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82 yards: SI jinx hits Huskers, but not Berns
Nov. 18, 1978 (Missouri 35, Huskers 31)
Rick Berns appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated after Nebraska’s upset of No. 1 Oklahoma the previous Saturday.
The SI jinx didn’t affect the Nebraska running back against Missouri. He ran for 255 yards for what was then a single-game school record. He also surpassed Tony Davis to become Nebraska’s all-time leading rusher at the time.
Berns set the tone early, scampering 82 yards for a touchdown on the game’s first play. A sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium, which had been at an all-time fever pitch the week before, could sense it: The Huskers, ranked No. 2, would win and play for the national championship.
Except, they didn’t. Stupid SI jinx.
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Nebraska tried everything but couldn’t stop sophomore running back James Wilder, who led the Tigers to a 35-31 upset.
“They just beat us,” Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said. “We were worried whether the players could play with the same intensity two weeks in a row. We didn’t. We weren’t as crisp, not as emotional as against Oklahoma last week.”
The worst news was yet to come: Not only would Nebraska, already Orange Bowl-bound, not play for the national championship, the Huskers would face a rematch with Oklahoma.
The Sooners won.