The distance: 41 yards

The star: Frank Solich

The date: Sept. 25, 1965

The outcome: Huskers 27, Air Force 17

The story: Gone in 15 seconds.

That’s how much time it took Frank Solich, “the bulldog-tough Husker fullback," as described by The Lincoln Star, to run 80 yards for a touchdown that day in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“I was a little surprised,” Solich said of all the daylight he found on the game's first play. “But it was a delightful surprise.”

It was just an appetizer. Before the game was over, Solich would score three times and run for 204 yards against Air Force, the first Husker player to rush for more than 200 yards.

Turns out Nebraska would need every bit of Solich’s efforts to emerge unscathed. At first, the game seemed to be some sort of crude joke on the cadets, the Huskers holding a 21-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.

The Huskers were showing good reason why Sports Illustrated had ranked them as its preseason No. 1 team and sent one of its photographers to the game to catch snapshots of Nebraska’s dominance.

But the Huskers faded, struggling with the altitude, and in very real danger late in the third quarter, holding a tenuous 21-17 lead.

Back to Solich again.

Forty-one yards from the end zone, he rammed into the left side of the line, appearing to be stopped for no gain. Instead, he spun away from would-be tacklers into green grass, running free.

Air Force coach Ben Martin was in the officials' ears. He thought the play had been blown dead.

“I didn’t hear any whistle,” Solich said.

And so the Huskers survived, glad to get out of town with a 27-17 win against a team that handed Nebraska its only loss in 1963.

Someone asked Bob Devaney about his team possibly being No. 1 in the next week’s polls.

“We’re not No. 1 and that’s fine with me,” Devaney said. “When I think we should be No. 1, I’ll fight for it.”

If the day left something to be desired for Husker fans, the season didn’t. Nebraska finished 10-0 in the regular season, not losing until it met Alabama in the Orange Bowl.

Devaney’s boys were sitting on the cusp of greatness. But it’d take a few more years, and lumps, before that door was ready to be opened.

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.