What I Saw At The 1987 Oklahoma Walk Through Practice
One of the most anticipated games in the classic Nebraska versus Oklahoma rivalry was the one played in Lincoln in 1987. Both teams had been ranked number one and two all season.
Nebraska moved into the top spot the week before the game after Oklahoma had lost two key starters in its victory over Missouri. Starting quarterback Jamelle Holieway and fullback Lydell Carr both suffered season ending knee injuries. Oddly enough, Barry Switzer also suffered a serious knee injury in the same game when a player ran into him on the sidelines after being pushed out of bounds.
Confidence was high in the Nebraska camp and the fanbase in the week before the game. Nebraska starting quarterback Steve Taylor boldly predicted: “The flat-out truth is, Oklahoma can’t play with us. They are not good enough. Let me tell you, it might not even be close.” Other Huskers players, including split end Rod Smith, made similar overly confident predictions.
I was so excited about this matchup that I attended the Oklahoma walk through practice on the Friday afternoon before the game. The first thing I noticed was how relaxed and confident the Sooners were. They were exercising on the field and throwing footballs around like they were on some vacation and didn’t have a care in the world.
Things got real interesting when Switzer and Holieway entered the field on a golf cart since they were on crutches. Both of them were sitting next to a beautiful young woman on the golf cart. Switzer, Hollieway and their lady friends were all smiles and laughing. They looked very confident and like the players, were on some kind of holiday. It was unnerving.
Meanwhile, I spotted Rod Smith on the sidelines observing the Sooners. The vibe I got was that Smith was very nervous. That vibe carried over to me and I left the stadium very concerned about Saturday’s game.
My new found concern about the game was justified. The Game of the Century Part II didn’t live up to the hype. Oklahoma dominated the game and won going away by a 17 -7 margin. The game wasn’t as close as the score indicated since the Sooners lost three fumbles in scoring territory. It could’ve been worse.
All of us Nebraska fans felt terrible on that dark Saturday but the Huskers rebounded nicely the following week and beat a good Colorado team 24 to 7 in Boulder. Despite a close loss in the Fiesta Bowl to Florida State, the 1987 Huskers finished 10–2 and number 7 in the country. Nebraska was a very good team in the 1980s but better days were ahead.