Nebraska lost three fumbles and had 141 yards in penalties, on the road. And not just any road venue, Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, where a then-record 84,587 were on-hand.
Not to worry, though. Lance Van Zandt’s Blackshirts saw to that.
The Husker defense intercepted three passes and recovered four fumbles. And it sacked Penn State quarterbacks Jeff Hostetler and Todd Blackledge nine times.
That’s right, nine times. No misprint there.
Defensive ends Derrie Nelson and Jimmy Williams, both of whom had walked on at Nebraska, had two sacks apiece during the 7-0 first quarter.
Nelson also recovered a fumble in the quarter. The tone was set.
The Nittany Lions managed only 142 yards of offense in the game, including a net of 33 rushing because of the sacks. Sophomore Curt Warner carried 16 times for 80 yards.
Nebraska I-back Jarvis Redwine out-gained Penn State, carrying 34 times for 189 yards and two touchdowns. The senior from Inglewood, California, led the nation in rushing two games into the season, with fewer carries. He gained 179 yards and scored three touchdowns on 17 carries in a 55-9 victory against Utah and followed with 153 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries in a 57-0 victory against Iowa, as the Huskers climbed from a No. 7 preseason ranking to No. 3 going to Penn State.
Redwine was the cover subject of Nebraska’s 1980 media guide, in which Coach Tom Osborne was quoted, “of all the players we’ve had since Johnny Rodgers, Jarvis has the best shot at the Heisman Trophy if he continues to work hard and has another great year this season.”
Redwine had rushed for 1,042 yards as a junior, after a redshirt season following a transfer from Oregon State. Husker assistant Gene Huey, then at New Mexico, had recruited Redwine out of high school. Redwine had a falling out with Beavers’ Coach Craig Fertig, contacted Huey, and decided to pay his own way to Nebraska rather than continue playing for Fertig.
Redwine began the 1979 season behind Isaiah Hipp and Craig Johnson on the depth chart, but stepped in as the starter in the fourth game against New Mexico State, after coming off the bench to rush for 124 yards in a 42-17 victory against Penn State the week before.
He would effectively miss two games late in the season after suffering a knee injury at Missouri when the Tigers’ Norman Goodman hit him in the knee while Redwine was blocking for an extra-point kick. Nebraska coaches claimed the injury was intentional, a reflection of continuing tension between the programs – fueled by former Husker Warren Powers’ being the Tigers’ head coach.
Redwine would return, only to be hampered by an ankle sprain, suffered against Iowa State. Even so, Nebraska was in the national championship hunt according to Sports Illustrated, and “more than any one player, Redwine is responsible for Nebraska aspiring to No. 1 in 1979,” Doug Looney wrote in the Nov. 12 issue, which included Redwine on the cover.
Redwine, considered among the fastest in Nebraska football history at the time, was first-team All-Big Eight as well as the Big Eight Newcomer of the Year in 1979. He was nicknamed “Marvelous Jarvis” and voted the Huskers’ most popular player, an award given by the Hinky Dinky grocery chain.
Redwine was included on Playboy magazine’s 1980 preseason All-America team. The teams, picked by Anson Mount, were prestigious, though some players and coaches declined the recognition.
While Nebraska was rolling up 445 yards against Penn State – quarterback Jeff Quinn completed 12-of-17 passes for 158 yards and scored one touchdown – Husker nemesis Oklahoma, ranked No. 4, was losing to Stanford, in Norman, 31-14, and No. 9 Florida State, Nebraska’s next opponent, was upset at Miami. The Hurricanes, directed by sophomore quarterback Jim Kelly, won 10-9.
Alabama and Ohio State were first and second in the polls.
Redwine, with 521 yards, and six touchdowns, continued to lead the nation in rushing, as the Huskers prepared for Florida State’s first visit to Memorial Stadium.
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.
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.