Nebraska unleashed its most colorful and emotional effort of the Tom Osborne era to hang a 31-24 shocker on Alabama. With a Memorial Stadium crowd of 75,899 and a near-nationwide audience of millions watching on ABC, the Huskers pulled out all the stops to give Bear Bryant’s Tide their only defeat of the season. Alabama would finish the season ranked No. 2 in both polls.
Both teams were awesome, sensational, colorful and hard-hitting throughout the well-played TV spectacular. The Huskers scored first on a Billy Todd field goal, but the Tide drove the length of the field to grab the lead 7-3. Nebraska countered with a fake field goal pass that made it 10-7 at the quarter.
Back rolled the Tide, pepped by Jeff Rutledge-to-Ozzie Newsome passes, and it was 14-10 in the second quarter. Then Husker Randy Garcia hit I.M. Hipp with a swing pass that was good for 53 yards, and two plays later Rick Berns scored his second TD to make it 17-14. Rutledge passed Alabama into field-goal position, and with :10 left in the half it was 17-17.
Early in the third quarter, Lee Kunz intercepted a Rutledge pass, and two plays later — 22 yards by Berns and a 17-yard TD sprint by Curtis Craig — the Huskers had a 24-17 edge.
Alabama tried it again early in the fourth quarter, but Nebraska followed with an 80-yard TD drive. Berns leaped high over the goal-line pile with 7:12 left in the game to conclude the scoring.
Nebraska’s young defense — led by two Jim Pillen interceptions — kept the Tide from rolling, and the Cornhuskers were back in the national spotlight with a 1-1 record.
Rick Berns, with 128 yards rushing, three pass receptions for 22 yards, and three TDs, won Big 8 and national honors for his part in the rousing victory.