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We are stretching the hippocampus of a brain to come up with the first awareness of Nebraska football. It was the mid-1950s and there was a station out of Yankton, S.D., with a potent signal that would provide my father Richard with his daily dose of Paul Harvey's news.
If you happened onto that station on a Saturday afternoon in the fall, you would hear the Nebraska Cornhuskers football game. And what a 10- to 15-year-old kid recalls all these decades later is the suffering of the Huskers' announcing tandem as the woeful seasons stacked up.
Of course, most of our Saturdays were dedicated to listening to the Gophers on AM 830 out of the Twin Cities, but if the kickoff times didn't match, the Cornhuskers were the main alternative in the area surrounding Fulda, Minn.
The eavesdropping out of Yankton started in 1956 (roughly). Pete Elliott was the coach for one season and Bill Jennings for five. The Cornhuskers record was 19-40-1 overall and 11-27 in the Big Seven and Big Eight.
The Gophers and Nebraska had played periodically starting in 1900. Minnesota led the series 29-6-2 when we moved to Prior Lake in the summer of 1962.
The relocation left behind Cornhuskers broadcasts as the distant second option to the Gophers for Saturday afternoon football. And this occurred at the moment that, after years of sadness, the Nebraska radio booth had to become a very joyous place.
Bob Devaney arrived from Wyoming and immediately went 9-2, which included a 36-34 victory over Miami in the second of the two Gotham Bowls to be played in New York City on Dec. 15, 1962.
This led to the greatest sign I've ever seen at a college football game, which was also the greatest college football game I've ever covered, as well as the greatest college football team I've ever watched lose a game.
Devaney performed the amazing feat of turning Nebraska into a national power in 11 seasons (1962-72), and assistant Tom Osborne succeeded him with a quarter-century of grandeur (1973-97), and in the middle of that came the 1984 Orange Bowl:
Nebraska, No. 1-ranked and with an offensive machine known here for putting 84 on the Gophers in the Metrodome, was playing upstart, hometown Miami in the Orange Bowl.
The telecast showed a Hurricanes' fan stuck way up in the second deck with a small sign that read: "Avenge the Gotham Bowl.''
Brilliant. As were Bernie Kosar and the 'Canes, pulling off this upset, 31-30, over the Huskers.
Osborne went for a two-point conversion and the win in the final moments, when a tie surely would have meant Nebraska being voted as national champion — not Miami, zooming up from sixth to first as it did in the next morning's vote.
Tim and Cinda Wacker, and Cindy and Dave Timperley, neighbors in Lincoln, Neb., were at a table in Lyons Pub in downtown Minneapolis at mid-afternoon Friday. The bar on Sixth Street is well-known for its Nebraska crowd on all Huskers game days, and also a gathering place when the Cornhuskers make what's now their biennial visit to Minneapolis for a football game.
Mention was made of the '84 Orange Bowl and Osborne's noble decision to go for two. Dave Timperleynodded his head sadly and said:
"Yeah, but we should've run it, not passed. We were running through them by then. They couldn't have stopped a run.''
Tim Wacker had a special memory from the Huskers' 1983-84 season, involving the 84-13 carnage in the Metrodome.
"I knew the Nebraska fan who ran out and stole the ball out of the huddle that night,'' he said. "Rich Bornhoft. Lived near us. Luckily, his father was a good lawyer.''
The time soon arrived for the reporter to drop the bomb:
P.J. Fleck is 3-1 against you for the Gophers. You haven't had a season as good as Fleck's 11-2 in 2019 in two decades.
So, Dave and Cindy, Tim and Cinda, when did it all go wrong for the Huskers?
Tim: "When they fired Frank Solich after a 10-3 season in 2003.''
Cinda: "I put most of the blame on the athletic directors.''
Cindy: "Yes … our athletic directors have done a poor job."
Dave: "We finally have the right athletic director in Trev Alberts. Great player for us; proven AD.''
OK, but Scott Frost is 15-24 so far in four seasons after being brought in for very big bucks? What are you going to do about the coach?
"They are more physical; the offense is good, the defense is improved; just have to win some close ones,'' Dave said.
"He's going to be OK; it's way better this season than it has been,'' Tim said.
Holy, Husker. This felt like being back in Fulda, listening on Yankton radio, and hearing, "Well, Pete, 3-and-4 is way better than it has been.''