In talking with a buddy recently, he did not realize Nebraska is the only team to face both Manning brothers (Peyton & Eli) in a bowl game. We then got to talking about other great NFLers that played against Nebraska. I thought it might be cool to put a list of the more recent ones that I recall (I am not good with anything prior to 1985 due to age).
2002 - Independence Bowl vs. Ole Miss - L, 23-27
Eli Manning broke our amazing streak of 40 consecutive winning seasons. He had a good game, 25 of 44 (56.8% comp), 313 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, sacked 4 times. But, it was our offense that faltered in the second half. The Huskers had a lead in the first half, but Ole Miss made adjustments at half and kept the O quiet the rest of the day. I remember Groce's punt return for a TD that I thought gave the Huskers enough momentum. Lord really did not have a good day. Eli got the better of us, but would love to see how he would have done against the better defense of a few years prior.
1998 - Orange Bowl vs. Tennessee- W, 42-17
I will never forget thinking that Peyton Manning was not that big of a deal because the Huskers just embarrassed him. He had a tough day and was consistently running for his life. I remember him being pulled towards the end of the game and he ended the day with 21 of 31 (67.7% comp), 134 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, sacked 1 time. As much as I remember Peyton being under duress, I cannot believe we managed only one sack, but Peyton was throwing short passes on check-downs to avoid the rush. I loved this game, as it made up for the disappointing previous year. Well, this game did not do anything to hurt Peyton.
1988 - @ UCLA, L 28-41
I remember enough about this game, as it was only a few weeks prior that I was in Giants Stadium for the Kickoff Classic vs. Texas A&M. UCLA went up big in the first quarter, with my dad and I barely watching the rest of the way, mostly because it was a second half stalemate. Troy Aikman put up decent numbers against the Huskers, 13 of 22 (59% comp), 205 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, sacked 2 times.
1988 - vs. Oklahoma State, W 63-42
I always remember this one as the Clark game, as he out-rushed the immortal Barry Sanders. The Huskers put up a lot of points in the first quarter against the Cowboys, but Barry carried them back into the game. He ended the day with 35 carries, 189 yards, 5.4 avg, 4 TDs. But, the stats were Clark's to be had, as he had 27 carries, 256 yards, 9.4 avg, 3 TDs. I also remember Taylor having a few nice breakaway runs too.
1995 - Orange Bowl vs. Miami, W 24-17
Had to throw in at least one defensive guy and I love picking on Warren Sapp. I could not find what his final tackle count was for the game, but I will always remember two things: 1. That tackle he made on an IB shovel to Lawrence Phillips that would be a horse-collar tackle by today's standards and 2. Him sucking oxygen on the sidelines in the 4th quarter while our o-linemen were still playing strong. This is my favorite Husker game I have ever watched. A lot of people will choose the '96 Fiesta Bowl or the '98 Orange Bowl because we dominated. What I love about this game is how we came back. Miami was playing dirty and got called for kicking one of the Peter brothers (I think Christian) and I was sure he would lose his temper. Quite surprised I was when he didn't and kept his cool like you would expect an Osborne coached player to do. And recently when I found out that Sapp was heckling Frazier towards the end of the game. Loved this game!
So, these are just a few of the NFL greats the Huskers have encountered (don't know if you consider Sapp great, he was good, but maybe not great). I was not alive during the Sayers era, therefore do not know how he fared vs. the Huskers. I am sure we had more than this and would love to hear about some of the older games.