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A Scoring Explosion in ’83 . . . By the Husker Freshman Team

December 07, 2017

Attendance for the Nebraska freshman football team’s game against the William Jewell College junior varsity at Memorial Stadium in late September of 1983 was 2,003.

At least the official scoring summary listed it that way.

More likely, sports information director Don Bryant – or one of his assistants – estimated the attendance, adding a number at the end to make it look exact. Hence the “3.” There were probably fewer than 2,000 because the game was played on a Monday afternoon, a workday.

The William Jewell jayvees had lost to Missouri’s junior varsity the previous Friday, 48-0.

On this particular afternoon, the Cornhusker freshmen, coached by Dan Young and assistant Craig Bohl, looked a lot like Nebraska’s varsity, which had been nicknamed the “Scoring Explosion” for its high-powered offense. Its four victories had come by scores of 44-6, 56-20, 84-13 and 42-10.

Young was in his first season on Tom Osborne’s staff, after a successful career as a high school coach, most recently at Omaha Westside, where he won back-to-back Class A state titles and was the Metro Coach of the Year three times. Bohl was in his third, and final, season as a grad assistant.

The Husker freshmen led the jayvees from Liberty, Missouri, 10-7 at halftime and 52-7 at the end of three quarters, on the way to a 71-7 victory.

Pat Woodruff led the freshmen, rushing for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Don’t remember Woodruff? He was a 6-foot-2, 195-pound walk-on I-back from Arlington, Texas, who finished the five-game season with a team-high 327 rushing yards. By the next fall, he had left the program.

That wasn’t out of the ordinary, particularly for out-of-state walk-ons. Will Curtis, a walk-on I-back from Baltimore, set the Husker freshman record for touchdowns in a season with eight, in five games, two years earlier. He didn’t stick around either.

Woodruff ran 66 yards on the first play from scrimmage to initiate the freshmen’s scoring explosion in the third quarter. Wingback Von Shepard returned a punt 75 yards for the second of six third-quarter touchdowns, and monster back Jeff Tomjack had punt returns of 38 and 47 yards to set up touchdowns.

Shepard and Tomjack were scholarship recruits, among 23 on the two-deeps for the game. Tomjack was a member of the 1982 recruiting class but didn’t enroll until 1983 because of an injury. The 1983 class of 23 included one junior college transfer, kicker Scott Livingston, and four who had played quarterback in high school – though Hendley Hawkins was projected as a wingback.

Clete Blakeman was sidelined for the season with a knee injury, leaving McCathorn Clayton and Jeff Taylor, who played for Young at Westside. Taylor was among seven of the scholarship recruits in 1983 who didn’t stick around to earn at least one letter.

The Nebraska freshmen finished their 1983 season with a 5-0 record, the final victory 44-20 against the Kansas State junior varsity at Manhattan, Kansas, on the Friday afternoon before the “Scoring Explosion” offense rolled over the Wildcats, for a ninth consecutive victory, 51-25.

The other freshman opponents were two junior colleges and the Northern Iowa jayvees. Iowa State was the last Big Eight school to play the Husker freshmen, who defeated Cyclone jayvee teams at Ames, Iowa, in 1984 (27-10) and at Memorial Stadium in 1985 (56-0).

From then on, the Husker freshmen played junior college and small college jayvee teams. For the most part, Nebraska’s freshman team remained just that until the end, following the 1990 season, though as a favor to Air Force Coach Fisher DeBerry, Tom Osborne scheduled two games against the Falcon jayvees in 1993, only one of which was played.

The Husker freshman program ended when the Big Eight passed a rule prohibiting such programs for cost-containment reasons. From 1956, when records were first kept, to 1990, Nebraska’s freshman (junior varsity) team’s record was 120-17-1, with only one losing season.

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