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It's been almost two weeks now, and everyone calls Nebraska's win over Ohio State in Lincoln the Huskers' greatest comeback of all time. The question, it seems, is what was Nebraska's greatest comeback before Lavonte David, Rex Burkhead and Taylor Martinez fueled a dramatic turnaround that transformed a 27-6 deficit into a 34-27 triumph?
Well, Tom Osborne's vote goes to the 7th-ranked Huskers' 21-19 win over Colorado on Oct. 22, 1966, in Boulder. Nebraska was down, 19-7 in the fourth quarter of that game but scored two touchdowns to win - the last from fullback Pete Tatman with 53 seconds left. That 1966 NU roster is filled with familiar names, but we chose to ask the game's three offensive catalysts to share their recollections 45 years later. Here's what they told us:
Bob Churchich, Senior Quarterback from Omaha
The owner and president of Churchich Recreation in Boulder, Colo., until 2009, Churchich's son now owns the business, and Bob supports him in sales during the spring, summer and fall months, spending most of the winter in Phoenix. What he remembers most from 1966: "Watching the Ohio State game, I did not relate back to the Colorado game because after so many years and games, I figured there were probably other games where NU came back from significant deficits. My fondest memory was the way our defense settled in and played one heck of a second half (after Osborne said the Huskers couldn't stop CU running back Wilmer Cooks in the first half). They kept getting the ball back for the offense. That was huge. But my best memory was getting the ball back with about 2:30 to play, I looked at each guy in the huddle, and told them: 'This is our last chance, so let's finish'.
"The line kept the CU defense off of me and made the blocks. Pete Tatman and Ben Gregory ran tough. and I can't say enough about Denny Morrison and Tom Penney in the passing game. They made great catches (helping Churchich set the NU single-game passing record with 256 yards). As a team we caught CU defensive backs moving very close to the line of scrimmage in a short-yardage situation (to stop a run play). Fortunately, we had a fake fullback dive play called (Nebraska didn't audible in those days), and they bit on it. That freed up Tom Penney for a 20-plus yard gain on that last drive, and that play was huge.
"The memories of games and teammates in the mid-60's make it seem like it wasn't all that long ago. However, going back to Lincoln for games with the upgrades in the facilities confirms, that, yeah, it was a long time ago. After coming back against Ohio State, I'm optimistic about how we'll finish this season. Barring any significant injuries to key guys, we should finish 9-3 or 10-2, plus win a bowl game."
Dennis Morrison, Junior Tight End from Omaha
Morrison has been in the securities business for 40 years and is a vice president and investment officer for Wells Fargo in Morristown, N.J. What he remembers most from 1966: "My level of frustration was the same watching the Ohio State game as a fan as it was when we went into the locker room at halftime in Boulder. Everything that Colorado did in the first half went their way, just like it did for Ohio State. Coach Devaney gave us a bit of a chewing out while Coach Osborne did his adjustment magic for the offense to help us find success. The second half was ours just like it was for the Huskers against Ohio State.
"Winning the game was my fondest memory. Catching eight passes in that game was the highlight of my two years as a starter (the eight catches are still tied for NU's single-game record by a tight end). Catching the pass and cutting Colorado's lead to 19-14 was my best play. I actually ran over a guy to score, but he was a little guy.
"It sure doesn't seem like it was 45 years ago. I'm way-too young to be this old ... (laugh here)! I think the Huskers found the intensity needed to win football games in that second half against Ohio State. I think they'll finish 11-1 and play Wisconsin for the Big Ten Championship. And, as we found out last year (against Washington), it's very hard to beat the same team twice in the same season. We could still finish the season 13-1.
Tom Penney, Sophomore Receiver from Augusta, Kan.
Recently retired after nearly 40 years in the insurance brokerage business, Penney lives in Omaha with his wife, Starr, and takes care of the grandkids "every chance I get". What he remembers most from 1966: "While we were driving for our first score in the fourth quarter against Ohio State, I was thinking to myself, 'You know, I think we can still win this game' because it was very similar to 1966 when we scored to make it 19-14. The only difference was back then, as a player, I told myself, 'We are going to win this game!' I had a very similar feeling that momentum in both games had totally shifted our way.
"I still remember watching the officials give the touchdown signal for our final score in 1966 and then shortly after, watching the total deflation of the Colorado crowd who had been, to put it mildly, far less than hospitable the entire afternoon. I'll never forget trying to run square-out pass patterns late in the game so we could get out-of-bounds and stop the clock. But the Colorado corners were overplaying and taking away the out pattern, so I broke to the sideline at a shallower angle and got behind the cornerback. Bob read that perfectly, put the ball over the cornerback's head, and we ended up making two or three nice gains on that play.
"When I think back to that game, and I still do from time to time, it just does not seem like that could have been 45 years ago. But, then when I think through all of the great things that have happened and continue to happen in the Husker football program, it does start to seem like a good long time ago.
"I've always tried to be a realist when it comes to following my former team, so at the risk of sounding less than 'rah-rah' about this team, I would say that, to me, it depends on which of our teams shows up to play. If it's the one from the last quarter-and-a-half of the Ohio State game, they may have one more loss ahead of them. If it's the team from the first two-and-a-half quarters of the Ohio State game, I would think there are some struggles ahead."
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