Saturday's Nebraska - Washington game will be the eighth meeting between the teams. The all-time series is tied at 3-3-1, with Nebraska winning the last two meetings in 1997 and 1998. Saturday's game will be the fifth straight meeting when at least one of them was ranked within the top eight teams nationally.
Over the years, the two teams have had some great games. Both teams have shown a willingness to schedule tough non-conference opponents, which is why they've met four times in the last 20 years.
1925 6-6 Tie
1926 10-6 L
Nebraska and Washington first met in Lincoln in 1925. Washington was coached by a man named Enoch Bagshaw (I kid you not) and had been a member of the Pacific Coast Conference for ten years. Nebraska's coach was Earnest E Bearg, and the Huskers were a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
The 1925 Washington team outscored their opponents 461-39, and lead the nation in scoring, finishing with a 10-1-1 record. Their only loss was to Alabama, 20-19 in the Rose Bowl.
George Wilson was a major star for the Huskies from 1924-26, scoring 14 touchdowns and 85 points in 1925. Nebraska's star was tackle Ed Weir, who was a two-time consensus All-American and the first Husker play to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
1967 17-7 W
Nebraska entered the 1967 contest ranked 10th in the AP poll. Washington was the first game of the season and as the Huskers traveled to Seattle they were greeted with 105-degree heat. All scoring happened during the second quarter, as Husker fullback Dick Davis scored on a one-yard run and quarterback Frank Patrick dove in for a touchdown. Huskie quarterback Tom Sparlin scored on a 52-yard scramble, while Husker kicker Bill Bomberger booted a 20-yard field goal with 31 seconds left in the half to end the scoring.
Nebraska's Bob Devaney would go on to have a 6-4 season, including losing at the end of the season to Oklahoma 21-14. (Devaney would go 6-4 again in 1968, losing to Oklahoma 47-0, which caused many unhappy fans to call for his head - people weren't any less insane then than they are now). Washington would finish the season 5-5.
1991 36-21 L
Fourth-ranked Washington came into Lincoln to face the ninth-ranked Cornhuskers on September 21st. Nebraska was lead by quarterback Keithen McCant, offensive lineman Will Shields, I-back Derek Brown, and receivers Jon Bostick and Tyrone Hughes.
Washington was lead by quarterback Billy Joe Hobert, wide receiver Mario Bailey, and defensive tackle Steve Emtman (who would later be the #1 overall NFL draft pick in 1992 but sadly not have much of a pro career due to injuries).
Nebraska held the lead in the game late into the third quarter, but you could feel the tide turning towards the Huskies. Their offense was just too good to be contained for four quarters and their defense was stifling. You knew it was only a matter of time. The Huskers lead 21-9 late into the third quarter, then the dam burst. Washington scored 27 unanswered points and won 36-21. When it was over, the Huskies had racked up 618 yards, the most given up by a Husker team since 1957.
Most of the talk that season centered around Washington and Miami. Who was the real #1?
Neither would have the chance to settle it, however, as Washington beat #4 Michigan 34-14 in the Rose Bowl, and Miami utterly destroyed Nebraska 22-0 in the Orange Bowl. Washington and Miami split the national title at the end of the season.
1992 29-14 L
1992 felt like a payback game, even though Nebraska was ranked #12 and Washington was #2. Nebraska had the "we-backs" - Derek Brown and Calvin Jones. Terry Connealy and John Parrella lead the defense. Washington had quarterbacks Billy Joe Hobert and Mark Brunell (both would have NFL careers) and running back Napoleon Kaufman.
The game turned out to be a fiasco. Nebraska did not play well largely due to the crowd noise. This is the game when Washington earned it's fame as one of the loudest stadiums in the country, as ESPN sideline crews measured the crowd at 130 decibels.
Quarterback Mike Grant was affected by it all night, being sacked in the first quarter for a safety and throwing two interceptions while the Huskers lost two fumbles and committed a host of penalties. It also created problems for the officiating crew, who obviously lost control of the game.
Proof? Look at the touchdown at 1:29 in the video below. The Washington receiver never comes close to possessing the ball. On top of that, replay showed that he was out of the end zone when he made the phantom touchdown catch, although you really can't see it in this video. (I think at that point I was asked to either shut up or leave the small bar I was at near the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Bastards.)
It was Nebraska's eighth straight loss against top ten teams, leading everyone (including you, admit it, you liar) to question whether Tom Osborne was a coach capable of winning a big one. Not THE big one, mind you, but any big one.
Later that year, Tommie Frazier would take over from Mike Grant as starter at quarterback, and everything came together for Tom Osborne and the Huskers.
1997 27-14 W
Don James had coached the Huskies since 1975, but the program came under fire during the 1992 season with allegations that Billy Joe Hobert had received money (a loan) from a booster. To make a long story short (and to somewhat stay out of the politics of what happened), in August 1993, the Pac-10 conference put Washington on a two-year bowl probation, stripped the Huskies of 20 scholarships and $1.4M in television revenue. Don James resigned in protest, finishing with a 153-57-2 record. The Washington program has never been the same since.
To this day, much controversy surrounds the decision made by the Pac-10. Was the probation deserved, or was the Pac-10 merely out to get James and Huskies because they had just been too damned good during that time frame?
The program was taken over by assistant coach Jim Lambright, nicknamed "Lambo", who did a decent job but never seemed to escape James' success.
Once again, both teams entered the 1997 contest highly ranked, Washington at #2, Nebraska at #7 (AP). Nebraska was lead by quarterback Scott Frost, who was booed by Husker fans at home just the week before, I-back Ahman Green and fullback Joel Makovicka. The defense featured Jason Peters and Grant Wistrom. Washington had quarterback Brock Huard and safety Tony Parrish.
Frost scored on runs of 34 and 30 yards on Nebraska's first two possessions. Huard left the game in the first quarter to be replaced by Marques Tuiasosopo, who faired well and brought the Huskies back from 21-0 to 21-14 late in the third quarter. After an onside kick failed (in the third quarter, trailing by only seven points? Yeah, me too.), the Huskers ruled the fourth quarter on the ground. Kicker Kris Brown would tack on two field goals in the final quarter. After the game, Nebraska would rise to #3, while Washington dropped to tenth (AP). It was Washington's sixth loss in it's last 48 home games.
It was Tom Osborne's final year as the head coach of Nebraska, finishing with a record of 255-49-3.
1998 55-7 W
Nebraska entered the game ranked #2, while Washington was ranked #9. This one was built up as a potential upset for Nebraska, but turned into a laugher by the middle of the second quarter as the Huskers built a 35-0 lead. The Huskers were lead by quarterback Bobby Newcombe, I-back DeAngelo Evans as they racked up 434 yards on the ground. It was the Huskies worst loss since 1975.
2010 - ????
2010 is the second year for Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian, having taken over from Tyrone Willingham, who was fired at Washington after three years, going 11-25 over that time and finishing 0-12 in 2008. If you're thinking that Washington should be a pushover, consider Bo Pelini's re-construction of Nebraska. Sarkisian has further to go, but his 5-7 mark from last year was the best improvement amongst BCS-conference schools in terms of wins.
Will Nebraska be affected by crowd noise, the way they were in 1992? Or will they crush the Huskies with overpowering defense and an explosive offense like they did in 1998? If history is doomed to repeat itself, which of these games is most like where we're at in 2010?