Lucas at Large: Huskers' Big Ten entry means rebirth of Big Red rivalry

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Now that Nebraska has officially become a member of the Big Ten, the Big Red vs. Big Red rivalry can be renewed and revisited. So can the debate on who's really the Big Red.

We won't have to wait long to find out.

The Cornhuskers and the Badgers will open the 2011 conference season on Oct. 1 at Camp Randall Stadium; their first meeting anywhere since 1974. That game, too, was in Madison.

Fact is, there hasn't been much history between these programs. They first played at the turn of the century -- the 20th century -- some two months after the assassination of President William McKinley.

On Nov. 2, 1901, the Badgers beat the Huskers, 18-0, in a game that was staged in Milwaukee. Wisconsin finished the season unbeaten, while Nebraska had to wait 64 years to get even.

In 1965, the Huskers overwhelmed Wisconsin, 37-0, in Lincoln. One hack (i.e. sportswriter) tagged Nebraska as the "Colossus of the Corn Belt.'' They were the No. 2 ranked team in the country.

In 1966, it was another mismatch, this time in Madison as Nebraska rolled, 31-3. Defensively, the Badgers had trouble bringing down the one-two punch of Harry Wilson and Ben Gregory.

Barry Alvarez was a little bit easier to tackle.

Alvarez, the current UW athletic director, was then a linebacker for Huskers coach Bob Devaney. After intercepting a pass, Alvarez lumbered 25 yards before being caught from behind by a lineman.

"I wasn't tackled -- rigor mortis set in,'' Alvarez has forever contended.

In the mid-'70s, Nebraska and Wisconsin played a home-and-home series.

In 1973, coming off back-to-back national titles, the Cornhuskers were a 21-point favorite over the Badgers even though the Huskers had a void without Johnny Rodgers, the '72 Heisman winner.

With five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin's Selvie Washington silenced the crowd in Lincoln with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that helped lift the Badgers into a 16-14 lead.

But it didn't take long for Nebraska and quarterback David Humm to answer. Humm drove the offense 83 yards in seven plays for the winning score and the Huskers escaped with a 20-16 victory.

The 1974 rematch between Nebraska and Wisconsin was in Madison and, to this day, still ranks as one of the Top 10 Greatest Moments in Camp Randall Stadium history.

A little over 73,000 saw it; far more will remember it.  Mostly they will remember quarterback Gregg Bohlig connecting with flanker Jeff Mack on a 77-yard touchdown play that sparked the upset.

Wisconsin 21, Nebraska 20

Years later, Bohlig said, "It's still pretty vivid. Once in a while, I'll pull out the TV tape of the game. I've never tried to break down what happened. I've just savored the excitement of it all.''

A 37-year wait should only add to the excitement when the Big Red and the Big Red meet again.

2 Comments

Here's hoping for some great games in the Big 10. Sounds like stars are lining up for Wisconsin this year.

What Badgers can look for in Nebraska this year:
1. ferocious defense.
2. Solid running back (Rex Burkhead) and 2 or 3 true freshman future stars at running back.
3. Game-breaking quarterback play, whether its Taylor Martinez or redshirt freshman Brion Carnes.
4. Newcomer Jamal Turner (true freshman quarterback-turned-wide-receiver-and-kickoff-returner) is so amazing, he will light it up every 2nd or 3rd time he touches the ball.

Should be a fun fall. See you in Madison Oct. 1!

Thought you might find this interesting. The 1974 game my Dad took my Mom because I had to work my desk clerk job at the Holiday Inn.

Those days in Badgerland were lean years and this would have been a huge victory.

ON WISCONSIN