SBNation is doing a bit this week where they’ve asked us Sports Web Site Guys to write about our best teams to never win a title. Since we’re Nebraska, we take that as “win a national title”.
Perhaps they expected a story about one team, one season, one year. That’s not possible with Nebraska. I spent 1980-1987 at UNL, smashing a four-year degree into seven. I was looking for myself, dammit, and I finally found myself when I was told there was a limit to the credit hours I could have and still get financial aid. Funny how being up against a wall helps you make decisions.
The 1982 Nebraska Cornhusker football team seems to have been lost in the past.
They were an incredible team, look at the names!
Dave Rimington, Dean Steinkuhler, Roger Craig, Turner Gill, Mike Rozier, Steve Damkroger, Kevin Seibel, Tom Rathman, Mark Schellen, Scott Strasburger, Jamie and Toby Williams. What an ensemble!
They started the season smashing Iowa 42-7. They destroyed #20 Auburn 41-7.
Missouri offered some resistance. Gill went out with an injury in the second quarter and Nebraska was behind in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Bruce Mathison to preserve a 23-19 win.
1982 featured an incredible win over the dirtbags from Oklahoma in Lincoln. There was no “Sooner Magic” in 1982. There was a helluva lot of fun, and I have a full story about that game. Funny how it’s yet another story about me nearly getting killed.
Unfortunately the season came down to a single, horrible play against #8 Penn State on September 25th.
On second and four from Nebraska 17 yard line, PSU quarterback Todd Blackledge hit Mike McCloskey for a 15-yard gain that was clearly out of bounds. Not “might have been” or “appeared to be” as is written by the gutless, but clearly out of bounds. You can see that on this footage from TV at the time, where his right foot is the first one down and at least two feet out of bounds when he comes down. That corner of Penn State’s sideline has since been known as “McCloskey’s Corner”.
No replay available. The official makes the call. Penn State at the two. On the next #$)#(*#$R(#*$& play, Blackledge hits tight end Kirk Bowman for a two-yard touchdown.... that was clearly scooped off the ground. It #)$*#)$(*##$#$# bounced before it got to him for crying out loud!
On September 25, #2 Nebraska was defeated at #8 Penn State by a score of 27-24 in a game that ultimately decided the national title. The outcome of the game was controversial as Penn State tight end Mike McCloskey would later admit catching a key pass out of bounds that kept the winning drive alive. Penn State replaced Nebraska in the new top 5 that was 1. Washington, 2. Pittsburgh, 3. Penn State, 4. Alabama, and 5. Florida.
The Full Game:
It’s a little clearer. You can clearly see McCloskey out of bounds. You can see the trapped ball by Bowman. I take back everything bad I’ve said about replay.
Our beloved Cornhuskers finished the season beating LSU in the Orange Bowl 21-20. It was not a great game, but it was a win. Nebraska was heavily favored, but turned the ball over six times.
Nebraska finished the season #3 in both polls. Penn State went into bowl season #2, but finished #1 in both polls after beating #1 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. SMU, complete with heavy cheating, finished #2.
If nothing else the 1982 season is a lesson that you need luck on your side if you’re going to win a national championship. Luck and karma, unless you’re going to be as dominant as 90s Nebraska. Tom Osborne came so bloody close so many years.
1982 Nebraska. You may have forgotten about them. Maybe you’ve never even heard of them.
But they were close.... oh, so close.