40 for 40: Nebraska Football’s Defining Moments – The 1970s Locker Pass Content

By at May 22, 2012 | 12:00 AM | Print

40 for 40: Nebraska Football’s Defining Moments – The 1970s

Nov. 25, 1971 – The Game of the Century

Entire encyclopedias could be filled with words regarding this game. It is as it was – a spectacular clash that lived up to its billing then and remains that way in our memories. It really was great. It still is. The luster of it never wore off.

Thanksgiving Day in the Midwest. No. 1 Nebraska and No. 2 Oklahoma. The powerful Sooner offense hadn’t been slowed down all year while the Huskers’ stingy defense made a living out of stuffing the wishbone.

Nebraska struck first with Johnny Rodgers’ unforgettable punt return for a touchdown.

It’s so good –  a man dipping and darting so instinctively that he seems to be living one full second in the future, knowing where the Sooner defenders will be before they reach the spot – that some fans think it won the game much like Billy Cannon’s return in 1959. But no – it was the first score of many in a crisply-played, white-knuckle affair.

The Huskers twice took 11-point leads only to watch Oklahoma quarterback Jack Mildren, who went on to star as a defensive back in the NFL, lead his team back with effective passing. OU took a 31-28 lead midway through the fourth quarter and appeared ready to make its case for the national title.

However, Nebraska quarterback Jerry Tagge had one more great drive in his long, distinguished career. He completed several key passes to Rodgers on the final touchdown drive while Jeff Kinney, who rushed for 171 yards on 31 carries, did the rest, scoring from two yards out on third-and-goal for the game-winning score.

Although the Huskers had won a share of the national title one year before, the victory over Oklahoma, with a national audience watching, was the moment Nebraska football officially arrived. It’s been quite a ride ever since.

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