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I remember living in the same dorm with Barry Alvarez, who was a senior All-Big Eight linebacker at Nebraska in 1967 before he became a Hall-of-Fame football coach and athletic director at Wisconsin. Talk about an identity crisis. Nebraska led the nation in total defense that year. The Huskers also led the nation in pass defense and ranked third in scoring defense in '67.
"We had four shutouts that season. We could beat anybody," Alvarez said. "We started 3-0, but lost at Kansas (10-0), then lost a heart-breaker to a Colorado team that returned two interceptions for touchdowns (21-16)."
Alvarez Describes Meylan as 'Ridiculously Great'
Alvarez described fellow '67 Blackshirt Wayne Meylan as "ridiculously great" at middle guard. A Bob Devaney recruit from prime Big Ten Conference recruiting territory Bay City, Michigan, Meylan became a two-time consensus All-American at Nebraska. In '67, Meylan led the Blackshirts with 119 tackles. Alvarez was second with 112 tackles.
After three years in the NFL, Meylan started his own business in Omaha. His hobby was flying World War II fighter planes in air shows, and, sadly, on June 26, 1987, at age 41, he was killed when his plane crashed in a show at Ludington, Michigan. Four years later, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
On a press conference call Wednesday, Alvarez was asked what he remembered most from Nebraska's 31-3 win at Wisconsin in 1966. Barry said he remembers Meylan blocking two Badger punts for touchdowns, and he now counts the Wisconsin punter in that game as a close friend.
McCord, Patton, Mueller, Fiala Were Standouts
Meylan may have blocked two punts that day, but only one resulted in his recovery for a touchdown. Memories from 45 years ago sometimes fade, but Alvarez once told me that Jim McCord was hard-nosed and Jerry Patton was an equally physical defensive lineman on those 1967 Blackshirts. Alvarez also said that safety Marv Mueller and linebacker Adrian Fiala could both hit hard and both run well.
A 6-4 season was a tough ending for a nation-leading defense. Even though I've never been able to document this, Alvarez insists that Nebraska's '67 team was invited to a bowl game. "I found out years later that we were invited after the season, but our Board of Regents rejected the offer," said Alvarez, the only Big Ten coach in history to win back-to-back Rose Bowl games.
"A regent told me that we would have played Georgia," Alvarez said. "I know those Georgia guys knew we'd been invited because I played with some of their players in the Senior Bowl and the Blue-Grey game that post-season. They told me they were glad we didn't accept the bowl offer because they didn't want any part of us. We were 6-2 before losing our last two games at Missouri (10-7) and at home against Oklahoma (21-14). We were good. We just had a hard time scoring."
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