg Pruitt, nose-to-nose, beneath the headline: "Irresistible Oklahoma Meets Immovable Nebraska.’’
My family was in Omaha for Thanksgiving that year where we celebrated with my Dad's family. We all gathered at my Uncle Ron (Dad's younger brother) and Aunt Diane's house for Thanksgiving meal and then the football feast. I was impressed with the fact that they had a "Go Big Red" toilet in their basement complete with Husker toilet paper! There must have been 25-30 Knusts packed in to that basement for the game. I took a front row seat with my cousins.
Nebraska's Johnny "The Jet" Rodgers opened the scoring less than four minutes into the first quarter with a 72-yard punt return, As Lyell Bremser shrieked from the radio "Holy Moly! Man, woman and child did that put them in the aisles!", bedlam broke loose in the Knust basement. There were high fives everywhere. I knew it was a big deal when my 70+ year-old grandmother was jumping up and down in the back of the room.
The game was one great play after another. The highlights can be seen below and the entire game can be seen here. (The old ads are worth a look!) Nebraska won 35-31 as Jeff Kinney scored the winning touchdown on a 2-yard plunge, the 12th play of the championship drive, with 1:38 remaining.
The two teams went on to crush the state of Alabama in their bowl games. Nebraska won its second consecutive national championship by beating Alabama, 38-6, in the Orange Bowl. The Sooners crushed Auburn, 42-22, in the Sugar Bowl.
Those fifteen months, starting with the Huskers tie with USC on September 19, 1970 and culminating with that win over Oklahoma on Thanksgiving Day, 1971 pretty much cemented my life -long affinity for Nebraska football.
Like everything else he did, my Dad rooted for the Huskers with passion and enthusiasm. The quickest way to have him befriend you was to pledge loyalty to the Cornhuskers. I have said many times that if we didn't watch the Huskers on Saturday, we didn't get to eat dinner. If they lost, it wasn't served!!
|Harry's last Husker Game with daughter Sarah|
Husker football is certainly one of "Husker Harry's"legacies. I'm happy to have his Husker genes!