I.M. Hipp 1978

I.M. Hipp put the Huskers ahead with this touchdown run against Oklahoma in 1978. Nebraska would go on to win the game and clinch an Orange Bowl berth — one that would end with a loss to the very same Sooner squad.

The distance: 8 yards

The star: I.M. Hipp

The date: Nov. 11, 1978

The outcome: Huskers 17, Oklahoma 14

There’s nothing really sexy about the run itself.

I.M. Hipp took a toss pitch from quarterback Tom Sorley, cut upfield behind excellent blocking and ran into the end zone untouched.

That 8-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter isn’t as memorable as eventual Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims’ fumble in the closing minutes, or John Ruud’s violent hit on Kelly Phelps.

But it did give Nebraska a 14-7 lead in a game the Huskers eventually won 17-14 over top-ranked and undefeated Oklahoma — Tom Osborne’s first victory over the Sooners in six tries.

A bitterly cold yet delirious, raucous crowd — one that some fans argue is still the loudest ever at Memorial Stadium — tossed oranges and tore down goal posts.

“I don’t know if Oklahoma really respected us before the game, but I guarantee they respect us now,” said monster back Jeff Pillen, who recovered Sims’ fumble at the Nebraska 3-yard line with 3:27 remaining in the game. Jeff Hansen delivered the crushing blow on Sims.

“They made us look like a fool a few times," Pillen said, "but they had to take a lot of nasty strikes from everyone on this team.”

Including one from Ruud, whose vicious hit on Phelps, the OU kick returner, is arguably the hardest in Husker history. It separated the ball from Phelps, who lay on the turf for a few minutes.

Nebraska, which had just taken a 17-14 lead on Billy Todd’s field goal with 11:51 remaining in the game, recovered the football deep in Oklahoma territory. Only, officials inexplicably ruled Phelps was down and gave — “and I mean literally, gave,” ABC announcer Keith Jackson said — Oklahoma possession.

It didn’t matter, because the Sooners fumbled again, anyway. Oklahoma fumbled nine times, losing six.

“They’ve been known to turn the ball over a lot, and every time they lined up, I’d yell ‘turnover, turnover,’” Nebraska I-back Rick Berns said. “They followed our game play pretty well.”

Berns rushed for 113 yards in the game and became Nebraska’s third all-time leading career rusher.

Nebraska clinched a share of the Big Eight Conference championship, but lost at home to Missouri the following week, setting up a surprising Orange Bowl rematch with Oklahoma.

The Sooners won.

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


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