NU vs OK 1978

Nebraska’s Jeff Hansen strips the ball from Oklahoma’s Billy Sims during the 1978 game at Memorial Stadium. The fumble preserved NU’s 17-14 victory against the top-ranked Sooners.

Nov. 11, 1978

Sooner Magic? This was more like Sooner Tragic.

Undefeated and top-ranked Oklahoma was driving for the winning touchdown on a bitterly cold November day at Memorial Stadium when Nebraska safety Jeff Hansen jarred the ball loose from OU running back Billy Sims. Nebraska linebacker Jim Pillen recovered inside the NU 5-yard line, and the Huskers ran out the final 3½ minutes for a 17-14 victory — Tom Osborne’s first victory against Oklahoma in six tries.

Sims, who had run for more than 200 yards in each of his previous three games, also lost a fumble deep in Nebraska territory on the Sooners’ previous possession. For the game, Oklahoma fumbled nine times, losing six. Billy Todd’s 24-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter — the Huskers’ first fourth-quarter points against OU since the 1971 Game of the Century — broke a 14-14 tie.

Of course, Oklahoma would get its revenge. Nebraska was upset at home the following week by Missouri, and was pitted in a rematch with co-Big Eight champion Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. The Sooners won 31-24.

Sims? Yeah, he won the Heisman Trophy.

— Brian Rosenthal

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