By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Husker fans will get to relish a fitting end to the Big Texas Conference—oh yeah, the Big 12 Conference—with a final rematch of Big Eight titans, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
For years, the Nebraska-Oklahoma game provided the marquee matchup of the season and since the Bob Devaney era, often decided the Big Eight conference champion.
The annual NU-OU clash provided some of the greatest moments for Husker fans, along with some of the greatest disappointments as well.
Still etched in the mind of a then 13 year-old in 1971, I will forever remember the final plunge over the goal line of McCook’s Jeff Kinney to clinch the 35-31 win.
Nebraska came into the Thanksgiving Day game as the defending national champion and ranked #1 in the country. OU came in ranked #2.
Just today, listening to Rivals Radio, I heard the infamous call by Lyle Bremser of Johhny Rodgers 72-yard punt return.
“He’s alllll the way home. Holy, Moly!!! Man, woman and child—did that put them in the aisles. Johnny ‘the Jet’ Rodgers just tore ’em lose from their shoes.”
Rodger’s amazing return immortalized that game, which would eventually be tagged the “Game of the Century” as Nebraska went on to win their second national title.
In 1972, my family spent Thanksgiving in Lincoln with my oldest brother. Being the big brother he was, he snagged me a ticket to the NU-OU game.
I’d been to Husker games before but never NU-OU. It was freezing cold and had snowed the day before. We scraped snow from the seats and my feet froze, resting on three inches of snow.
With Rodgers on his Heisman-winning roll, I didn’t think we could eve loss. However, a late fumble enabled OU to kick the go-ahead field goal. I’ll never forget it as Oklahoma stunned the Huskers and dashed our hopes 17-14 in Memorial Stadium.
In the Tom Osborne-Barry Switzer era of NU-OU football, Nebraska fans would suffer through the Oklahoma wishbone for eight straight seasons before Osborne finally got his first of only five wins over Switzer in 17 games.
Because of OU’s dominance, Osborne got tagged for not being able to win the big one. Many Husker fans wanted Osborne fired because he couldn’t beat OU.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. Osborne went on to become a coaching legend, and guided the Huskers to three national championships, including back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995 and another in 1997.
Final Big 12 regular season game
The Huskers’ final regular season Big 12 game last Friday brought back some Big Eight nostalgia as well when the Colorado Buffaloes came to town.
With another dominant win over the Buffaloes, the Cornhuskers showed Colorado why we’re headed to the Big 10 while they go their separate way to the Pac 10.
It was a fitting way to end Big 12 regular season play with a foe we had faced many times in the Big Eight.
No Texas to be found this year
This year’s loss to Texas still leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Husker faithfuls. But Husker Nation got some bitter sweet revenge as the Texas Longhorns failed to gain even six wins to become bowl eligible and of course, where no where to be found in the Big 12 South title race.
I remember the first Big 12 championship game in St. Louis. Nebraska was poised for another national championship run only to be derailed by Texas.
Sitting 20 rows up behind the Texas bench, I’ll never forget the lack of class Texas showed as they heckled, cussed and flipped the bird to us after the win.
I was never a Texas fan but that sealed it for me. As a result, I’m more than happy to say goodbye to the Big Texas Conference. In fact, I own a T-shirt that says exactly that.