Tom's Time
Photo Credit: Randy Hampton

Tom’s Time: Oranges in Orbit After Oklahoma Win in ’82

June 13, 2018

All-America center Dave Rimington was skeptical when Tom Osborne added the play during Nebraska’s off-week following a 48-10 victory at Iowa State, the Huskers’ seventh in a row following their only loss of the 1982 season, 27-24 at Penn State. 

Rimington said he hoped Nebraska was ahead or behind by 100 points if it ever used the play.

As it turned out, the Huskers trailed Oklahoma 10-7 in the second quarter on the Friday after Thanksgiving in 1982. The play wasn’t a game-changer, really, but it did set up Nebraska’s second touchdown, a 2-yard run by fullback Doug Wilkening with 11:21 remaining in the half.

One radio announcer described the play as a “bounceroosky,” alluding to a couple of Osborne’s other trick plays: the “fumbleroosky” and the “bummeroosky” (also “bummerooski”).

Quarterback Turner Gill threw a lateral to wingback Irving Fryar, who allowed the ball to bounce as if it were an incomplete pass then scooped it up and passed to tight end Mitch Krenk.

The first-down play gained 37 yards to the Sooners’ 14-yard line.

Wilkening would score another touchdown a little over 4 minutes later for a 21-10 halftime lead.

The “bounceroosky” wasn’t necessarily the most memorable play in the game, though the Lincoln Star marketed a glass mug that included the headline “Nebraska makes it two in a row” and the lead-in to its story on the Osborne trickery. A defensive play in the closing seconds to ensure the 28-24 victory might’ve been appropriate for the mug as well. But more about that later.

Oklahoma had also won seven in a row after a 1-2 start, with losses against West Virginia and USC. Even so, the Sooners were only 11thin the Associated Press rankings. Nebraska had climbed to No. 3, behind Georgia and Penn State, which would defeat No. 5 Pittsburgh 19-10 that Friday.

A Lincoln newspaper headline the next day said: “Nittany Lions near possible national title.” Nebraska fans probably winced when they read the story.

Earlier in the week they also might have winced when the AP reported that Clemson “received the strongest scholarship penalty ever imposed” for “numerous recruiting violations.”

The Tigers had won a national championship at Nebraska’s expense the year before.

But the Huskers had to control what they could control. They needed a win against Oklahoma for the Big Eight championship and a return trip to the Orange Bowl. A win or a tie. According to the Orange Bowl committee, if the teams tied, Nebraska would get the bid.

On the Wednesday before the game, Osborne was asked by a caller from Lexington on his weekly radio show if the Huskers scored a touchdown in the closing minutes to trail by one point would he play for a tie or go for the win with a two-point conversion. He’d go for the win, Osborne said.

A year later, he would be faced with that decision with a national title on the line.

Interest in the Oklahoma game was such that Nebraska sports information director Don Bryant was uncertain how all of the media could be accommodated in the large press box. Newspapers from coast to coast requested credentials, including the New York Timesand the Los Angeles Times.

CBS televised the game, with Gary Bender and former Sooner Steve Davis as analyst.

Musco Mobile Lighting installed lights at Memorial Stadium – as it had at Penn State. Kickoff was scheduled for 1:45 p.m. Actual kickoff was 1:53 p.m. The game ended at 5:10 p.m.

Nebraska and Oklahoma ranked first and second nationally in rushing. 

The Huskers were averaging 395.5 rushing yards per game, and a nation-leading 523.9 yards of offense. They also led the nation in scoring (42.8 ppg).

Oklahoma averaged 344 rushing yards, 408.3 total yards and 27.2 points.

Neither team managed their averages. Nebraska gained 409 yards, including 298 rushing, though it was without I-back Mike Rozier in the second half. Rozier was sidelined by an ankle injury. Even so, he was the Huskers’ leading rusher, with 96 yards on 15 carries.

Oklahoma gained 399 yards, including 284 rushing. Marcus Dupree carried 25 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns, the second on an 86-yard run early in the second half.

Dupree’s touchdown cut the lead to 21-17. Seven minutes later, Roger Craig scored from 3 yards out to make the score 28-17. With 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Stanley Wilson scored from 1 yard, to cap a 13-play, 78-yard drive that ate up nearly 6 minutes on the clock.

As it turned out, Mike Keeling’s extra-point kick would end the game’s scoring.

OK, the other memorable play . . .

With 53 seconds remaining, Nebraska’s Grant Campbell punted from his own 44-yard line to the Oklahoma 28. Sooner quarterback Kelly Phelps – remember him – threw three passes. The first two were incomplete, the third intercepted by Nebraska’s Scott Strasburger.

The defensive end returned the ball to the Sooners’ 1-yard line with 26 seconds left.

Then pandemonium.

Husker fans, “primarily students, many fueled by alcohol, poured onto the field,” according to a Lincoln newspaper account. Fans also pelted the field with oranges.

Nebraska was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, moving the ball back to the 16 and eliminating any chance of another touchdown – much to the chagrin of gamblers, no doubt. 

The Huskers has been favored by 7 to 9 points.

Veteran official Vance Carlson was quoted: “In 25 years in the Big Eight, I never called an unsportsmanlike conduct (penalty) with 24 (actually 26) seconds left in the game.”

After the field was cleared, Husker quarterback Turner Gill took a knee and time ran out.

The pandemonium resumed. The goal posts came down, and Sooner Coach Barry Switzer was knocked down. “It was a bad scene; something I resented,” Osborne was quoted.

Osborne also addressed the throwing of oranges. “That shows no class,” he said. “I don’t know if they understand that an orange thrown from 50 rows up can be lethal.”

The players would be OK, with helmets on. But everyone else was “fair game,” he said.

The fan behavior detracted from the Huskers’ second consecutive victory against Oklahoma, and third under Osborne. Nebraska was the outright Big Eight champion for the second year in a row, with one more game to play, at Hawaii, before returning to the Orange Bowl to play LSU.

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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