Johnson gives Jacks Double Trouble

Husker Rudy Johnson (left, inset) ducks a tackler on a 36-yard touchdown run against South Dakota State on Sept. 21, 1963.

The distance: 10 yards

The star: Rudy Johnson

The date: Nov. 23, 1963

The outcome: Huskers 29, Oklahoma 20

To play, or not to play?

That’s what the University of Nebraska Board of Regents had to decide — and rather quickly — after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.

Nebraska and Oklahoma were due to play a football game the next day — with an Orange Bowl berth on the line. Yet a nation was in mourning, and many sporting events across the country had already been canceled or postponed.

In the Big Eight, games between Missouri and Kansas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, and Colorado and Air Force were called off.

After two hours of deliberation on Friday evening, there was this official announcement:

“The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska, deeply sorrowful about the death of President Kennedy, believes the people of Nebraska wish to have the Nebraska-Oklahoma game played as scheduled. This will be done.”

The decision was made after consulting with presidents, coaches and athletic directors of both universities, as well as Big Eight executive director Wayne Duke and Nebraska Gov. Frank Morrison, who had asked that the game not be played.

Both CBS and ABC officials announced plans to cancel telecasts of all Saturday games, although Lincoln affiliate KOLN-TV decided it would telecast the Nebraska-Oklahoma game locally.

Flags were at half-staff at Memorial Stadium as a sellout crowd of 38,362 had a long moment of silence before the game.

They weren’t as silent later. Many of them threw oranges after the game’s first touchdown — a 10-yard run by Rudy Johnson in the third quarter — that put Nebraska ahead 10-0.

The Huskers cruised from there, leading 29-7 before Oklahoma scored two late, meaningless touchdowns. The 29 points were the most Nebraska had scored in victory against Oklahoma since 1928.

Nebraska was headed to the Orange Bowl, and students were toppling the steel goal posts after the game.

Reach Brian Rosenthal at 402-473-7436 or You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBR.


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