Facing a coaching staff that included first-year head coach Lou Holtz and first-year defensive backs coach Phil Elmassian, the No. 1 Nebraska football team defeated Minnesota, 38-7, on Sept. 15, 1984 in front of the 132nd-consecutive sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium. All-time, the Huskers are 2-0 on Sept. 15 with one postponement, the Rice game in 2001 which was postponed due to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
Nebraska dominated the Golden Gophers for the second straight year, following 1983’s 84-13 rout of Minnesota, with an effort that saw the Huskers outgain the Gophers, 568-195 including a first half in which Minnesota could muster just 38 yards on 19 offensive snaps.
The strong first-half effort was an indication of the strength of the 1984 Blackshirts, who ranked as the top defense in the nation in total defense (allowing just 203.3 yards of total offense per game) and scoring defense (allowing 9.5 points per game). The 1984 season marks the only time Nebraska led the nation in scoring defense and one of only two times that it led the nation in total defense.
The Huskers’ stout defensive effort allowed Nebraska to overcome four first-half turnovers.
“I think we played reasonably well today,” Coach Tom Osborne said. “I think Minnesota played a good game. They improved a lot on defense. I think we generally moved the ball well, but we couldn’t hang on to it. Eventually we can iron this out.”
Still, Nebraska ran off 31 straight points before Minnesota finally answered with a 63-yard touchdown pass from Valdez Baylor to Rickey Foggie eight seconds into the fourth quarter to cut the NU lead to 31-7 before Nebraska would add a Doug Dubose 11-yard touchdown run with 5:58 remaining in the game to bring the score to its final 38-7 margin.
The first quarter was scoreless, thanks to three Nebraska offensive miscues. After a 15-play, 71-yard drive, Scott Livingston missed a 33-yard field goal wide left. Later in the first quarter, Tom Rathman fumbled on back-to-back carries, with Minnesota recovering both fumbles.
The Gophers couldn’t capitalize on the Husker mistakes, and Nebraska finally broke the scoreless tie with an 11-play, 77-yard drive that was capped with a 13-yard touchdown run by Jeff Smith to give NU the early 7-0 lead. Smith was Nebraska’s leading rusher on the day, gaining 183 yards on 26 carries.
Nebraska added a 26-yard touchdown run by backup fullback Scott Porter and a 26-yard touchdown pass from Craig Sundberg to Brian Heimer to give the Huskers a 21-0 lead going to halftime.
Nebraska scored on its first drive of the second half on a 22-yard field goal by Livingston, then built its lead to 31 with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Sundberg to Jim Thompson with 5:11 left in the third quarter.
While the Husker offense found its stride after a rocky first quarter, the Blackshirts were on from the kickoff. Minnesota had just four first downs in the first half and just nine on the game. It was a balanced defensive effort led by the six tackles of Mark Munford. Six Huskers recorded a total of seven tackles for loss.
Holtz, coaching in just his second game at Minnesota and his first on the road with his Gophers after seven years at Arkansas, was impressed by the hospitality of Husker fans.
“I think their fans are really tremendous,” Holtz said. “You can talk about the great fans all over the world, but these are the best. They have a good time. Coming through the tunnel after our game with the Nebraska fans cheering us, that was a touch of class on their part.”
Nebraska finished the season ranked No. 4 in the nation after a 10-2 season that culminated with a 28-10 win over No. 12 LSU in the Sugar Bowl. It was the Huskers’ third straight top-four finish in the post-season polls. Minnesota closed the 1984 season at 4-7, with Holtz at the helm of the Gophers for just one more season before departing to take over as head coach of Notre Dame.
The win was Nebraska’s 10th straight over Minnesota. The Huskers have met the Gophers twice since 1984, and defeated them by a combined 104-0 in 1989 and 1990 in the last two meetings in the most contested non-conference series for Nebraska. Despite winning the last 12, NU trails the all-time series, 29-20-2