Steven M. Sipple: Osborne jumps to Gill's defense

2014-05-02T15:50:00Z 2014-05-04T19:06:36Z Steven M. Sipple: Osborne jumps to Gill's defenseBy STEVEN M. SIPPLE / Lincoln Journal Star

Things I know and think I know:

Tom Osborne, sounding as if the 1984 Orange Bowl happened yesterday, on Thursday jumped to Turner Gill's defense.

This historic stuff is kind of fun.

Gill, in a recent interview for an upcoming ESPN documentary on the 1984 Orange Bowl, took full responsibility for the incomplete conversion pass as Nebraska trailed by one point in the final moments.

Had the throw been on the mark, Gill said, the Huskers would've won the national championship. We published Gill's remarks, as told by the documentary's producer, earlier this week. The documentary will air sometime in November.

I've heard from plenty of folks who think Turner is being a bit hard on himself.

"For anyone to say that Turner lost it for us isn't accurate because he played very well," Osborne said. "I thought we were in a good play, it just didn't work out."

Osborne emphasizes Gill's role in rallying Nebraska from a 17-0 deficit. Osborne was especially complimentary of Turner's part in the touchdown that pulled Nebraska to 31-30. Facing fourth-and-8 at Miami's 24-yard line, Gill made a nifty option pitch to Jeff Smith, who sprinted down the sideline to paydirt.

Gill essentially had three options on the play — the first being a slant-route pass to Irving Fryar, who was well-covered, Osborne recalled.

"Turner had to go down the line of scrimmage and look for (Fryar)," Osborne said. "When that wasn't there, he had to exercise the option of whether to pitch it or keep it. Of course, he executed the play perfectly, which gave us a chance. It's not like we ran that play very often."

Osborne recalled Gill as being a "really accurate passer." Gill completed 55.3 percent of his throws that season.

"With Turner, I think probably five out of six times, that two-point conversion throw would've been where it had to be," Osborne said. "It wasn't a really bad throw, just slightly behind. And the guy (defender Ken Calhoun) really only got a fingertip on the ball.

"That's just the way football is, you know."

I know this: The 50th Orange Bowl was a well-played classic and still elicits emotional responses from Nebraska fans. I've heard from dozens this week.

By the way, Osborne said, he never considered sending out Scott Livingston to kick the extra point to tie.

"Never really crossed my mind," said the former coach, who obviously had plenty of confidence in his veteran quarterback.

* A bit more history from Osborne: He recalled August 1976, when his fourth Nebraska team, led by quarterback Vince Ferragamo, was ranked No. 1 nationally in the preseason. Osborne entered that season with an inkling his squad was unworthy of the top spot.

It showed in the season opener, as Nebraska tied unranked LSU 6-6 in Baton Rouge, La.

"We had a fairly good team, not a great team," Osborne said.

Oh, those dadgum preseason rankings.

It makes more sense to release rankings, say, about halfway through a season, which is precisely the plan announced Wednesday by the College Football Playoff selection committee.

It will announce interim rankings throughout the second half of the 2014 season, with the first Top 25 set for release Oct. 28.

"I think the thought was by that time, the season has begun to take shape," said Osborne, a committee member. "People have played enough games that you have something to go on."


He noted that teams ranked near the top of preseason polls obviously have an advantage, even if they don't necessarily deserve it — as was the case for Nebraska in 1976.

"Losing 6-6 wasn't all that bad, but it was perceived as a very bad loss," said Osborne, whose Huskers went on to finish 9-3-1, capped by a win against Texas Tech in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl.

* Classy: Nebraska men's basketball coach Tim Miles' congratulatory tweet to former Husker coach Doc Sadler, the man Miles replaced. "He'll do a great job at Southern Mississippi," Miles tweeted.

Tacky: Magic Johnson celebrating embattled Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni's resignation. "Happy days are here again!" the Hall of Famer tweeted.

TNT analyst Charles Barkley says he thought Magic was better than that. Nope. Instead we get example No. 1,889,789 of a society that has become, in the words of Journal Star Sports Editor Darnell Dickson, "casually cruel."

* "Mr. Unreliable" was the woefully misguided headline Thursday for a column in The Oklahoman newspaper about Oklahoma City Thunder great Kevin Durant's playoff performance. No wonder the sports editor apologized (his apology was shown on the ESPN scroll Thursday. Ouch).

You see it often in sports journalism. Journalists go out of their way to prove they're objective, to the point where they lose objectivity. But "Mr. Unreliable"? Sounds like somebody in the newsroom is taking the Thunder's losses pretty hard.

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