It was a time of turbulence in many places, the '60s still crawling out of its infant stage. When Lincolnites awakened on the morning of Sept. 30, 1962, they were met with this banner headline in their local newspaper: "Mississippi's Guardsmen Federalized."

The story explained that 700 U.S. deputy marshals were planning to try to take 29-year-old African-American student James Meredith onto the "Ole Miss" campus to attend classes at the university despite severe resistance from many locals.

President Kennedy was to have a national radio and television address about the subject later that day.

Another headline asked how the 1960s compared with the 1930s. It just goes to show that people have always been comparing how it is now with how it was then.

Another headline about Russian spies.

In many ways, the front page of that day's Lincoln Star was filled with unrest, with worry about what lay ahead.

Except for that one photo in the middle of the page.

Yep, there above the fold was a picture of a bunch of jubilant Nebraska students. Above it, the words: "3,500 Welcome Back Cornhuskers."

The Husker football team had just returned from the Big House, and they had returned with a 25-13 win.

Pay no matter that the 1962 Michigan team would turn out to be a ragtag bunch, finishing just 2-7 that season.

At the time, no one knew the usually stout Wolverines were lacking in material that year. Obviously not the headline writer for the Lincoln Star. "Hear Ye: We're Very Good," were the words above the game story.

That Michigan was hapless that season misses the point.

So many things in this world are about perception, and that day, many will say, helped change the perception of Husker football.

In just Bob Devaney's second game as Nebraska's coach, the Huskers had gone into a stadium that seated more than 100,000 people and licked a Big Ten school.

If there were any doubts about the magnetic Irishman before that day, Devaney had seemed to squelch many of them by the time Nebraskans laid their head to pillows that night.

"I think that was the start of it," recalls Dennis Claridge, the quarterback of those '62 Huskers.

Indeed, in many ways it was the start of a four-decade run of consistent winning by the Nebraska program that would be the envy of college football.

For that reason, Nebraska's last trip to Michigan Stadium is worth remembering even today.

"We felt that game turned the whole program around," said John Melton, a Husker assistant coach from 1962-89. "That made the kids realize that we could win."

Nebraska football had gone 15-34-1 in the five previous years under coach Bill Jennings.

But Jennings had left behind a good group of players. Longtime Husker writer Mike Babcock notes that a dozen players on that 1962 team were NFL draft picks, including Claridge, Bob Brown, Lloyd Voss, Larry Kramer, John Kirby, Rudy Johnson and Kent McCloughan.

Devaney knew he had talent soon after his arrival. And he also knew that a win at Michigan could make a big statement right off the bat.

"We set a team goal that if we didn't accomplish much else during the year, we were going to go up there and beat Michigan," the late Devaney told Babcock in a 1991 interview.

The Big Ten had an aura at the time. And Michigan, playing in a 101,000 seat stadium, certainly had it.

But what the Huskers found that day in Ann Arbor was hardly an intimidating scene. It was "Band Day" at Michigan Stadium. It was no hostile environment. In fact, the announced attendance was just 70,287.

A great Nebraska win came before at least 30,000 empty seats.

The Huskers also figured out they were every bit as good — better, actually — than this particular Michigan bunch.

"Originally there might have been an intimidation factor, playing against some of the big boys," Claridge said. "But after four or five plays, or a series, you realized it was just another football team."

Halfback Dennis Stuewe had a successful day, carrying it just three times but gaining 60 yards and scoring a touchdown.

And then there was fullback Bill "Thunder" Thornton. He didn't start. Didn't even play in the first quarter. But when he got out there, he made himself known. He rumbled for two touchdowns, including a coffin-closing 16-yard score in the fourth quarter.

"The big thing is that this wasn't a fluke win," co-captain Dwain Carlson told reporters after the game.

The Huskers returned to Lincoln as heroes. A 9-2 season was in the making. Devaney's legend was about to be created.

"During different parts of Nebraska football history there have been some big upsets," Devaney told Babcock in that 1991 interview. "But we felt that to get the program going again, to sell people on what we were doing, we had to beat Michigan."

It can't bloom without planting the seed.

And if there's a better place to do it than Michigan Stadium, please do tell.

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