Little if anything remarkable happened on the practice field Monday as the Cornhuskers resumed two-a-days. What occurred afterward, though, has become ingrained in the lore surrounding the 1970 season.
More than two dozen sports journalists observed the Huskers’ afternoon practice as the Big Eight Skywriters tour hit Lincoln. When the workout was finished, the reporters pumped the players for quotes.
The Huskers didn’t disappoint.
Junior quarterbacks Jerry Tagge and Van Brownson said the team had what it took to run the table. Turning it up a notch or two further was senior linebacker Jerry Murtaugh, who not only predicted a national championship but also served up prime bulletin board material for at least two opponents. Nebraska was going to lay a licking on Southern Cal, and all-conference quarterback Lynn Dickey of Kansas State was prone to being rattled.
Junior I-back Jeff Kinneyintervened in an attempt to minimize the damage. “You just look pretty,” Kinney reportedly advised, “and let me do the talking.”
Earlier this month, Kinney chuckled as he confirmed with HuskerMax the gist of what took place, although the specifics of who said exactly what to whom had been blurred by the passage of half a century.
Also contacted this month, Murtaugh remembered it this way: “One writer asked, ‘How do you think you are going to do this year?’ I looked up and I said, ‘We’re going to win them all. Nobody is going to beat us.’ I kept talking. That’s when Kinney comes running over and grabs me.”
In a 2004 interview, Murtaugh recalled the chewing-out he got from coach Bob Devaney: “He said, ‘You got to keep your damn mouth shut. You can’t be doing this crap, Murtaugh!’ and on and on. I had to start running stadium steps again.
“I started it off right every year. I got in trouble. I was in great shape. Lots of steps. Lots and lots of steps.”
Oddly enough, Murtaugh’s chatter caused no more than a ripple in the press. Reporters for the Lincoln and Omaha papers evidently weren’t present when he spoke.
Two things, however, had been made clear: This Nebraska team was unafraid of setting a high bar for itself. And Jerry Murtaugh hadn’t lost his knack for landing in the Devaney doghouse.
In other news from Monday, these were among the announced lineup changes:
Sophomore Johnny Rodgers was now alone at the top flanker spot.
Sophomore Doug Dumler was the new No. 1 at center.
Junior John Adkins was now the top man at left defensive end.
Sophomore Monte Johnson was moved up to No. 2 at middle guard.
Southern Cal thumped Nebraska 31-21 in last year’s season opener in Lincoln. It was a game that perhaps irked the Cornhuskers more than any other.
As All-Big Eight linebacker Jerry Murtaugh said a few weeks ago, “They got the jump on us last year. I think this year we’ll beat the hell out of ’em.”
Jerry Murtaugh, Nebraska’s all-league linebacker, believes the Huskers’ pass rush “shook up” Lynn Dickey in last year’s 10-7 victory over K-State. “We put a rush on Dickey, and he kinda got shook back there,” Murtaugh says. “He was back there scrambling, and it threw him off.”
From Howard Brantz’s column of Sept. 6, 1970, column in the Omaha World-Herald:
There was an interesting story making the rounds during the skywriters’ stopover at Lincoln.
The story, unconfirmed so far (but we’re watching the Big Eight papers closely) goes like this:
Husker linebacker Jerry Murtaugh was asked what he thought of Kansas State’s chances in the Big Eight. Jerry reportedly replied: “I don’t think they are so hot because Lyunn Dickey isn’t as good when he has the pressure on him.”
About that time Jeff Kinney, a good listener, joined Murtaugh for a golf cart ride back to the other end of the field where the television boys were cutting tapes.
Jeff is said to have told Murtaugh: “Jerry, no more remarks like that. When we get up there, you just look pretty and let me do the talking.”
Everybody in Husker land will deny the conversation ever took place. And if it did, that might just put an end to player interviews at N.U.