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Kansas knew 1970 Huskers were 'fearsome' even before their game

Kansas knew 1970 Huskers were 'fearsome' even before their game

KU defense

Prior to Jayhawkers game against the 1970 Huskers, Kansas coach Pepper Rodgers said, “Nebraska is fearsome." Above, the KU defense chases Husker quarterback Van Brownson.

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.

* * *

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.

March to No. 1 teaser

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.

March to No. 1 series

Omaha World-Herald: Big Red

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Reporter - High school sports

Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Phone: 402-444-1041.

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