The original Thanksgiving rival
Barry Switzer (left) Tom Osborne (right)
Barry Switzer (left) Tom Osborne (right)
BRR contributor
Posted Nov 27, 2013


Before Iowa and Colorado, Nebraska played most Thanksgiving weekends against Oklahoma and the game nearly always had national implications.

The Nebraska/Oklahoma series and rivalry may now be a thing of the past, but for two decades it was THE game in college football. Seemingly every time these two hooked up on Thanksgiving Day weekend, a conference championship and chance at the national championship was on the line.

From 1970 to 1989, both Nebraska and Oklahoma were ranked in the top 10 15 times when they met. Each had highly ranked undefeated teams in some of those meetings, with aspirations of a national championship.

The Sooners handed the Cornhuskers their only regular-season losses in 1975, 1979, and 1987, while the Cornhuskers did the same to Oklahoma in 1971 and 1978. Both teams enjoyed costing the other a spot in the national championship game.

But Nebraska seemed to be on the losing end more often than not, watching an undefeated season and/or shot at the national championship go up in flames.

Besides losing to OU in those three season mentioned above to end undefeated years, the Huskers lost to the Sooners in 1984 and ’85, when they had only one loss (each coming early in the season), and were ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively. If NU had won those games, they would have played for the national championship each season.

Conference championships also were up for grabs, and the Big 8 seemed like the Big Two and the Little Six, as either the Sooners or Huskers were outright or co-conference champions almost every year, with NU winning 10 and OU winning 12. The only other teams to win or share the conference title were Colorado (1976, 1989) and Oklahoma State (1976).

Here is a game-by-game look at each meeting between NU and OU from 1970 to 1989.


November 21, 1970 (Lincoln)
#3 Nebraska 28 vs. Oklahoma 21
Nebraska won the National Championship
Nebraska had to come from behind twice against OU to achieve its first unbeaten season (10-0-1) since 1965. The Huskers went on to win the national championship.



November 25, 1971 (Norman)
#1 Nebraska 35 vs. #2 Oklahoma 31
Nebraska won the National Championship
The "Game of the Century” between No. 1 Nebraska and No. 2 Oklahoma saw the Cornhuskers come from behind to win 35-31, before 61,826 fans at Owen Field and the largest TV audience ever to watch a college game — more than 55 million home viewers.



November 23, 1972 (Lincoln)
#4 Oklahoma 17 vs. #5 Nebraska 14
Oklahoma spotted Nebraska 14 points, then roared back in the final quarter to pull out a 17-14 victory and spoil two-time defending national champion Nebraska's bid for a fourth straight Big 8 title. Nebraska ended the season 9-2-1, giving NU Coach Bob Devaney a final three-year (1970-72) record of 32-2-2.



November 23, 1973 (Norman)
#3 Oklahoma 27 vs. #10 Nebraska 0
Nebraska's offense never snapped the ball inside Sooner territory as Oklahoma blanked the Huskers 27-0 to clinch the Big Eight title. Nebraska had scored in 58 straight games going into this game, one short of the all-time Cornhusker record.



November 23, 1974 (Lincoln)
#1 Oklahoma 28 vs. #6 Nebraska 14
Oklahoma won the National Championship
Played before 76,636, the largest crowd ever to see a football game in Lincoln, Oklahoma and Nebraska fought to a 7-7 halftime deadlock. NU took the lead at 14-7 early in the third, but the Sooners scored 21 unanswered points to claim the win.



November 22, 1975 (Norman)
#7 Oklahoma 35 vs. #2 Nebraska 10
Oklahoma won the National Championship
Oklahoma scored on five of six Nebraska turnovers to defeat the Huskers 35-10, giving the Sooners a share of the Big 8 title with Nebraska and enabling OU to represent the conference at the Orange Bowl.



November 26, 1976 (Lincoln)
#8 Oklahoma 20 vs. #10 Nebraska 17
This is where Sooner Magic first reared its ugly head against the Huskers. Leading the Sooners 17-13 with less than four minutes remaining in the game, the Huskers lost 20-17 on two razzle-dazzle passing plays seldom seen from the conservative wishbone attack of Oklahoma.



November 25, 1977 (Norman)
#3 Oklahoma 38 vs. #11 Nebraska 7
Oklahoma's quickness and speed were too much for Nebraska. It was the sixth straight win for the Sooners over the Huskers, and OU headed for another Orange Bowl berth.



November 11, 1978 (Lincoln)
#4 Nebraska 17 vs. #1 Oklahoma 14
The Huskers went blow-for-blow with unbeaten and top-ranked Oklahoma to gain a 17-14 upset win. A hard-hitting defensive effort caused nine Sooner fumbles—NU recovered six—pacing the Huskers to their first win over archrival Oklahoma since the 1971 "Game of the Century." The win locked up at least a tie for the conference title and an Orange Bowl berth.



January 1, 1979 (Miami)
#4 Oklahoma 31 vs. #6 Nebraska 24
Nebraska had aspirations of playing for the national championship, but was upset by Missouri late in the year, sending the Huskers to a rematch against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Oklahoma dominated the game and was up 31-10 at one point, winning 31-24 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.



November 24, 1979 (Norman)
#8 Oklahoma 17 vs. #3 Nebraska 14
Sooner running back Billy Sims ran for 247 yards against the Blackshirt defense, which was ranked No. 1 in the country against the rush. Down 17-7, Nebraska scored on a trick play called the “Fumblerooskie” when guard Randy Schleusener picked it up and rambled 15 yards for the score.



November 22, 1980 (Lincoln)
#9 Oklahoma 21 vs. #4 Nebraska 17
Once again, Sooner Magic bit NU, as freshman Buster Rhymes and OU came back to trip Nebraska 21-17. Rhymes ran 43 yards and later scored with under a minute left in the game for the go-ahead touchdown. The win gave OU its ninth win in the last 10 games against Nebraska.



November 21, 1981 (Norman)
#5 Nebraska 37 vs. Oklahoma 14
Nebraska played for the National Championship
The Huskers and Coach Tom Osborne finally ended the Sooner curse, winning convincingly 37-14 in Norman. The win gave Nebraska its first undefeated Big 8 season since 1971, and set up a chance at the national championship against Clemson in the Orange Bowl.



November 26, 1982 (Lincoln)
#3 Nebraska 28 vs. #11 Oklahoma 24
After trailing 10-7, Nebraska took a 21-10 lead over the Sooners. But NU had to hang on, as OU’s freshman running back Marcus Dupree brought Oklahoma back before falling short. The win gave the Cornhuskers its second-straight win over OU and another conference championship.



November 26, 1983 (Norman)
#1 Nebraska 28 vs. Oklahoma 21
Nebraska played for the National Championship
Oklahoma was driving for a tying touchdown, but NU cornerback Neil Harris batted away a fourth-down Danny Bradley pass intended for Buster Rhymes in the end zone with 32 seconds left to preserve Nebraska's 22nd-straight victory and a third-straight unbeaten Big Eight season for the Huskers.



November 17, 1984 (Lincoln)
#4 Oklahoma 17 vs. #1 Nebraska 7
Nebraska was ranked No. 1, and with a win over OU, would have played in the Orange Bowl with a chance at the national championship. But Oklahoma scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, while the Sooner defense twice stopped Nebraska inside the OU 10 in the second half (the second time just inches away with 5:32 left in the game), and came away with a 17-7 win over the Huskers. OU went on to beat Oklahoma State the following week to share the conference title with Nebraska.



November 23, 1985 (Norman)
#5 Oklahoma 27 vs. #2 Nebraska 7
Oklahoma won the National Championship
Oklahoma shut out the Nebraska offense; a TD fumble return by the NU defense with only 26 seconds left gave the Huskers their only points. NU had two offensive scoring threats inside the Sooner 10, but OU turned them away.



November 22, 1986 (Lincoln)
#3 Oklahoma 20 vs. #5 Nebraska 17
Sooner Magic struck again, and in devastating fashion for Husker fans. Tim Lashar's 31-yard field goal with six seconds left capped an Oklahoma rally from a 17-10 deficit in the final four minutes, enabling the Sooners to complete their second-straight undefeated Big Eight season and a third-straight Orange Bowl berth.



November 21, 1987 (Lincoln)
#2 Oklahoma 17 vs. #1 Nebraska 7
Oklahoma played for the National Championship
It was billed the "Game of the Century II" between No. 1 Nebraska and No. 2 Oklahoma. But after the Huskers jumped to a 7-0 first-quarter lead when Keith Jones' 25-yard run capped an 84-yard drive, the game was virtually all Oklahoma as the second-ranked Sooners came from behind to claim their fourth-straight Big Eight title and reclaim the No. 1 ranking.



November 19, 1988 (Norman)
#7 Nebraska 7 vs. #9 Oklahoma 3
An 80-yard touchdown drive on Nebraska's first possession gave the Huskers all the points they needed, as the Blackshirts kept Oklahoma out of the end zone for the first time since 1942, giving up only 98 yards rushing. Nebraska ended Oklahoma's 31-game Big Eight win string.



November 18, 1989 (Lincoln)
#6 Nebraska 42 vs. Oklahoma 25
Nebraska quarterback Gerry Gdowski completed 12 of 15 passes for career highs of 225 yards and four touchdowns as Nebraska topped Oklahoma, 42-25. It was their most points ever scored against the Sooners in Lincoln.

*** Uploaded by Josh Harvey ***


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Shane Gilster is the advertising manager of Big Red Report Magazine. His stories focus mainly on catching up with former Huskers and examining Nebraska athletic history.
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