LINCOLN — Nebraska lost. Nothing out of the ordinary that season.
Coach Bill Glassford’s Cornhuskers won only once in 10 games in 1951, though they were credited later with a second victory as a result of a Kansas State forfeit.
The game was the last of the season, played on a Friday night in Miami’s Orange Bowl stadium. It was Nebraska’s first night game. And it was the first in a series against Miami.
The Hurricanes had a 6-2 record and were heavily favored. They had just accepted a Gator Bowl bid. But they had to come from behind in the second half to win against Nebraska, 19-7.
The headline in a Lincoln newspaper the next day began with: “Bobby Reynolds Star.”
The Husker junior from Grand Island rushed for 174 yards and scored the lone touchdown, catching a deflected pass on the final play of the first half. He played both quarterback and halfback. He completed four passes. He returned three kickoffs. And he punted. A Miami Herald reporter wrote: “The Hurricanes beat Nebraska as a unit but they didn’t beat Reynolds as a man.”
As the headline suggested, for Reynolds it was a stellar finish to a season marred by injury. He had played in only five games because of a shoulder separation. And he was still suffering from a problem in his left eye, caused by lime used for lining fields getting in the eye.
He had rushed for only 250 yards prior to that game.
“The great competitive heart of Mr. Reynolds was on every lip as the crowd filed out of this huge stadium,” wrote Norris Anderson, sports editor of The (Lincoln) Star.
Attendance was just over 32,000, about what Nebraska averaged at home.
Though the Huskers and Hurricanes have played only nine times since, the circumstances have made the abbreviated series, to be renewed on Saturday night at Memorial Stadium, significant. Six of the games have been in bowls. And four times the winner of the bowl has been a national champion, most recently Miami in 2001. The Hurricanes defeated Nebraska 37-14 in the 2002 Rose Bowl.
The first of the bowls was played on Dec. 15, 1962, the Gotham Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York City. Nebraska won 36-34, even though Hurricanes quarterback George Mira completed 24-of-46 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns, on a snowy day with 20-degree temperatures.
Husker coach Bo Pelini remembers the 1984 Orange Bowl game, in which coach Tom Osborne went for a two-point conversion and a victory rather than an extra-point kick and tie. Had he settled for a tie, Nebraska almost certainly would have been voted the national championship.
The decision was a defining moment in Osborne’s Hall of Fame career. The Huskers were ranked No. 1 in the preseason in 1983. And they remained No. 1 until the night of Jan. 2.
Pelini remembers the game because Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar was from Boardman, Ohio, a suburb of Youngstown. “We knew the family,” Pelini said on Monday.
Kosar completed 19-of-31 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns.
Husker fans prefer to remember the 1995 Orange Bowl, a 24-17 victory against Miami that gave Osborne the first of his three national championships, of course, fullback Cory Schlesinger scoring the second of his two fourth-quarter touchdowns on a 14-yard run with 2:46 remaining.
“There’s a lot of tradition” in the Nebraska-Miami series, said Pelini.
The most recent regular-season games in the series were played in 1975 and 1976, Husker victories against Miami teams coached by Carl Selmer, a Nebraska assistant under Bob Devaney.
Those victories gave the Huskers a 4-1 record in the series. They have won only once since, however, the 1995 Orange Bowl, a game current players are too young to remember.
Junior defensive end Jack Gangwish, who was a year old when Nebraska won that game, is an exception. He knows about it. And he knows about the 1984 Orange Bowl game.
“Everybody knows about that game,” he said.
He’s from Shelton and attended Wood River High School. So he grew up a Husker fan. Even more to the point, his dad Paul was a walk-on defensive end on the 1983 Nebraska team.
“Thirty years ago, my dad was out there against guys (Hurricanes) like that,” Gangwish said. “So for me, personally, it’s going to be a really cool experience.”