Oklahoma 1983

Instant Replay will feature stories of historical games in an untraditional format.

Nebraska 28, Oklahoma 21
Nov. 26, 1983
Norman, Okla.

Tom Osborne: “I was on the phone to the press box all during that last drive, and we’re talking about a 2-point defense all the way down the field.”

Barry Switzer: “If we had scored, we would have gone for 2 points and a win.”

Oklahoma’s final series began at its own 26-yard line, following a 43-yard field goal attempt with 5:50 remaining. Scott Livingston’s kick went wide left. Nebraska led 28-21.

The Sooners ran 14 plays, picked up five first downs and reached the Nebraska 2-yard line. A key play was a 27-yard pass, on second down, from quarterback Danny Bradley to Derrick Shepard. Shepard carried to the Husker 11. On the next play, running back Earl Johnson gained 9.

Second-and-1 from the 2 . . .Oklahoma was penalized 5 yards for illegal motion.

Second-and-6 from the 7 . . .Nebraska defensive end Bill Weber sacked Bradley for a 3-yard loss.

Third-and-9 from the 10 . . .A Bradley pass intended for Shepard was incomplete. Husker cornerback Neil Harris covered Shepard. Oklahoma argued pass interference, to no avail.

The Sooners continued to complain about the no-call in post-game interviews.

Fourth-and-9 from the 10 . . .A Bradley pass intended for Buster Rhymes in the end zone was incomplete. Harris was covering Rhymes. Oklahoma didn’t argue this time. Thirty-two seconds remained.

First-and-10, Nebraska, from the 10 . . .Quarterback Turner Gill downed the ball, and the Huskers won.

That’s how the regular season ended for what Sports Illustrated called, at mid-season, “the greatest team in college football history.” The Huskers were No. 1 in both wire service polls from start to finish in the regular season, with 12 consecutive victories. They led the nation in rushing and scoring.

The theme of Nebraska’s schedule poster for 1983 was “The Scoring Explosion.” And the Huskers lived up to the nickname, averaging 52 points per game. Offensive guard Dean Steinkuhler won the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award. And I-back Mike Rozier was the Heisman Trophy winner, after becoming just the second player in NCAA history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.

USC’s Marcus Allen rushed for 2,392 yards to win the Heisman in 1981.

Rozier ran for 205 yards in the Oklahoma game to finish with 2,148 yards and 29 touchdowns. Bowl –game statistics weren’t included in official NCAA statistics. Twenty years would pass before they were.

Rozier, Gill and wingback Irving Fryar were featured on “The Scoring Explosion” poster, with good reason. They made the offense go. Switzer nicknamed them the “Triplets.” They joined Osborne during the post-game news conference at Oklahoma. Nebraska was “a good offensive team, maybe as good as I’ve seen in college football,” Osborne said. “And these three are as good as I’ve coached.”

Such praise from the typically reserved Osborne wasn’t to be taken lightly.

Nebraska overwhelmed most of its opponents during the 1983 regular season, of course. The Huskers’ only other close call was at Oklahoma State in the Big Eight opener. Safety Bret Clark intercepted a pass in the end zone on the final play to preserve a 14-10 victory.
Oklahoma State was undefeated at the time.

Oklahoma was 7-3 when Nebraska traveled to Norman. The Sooners, who had lost at Missouri 10-0 two weeks earlier, were No. 16 in the United Press International coaches’ poll but unranked in the Associated Press media poll. Both wire service polls included only 20 teams.

Regardless of ranking or record, Oklahoma was an Osborne nemesis. His teams had played the Sooners 11 times before the 1983 game, including twice in 1978, and had won just three.

That Osborne was preparing for a 2-point defense as Oklahoma drove down the field in the closing minutes of the 1983 game was a reflection not only of his always staying a step ahead, a quality that contributed to his becoming a Hall of Fame coach,  but also his respect for the Sooners.

In 1976 at Lincoln, Nebraska led 17-13 late in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma had the ball at its own 16-yard line when quarterback Thomas Lott handed to Woodie Shepard, who passed to Steve Rhodes. The trick play gained 47 yards to the Husker 35-yard line.

The pass was Oklahoma’s first of the game. The second came on third-and-19 from the Husker 34-yard line. Quarterback Dean Blevins passed to Rhodes, who lateraled to running back Elvis Peacock, who carried to the 2-yard line. On the next play Peacock scored. Thirty-eight seconds remained.