Future NFL star Jimmy Williams' big day at Penn State in 1980 helped save the Huskers' day.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

31 Years Ago Was a Long, Winding Road for Osborne

By NU Athletic Communications


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By Randy York

Everyone who's watched Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne over the last 50 years knows how unflappable he is. Whether he's trying to outfox Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden or Bear Bryant, Osborne remains his stoic self. Nothing seems to get inside his head. Pressure? The more he takes on, the calmer he becomes. The only tell-tell sign of his nerves is a little extra chomp in his chewing gum. That's it, and that's all. Catching Tom Osborne with a red-hot temper would be a rare day indeed, but this week he acknowledged an experience that grated on him when Nebraska's team bus took a long and winding road to State College, Pa., in 1980.

"I just remember how terrible the traffic was getting in and out of Penn State that day," Osborne recalled. "We were on a two-lane road, and it seemed like it took us forever. I remember leaving for the stadium and getting behind this guy who was driving about 35 miles an hour because he knew it was our bus behind him. Because of the traffic coming at us and having only two lanes on a busy highway, there was nothing we could do. We went about 35 or 40 miles that way, and this guy finally pulls off, so our bus driver pulled off, too.

"I was really angry," Osborne admitted. "I got off the bus and went over to his car, and it wasn't a very pleasant sight. This guy obviously had been drinking, and he had a car full with his wife and kids, and they were all crying when I came up to the car. I just said to him: 'Please don't ever do something like that again.' I mean, he deliberately stonewalled us, but when I saw the kids, I felt really bad. I didn't know what I was going to do to him. I was just so angry that somebody would do something like that, and I just didn't want it to happen again to someone else."

That's the bad news. The good news is the Cornhuskers defeated the Nittany Lions, 21-7 that day. "The game was never really in doubt," Osborne said. "Our defense played really well (holding Penn State to 33 yards rushing and 119 yards passing on 7-of-21 with three interceptions). I remember Jarvis Redwine having a great day that day (189 yards rushing and two touchdowns). And I remember Derrie Nelson and Jimmy Williams causing a lot of pressure from both defensive ends (the Blackshirts sacked Penn State quarterbacks Jeff Hostetler and Todd Blackledge nine times that day)." Of course that made Nebraska's ride ride back to the airport much more pleasant than the one to the stadium that morning.

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