Adrian Martinez figured he was getting into the weeds a bit when discussing how he knew about the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry, a game that hasn’t been played since 2010 when the two teams met in the Big 12 championship game.
Martinez, who was born in January 2000, was just a 10-year-old living in California when that conference title between the Huskers and Sooners was played.
“I’m a big ’30 for 30′ guy,” Nebraska’s fourth-year junior quarterback said, noting the popular ESPN documentary series. “I love watching documentaries, I love watching stuff like that. So college football, Nebraska-Oklahoma, that stuff used to be talked about and I paid attention.”
While Martinez has a good idea about just how big the clash between the Huskers and Sooners used to be, linebacker Luke Reimer, fresh off earning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors, understandably needed some help. Reimer didn’t know much about the rivalry while he was growing up in Kansas playing eight-man football. So when it got to the point where he was old enough to start paying attention to college football, Nebraska was long gone from the Big 12.
Does Reimer get the feeling that the hype for Saturday’s 50th anniversary of “The Game of the Century” might mean more for the parents and grandparents than for the players?
“You can say that, for sure,” Reimer said. “Guys from the 60s and 70s, the Game of the Century was in the 60s, right? Or 70s?”
It was played in 1971.
“Shows you how much I know,” Reimer joked.
While most of Nebraska’s players are aware of the once-upon-a-time rivalry that includes 86 total games between the two schools from 1912 to 2010—Oklahoma has 45 wins to Nebraska’s 38, and there were three ties—everyone was clear on one thing Monday as a select few met with media: playing one of the best programs in the country—a perennial College Football Playoff contender—is a massive opportunity for the Huskers.
“This game is huge for us,” defensive lineman Colton Feist said. “We haven’t played them in how many years, so going down there to play against the best in the country, I think this is a big opportunity for us.”
Offensive lineman Matt Sichterman grew up a Big Ten fan and knows all about the Wisconsin-Michigan rivalry. Now that he’s at Nebraska, he learned quickly that the Iowa game is important, one that’s turned into a rivalry right now. But he also said it’s been interesting to learn about what Oklahoma and Nebraska used to mean, not only for the people inside the program, but outside in the fanbase as well.
Sichterman said the coaching staff shared the details of the rivalry in the scouting report. In the past, former Husker players have shown up to educate the players on what the rivalries mean. What they used to be like.
“That’s always huge, to see the tradition of this place—obviously at Nebraska it’s one of the best traditions in all of college football,” Sichterman said. “But seeing those guys come back and really share what it means to them, it helps drive us as well. I’m super excited about this one.”
Running back Sevion Morrison, a Tulsa, Oklahoma native, said he didn’t grow up a Sooner fan. Instead, he was an Oklahoma State guy. He liked the orange better than the red.
“I grew up more of a Pokes guy, OSU,” Morrison said.
It’s not lost on the players that there’s an opportunity for the taking on Saturday. The game will be Fox’s ‘Big Noon Kickoff,’ which means a lot of eyes across the country will be watching. Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt will be on the call.
“It gives us a big chance to show the world what we’ve been building on and what we’ve been working on as a unit,” Morrison said.
At the end of the day, however, Nebraska’s players didn’t want want the talk about Saturday’s matchup to get too loud. To them, nothing changes in the preparation for the Sooners. The common theme this season is calling the opposing team a “nameless, faceless opponent” and it popped up again on Monday. That’s the coaching staff’s way of telling their players to focus on themselves and the team, and not their opponents.
“There’s going to be more publicity I guess to this game, but for me it doesn’t change,” Reimer said. “It’s a nameless, faceless opponent for us. You just have to prepare the exact same way for any team you play and just keep doing what we’ve been doing that’s got you here.”
Said offensive lineman Brant Banks: “At the end of the day, we’re not getting too hyped up about the opponent, we really try to keep it as a nameless, faceless opponent. We gotta go out there and do what we can do, and what we should do is move them all day, because we’re bigger and stronger, and we should be moving them all day.”