Memories from The Scoring Explosion's Road Trip to Minneapolis
Yes, I was in the Metrodome in Minneapolis on Sept. 17, 1983, when Nebraska scored 21 points in the first quarter, 21 in the second quarter, 21 in the third quarter and 21 in the fourth quarter to beat Minnesota, 84-13.
For a proud Golden Gopher program that won three national championships in the mid-1930s, two in the '40s and a sixth in 1960, the lopsided loss was the worst defeat in the school's first 100 years of college football. And it was all so ... well ... avoidable. It didn't have to be that bad. Fans should remember the Big Eight Conference travel roster limit was 60 players, and all 60 Huskers that could suit up had played by the third quarter.
I remember talking to Nebraska broadcasting legend Lyell Bremser, who admitted it was a tough game to call because Minnesota kept blitzing every down, practically begging the Huskers to turn routine dive plays into eye-popping gains.
Sure, the Huskers put on a fireworks display in the first quarter. Mark Schellen zipped 27 yards to start the touchdown parade. Then Turner Gill connected with Irving Fryar on TD passes of 68 and 70 yards before fans could get comfortable in their seats.
No one ever mentions it, but on that odd, mismatched night, Nebraska rushed for 595 yards, passed for 195 yards and accumulated 196 return yards for a grand total of 986 yards (with only 22 minutes and 35 seconds of offensive possession time).
The Triplets: Earth, Wind and Fryar
No wonder the 1983 Minnesota game introduced Fryar as the third member of Nebraska's legendary Scoring Explosion.
Barry Switzer called Mike Rozier, Turner Gill and Irving Fryar The Triplets, and some preferred to call them Earth, Wind and Fryar while they were becoming the highest scoring team in college football history. Heisman Trophy winner Rozier was Earth, Gill was Wind and Fryar was Fire that night, catching two passes for 138 yards (none in the last three quarters) and rushing for 92 yards on just three carries.
Rozier gained 196 yards on 15 carries and scored three touchdowns. Gill rushed for 100 yards on four carries and scored once. Nebraska was basic vanilla all night, and when Jeff Smith and Paul Miles got winded in the third quarter, Rozier had to go back in for a dive play, and you guessed it ... Minnesota blitzed and Rozier went straight up the middle for 71 yards.
That play, in particular, sent a well-known Minneapolis columnist into an absolute tizzy.
Nearly three decades later, a still perplexed Tom Osborne referred to the columnist without naming him on his monthly radio show on the Husker Sports Network last week. Osborne remembers getting raked over the coals for something that probably never should have happened, but did, because the Gophers decided to take themselves out of play after play all night long.
Devaney, Osborne 14-0 Against Minnesota
To this day, I believe that Minneapolis columnist ripped the idea of a juggernaut more than he reprimanded a team, a school or a state. Bob Devaney, you must understand, had gone 8-0 against the Gophers, winning by an average margin of 19 points. Osborne then went 6-0 against Minnesota, winning by an average margin of 50 points. For some, those widened gaps created by an offensive powerhouse were unfathomable. Apparently, poison darts in the pre-Internet days seemed like the right way to send the villains back to Lincoln ... even if it was all so ... well ... dad-gum avoidable.
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Voices from Husker Nation
I'm originally from Lincoln (LNE '71) and in 1983 I was stationed at Offutt AFB, so I talked three other guys (from Ohio, Indiana and Iowa) into driving up to Minneapolis in one of the guy's van. I remember Gill looking over at Fryer, who was split wide, and there was no one even on him! What could he do? I also remember third-team quarterback Craig Sundberg (Lincoln Southeast grad, as I recall) being involved in all three fourth-quarter touchdowns. I think he threw a simple little swing pass behind the line of scrimmage to Jeff Smith for about 50 yards (actually 51), scored on a long run of about 60 yards (actually 44) and had a short run himself (1 yard) for the third TD that fourth quarter. It was a crazy game but a fun trip. Biff Jones, New Orleans, Louisiana
I remember driving up to that game and thinking how short a trip it really is from Nebraska. We listened to a Minneapolis radio station most of the way to Minneapolis, and you would have thought the Gophers were favored going into the game. They kept saying how overrated we were and how it was time to put Nebraska in its place. Time to turn the tide. Time to let us know how things were different. I honestly walked into that game thinking it was going to be fairly close. I decided never to buy the propaganda of biased radio announcers again. Don Parker, Omaha, Nebraska
Yesterday, we were talking about this game and how out of hand it got. We remembered Gill, Rozier and Fryar lighting it up, but couldn't remember details. Thanks for sharpening our memories. What an incredible performance that was from the opening kickoff. Didn't know Minnesota blitzed themselves right into the record book. Makes sense though. Dave Dickinson, Lincoln, Nebraska
Another great read Randy. As an 11th-grader in high school, living in Oklahoma, one of my best friends was from Minnesota. He had told me all year long how the Gophers were going to show us what a real team looked liked and, of course, I would laugh and tell him, "Yeah, they're the team in Scarlet and Cream." We decided to bet one dollar on the game just for bragging rights the rest of the season. Needless to say, I was $1 dollar richer come the following Monday. He managed to avoid me for about the first three hours at school, but in the fourth hour, we shared a class and, of course, I was wearing a Husker T-shirt (which in and of itself was not very popular in Oklahoma) but he paid up. Of course I ribbed him about it for the next several years. What a great team not to win it all. Thanks for the read. Bryan Hightower, Stateline, Nevada
We must have been listening to the same radio station on the drive to Minneapolis in 1983. Looking back, I think I get the frustration of Minnesota fans. Since Minnesota has all those lakes that lure so many of us to vacation there, it also has what I call the Colorado Complex. Colorado attracts so many of us to ski and spend our vacations there, but Buff fans just couldn't handle Nebraska out-recruiting them and outplaying them. Whoever that Minnesota writer was had a case of the (Denver columnist) Woody Paige. If you can't beat 'em, criticize 'em and everything about 'em - the ultimate sign of respect, in my opinion. Steve Anderson, Lincoln, Nebraska