Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers (20) weaves his way through Oklahoma defenders for a 72-yard punt return in the first quarter of NU’s 35-31 victory against the Sooners in the “Game of the Century.”

Nov. 25, 1971

Fans attending the “Game of the Century” in Norman, Oklahoma, had barely settled into their seats when No. 20 fielded a punt at his 28-yard line.

And what Johnny Rodgers did next, well, it continues to defy description to this day. But we’ll try.

After breaking a tackle at the 30, planting his hand on the ground to maintain his balance, he pinballed his way upfield, darting right, then left, then right, then left again, leaving Sooner defenders grasping nothing but air in his wake.

“Holy moly!” Nebraska play-by-play announcer Lyell Bremser exclaimed after Rodgers crossed the goal line. “Man, woman and child did that put ’em in the aisles! Johnny ‘The Jet’ Rodgers just tore ’em loose from their shoes!”

The punt return gave the top-ranked Huskers an early 7-0 lead against the No. 2 Sooners en route to an exciting 35-31 victory. It also proved to be the biggest of the game’s many big plays, with Dan Jenkins of Sports Illustrated writing “In essence, what won it was a pearl of a punt return in the game’s first 3½ minutes. Everything else balances out, more or less …”

— Jeff Korbelik

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