You probably could’ve heard Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” as you sat in traffic after the Nebraska-Colorado game at Folsom Field in late October of 1980, playing on the car radio, or if you were a Cornhusker fan willing to take the almost-certain crowd abuse that went with games in Boulder you might have popped in a cassette tape to listen to the chart-topper, appropriate that afternoon.
Nebraska had handed Coach Chuck Fairbanks’ Buffaloes a seventh consecutive loss. And the Huskers had done it with a third-string I-back, sophomore Roger Craig, and the Blackshirts, who ranked second nationally in scoring defense and third in both total defense and rushing defense in 1980, led by All-American Derrie Nelson and All-Big Eight honorees Russell Gary and David Clark.
On Nebraska’s second series, back-to-back plays, Jarvis Redwine, the starting I-back, left the game with a thigh injury and Craig Johnson, No. 2, suffered a shoulder injury. Enter Craig, who would carry 21 times, gain 176 yards and score three touchdowns in the 45-7 victory.
Johnson, like Redwine a senior, had a history of playing primarily as a back-up during his career as well. In three games against Kansas, he rushed for 439 yards and scored seven touchdowns, one on a school-record 94-yard run, another on a 78-yard pass from Tim Hager his sophomore year.
But Johnson got only one carry against Colorado in 1980.
The Buffaloes had allowed, on average, just over 49 points in six previous losses, a number inflated by the 82 Oklahoma scored against them three weeks before – also in Boulder. Because of such numbers, fan anger had been directed as much at the home team as the visitors.
Bolstered by Nebraska fans who made the trip west, the game had been a sellout, 51,489.
Craig’s success was hardly a surprise. He had averaged 9 yards per carry the year before for Frank Solich’s freshman team. And he had scored a team-high nine touchdowns (and rushed for 303 yards) through six games in 1980, despite getting only 49 carries in mop-up duty.
Craig would score three more touchdowns before season’s end to rank second in the Big Eight and tied with Georgia’s Herschel Walker and North Carolina’s Amos Lawrence for sixth nationally – USC’s Marcus Allen was fifth – in scoring. Craig was second to Redwine, who earned consensus All-America recognition, in rushing for the Huskers with 769 yards, 7.1 yards per carry.
Craig earned all-conference honorable mention from the Associated Press, not bad for a third-stringer. And like Redwine, “Marvelous Jarvis,” Craig had a nickname, “Roger the Dodger.”
The victory, Nebraska’s 13th in a row and 18th in the last 19 games against Colorado, was the Huskers’ third since being upset by Florida State in Lincoln. They had climbed to No. 9 in the AP rankings and would move to No. 4 after three more victories leading up to their final regular-season game.
“And another one gone, and another one gone . . . Another one bites the dust . . .”
Then No. 9 Oklahoma, 7-2, came to town, with Coach Barry Switzer bearing a gift for Nebraska Athletic Director Bob Devaney, much-publicized freshman running back Buster “the man with Luster” Rhymes, and some more Husker-fan-irritating “Sooner Magic.”
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.