Twenty-five years ago, Nebraska played ranked teams back-to-back in nationally televised games at Memorial Stadium, and though only the second was at night, the first ended at about 6:15 p.m., five days after daylight savings time ended and so was played under the lights.
The late afternoon was overcast, with drizzle that turned to light rain. And the next year’s Husker media guide recap of the game described it as having been played “on a cold rainy night.”
The opponents, Colorado and Kansas, weren’t both in the top 10 either, as is the case this season. But they were ranked, Colorado No. 8 in the Associated Press poll, Kansas No. 13. Nebraska was tied at No. 8 with Colorado, the first up, then ranked No. 7 when Kansas came to town.
I remember heading back to the Lincoln Journal and Star, just down 10th Street from the stadium, late in the fourth quarter of the Kansas game, with the Huskers leading 49-7. There was no doubt about the game’s outcome, and the newspaper deadline was such I wanted to start my Sunday column.
The column mentioned my early exit, drawing some reader criticism the next week: How could I not stay and watch the lower-unit Huskers, who had worked so hard in practice?
Such were Husker fan concerns 25 years ago. You probably don’t need to be reminded.
The focus here, however, is the Colorado game the week before, and not the fact that John Parrella, Nebraska’s defensive line coach, led the Huskers with five tackles, including three sacks.
Colorado quarterbacks Koy Detmer and Kordell Stewart were sacked five times in all. Detmer, a freshman, started in place of Stewart, who had been slowed by injury. Before leaving the game late in the third quarter, Detmer threw three interceptions and lost a fumble, one of three the Buffaloes lost.
Nebraska, which didn’t turn over the ball, ran 92 plays and finished just 10 seconds short of 43 minutes in time of possession. Of those 92 plays, 77 were runs, by 12 players.
Right guard Will Shields was among those 12. His carry, a Coach Tom Osborne trick, is the subject here, though as with the complaints about my leaving the Kansas game early, the Colorado game, a 52-7 victory, included much of what Husker fans bring up these days.
Nebraska rushed for 373 yards while limiting the Buffaloes to a rushing net of 8 yards on 22 carries.
Colorado’s pass-oriented offense fell victim to the uncertainty of Midwest weather – the game was played on Oct. 31 – Happy Halloween. “For this climate, you’ve still got to be able to jam it at people some,” Osborne was quoted in the Omaha World-Herald afterward.
Some, or in the Huskers’ case, a lot.
Shields’ carry came on the “fumbleroosky.” The ball was dropped on the ground immediately after being snapped, as if fumbled, and picked up by the guard.
Nebraska ran it twice against Oklahoma at Norman in 1979, the first time by left guard John Havekost for an 11-yard gain, the second time by right guard Randy Schleusener for 15 yards and a touchdown with 4:43 remaining. Even so, the Sooners won 17-14.
Because of the “fumbleroosky” touchdown run, Schleusener was described in the 1980 Nebraska media guide as “probably the most famous guard in college football for the 1980 season.”
Right guard Dean Steinkuhler ran the “fumbleroosky” for 19 yards and a touchdown in the second quarter of the 31-30 loss to Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl game.
Steinkuhler won both the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy that season.
Shields, also a right guard, won the Outland Trophy in 1992, though as with Steinkuhler not for his ball-carrying ability. The 6-foot-1, 305-pound Shields gained 16 yards to the Colorado 5-yard line to set up a touchdown near the end of the first half.
Because of difficulty officiating the “fumbleroosky,” which Oklahoma ran twice in a loss to Nebraska in 1989, the NCAA changed the rules following the 1992 season, effectively making it illegal.
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.