Nebraska-Oklahoma Rivalry Renewed

Wednesday, October 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ It was billed as the Game of the Century II, a matchup of No. 1 Nebraska against No. 2 Oklahoma, with the winner advancing to the Orange Bowl for a chance at the national title.

It wound up being nothing like the original _ Nebraska 35, Oklahoma 31 in 1971. Instead, Oklahoma won 17-7, another victory at a time when the Sooners almost always got the best of the Cornhuskers.

That meeting, on Nov. 21, 1987, in Lincoln, Neb., was the last time the OU-Nebraska game meant anything _ until this year. The two unbeaten teams meet Saturday in Norman, with Nebraska again ranked No. 1 and Oklahoma at No. 3.

In 1987, Oklahoma was 10-0 but looked vulnerable. Quarterback Jamelle Holieway and fullback Lydell Carr were out, both injured two weeks earlier in a game against Oklahoma State.

Holieway had led the Sooners to the 1985 national title as a freshman. The following season, his pass to tight end Keith Jackson in the final minute capped a wild rally in Lincoln and set up a game-winning field goal.

A glitch that occurred occasionally in the Big Eight had Oklahoma playing again in Lincoln in 1987. But the Sooners were heading north one week after a shaky, four-point victory at home over Missouri that had cost them the No. 1 ranking. And they were playing a freshman quarterback, Charles Thompson.

Nebraska was 9-0 and its players were uncharacteristically boastful during the week of the game, particularly quarterback Steve Taylor and defensive end Broderick Thomas. There were predictions of an easy Cornhusker victory.

``Nothing nasty or dirty, just guys really stated their opinions that this was the year and all that stuff,'' said Taylor, who now sells real estate in Lincoln. ``Oklahoma kind of took it to heart.''

Nebraska backed up the boast on its first possession. After recovering an Oklahoma fumble, the Cornhuskers went 84 yards in 10 plays, scoring on a 25-yard run by Keith Jones, to take a 7-0.

But they made no first downs on the next six possessions and managed just two on the six after that.

``Our defense shut 'em down, just stuffed 'em,'' former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer said. ``That's dominant against the No. 1 team in the country.''

Despite that dominance, Oklahoma trailed 7-0 at halftime. The Sooners moved the ball, but lost two fumbles, missed a field goal and had an interception in the first half.

Rickey Dixon intercepted a Taylor pass early in the third quarter, giving Oklahoma the ball at the Nebraska 13-yard line. Two plays later, Thompson pitched on the corner to Anthony Stafford, who scored from 11 yards out for a 7-7 tie.

Late in the third, Oklahoma made it 14-7 when Patrick Collins took a pitch from Thompson and sprinted down the sideline 65 yards for a score.

A field goal in the fourth quarter provided the final points. The Sooners had two other fourth-quarter scoring chances, but lost a fumble at the 5-yard line and missed a field goal.

Thompson, in just his second game, finished with 126 yards on 21 carries and made a prophet of Switzer.

``I remember in the week before the game, I said, 'Charles, you're fixin' to shock the nation because you'll beat Nebraska. You're talented enough that we can beat them with you playing quarterback.' And we did,'' Switzer said.

The game was close only on the scoreboard. Oklahoma had 444 yards of offense, 419 on the ground. Thompson, Collins and Carr's replacement at fullback, Rotnei Anderson, all topped 100 yards rushing. Nebraska had the nation's top-rated offense, but finished with 235 total yards, 60 of those coming in the final two minutes.

``Basically, I just remember they ran the ball down the field,'' said former coach Tom Osborne, who now is running for Congress in Nebraska. ``We didn't stop the fullback. They had a great day running the football and we didn't have as good of a game running the ball.''

Taylor called it a great learning experience.

``You don't add fuel to the fire,'' he said. ``I think we definitely had a better team that day, but they played better.''