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Unless you are at least 50 years old, you were not born when Nebraska lost to Missouri, 16-7, on Nov. 3, 1962, and unless you are Carnac the Magnificent, the all-seeing, all-knowing soothsayer played by legendary Nebraskan Johnny Carson, you could not have imagined the historical significance of that Homecoming weekend 50 years ago. That 9-point loss - one of only two that season under first-year head coach Bob Devaney - is a meaningful milestone in the history of Cornhusker football. It is the first Memorial Stadium sellout crowd in a streak that will reach 324 consecutive sellouts Saturday when Nebraska hosts Penn State.
Every time the Cornhuskers take the field for a home game, the crowd becomes an NCAA record. Even though there are no guarantees the ongoing streak will continue, it makes sense to frame that day from half a century ago. It is, after all, the official launch of the golden anniversary we celebrate this season. Nov. 3, 1962, was Devaney's first loss as Nebraska's head football coach. A few hours later, President John F. Kennedy announced that the Soviet Union and the United States had reached a final agreement on terms for the Soviet removal of nuclear missiles from Cuba.
In 1962, the usual suspects were dominating the national sports scene. The Yankees won the World Series, joining the reigning NFL champion Packers and the '62 NBA champion Celtics. Southern Cal was the reigning NCAA football champion that weekend. You will be shocked, however, to know the top-rated college football team on that particular day: 1) Northwestern, followed by No. 2) Alabama; 3) USC; 4) LSU; and 5) Texas. For context, you might enjoy knowing the top five TV shows that same week 50 years ago: 1) Beverly Hillbillies; 2) Candid Camera; 3) The Red Skelton Show; 4) Bonanza; and 5) The Lucy Show.
'Heeere's Johnny' is a Nebraska Grad
Ed McMahon was introducing our well-known Nebraska grad with "Heeere's Johnny!" and Sean Connery was making his debut as "Bond, James Bond" in Dr. No. In 1962, the average cost of a new house was $12,500, the average family income was $5,556, and the average cost of a new car was $3,125. You also might find it interesting to know that eggs were 32 cents a dozen, a gallon of milk was 28 cents and annual tuition to Harvard was $1,520.
Yes, the world was a different place when Nebraska began its NCAA sellout streak. In '62, the first Wal-Mart discount store opened in Bentonville, Ark., and the first Kmart opened in Garden City, Mich. In 1962, President Kenney set a goal to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade, and Memorial Stadium began to rock, roll and remember for 50 straight years.
Of the 324 consecutive sellouts, more than 24 million of the greatest fans in college football have walked through the gates. The average attendance for all 325 consecutive sellouts is more than 75,000 ... or, as someone points out, the average sellout is about the size of Grand Island and Kearney combined.
The biggest Memorial Stadium crowd in that streak was 86,304 on Sept. 26, 2009, a night when Nebraska commemorated consecutive sellout No. 300 against Louisiana-Lafayette. The smallest crowd in that streak was the 34,329 fans who showed up on Nov. 17 to watch Nebraska beat Oklahoma State that same '62 season.
The most points Nebraska scored in its sellout streak was 77, and that happened twice: On Sept. 16, 1995, against Arizona State, and then repeated on Nov. 15, 1997, against Iowa State. In the first 324 home sellouts, Nebraska has scored 11,893 points and given up 4,304 points, making the average victory margin over the past half a century 17.1 points. The Huskers have averaged 30.7 points since 1962 and given up an average of 13.6.
Meaningful Stats from a Memorable Era
Throughout the golden era of this amazing run of sellouts, Nebraska has scored 50points or more 74 times, 60 points or more 28 times and 70 points or more 9 times, including earlier this season when the Huskers defeated Idaho State, 73-7.
Over the last 50 years, Nebraska's fabled Blackshirts have pitched 47 shutouts to opponents, including two in that inaugural '62 Devaney-coached season. The first was 53-0 blanking of South Dakota in Devaney's debut as NU's head coach, and the second was 14-0 against Oklahoma State two weeks after the Homecoming loss to Missouri.
The Cornhuskers' 50 years of consecutive sellouts are tributes to Nebraska's first five Decades of Excellence, and the current sixth decade, in its third year, will define the momentum that Nebraska wants to take back to its future.
Nebraska has asked Nebraska employees, players, coaches and fans to submit pieces of our history so they can be place in capsules and will be buried somewhere in the East Stadium. The Year 2062 will look back at the future we all see now. Here's wishing and hoping that when the next 50-year anniversary rolls around, Nebraska will be celebrating 100 consecutive years of Memorial Stadium sellouts.
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I was in attendance at the Nebraska-Missouri sellout streak, but not at Memorial Stadium. The game was shown on closed-circuit TV in Omaha at Civic Auditorium. It was shown on four screens suspended from the ceiling, with one screen facing each direction of the auditorium. The quality was poor by today's standards, and the loss was a disappointment, but we were all excited about the new era of Nebraska football, which we were watching unfold. Until reading your article, I didn't realize that this game was the first in the sellout streak. Tom McClanahan, Corvallis, Oregon