It started after a pretty average performance at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
There was no sign it was going to occur during a stormy Saturday in October. The Northwest Missouri State football team didn't look like a national contender that day in Kearney.
Missouri Western seemed to have dropped off the NCAA II map after a stunning home loss to Missouri Southern that was delayed by the storm.
Both teams were headed into the toughest part of their schedule. Undefeated Emporia and Washburn were licking their chops to get at Missouri's two biggest winning football programs over the past 10 years. A funny thing happened along the way.
The Bearcats and the Griffons began to steam roll their opponents. Northwest scored 136 points against the new conference schools from Oklahoma.
When Missouri Southern was shocking the Griffons, the Bearcats scored 31 second half points against Pitt State, the number one team in the nation. A week later, the Griffons score 63 against the hapless Gorillas.
The rest of Kansas' NCAA II teams were no match for the two Missouri schools that reside only 42 miles apart. Washburn and Emporia didn't even put up a good fight. This Saturday, the Irresistible Force meets the Immovable Object.
It takes me back to a day 41 years ago when Sports Illustrated proclaimed the same match-up between Nebraska and Oklahoma, the number 1 and 2 teams in the nation.
Northwest and Western may not be 1-2 in the nation, but they should be if their recent performances are any indication. Two teams on a roll are ready to collide, just like 41 years ago.
It was Thanksgiving Break and I was home from college. I was 21 years old and loved my Nebraska football. We had our turkey early at my uncle's house in Lincoln, so we could settle in and watch the "Game of the Century," as it was dubbed.
I'll never forget the first big break in the game. Johnny Rodgers, who would win the Heisman Trophy the next year, returned a punt 72 yard after Oklahoma's first drive stalled. Lyell Bremser, the legendary voice of the Huskers was beside himself, "Man, woman and child, did that put them in the aisle," he screamed. "Johnny the jet Rodgers just tore them loose from their shoes."
A funny thing happened just before half. Oklahoma had the final possession and didn't figure to score with a clock-burning running attack. Chuck Fairbanks coached the Oklahoma team and future head coach, Barry Switzer, was the offensive coordinator.
Switzer had left the press box to meet the team at halftime. He wasn't calling the plays, so Mildren threw a couple of long passes, the last for a touchdown and Nebraska trailed at half for the first time that year. Nebraska did regain the lead, 28-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
Jack Mildren, the Oklahoma quarterback, who would later be elected as lieutenant governor of Oklahoma, brought the Sooners back. Despite being one of the first Wishbone teams, known for their devastating running attack, Mildren threw another touchdown pass with seven minutes left to give Oklahoma a 31-28 lead.
As my turkey was slowly turning to stomach acid, Rodgers, Jerry Tagge, the Nebraska quarterback, and Jeff Kinney, the running back made one final push. They drove 72 years in just over five minutes. Kinney final two yards of his 171 game high yards gave the Huskers back the advantage with two minutes left.
Oklahoma's final pass was knocked down by Outland Trophy winner Rich Glover, who had 22 tackles despite being blocked by All-American center, Tom Brahany. The field was loaded with star players and the game lived up to its billing.
Over 20,000 fans met the Nebraska team at the tiny Lincoln airport that night. I was in the crowd that Thanksgiving night, despite having to walk almost a mile to see the team get off the plane on the tarmac.
That was many turkeys, many pounds and many wrinkles ago, but you can still relive the whole thing on U-Tube videos.
Sadly, Jack Mildren and Jeff Kinney, two of the heroes from that Thanksgiving Day 41 years ago, have passed away. Time has not wiped away the memories and the former players that are alive find themselves just as popular today in their home states.
Saturday, more heroes will be made and the legend of the classical match-up of rivals will grow over the years. I can't wait to stand by the fence by my friend and fellow standing-room-only ticket holder, Pat Immel.
Will irresistible overcome immoveable? I don't even know which team fits which description. I think I might even have turkey for lunch just to bring back memories. I just hope I don't eat crow.
By Gene Steinmeyer Guest Columnist
The Maryville Daily Forum - Maryville, MO
By Gene Steinmeyer Guest Columnist
Updated Nov. 6, 2012 @ 9:08 pm
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