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70 at 50: Cornhuskers survive Sooner scare, 28-21
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70 at 50: Cornhuskers survive Sooner scare, 28-21

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Bob Devaney being carried off the field after  win over OK in 1

Bob Devaney is carried off the field after NU's win over Oklahoma on Nov. 23, 1970. NU beat Oklahoma 28-21. 

Editor’s note: This story appeared in the Nov. 22, 1970, editions of the Lincoln Journal and Star.

Late in the first half Saturday, as Nebraska was playing catch-up to Oklahoma, Orange Bowl representative Frank Rentz nervously noted “this is a pretty good football game … but that’s not what I came to see.”

Rentz wasn’t alone. Had the temperature been around 20 degrees higher, Memorial Stadium’s AstroTurf surface might have been inundated with nervous sweat by the time the unbeaten Cornhuskers finally escaped, 28-21.

It wasn’t until Cornhusker cornerback Jim Anderson picked off a deflected pass in the Nebraska end zone as the clock ran out that any of the 67,392 folks on hand could relax.

Ending the longest 85 seconds the Cornhuskers have endured all season, the late theft gave Nebraska its sixth Big Eight title in nine years and extended an unbeaten string to 18 games, longest in the Bob Devaney era.

The Sooners, who in 1964 and 1966 ruined unbeaten Nebraska seasons and ended long winning streaks, came agonizingly close to doing it again. Their strong showing against the nation’s third-ranked team was impressive enough to earn them an invitation to play in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston New Year’s Eve.

The Orange Bowl-bound Cornhuskers rallied twice to earn a 14-14 halftime tie and went ahead by a touchdown twice in the second half, but everything they had going in maintaining a shot at the national title was on the line in the last 85 seconds.

Oklahoma took possession on its own 29 when Paul Rogers’ bid for a clinching field goal from 27 yards sailed outside the right upright.

Cornhusker middle guard Ed Periard broke through to spill Sooner quarterback Jack Mildren for a 4-yard loss on the first play, but his big effort was wiped out as the Cornhuskers were detected holding at the 25. That gave Oklahoma the ball at their own 40 with 1:15 remaining.

Mildren, who had directed a well-conceived ground attack which ripped the Nebraska defense for 276 yards, didn’t have time to do anything but put the ball in the air.

He nibbled away with short pitches and one run to move the Sooners to the Nebraska 32 with 37 seconds left. Everything finally boiled down to a fourth-and-5 bid from the Nebraska 27 with just five seconds left.

Mildren called on ex-high school teammate Jon Harrison for a deep pattern over the middle. Harrison went up amidst three Cornhuskers — Bill Kosch, Joe Blahak and Dave Morock — in a giant tangle of arms and legs. The ball was tipped up and Anderson came across from his corner position to grab it on the run.

It was his second interception of the day and the third by the Cornhuskers, who established a new team and Big Eight record of 30 interceptions for the year.

The Sooners stubbornly resisted Nebraska’s attempts to blow the game open, establishing early that they were in it all the way when they stopped Nebraska’s high-scoring attack twice inside their six-yard line in the first 10 minutes of play.

The first time they shook the ball less from Johnny Rodgers just after he grabbed a Jerry Tagge pass at the Oklahoma five.

Steve Casteel recovered the fumble and moments later came up with the stop on Joe Orduna on a fourth and goal bid from the Oklahoma one.

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