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October 30, 1965: Nebraska 16, Missouri 14

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October 30: Nebraska (6-0) at Missouri (4-1-1)

Those fans old enough to remember the 1965 season probably have two dominant memories--the bowl game, which we will get to in due time, and the epic Mizzou-Nebraska battle, one of the best in the series.

Until an epic Orange Bowl loss to Alabama, Bob Devaney's Nebraska Cornhuskers plowed through its 1965 slate of opponents. Devaney had engineered a dramatic and immediate turnaround in Lincoln. In the seven years before Devaney's arrival in Lincoln in 1962, NU had not managed a winning season, going 24-45-1 in that span. In all, they had only had two winning seasons in 20 years. But Devaney's hiring was one of the best in history of college football--he had no real ties to the university, and his track record wasn't long or overly illustrious (35 wins in five seaons at Wyoming), but in his tenure, Nebraska immediately became "Nebraska," arguably the most consistently dominant program in the country for 35 years under Devaney and his successor Tom Osborne.

In Devaney's debut season in Lincoln, Nebraska went 9-2, losing only to Missouri and Oklahoma before beating Miami-FL in the cool-sounding Gotham Bowl in the Bronx. The 1963 season was even better--NU lost only to Air Force before going on a dramatic and unlikely run through the Big 8 (they went undefeated despite winning only two games by more than two touchdowns) and beating Auburn in the Orange Bowl. In 1964, they started 9-0 before finishing with losses to Oklahoma and eventual national champion Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.

In 1965, Nebraska was simply dominant. They thumped a solid TCU team by 20, then went to Colorado Springs to get revenge on Air Force. Then, they got better. They opened conference play by ripping Iowa State, 44-0; they traveled back out of conference to beat a bad Wisconsin team, 37-0. The shutout streak continued in Manhattan with an easy 41-0 pummeling of K-State. They beat Colorado easily, though CU provided a bit of an upset by actually scoring in a 38-13 rout. They came to Columbia having been barely challenged. They left Columbia...well, having been challenged.

Mizzou vs Nebraska, October, a likely Orange Bowl bid on the line, a record crowd in attendance...are there more beautiful thoughts in the world than this? The stage was set for a serious battle of heavyweights when the Tigers and #3 Huskers faced off on October 30, and Dan Devine's team was ready.

Mizzou received the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in 11 plays, featuring a 41-yard reception by Monroe Phelps and capped by a masterful 22-yard keeper by Lane, and Mizzou was quickly up 7-0. Johnny Roland then picked off a Husker pass in Mizzou territory and returned it to near midfield. Again mixing the run and pass, Mizzou gashed the Huskers with another easy touchdown drive, capped by a 1-yard run by Carl Reese. Just like that, it was 14-0, and Nebraska's offense was held completely stagnant the rest of the first quarter.

Here's where confidence and patience pay off. Knowing how explosive they could be, the Huskers didn't panic and start forcing the issue. Led by QB Fred Duda and RBs Frank Solich (yes, that Frank Solich) and Harry Wilson, NU eventually got things rolling in the second quarter. A quick mix of run and pass led to the Huskers' first touchdown, a 1-yard fullback plunge to make it 14-7.

NU quickly got the ball back thanks to a suddenly conservative Mizzou offense, and they methodically drove to the MU 39, where they faced 4th-and-1. As against Kentucky, when UK made Mizzou pay with a fourth down conversion late in the first half, Nebraska came up big. Duda faked to Solich, broke into the open field, and was finally stopped at the Mizzou 1, where another fullback plunge (and a missed PAT) made the score 14-13 at half.

The missed PAT continued to make the difference as the third quarter came and went. As well as Mizzou was playing--keeping this explosive offense to two touchdowns in three quarters was a pretty heroic performance--they were not able to expand the lead after the two easy first-quarter touchdown drives. One more strong Nebraska drive could make the difference in the game. With 11 minutes left, NU got the ball on their 40 and started moving. The Tiger defense stiffened once again, however, and forced a 4th-and-1 at the MU 35.

Here again, fourth downs killed Missouri. This time, it wasn't necessarily the play itself--a short-but-good-enough run by Chuck Winters--but the aftermath. Take it away, Bob Broeg (from Ol' Mizzou: A Story of Missouri Football):

Suddenly a flag fluttered to the ground, and the referee stepped off 15 yards against Missouri for unsportsmanlike conduct.


Word from the field was that Missouri tri-captain Bruce Van Dyke had cursed an official. The press box, envisioning pier-six language to cap what had been a bruising, pier-six brawl of a game, imagined the most personal and pointed of vulgarities.

Afterward, almost apologetically, Big Eight commissioner Wayne Duke, who talked to the officials, said that Van Dyke had used a barnyard expression to which official Glenn Bowles, an Army colonel from Des Moines, stuffily had taken umbrage.


"Gosh," [Van Dyke] said [at the MU Varsity-Alumni game in 1974], "that official made absolutely no allowance for the tempo of the game. I did not curse him or anyone. On the short-yardage situation we tried so hard to keep the ballcarrier from falling forward. When there was a slow whistle and then a measurement that showed Nebraska had made it, I said, 'Oh, bull...'"

(Methinks this is another way the game and times have changed over the years, huh? As Bull Durham taught us, you're okay as long as you don't call the ref a c---s-----. In football, there may be even more leeway than that.)

In the end, the penalty may have made the difference. NU gained eight yards in three plays, and instead of facing a field goal from the 24, they faced one from the 9. NU kicker Larry Wachholtz atoned for his missed PAT by banging home the chip shot, and NU took a 16-14 lead with under 6:00 remaining, then held on for the exhausting win.

After the game, Husker lineman Walt Barnes said, "Missouri almost blew us off the field all day. It's too bad a team like that has to lose." But as has usually the case with Missouri against Nebraska over the decades, Missouri did lose, and it had almost certainly cost them a shot at the Orange Bowl. There was plenty left for the 4-2-1 Tigers, but after such a heart-breaking defeat, it might be tough to rebound.

Nebraska 16, Missouri 14