Mark Schellen set off the “Scoring Explosion,” as he would twice more in 1983, with a 27-yard touchdown run on Nebraska’s second possession at Minnesota.
The touchdown “drive” was brief, as many of the Huskers’ were that season: three plays, 82 yards, 3 by Schellen, 53 by Mike Rozier and the 27 by Schellen.
“It just went downhill for them from there,” Schellen said of the Gophers. “It was just too much speed. We had too much power. And our defense played real well that day, too.”
Speed? Schellen had been timed, electronically, in 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash, tying back-up I-back Paul Miles for the fastest on the team.
And Schellen, listed at 5-foot-10 and 225 pounds, was the fullback.
As for power, he could bench press 475 pounds.
Minnesota played its games in the now-gone Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which had opened in April of 1982. The Metrodome was home to the Vikings, Twins – who played a baseball game beginning in the late morning that day – and Timberwolves for one season.
It was also a concert venue. The Rolling Stones played there three times, and Bob Dylan, who was from Minnesota, performed there with the Grateful Dead for the first time.
The original playing surface was SuperTurf. “That was a fast field,” said Schellen.
By night’s end, five other Huskers had scored touchdowns, including three each by Rozier and Irving Fryar. Turner Gill ran for one and passed for two. Craig Sundberg, his back-up, ran for two and passed for one. And back-up I-back Jeff Smith rushed for one and caught a touchdown pass.
Dave Schneider and Scott Livingston each were six-for-six on extra-point kicks.
Have you added it up? The final score was 84-13, Nebraska. And there was symmetry. The Huskers scored 21 points in each of the quarters.
“It was crazy,” said Schellen.
He carried once on Nebraska’s first series of the second half and then watched the rest of the worst loss in Minnesota history from the sideline – at one point, eating a hamburger.
Someone in the stands “threw down some burgers,” Schellen said. “We had some people up there that had got us some Wendy’s or something.”
Not with Coach Tom Osborne’s sanction, certainly, nor with his knowledge.
As Schellen recalls, he had already irritated his coach by carrying his pads, socks and shoes onto the field while the rest of the team was stretching before the game.
“Mark, make sure you come out with all your equipment on,” Osborne said.
Or something to that effect.
Schellen said he would.
Schellen is the forgotten man in the “Scoring Explosion” backfield, at a position that Nebraska, like many schools, no longer lists on the roster.
“Times have changed,” said Schellen, who scored nine touchdowns in 1983, a school record for fullbacks. “I understand that they’re trying to score quick, and I think the throwing part of it is a really good deal. But I think the goal-line, short-yardage will never change.
“I think you’ll always get somebody in there . . .”
Somebody like former Husker Andy Janovich, now the Denver Broncos’ fullback, Schellen said. In short-yardage situations, “just give him the damn ball.”
Schellen, like Janovich, walked on at Nebraska. But he was never awarded a scholarship. “I never thought one second about it,” said Schellen. “My parents helped me out. I was married. I worked. The only time I ate at the training table was on game day . . . Saturday morning.
“So shoot, I was taking steaks (from the training table) home.
Schellen played eight-man football at Waterloo (Neb.) High School, then began his college career at UNO, playing in eight games for Coach Sandy Buda in 1979.
“I don’t think I went to one class,” Schellen said.
He dropped out of UNO to concentrate on power lifting. Then he enrolled at Nebraska in the fall of 1981 and walked onto the football team in the spring of 1982.
Schellen was listed second to junior Doug Wilkening on the pre-season depth chart in 1982 and played behind Wilkening, after Nebraska experimented with senior Roger Craig, the leading rusher in 1981, at fullback in order to have him on the field at the same time as Rozier.
Schellen earned his first start in the 1982 Orange Bowl against LSU, and scored the first touchdown in the 21-20 victory. Wilkening would walk away from football before the 1983 season.
After a brief professional career, Schellen returned to school and became a personal trainer, something he’s now done for 33 years. He’s based in Waterloo.
Being the forgotten man in the “Scoring Explosion” backfield doesn’t bother him. “I never did get too involved with that stuff,” said Schellen. “I felt like I was privileged. I’m humbled now. Most of those guys, as a matter of fact all of those guys, are mad at me because I gave them so much crap.
“The older you get, the more humble you get about it. You’re in a good place. They gave you the opportunity. I got to play in my own state, in front of my own people. I got a chance to play pro ball. I mean, you couldn’t ask for a better deal. I went to the highest level.”
He still follows the Huskers.
“I think Scott (Frost), he’s going to be OK,” Schellen said. “The tank was dry. He’s got a few good players. They’ve never won. They don’t know what it’s like to win.
“Maybe this week . . .”
This week against Minnesota, which won last season in Minneapolis 54-21.
The Gophers “ran it up on us, and it felt like they weren’t going to stop,” Husker defensive back Dicaprio Bootle said earlier this week.
Some folks claimed the same thing about Nebraska in 1983. But Minnesota continued to blitz on just about every down. And because of travel-roster limits, Osborne only had so many who could play.
That’s another thing about that night in the Metrodome. Todd Fisher, a sophomore cornerback, “never got to play in that game. Oh man, it was so bad. I felt bad for him,” said Schellen.
“It just didn’t make sense. But it happens.”
At least that’s how Schellen remembers it anyway, 35 years later.
“Todd was a great kid,” he said.
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.