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50 years later, the Game of the Century resonates as Nebraska, Oklahoma rekindle faded rivalry

They will play a sport Saturday morning by which the house workforce is a 22-point favourite. The sport was deemed so non-competitive that the visiting workforce tried to cancel it a scant six months in the past.

Overlook in regards to the label as soon as affixed to probably the most notable sport on this rivalry’s historical past: Sport of the Century. Nebraska-Oklahoma shouldn’t be even the sport of the day headed into Week 3 of the 2021 college football season.

The rivalry is a shell of its former self, the threads of historical past yanked aside by time and convention realignment. A rivalry that used to measure itself towards any Iron Bowl or Ten-12 months Struggle you may title has dimmed, however it isn’t … fairly … gone.

Look into the 70-year-old eyes of Johnny Rodgers. Saturday marks the fiftieth anniversary the Sport of the Century, which ended with No. 1 Nebraska on prime of No. 2 Oklahoma, 35-31, on Thanksgiving Day 1971.

That is why Rodgers is in Norman, Oklahoma, this week to relive and rejoice and hug. The Cornhuskers’ legendary wingback from the early Nineteen Seventies loves a reunion, and on this collection, Saturday’s is among the greatest.

The anticipated blowout nonetheless means one thing if solely as a result of there are nonetheless two Massive Reds on the market who used to hate one another.

“I do not know if I am the one to say this,” started Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, the person who oversaw this system’s migration to the SEC this summer season. “Historical past and custom, typically that will get kicked to the curb. Typically, it is solely in regards to the second.”

Nebraska and Oklahoma used to battle bitterly for turf and Orange Bowls within the previous Massive Eight. They have not met since 2010 when the Sooners squeezed out a 23-20 win within the Massive 12 Championship Sport. Two years later, the Huskers have been within the Massive Ten. Someday within the subsequent 4 years, Oklahoma is predicted to begin play within the SEC.

So yeah, it is quite a bit in regards to the second.

However half a century in the past, Rodgers might need made the most important play within the greatest sport that featured 9 touchdowns, 829 mixed yards and went all the way down to the ultimate minutes. It was Rodgers’ 72-yard punt return within the first quarter that will have been the distinction in Nebraska’s victory.

“Time glided by previous,” he mentioned. “We actually did assume we had one thing particular with Nebraska and Oklahoma at the moment. It was the most important sport we had ever performed in and folks had ever seen.”

Shake fingers with Castiglione. As a 14-year-old in South Florida, he remembers watching the Sport of the Century at his grandmother’s home. Again then, a 23-inch black-and-white tv was thought of an enormous display.

“That was my first actual recollection watching at Oklahoma soccer sport,” Castiglione mentioned. “That is once I turned accustomed to Oklahoma. It was that sport.”

When he was launched as OU’s eleventh athletic director in 1998, Castiglione famous in his introduction that quantity matched the uniform of Jack Mildren, Oklahoma’s quarterback within the Sport of the Century.

When it was revealed Nebraska coach Scott Frost had tried to drop Oklahoma earlier this 12 months for Outdated Dominion or New Mexico State to select up a straightforward win, Castiglione’s jaw dropped.

“Dissatisfied wasn’t the proper phrase,” he mentioned. “It was surreal. It did not make any sense.”

You do not play catch with high-quality china. You do not put on white to a mud battle.

Nebraska-Oklahoma is a jewel that should not be scratched. A minimum of not the one which shone so brightly for many years earlier than the annual conferences stopped greater than a decade in the past.

Have a drink with Barry Switzer. Sports activities Illustrated legends Dan Jenkins and Bud Shrake definitely did that week. That is considered one of Switzer’s fondest reminiscences from the Sport of the Century: going out in town.

As for the precise sport, Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator that day nonetheless laments not getting the ball extra to halfback Greg Pruitt, a two-time All-American. Switzer went on to win three nationwide championships in 16 seasons at OU’s head coach, however name him this week, and it is what did not occur that Thanksgiving Day a half a century in the past that also bothers him.

“Tracks meets each week,” Switzer recalled of the Sooners speeding offense that also holds the single-season file at 472 yards per sport. “That may by no means be damaged. Simply take into consideration that: 472 yards per sport.”

On that uncooked, 47-degree day, the halfback who completed third in Heisman Trophy voting after averaging 9 yards per carry that season, contributed solely 53 yards on 10 rushes.

“I used to be a younger offensive coordinator. I most likely ought to have made positive Greg Pruitt carried it 25 occasions,” Switzer mentioned.

There have been no different goats that day, solely G.O.A.T.S. Nebraska’s offensive coordinator, Tom Osborne, had two nationwide championships on his resume earlier than he changed Bob Devaney — the beloved Bobfather — as coach in 1973.

Huskers center guard Wealthy Glover posted a defensive efficiency for the ages: 22 tackles going towards All-America heart Tom Brahaney, who went on to play 9 NFL seasons.

Nebraska I-back Jeff Kinney etched himself into program historical past with 171 yards and 4 touchdowns. Midway via the primary quarter, Mildren was enjoying along with his jersey midway ripped off. The long run lieutenant governor of the state carried it 31 occasions for 130 yards, accounting for 4 touchdowns himself.

“It was most likely the best offensive soccer sport I’ve ever seen,” Alabama coach Bear Bryant, who already had 4 nationwide championships to his title, mentioned on ABC’s postgame present.

Bear would bear witness. Nebraska went on to thrash Alabama 38-6 within the Orange Bowl to clinch a second consecutive nationwide title.

The Sport of the Century was that huge, that stunning, that incredible. Kinney scored the game-winning landing with 98 seconds left. Rodgers saved the profitable drive alive catching a third-and-8 cross from Jerry Tagge, inches from the bottom, at Oklahoma’s 35.

“Our rule was, in case you contact, you may catch it,” mentioned Rodgers, who received the 1972 Heisman. “I caught it.”

Look it up; the grainy footage remains to be there. Over the 5 a long time since, the “Sport of the Century” label has been tossed round like free change. However Saturday’s anniversary reminds there’s nonetheless just one. The nation’s No. 1 offense (Oklahoma) went up towards the nation’s No. 1 protection (Nebraska).

Fifty-five million folks watched on ABC, the biggest faculty soccer viewers at the moment. The telecast was laden with automobile commercials, not an excessive amount of completely different than right this moment. The primary advert was for Brylcreem. (Ask your grandfather.)

Two ABC broadcasters referred to Oklahoma’s Owen Area as “Owen Stadium.” Analyst Bud Wilkinson, Oklahoma’s legendary former coach, was prescient. He broke down Nebraska’s I-formation offense noting it typically shifted into “the unfold.” The graphic confirmed a four-receiver set that’s all too acquainted in 2021.

The wishbone, utilized by Oklahoma, was nonetheless new, adopted by coach Chuck Fairbanks on the urging of Switzer.

“We would have been that good in 1970 if Chuck had let me go to it within the spring,” Switzer mentioned. “It was one thing about copying Texas. If it really works, who provides a shit?”

You may set your soccer clock to Nebraska-Oklahoma. They performed 86 occasions, yearly from 1921 to 2010. It was a time when coaches have been gods, not residing belief funds. Osborne used to make filibustering a high-quality science, taking place your complete roster in preseason pressers so he would not need to reply questions.

That was the polar reverse of Switzer, who as soon as held court docket with writers at Kansas Metropolis’s Union Station the evening earlier than the 2003 Massive 12 Championship Sport. His wingman that evening was a fur-coat carrying Tony Casillas, a defensive deal with who received championships enjoying for Switzer at Oklahoma and with the Dallas Cowboys.

There was the 1987 sport known as “Sport of the Century II”. No. 1 Oklahoma beat No. 2 Nebraska, 17-7, finally dropping the nationwide championship to Miami within the Orange Bowl. There was the 2001 sport when Eric Crouch just about received the Heisman in October. Nebraska’s quarterback caught a 63-yard landing cross.

Osborne turned the Nebraska AD, then a U.S. Senator. He was the impetus behind the Texas-loathing transfer to the Massive Ten. How has that one labored out?

Nebraska has misplaced its manner outdoors the Massive 12.

5 a long time in the past, the Massive Eight was the nation’s strongest convention, and it wasn’t shut. The league completed the season with groups ranked No. 1 (Nebraska), No. 2 (Oklahoma) and No. 3 (Colorado). The Thanksgiving Day sport marked solely the fifth such No. 1 vs. No. 2 sport ever. That is routine today given the BCS and Faculty Soccer Playoff.

“… it’s unattainable to stir the pages of historical past and discover one by which each groups carried out so reputably for therefore lengthy all through the day,” Jenkins wrote in his sport account the following week. He was proper.

The stakes have been so excessive, Nebraska introduced its personal consumables to Oklahoma simply to keep away from meals poisoning.

“We do not wish to take any probabilities on something,” Rodgers mentioned.

Rodgers claimed to have by no means honest caught a kick or punt. He definitely did not on this sport, returning the opening kickoff from 6 yards deep ultimately zone. On punts, Rodgers theorized, defenses would commerce a 15-yard private foul by hitting him early moderately than threat an extended return.

“Fifteen yards was a smaller quantity than what I might have gotten had I returned it,” Rodgers mentioned.

It was a distinct TV age. In these days, solely a handful of video games have been aired. Cable TV was nonetheless about 9 years away. Nebraska-Oklahoma was adopted by Georgia-Georgia Tech at evening. The Heisman was awarded at halftime of the latter sport. Two days later, it was Military-Navy and Auburn-Alabama. That was it.

Saturday’s sport will probably be a part of the standard 12-hour blizzard of televised matchups. By the tip of the day and the anticipated Oklahoma rout, historical past could also be however a footnote.

Ten years in the past, when Nebraska was making its manner from the Massive 12 to the Massive Ten, Oklahoma’s Castiglione wished to seize a chunk of that historical past. He approached Osborne, then Nebraska AD, with a proposition: Let’s play once more.

It turned out the primary opening for each groups was Saturday, 50 years after the Sport of the Century. The Cornhuskers will get a return sport in Lincoln, Nebraska, subsequent 12 months.

However on Friday evening, they are going to chuckle, drink, shake fingers and discuss historical past that also ought to be talked about 5 a long time later.

https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/information/50-years-later-the-game-of-the-century-resonates-as-nebraska-oklahoma-rekindle-faded-rivalry/ | 50 years later, the Sport of the Century resonates as Nebraska, Oklahoma rekindle pale rivalry

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