Tom's Time
Photo Credit: Randy Hampton

Tom’s Time: An Early Championship-Game Proposal, and a Win Over ISU

September 18, 2018

The first week of November 1983, before Nebraska played host to Iowa State, the Associated Press reported that a concert promoter-entrepreneur, Barry Fey, was proposing a “Dream Game” matching the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked college football teams, following the bowl games.

Fey said he would guarantee each team a payout of $1.5 million and that the game would be played either in the Rose Bowl or the Superdome. Fey, the AP reported, had told two newspapers in Denver that he had reserved both sites pending the teams’ approval.

The “Dream Game” teams would be Nebraska and Texas. The Cornhuskers had been No. 1 since the preseason rankings. Texas had been No. 2 since the third week of the season.

Nebraska Athletic Director Bob Devaney dismissed Fey’s proposal. The NCAA wouldn’t allow it, he told the AP. Texas AD DeLoss Dodds agreed, and had told Fey as much, according to the AP.

Dodds had direct contact with Fey. Devaney did not.

The AP reported that Fey wanted to promote the game because there had often been disputes over what team was No. 1 following the bowls –– which had agreements with conferences.

The Big Eight champ went to the Orange Bowl and the Southwest Conference champ to the Cotton Bowl, for example, so no way could Nebraska and Texas play each other on New Year’s Day.

As it turned out, neither won its bowl game, of course. Texas lost to Georgia. So Fey’s No. 1 versus No. 2 “Dream Game” would have been a rematch of the Huskers and Miami. Oh well . . . 

The bowls were still nearly two months away, so Nebraska was focused on winning the Big Eight and earning a third consecutive trip to Miami. To that end, Iowa State was next in line.

The Cyclones came to Lincoln with a 3-5 record under first-year head coach Jim Criner, who, incidentally, had been UCLA’s offensive line coach 10 seasons before when the Bruins fell to Nebraska at Memorial Stadium 40-13 in Tom Osborne’s first game as head coach. 

Prior to the 1983 game, Criner told the Lincoln Journal and Star he had watched film of Nebraska’s 69-19 victory against Colorado two weeks before and had been impressed with how hard the Husker back-ups played. That was the reason Nebraska had scored a Memorial-Stadium-record number of points, not any intention by Tom Osborne to run up the score. 

That Saturday the record increased by three; Nebraska defeated Criner’s Cyclones 72-29.

Mike Rozier carried 26 times for 212 yards and four touchdowns, breaking school records for points and rushing touchdowns in a season as well as rushing touchdowns during a career. Afterward, Rozier, whom one writer called the “Camden Comet,” said his goal was to break the Huskers’ single-game rushing record of 255 yards, set by Richard Berns against Missouri in 1978. 

The “Camden Comet” nickname never quite caught on.

Turner Gill completed 13-of-24 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns, without an interception. Irving Fryar caught a team-high five passes for 114 yards.

Iowa State quarterback David Archer completed 26-of-46 passes for 346 yards and a touchdown, without an interception. The touchdown pass went to running back Tommy Davis, who also rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns. The Cyclones’ 29 points were the most against Nebraska that season. 

“I wish we could shut people down better than we have recently,” Osborne said. 

But, he added, “we win or lose as a team.”

Tom's Time is a regular feature that will take a closer look at the life of Tom Osborne. Nebraska has a storied history in football that dates back to the earliest years of the game, but the tradition to which Husker fans hold Nebraska is mostly a reference to Osborne's 25 years as head coach. And that will always be worth exploring in greater detail. Click here for all of the entries in the series.

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