Huskers Clinch 1963 Big Eight Title
Courtesy: NU Athletic Communications
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Bob Devaney and the 1963 Cornhuskers defeated Bud Wilkinson and Oklahoma the day after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Courtesy: UNL Photographic Services

Nebraska clinched its first conference championship in 23 years and only the second trip to the Orange Bowl in school history as the No. 6 Huskers defeated No. 10 Oklahoma, 29-20, in This Week in Husker History, Nov. 23, 1963. 

The fact that the game was even played was a surprise.  The day before, President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, leaving the status of the game in question.  However, Oklahoma had a game the following week, making a postponement of the game impossible.  The game was played, though all pregame ceremonies were canceled. 

Nebraska relied on a tough defense that held Oklahoma to 98 rushing yards, as it sprinted to a 17-0 lead through three quarters and a 29-7 lead with five minutes remaining in the game.  Dave Theisen kicked a 27-yard field goal to give the Huskers a first quarter lead.  On the first drive of the third quarter, Nebraska marched 69 yards.  The march was capped by a 10-yard touchdown run by Rudy Johnson to give NU a 10-0 lead. 

Oklahoma miscues set up Nebraska’s next three scores. The first came later in the third quarter, when the Sooners fumbled on the NU 29, setting up a one-yard touchdown run by Dennis Claridge. 

After the Sooners posted their first score of the game, an interception by Theisen gave NU the ball on the OU 15-yard line.  A Kent McCloughan two-yard touchdown run gave Nebraska a 23-7 lead with 7:15 remaining in the game.  On the first play from scrimmage after the ensuing kickoff, McCloughan picked off another OU pass.  Willie Ross, who led the balanced Husker attack with 53 rushing yards, ran 19 yards to set up Fred Duda for a one-yard quarterback sneak for the touchdown to give the Huskers a 29-7 lead with 5:43 left in the game.

Oklahoma scored a pair of touchdowns in the last two minutes of the game, but came up short against the Huskers in Bud Wilkinson’s next-to-last game as the head coach of the Sooners.  Wilkinson finished his career the following week with a 34-10 win over Oklahoma State.

The win capped Nebraska’s first undefeated season in conference play since 1940, and also marked just the fourth bowl bid in school history for Husker football.  On Jan. 1, 1964, Nebraska closed out Bob Devaney’s second year at the helm of the Huskers with a 13-7 win over Auburn in the Orange Bowl, giving Nebraska its first major bowl win and just the second in school history as the final chapter to a 10-1 season that matched the school record for wins in a season. 

The victory was also the seventh in a 17-game winning streak for the Huskers that went to the next-to-last game of the 1964 regular season, which was Nebraska’s longest winning streak since a 19-game winning streak from 1914 to 1916. 

All-time, the Huskers are 6-11 on Nov. 23. Since the win over Oklahoma in 1963, Nebraska has an eight-game losing streak on Nov. 23.   

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