What is the best Husker football team to never win a championship?
There are a few teams that could legitimately be proposed as an answer to that question, but I chose The Scoring Explosion, the 1983 Husker football team.
The ‘83 team was ranked #1 in the AP poll the entire season. It was no surprise they were so highly regarded after returning the major contributors from the 1982 team went 11-1. (Jon wrote about the 1982 Cornhuskers yesterday.)
The only poll that the 1983 Cornhuskers were not #1?
The final one.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Most of you know that story.
1983 Nebraska Football In a Nutshell
Season record: 11-1
Offense: 52.0 points/game
Defense: 15.5 ppg
Average yards of offense: 547 FREAKIN’ YARDS PER FREAKIN’ GAME! (402 rushing and 145 passing). No wonder this entire state is made up of RunTheDangBall guys. Every time this team snapped the ball, they gained 7.2 yards on average.
Leading Rusher: Mike Rozier - 2148 yards
Leading Passer: Turner Gill - 1516 yards
Leading Receiver: Irving Fryar - 780 yards (19.5 yards PER RECEPTION)
The Triplets. The Scoring Explosion.
- Heisman Trophy - Mike Rozier (also the Maxwell Award, Big 8 Player of the Year, and 1st Team All-American)
- National Coach of the Year - Tom Osborne
- Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy - Dean Steinkuhler (and 1st Team All-American)
- All-Americans (not already mentioned) - Irving Fryar (1st Team), Turner Gill (2nd Team), Scott Raridon (3rd Team)
Other Crazy Stats
- This team only attempted four field goals all season. Three were good.
- Mike Rozier broke at least 16 Nebraska school records
- That Blackshirt defense grabbed 21 interceptions and gained over 300 yards of field position in the process. Meanwhile, the offense only threw six interceptions and allowed opponents to return those for a TOTAL of 14.7 yards
Game 1 - Nebraska 44 Penn State 6
The Huskers avenged the “McCloskey’s Corner” loss of 1982 by destroying the defending national champions in the Kickoff Classic. The Nittany Lions scored their only points with 20 seconds left in the game.
Game 2 - Nebraska 56 Wyoming 20
Tom Osborne was publicly critical of the effort on defense in the second half of the game (of course he was). The Scoring Explosion only possessed the ball for 3 1⁄2 minutes in the second quarter and scored 21 points (source).
Below is coach’s film for a small portion of the game. There is no sound, but I found it interesting (for a few minutes anyway).
Game 3 - Nebraska 84 Minnesota 13
Yes, you read that right. The worst beating in the history of Minnesota football. See this flashback from the Omaha World Herald “Minnesota Once Told the Huskers They Were No Good - Nebraska Responded with 84 Points”.
Check out these highlights!
Game 4 - Nebraska 42 UCLA 10
The Bruins got out to a 10-0 lead before the Huskers rolled. This game was Tom Osborne’s 100th career win as head coach. One of the most famous plays of Mike Rozier’s career was a two-yard run that covered many more yards than that (embedded below).
Game 5 - Nebraska 63 Syracuse 7
This game was a snoozer. What most people remember about this series was the stunning upset the Orangemen pulled in 1984 when they won 17-9.
Game 6 - Nebraska 14 Oklahoma State 10
The Jimmy Johnson led Cowboys designed a masterful defensive game plan and their gambles paid off as they took the #1 team in the nation down to the wire. All-American safety Bret Clark intercepted an OK State pass in the end zone on the final play of the game to preserve the undefeated season.
Hail Varsity has a really article looking back at that game.
Game 7 - Nebraska 34 Missouri 13
Irving Fryar was sick that day, but still propelled the Huskers to a convincing win vs the Tigers. Here’s the DataOmaha recap.
Game 8 - Nebraska 69 Colorado 19
Hahahahaha! Maybe the Buffs are a rival after all. Game recap.
Game 9 - Nebraska 51 Kansas State 25
The Wildcats did their best, but they were no match for the Huskers. Game recap.
Game 10 - Nebraska 72 Iowa State 29
One of Tom Osborne’s quotes from the game... “We had a hard time stopping them.”
Game 11 - Nebraska 67 Kansas 13
It’s Kansas. ‘Nuff said.
Game 12 - Nebraska 28 Oklahoma 21
No Husker team had gone unbeaten (or without a tie game) in the regular season since the 1971 team (one of the greatest ever.) Oklahoma frequently stood in the way of a championship for Nebraska. Not this year.
However, in a season where the Husker offense stole the show, this was the second time in 1983 that a game pivoted upon a defensive stand. Read the DataOmaha recap for more.
Game 13 - Orange Bowl - Miami 31 Nebraska 30
Any Husker fan knows this story, even if they are not old enough to have witnessed it in person. The Huskers were down 31-17 in the fourth quarter. They rallied to score one touchdown. 31-24. And then another. 31-30 with 48 seconds left in the game.
Tom Osborne had a choice. Kick the extra point and tie the game. The Huskers were still likely to be named national champs - or at least share the title if they kicked the XP.
Osborne made the call. He wanted no questions. No doubt.
Go for two.
The pass from Gill to Jeff Smith was broken up and Miami ended up winning the national championship for 1983.
Watch and weep.