Photo by Randy Hampton
Nebraska Football

Tom's Time: A Defensive Development with a Long-Ranging Impact

August 6, 2020
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White on red. That was Nebraska’s look when it played Oklahoma at Norman on the day after Thanksgiving in 1992, white jerseys with red pants.

So what, you ask? The Huskers had worn white on white for three previous road games that season, two of them losses, most recently a 19-10 embarrassment at Iowa State.

Also, there was the loss against Georgia Tech in the 1991 Citrus Bowl, white on white. And then, the 1986 loss against Oklahoma in Lincoln, red on red.

The message: Don’t mess with tradition, even uniform color schemes.

Although Nebraska was back to white on red for a road game, the Huskers still seemed to be dealing with an Iowa State hangover, 13 days later. Oklahoma, like the Cyclones, controlled the ball during the first quarter. Nebraska ran three plays and Mike Stigge punted, a 51-yarder.

The Sooners ran 27 plays, 18 of them runs, and gained 142 yards—to Nebraska’s six.

Husker linebacker Ed Stewart salvaged the quarter by intercepting a Cale Gundy pass and returning it 50 yards for a touchdown, with 4:35 remaining.

Despite the yardage, Oklahoma managed only a 33-yard Scott Blanton field goal with 8:34 remaining in the first quarter and two more Blanton field goals in the second quarter, one offset by Byron Bennett’s 33-yarder 6 seconds before halftime for a 10-9 lead.

Nebraska took control in the second half, on the way to a 33-9 victory. Calvin Jones ran for two touchdowns, and Travis Hill sacked Gundy for a safety, after Tommie Frazier and Gerald Armstrong opened the scoring with a 24-yard touchdown pass three minutes in.

The catch was just the eighth of the season for Armstrong but the seventh for a touchdown, tying the school single-season record by a tight end, shared by Junior Miller, Todd Millikin and Johnny Mitchell.

Jones rushed for 137 yards on 22 carries. Derek Brown carried 16 times for 88 yards before leaving with a shoulder separation, suffered when he was tackled out of bounds. Both “We-backs” surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the season, the first duo to accomplish that at Nebraska.

Jones led the way with 1,024 yards and 13 touchdowns. Brown had 1,015 yards and four touchdowns. He was expected to miss the Kansas State game, and possibly the bowl.

The game represented a significant step in Nebraska’s national championship run at the end of Tom Osborne’s 25 seasons as head coach. The Huskers’ “dime” defense, which had been used primarily in passing situations, proved effective in stopping the run after the first quarter.

The Sooners rushed for 101 yards in the first 15 minutes but a net of only 44 the rest of the way.

Nebraska went into the game expecting Oklahoma to throw, with Gundy the quarterback after a quarterback controversy that included players boycotting a practice during the previous week over whether Gundy or fifth-year senior Steve Collins should be the quarterback.

Collins had started two games while Gundy was sidelined by injury. Then, when Gundy came back to start against Oklahoma State, Coach Gary Gibbs indicated that Collins would see action, too. He did not. Gundy took every snap in the 15-15 tie, prompting the walk-out.

Gundy, who was 9-of-20 with two interceptions, was booed by Sooner fans late in the third quarter and into the fourth, until Collins finally went in with 3:45 remaining.

Oklahoma managed only 101 yards of offense in the final three quarters.

Nebraska wore down the Sooners Osborne said after the game, a reflection of NCAA sanctions that had reduced Oklahoma’s scholarship numbers. 

Gibbs, who was in his fourth season as head coach after succeeding Barry Switzer, would be fine given some time, said Osborne. He would get only two more seasons.

The game was the Sooners’ last in 1992. They finished 5-4-2, including 3-2-2 in the Big Eight. The victory was Nebraska’s eighth in 10 games. One regular-season game remained, eight days later, against Kansas State in Tokyo—a Wildcat “home” game. 

The Huskers would practice in Lincoln on Sunday and Monday and then leave for Tokyo on Tuesday. They would take red pants with their white road jerseys.

 
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