2020 marks 50 years since Nebraska football entered the history books with its first national championship season. The 1970 Huskers, coached by the legendary Bob Devaney, broke through on a grand night that capped a grand season, giving momentum to a fan base whose fervor has barely waned to this day. Each week, through the beginning of January, The World-Herald will revisit the 1970 season, allowing readers to relive the first Husker national title and get to know — again — the players and coaches who made it happen.
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Since coach Pepper Rodgers’ infamous tirade — throwing his lunch sack against the wall in the visitors’ locker room, after a 21-17 loss to Nebraska in 1969 — his Kansas Jayhawks bottomed out with a 1-9 record that season but they were on the rise in 1970 when they entertained fifth-ranked Nebraska on Oct. 17.
KU was 4-1, losing only to Texas Tech, and was fresh off a 21-15 win at rival Kansas State in its conference opener. Ever quotable, Rodgers during game week came up with a new adjective for the Huskers’ might.
To the Kansas City Star, he said: “Nebraska is fearsome. I would say it’s awesome, but everybody else already has said that.”
The Star’s Fritz Kreisler was on hand in Lawrence:
“The Nebraska Cornhuskers put a football powerhouse on display yesterday.
In defeating Kansas, 41-20, before a Memorial Stadium crowd of 50,200, the Huskers did just about everything expected of a team ranked fifth in the country. They chewed up the Jayhawks defense with a stunning and well-balanced attack that netted 515 yards, choked off Kansas completely in the second half and demonstrated the ability to come from behind.
As one-sided as the game became, it was not that way throughout, as Kansas struck for three electrifying touchdowns within a 7-minute span in the first half to turn a 10-0 deficit into a 20-10 lead.
At that point the Huskers perhaps showed great resiliency. Faced with a rapidly deteriorating situation, they had every opportunity to fold. Instead, they answered in nine seconds with an 80-yard touchdown pass play from Van Brownson to Guy Ingles and followed up with a 73-yard touchdown drive to seize a 24-20 halftime lead. In the second half they maintained control of the game by cutting off Kansas without a scoring threat until the final minute and keeping its own attack clicking at a devastating pace.
Kansas bounced back by beating Iowa State 24-10, but went on the road for three of its final four games and didn’t pick up another win in a 5-6 season.