LINCOLN — Luke Reimer admittedly doesn’t know much about the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry. He didn’t need long to prove it Monday.
The inside linebacker and newly minted Big Ten defensive player of the week may have finished high school at Lincoln North Star, but he spent his formative years living in Kansas following a conference the Huskers had already left behind. The defender was in grade school the last time the two Big Reds met in 2010. Anything before that is awfully hazy.
“The Game of the Century was in the ‘60s, right?” Reimer asked media members. “Or the ‘70s?”
Informed it was 1971, Reimer flashed a small grin. “Shows you how much I know,” he said. Perhaps 20 feet away from him, a blown-up Sports Illustrated cover from that year hung on a wall with an all-caps preview headline screaming “IRRESISTIBLE OKLAHOMA MEETS IMMOVABLE NEBRASKA.”
Current Huskers and Sooners are preparing for the 50th anniversary of that epic showdown this week, though the latest meeting will hold more juice — at least in a historical sense — for fans in their 40s or older than for the participants.
Starting right guard Matt Sichterman, a fifth-year junior, knew mostly Big Ten trophy games from his childhood in Wisconsin and is familiar with NU-OU in name only. In-state defensive linemen like Ben Stille and Colton Feist spoke generally about the previous matchups because they didn’t have specific memories to share. Running back Sevion Morrison is from Tulsa but followed Oklahoma State.
Garrett Nelson grew up as big a Nebraska fan as anybody on the current team but said he has no personal recollection watching games against OU. The outside linebacker from Scottsbluff needed reminding of when the Huskers joined the Big Ten.
“Ten years ago? I was 11,” Nelson said. “Yeah, man, I don’t really remember. I know it’s a huge rivalry — I know that.”
Coach Scott Frost, 46, offered more perspective as the resident adult in the room. Nebraska-Oklahoma was his favorite game every year as a child. He quarterbacked the Huskers to blowout wins in 1996 and 1997. The team will probably talk about the history a bit with players this week, he said, though he’s sure they’ll be “inundated” with it elsewhere in the days ahead.
The game is in a strange place now as a nonconference tilt, Frost said. He doesn’t even want to think about how a rematch a few years later would be a meeting of Big Ten and SEC teams.
“One of the best rivalries in sports,” Frost said. “It’s kind of a shame it went away, but it’s going to be special to be part of it in a different role.”
Frost said motivational tactics are especially unnecessary this week against another brand team with a No. 3 national ranking next to its name. Emotions will be high as the Huskers step onto a national stage to tangle with a frequent College Football Playoff participant.
A history lesson might come with it. A schooling did, players said, before Nebraska renewed its acquaintance with former Big 12 foe Colorado a few years ago. Former Husker linemen talk with the team each week, and current ones guessed the topic will be pretty obvious this time.
“I just think it’s kind of a cool thing to go back and kind of not really have as much of a rivalry as we did but pay homage to those past games that we did have,” said freshman lineman Teddy Prochazka, an Elkhorn South grad.
Receiver Samori Touré knew of Nebraska-Oklahoma and Nebraska-Miami even growing up in Oregon. Defensive lineman Ty Robinson, from the Phoenix area, has gone down YouTube rabbit holes of past showdowns. Quarterback Adrian Martinez was aware of Huskers-Sooners as a California kid and “paid attention” to various documentaries on the rivalry since then.
The clash was an annual one for 71 straight years from 1927 to 1997, with conference titles and national implications usually on the line. Reviving the old stories and traditions, some players said, can’t hurt a Nebraska program still trying to get back to its roots as a major factor in college football.
Current Huskers can feel that Saturday is a big game — even if their historical acumen could use a few more practice reps.
“Everybody in the building knows,” receiver Wyatt Liewer said. “It’s a rivalry, it’s been a rivalry. And we hope that we can go down there and give them all we can and maybe spark a new sense for that rivalry.”
Video: Watch Scott Frost's full Monday press conference, plus interviews and analysis
Check out the full video from Scott Frost's Monday Husker football press conference, plus interviews with players and analysis from World-Herald staff writers.
Nebraska's Turner Corcoran talks about redshirt rule
Nebraska's Samori Toure talks patience on the offense and punt returns
Nebraska's Ty Robinson "We shouldn't give up any points"
Nebraska's Luke Reimer "you have to scrap and claw to come up with a body part"
Nebraska's Adrian Martinez is a "college football junkie"