Double Extra Point has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 5 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Birth of a Rivalry

A week ago the BlogPoll Roundtable discussion forced me to give some thought as to which team represents Nebraska’s rival. As a Husker fan growing up in the 80s my heart still tells me that Oklahoma should be NU’s major rival. Unfortunately the creation of the Big 12 conference changed the nature of this matchup and another opponent then slid into the traditional Thanksgiving-week slot. That team is obviously the Colorado Buffaloes. With an extra week to think about this year’s game I thought I would take a closer look at this rivalry.

A website devoted to college football rivalries argues that a rivalry must include at least three key components:

1. A relatively long history
2. At least some sense of balance between the two teams
3. Strong feelings between the two teams

In my mind these traits do represent the necessary and sufficient qualities of a college football rivalry. The Nebraska – Colorado series does indeed have a fairly long history and the 2006 contest will be the 65th meeting between the two schools. The series began in 1898 when Coach Fielding H. Yost’s Nebraska squad came away with a 23-10 road win.

The series was also as even as one could get early on. Between 1898 and 1961, Colorado held a slight lead in the series history with 10 wins, 9 losses and 1 tie. This balance, however, would not last. In 1962 Nebraska hired the legendary Bob Devaney and the Huskers quickly gained a stranglehold on the CU series. Over the next 24 years Nebraska went 23-1 against the Buffaloes. The lone loss came in 1967 as Nebraska fell 21-16 to CU in Lincoln.

In 1982, Colorado made their own program-altering hire in Bill McCartney, who quickly pointed to the Nebraska game as a key contest on the Buffalos’ schedule. However, given the disparity that existed in the series history, it would take a monumental upset to generate the types of strong emotions necessary in a true rivalry. For this particular Nebraska fan, this unforeseen event occurred 20 years ago in Boulder on October 25, 1986.

Nebraska entered that game 6-0 and ranked 3rd nationally. Colorado on the other hand, had started the year 0-4 with losses to Colorado State, Arizona, Ohio State and Oregon before knocking off Iowa State and Missouri. Assuming a blowout loomed on the horizon, there was little interest in the game nationally and television networks passed on any coverage of the game. But the Colorado faithful must have sensed something. In what might represent the first of the now commonplace home crowd gimmicks prior to facing Nebraska - former Colorado Governor Richard Lamm declared October 25 to be “Colorado Buffalo Gold Rush Saturday,” and asked students and fans to come out wearing yellow shirts.

Once the game started, Colorado got an incredible performance from its defense which held Nebraska to just 123 yards rushing and 246 total yards. The Buffs never trailed in the game and controlled the momentum by successfully carrying out two trick plays. The first was a 39-yard reverse by wideout Jeff Campbell (which can be seen below) and the second was a 52-yard halfback pass from O.C. Oliver to Lance Carl. When the game ended the scoreboard read Colorado 20 – Nebraska 10. It would stay lit that way through the next day.

In acknowledging the magnitude of the win for his program Bill McCartney stated, “I think we have got a rivalry now.”

The players from both squads responded just as emotionally. The always loquacious Broderick Thomas declared, “I promise as long as I play at Nebraska, Colorado will never ever beat us again. I raise my right hand and promise you, that they will never beat us again as long as I’m with Nebraska.” He later made good on his promise (but we won’t go into his failed promises a year later against OU).

Perhaps the most famous words, however, came from CU running back Mike Marquez: “Nebraska lost twice,” he said. “They lost the game, and they have to go back to Nebraska.”

And, thus, a rivalry was born.

I’ll have more on the history of the Nebraska – Colorado rivalry in the days leading up to the game.