The play involved a “throwback,” sort of. And Dave Rimington, Nebraska’s All-America center, wasn’t in favor of running it. He was on record as having told Coach Tom Osborne that he hoped the Cornhuskers wouldn’t run the play unless they were 100 points ahead or behind.
In this case, they were behind Oklahoma 10-7. The year was 1982. And Nebraska could earn a second consecutive trip to the Orange Bowl with at least a tie against the Sooners.
Oklahoma, ranked No. 11, had lost twice, but not in Big Eight play. Nebraska was 9-1 and ranked No. 3, its only loss against Penn State in the third game of the season.
Osborne had indicated during a radio interview before the game, the day after Thanksgiving, he would play for a win rather than settling for a tie if it came to that, foreshadowing his decision to go for two against Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl with a national championship on the line.
Husker tight end Mitch Krenk brought in the play from the sideline. He and starter Jamie Williams had that responsibility so wide receiver Todd Brown could remain on the field.
Rimington was surprised, and skeptical.
“Don’t blame me,” Krenk told him. “I’m just the messenger.”
Krenk also was the receiver on the pass play, which reflected what some called “Tomfoolery.” Osborne had run the “fumbleroosky” and the “Bummerooky” (named for Bum Phillips, the originator). So the play Krenk carried in would be described by some as the “bounceroosky.”
Osborne indicated he had gotten the idea from Colorado, which had run the bounce pass against the Huskers a few years before.
As with the others, this play involved deception. Quarterback Turner Gill bounced a lateral to wingback Irving Fryar, wide to his left. Fryar scooped up the ball, acting as if it were an incomplete pass, and then passed to the tight end, Krenk, running across the middle.
Because the ball was thrown laterally it was a fumble, and hence live.
Fryar had little time for deception, with Sooner defenders closing in. And though Krenk was open, the Sooners’ Scott Case wasn’t completely fooled by the play.
Krenk would recall years later that he had made the catch of his life, one-handed. Had he been faster, he recalled, and caught the ball in-stride, he probably would have scored.
As it was, he was brought down near the Oklahoma 15-yard line. The play gained 37 yards. Three downs later, fullback Doug Wilkening scored from 2 yards out to give the Huskers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, though there were some anxious moments in the second half.
The opening section of The Lincoln Star’s story about the “bounceroosky” was included on a commemorative glass mug marketed by the newspaper afterward.
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.