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The United States and the world were in mourning. The preceding day, President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. Nebraskans and Oklahomans joined the mourning over the heart-breaking tragedy. What of the Big 8 championship football game?
Friday night, university officers and officials in both states conferred at length. They were counselled by the NCAA and the Big 8 officials. Neither state nor school wanted to play the game because of the national tragedy — but Oklahoma had a game the following week, and Orange Bowl officials were on hand and needed to know about a representative, the game was a sell-out and thousands of people had traveled into Lincoln, TV staffs were on hand.
Finally, late Friday night, it was the decision of all officials concerned that the game be played. However, all pre-planned festivities were canceled and the huge crowd stood in silent tribute to President Kennedy prior to the kickoff. Flags were at half-staff.
Nebraska thoroughly shocked the powerful Sooners, 5-0 in loop play and 7-1 for the season. It was 17-0 in the fourth quarter, and 29-7 with two minutes left in the game before the Sooners battled back to make the final score 29-20.
Dave Theisen's 27-yard field goal got the Huskers going in the first quarter. Nebraska made it 10-0 in the third period on Rudy Johnson's 10-yard run, capping a 69-yard drive with the second half kickoff. A fumble recovery on the OU 29 set up the next NU score, Claridge scoring from the one.
After Oklahoma scored on a 22-yard pass from Ronnie Fletcher to John Flynn, Theisen intercepted a Sooner pass on the OU 36 and ran to the 15. Four plays later Kent McCloughan scored and it was 23-7 with 7:15 left in the game. On the first play after the kickoff, McCloughan grabbed another Sooner pass and Willie Ross dashed 19 yards to the one, setting up a Duda dive to make it 29-7 with 5:43 left.
Oklahoma refused to quit and after a Husker fumble, the Sooners cashed in with a 27-yard TD run by Wes Skidgel with 1:59 left. Another NU fumble set the stage for Tommy Pannell's 26-yard pass to Skidgel for the final tally with 42 seconds left.
Nebraska had held OU All America fullback Jim Grisham to 16 yards and blunted the No. 2 rushing offense in the country, allowing only 98 yards. Meanwhile, the No. 1 rushing Huskers chalked up 194 yards and had a final yardage edge of 254-213.
With the victory came the invitation from the Orange Bowl Committee to be the Big 8 representative in Miami on New Year's Day.
Nebraska, 9-1 for the season, 7-0 in the Big 8, was booked to meet a fine Auburn team.
Nov. 23, 1963
Oklahoma ....... 0 0 0 20 — 20
Nebraska ....... 3 0 7 19 — 29
NU — Dave Theisen (27-yard field goal)
NU — Rudy Johnson (10, run; Theisen kick)
NU — Dennis Claridge (1, run; Theisen kick)
OU — John Flynn (22, pass from Ronnie Fletcher;
George Jarman kick)
NU — Kent McCloughan (2, run; kick failed)
NU — Fred Duda (1, run; kick failed)
OU — Wes Skidgel (27, run; Jarman kick)
OU — Skidgel (26, pass from Tommy Pannell;
PAT pass failed)
First downs ............ 14 9
Rushing net ............ 194 98
Passing net ............ 60 115
Total offense .......... 254 213
Passes ................. 6-16 5-14
Intercepted by ......... 2 1
Punts .................. 6-27 6-25
Fumbles lost ........... 4 5
Yards penalized ........ 30 6
Leading NU rusher: Willie Ross, 53 yards
Leading NU passer: Dennis Claridge, 4 for 9 — 33 yards