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H U S K E R    D A N
 

February 10, 2011
 
FEELIN’ GOOD ABOUT THEM HUSKERS
Recently, I attended a Husker football banquet at the Shrine Temple in Omaha. The guest speaker, Jeff Jamrog, sensing the uneasiness most Husker fans have been feeling ever since last year's season-ending slide, offered some positives about the 2010 season. As everyone knows, the Huskers lost three of their last four games and finished the year at 10-4. Only a crummy Colorado team kept the Huskers from possibly finishing the season with a goose egg. (Maybe Husker fans should be delirious over a 10-win season, because it was just three short years ago that the Nebraska football program was in shambles.)

Jamrog didn't try to apologize or make excuses for the slide, but tried to mollify the Husker faithful with some feel-good information. He pointed out that Nebraska's record over the last three years compared favorably with that of other elite football programs. Bo's record of 29 wins at Nebraska puts him behind Oklahoma (32) and Texas (30) but tied with Southern Cal (29) and ahead of such powerhouse programs such as LSU (28), Florida State (26) and this year's national championship Auburn Tigers (27).

But Jamrog forgot to mention that in 2010, for the first time in nine years, the Huskers finally beat a Top 10 team (#7 Missouri Tigers 31-17 at home). Not since Nebraska defeated #2 Oklahoma in Lincoln (20-10) in 2001 had that happened. I got to thinking, has Nebraska ever defeated two AP Top 10 teams back-to-back during the regular season? If so, when did it happen and who was the head coach?

Give up?

Let's go back to the beginning of the "modern" era of Husker football.

BOB DEVANEY (1962-1972)
Bob Devaney, in just his second year as the Husker head coach, achieved something that had never been done in all of Husker football history. He had back-to-back wins over two TTT, beating 6th-ranked Oklahoma to end the regular season and defeating 5th-ranked Auburn in the Orange Bowl. (Those two wins, while consecutive, weren't both during the regular season.) Devaney would experience seven more TTT losses before tying #3 Southern Cal (10-10) in 1970 and ending the season with NU's only TTT win that year, a 17-12 victory over #5 LSU in the Orange Bowl. Of course, every Husker fan knows that the 1970 win over LSU earned Nebraska its first-ever national championship.

The next year, in 1971, his second NC Husker team achieved another program first: It beat three TTT (#9 Colorado, #2 Oklahoma and #2 Alabama, 38-6 in the Orange Bowl). But the regular-season wins over CU and OU weren't in consecutive games.

Devaney stayed on for one more year to try to win three consecutive NCs but fell short with a 9-2-1 season. The only TTT his team faced that year was in a 14-17 loss at home to Oklahoma. (I still remember Johnny Rodgers' touchdown reception that was disallowed because he had run out of bounds before catching the ball. Under current rules, I believe the score would have counted.)

TOM OSBORNE (1973-1997)
In just his first year, TO also got two wins over TTT by beating #10 UCLA and #8 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, but once again, the wins were weeks apart.

Osborne's '77 team beat #4 Alabama and 7th-ranked Colorado, and it was another two such wins in '84 when the Huskers downed #8 UCLA and #9 Oklahoma State. And in a repeat of Devaney's '71 squad, the 1988 Huskers registered three TTT wins with victories over #10 Texas A&M, #10 Oklahoma State and #9 Oklahoma. But again, there were no back-to-back wins over any TTT.

It would be another six years ('94) before Osborne's teams would get more than one TTT win. In '94 – Osborne's first national championship season – the Huskers got two non-consecutive victories over TTT (#2 Colorado and #3 Miami in the Orange Bowl).

And then something remarkable happened the following year in '95 – something that may never again be accomplished. More later.

Osborne's '96 squad had another two wins over TTT, downing #5 Colorado and #10 Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. And in '97, Osborne's last year, he did it one last time with two more wins over TTT, beating #2 Washington and #3 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl.

FRANK SOLICH (1998-2003)
In Frank Solich's second year at Nebraska ('99), the Huskers beat two TTT (#5 Kansas State and #6 Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl). Again, the two wins weren't consecutive. For the rest of his career at Nebraska, Solich's teams would beat only one TTT, beating the Sooners 20-10 in Lincoln in 2001.

BILL CALLAHAN (2004-2007)
In his four-year stint as the Husker head coach, Billy C. failed in all seven of his attempts against TTT.

BO PELINI (2008-PRESENT)
Bo Pelini's first team came within inches of getting a TTT win when it lost in OT at #7 Texas Tech, 31-37. And last year, after a nine-year hiatus, Nebraska finally beat a TTT with a 31-17 home win over the #7 Missouri Tigers.

BACK TO OSBORNE'S ’95 TEAM
Tom Osborne's '95 Husker team, regarded by many as the best college football team ever, did do something remarkable. With wins over #8 Kansas State (49-25) and a convincing 44-21 win the following Saturday over #7 Colorado, Nebraska did what no other Husker team in school history had done before or has done since – win back-to-back regular-season games over teams ranked in the Top Ten. And two weeks after that, Nebraska crushed #10 Kansas, 41-3. And by destroying #2 Florida 62-24 in the Fiesta Bowl, the Huskers reached another Husker football milestone. Nebraska went a stunning 4 for 4 against TTT!

THE NAME GAME
As most Husker fans know, Big Ten commish Jim Delany came up with some cockamamie names for the two conference divisions. He could have saved himself and 90% of Big Ten fans a ton of grief by dividing the league into East and West. Who could argue with that one?

But instead of using geography and a dose of common sense to divvy up the league, Jimbo decided to pull division names out of a hat. His Leaders and Legends monikers stink to high Heaven (whatever that means).

And so in a desperate attempt to come up with alternative divisional names, I asked you, the informed, astute and creative readers that you are, to send me your suggestions. To protect the innocent, I'm leaving out most of the names. So here goes. If you want to chime in on this contest, email me at HuskerDan@cox.net. Almost nothing is worse than the L&L. Well, almost nothing...

BIG TEN DIVISIONAL OPTIONAL NAMES
Boxers and Briefs
Paper and Plastic
Hope and Change
Real and Silicone
Original and Extra Crispy (Mrs. Husker Dan)
Cutters and Canners (from Verdigre, NE)
Stars and Stripes (I like this one!)
Righty-Tighty-Lefty-Loosey
Analog and Digital
Topsy-Turvy
Here and There
Steers and Gears (cattle and cars)
Letter and Legal
Plain and Simple
Sweet 'N Low
Wax and Wane
Oil and Water
Finders/Keepers-Loosers/Weepers
(Sigh...)

HUNT WITH THE HUSKERS
Gerry Gray with Great Plains Marketing (www.greatplainsmktg.com) wants to invite you to his annual "Hunt With The Huskers" event scheduled for Saturday, March 19th at the Oak Creek Sporting Club (www.oak-creek-club.com). I was there last year and so were about 25 former Husker football greats, including Zach and Erik Wiegert, Dan Pensick, Brenden Stai, Joel Makovicka, Marc Munford, Matt Hoskinson, Terry Connealy, Chad Kelsay, Chris Dishman, Dr. Rob Zatechka and Adrian Fiala. You can call Oak Creek at 866-625-4868 or Gerry Gray at 402-393-0492 for reservations. More details here. Don't miss this one!

ERIC CROUCH INVITE
Eric Crouch wants to let you know about the 2011 Creating Captains Benefit that is scheduled for Saturday, February 19th at 6:30 p.m. The event will be held at the DC Centre at 11830 Stonegate Circle in Omaha. CC is designed to empower student athletes to live a life of character, both on and off the playing field. The organization was founded in 2008 by Matt "The Catch" Davison. There will be a dinner, silent auction and entertainment. For more information, go to www.creatingcaptains.org/2011_event.

Send your comments to huskerdan@cox.net. For past Husker Dan columns, click here.