Nebraska finished its regular season in 1993, as was tradition, with a game against Oklahoma. The Huskers had won the Big Eight title and earned a bid to the Orange Bowl. But the opportunity to play for a national championship was still on the line with a victory against the Sooners.
A victory would also give Nebraska its first undefeated regular season since the “Scoring Explosion” in 1983.
Not that the Huskers would look past Oklahoma, which had lost only twice—to Colorado and Kansas State—and was No. 16 in the Associated Press rankings.
Oh yes, when the Sooners came to Lincoln to play the day after Thanksgiving, Nebraska was No. 2 in the AP poll, No. 1 in the Coaches’ poll and the bowl coalition rankings.
Florida State, with its one loss to Notre Dame, was No. 1 in the AP poll.
The Huskers had an off-week following the Iowa State game. Remember, they were No. 3, behind Notre Dame and Florida State at that point. Auburn, which was on probation, and West Virginia were the only undefeated-untied teams besides Nebraska. Auburn was No. 6, behind Ohio State, which had a tie, and West Virginia was, inexplicably low perhaps, at No. 9.
The off-week Saturday had drama. The top-ranked Fighting Irish fell to No. 17 Boston College on a last-second field goal, 41-39, and West Virginia upset No. 4 Miami, 17-14.
Florida State trounced a good 7-3 North Carolina State team, 62-3.
As a result, the AP rankings were shuffled, slightly. The Seminoles moved to No. 1, with Nebraska No. 2, and Auburn No. 3. Notre Dame dropped to No. 4. West Virginia moved up to No. 5.
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, West Virginia would defeat Boston College 17-14 to move up to No. 3. Auburn had already finished. The Mountaineers would end up losing to No. 8 Florida in the Sugar Bowl, 41-7. AP voter reluctance in ranking them despite their record seemed justified after the fact.
But much had to happen before then. The week of Nebraska’s game against Iowa State, West Virginia had been among four prospective opponents for the Huskers in the Orange Bowl, for a national championship match-up if the Huskers won against Iowa State and Oklahoma. The others were Florida State, Notre Dame and Miami, which would be off the list following the loss to the Mountaineers.
Off the field, fan security at the Orange Bowl was a concern, enough so that bowl officials had come to Lincoln to address the matter. Foreign tourists were being assaulted near Miami International Airport. Orange Bowl officials said the attacks mostly involved people who didn’t speak or read English well, the Lincoln Journal-Star reported, and they had driven into bad areas. As a result, rental car agencies near the airport were required to provide maps with areas to avoid.
Plus, the percentage of those being attacked was small, the Orange Bowl officials said. So there was no need for Husker fans to be concerned about coming to Miami.
Prior to the Iowa State game, Nebraska officials had announced that the crowd at Memorial Stadium would be videotaped in order to identify those who were throwing oranges on the field and the same would happen during the Oklahoma game.
After Nebraska’s 28-24 victory over the Sooners at Memorial Stadium in 1982, a University of Nebraska police officer had been struck in the back of the neck by a frozen orange and had to be taken to the hospital for treatment. Obviously, throwing oranges wasn’t safe. But it had continued, sometimes on the road as well.
Among the other off-the-field issues about which Husker fans were talking in late November of 1993 was the university’s announcement regarding a new season-ticket policy. Those who owned more than four season tickets would be required to join a booster club. Otherwise, they would be limited to a maximum of four season tickets going forward.
The same policy would apply to basketball season tickets.
Those topics were likely set aside by 1:35 p.m. on the day after Thanksgiving in 1993, however. That’s when the Nebraska-Oklahoma game kicked off.
The 195th consecutive sellout crowd, 75,674, was on-hand at Memorial Stadium. And those who weren’t there could watch the national telecast on ABC, with Brent Musberger on play-by-play, Dick Vermeil the color analyst, and Dean Blevins the sideline reporter.
Blevins had played quarterback at Oklahoma.
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.