Tom's Time
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Tom’s Time: A Once-in-a-Career Upset in Ames

August 25, 2020

Two hours and 30 minutes.

The game lasted only two hours and 30 minutes, which should tell you pretty much all you need to know, that and the fact 70 of Iowa State’s 74 plays from scrimmage were runs.

Yes, Iowa State’s running game. We’re not talking about Nebraska’s.

Coach Jim Walden’s Cyclones beat Nebraska at its own game, rushing and ball control, with a wishbone offense directed by a fifth-year senior, starting for the first time—Marv Seiler.

The Cyclones pulled a dramatic upset that sunny but frigid Saturday afternoon in November 1992, before 42,008 disbelieving fans at Cyclone Stadium-Jack Trice Field.

Kickoff was 1 p.m., the temperature 30 degrees. At 3:30 p.m. the game was over.

Iowa State had run—literally—12 plays to kill the game’s final 5:14, beginning at its 34-yard line, picking up three first downs and forcing Nebraska to use all three of its timeouts.

The final score: Cyclones 19, Nebraska 10.

The goal posts came crashing down.

It would be the only time in 25 seasons as head coach that a Tom Osborne team lost to an opponent that finished the season with a losing record. Iowa State went in 3-6 and finished 4-7.

The play Cyclone fans most remember was Seiler’s 78-yard run early in the fourth quarter to set up fullback Chris Ulrich’s touchdown from 2 yards out on the next play, with 10:50 remaining.

Ty Stewart’s extra-point kick was Iowa State’s 19th point—and his 13th of the game. He kicked four field goals, in five attempts, even though he had been unable to practice with the goal posts during the week because they had been vandalized and new ones hadn’t been set up until Friday.

Stewart, from Omaha Westside, was among 16 Nebraskans on the Cyclone roster. In addition, Iowa State defensive backs coach Jim Burrow had played defensive back at Nebraska (1974-75) and Walden had been a Husker assistant in Bob Devaney’s final two seasons, 1971-72.

The upset of Nebraska was “a little more overwhelming than I think I can handle,” Walden was quoted in the Sunday Journal and Star. “It’s a beautiful victory.”

The Huskers had been favored by four touchdowns.

Nebraska center Jim Scott called the loss probably the worst “since I’ve been alive.”

That Seiler could direct an offense that would rush for 373 yards against the Blackshirts wasn’t immediately apparent. Though Iowa State drove 60 yards in 11 plays on the game’s first possession to set up the first of Stewart’s field goals, a 37-yarder, Seiler fumbled two snaps and fumbled a third time, on a hit by Travis Hill on third-and-5 from the Nebraska 15-yard line. The Cyclones recovered for a 5-yard loss, leaving Stewart to kick the field goal.

Seiler would fumble another snap late in the first half. But that was it. No lost fumbles, and no interceptions; Seiler was 3-of-4 passing for 26 yards.

Iowa State’s defense was equally surprising, limiting the Huskers to 245 yards, including 192 rushing, and just 79 yards, total, in the second half. Nebraska was averaging 351 rushing yards per game.

Tommie Frazier led the Huskers with 92 yards on 13 carries but suffered a bruised knee in the first half and had a rushing net of minus-7 yards (on four carries) in the second half.

He completed 3-of-12 passes for 54 yards, including 15 to fullback Lance Lewis for Nebraska’s lone touchdown with 11:49 remaining in the first half. Byron Bennett’s 33-yard field goal late in the first quarter accounted for the Huskers’ other points.

Nebraska had worked its way back into the national discussion, marginally, though it did go into the game ranked No. 5 in the UPI coaches’ poll—No. 7 in the Associated Press poll.

In retrospect, Alabama and Miami finished the regular season undefeated and No. 1 and No. 2, with Alabama winning in the Sugar Bowl and a national title. So it didn’t matter from that standpoint.

A Big Eight title and Orange Bowl bid were still on the line, though, and the situation was muddled. Colorado had handed Kansas a second conference loss that day and the Buffaloes were 4-1-1 in the conference with Iowa State yet to play. Kansas finished with Missouri. Nebraska had two games remaining, at Oklahoma, which was 3-1-2 in Big Eight play, and against Kansas State in Tokyo.

The Wildcats were 1-4 in conference games and out of the running.

But Oklahoma, tied by Oklahoma State in Stillwater that day, was the immediate concern. And the Sooners always posed a problem.

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