Nebraska 7 – Oklahoma 3
November 19, 1988 ▪ at Norman ▪ Attendance 75,004
Despite owning a 9-1 record, having lost only to undefeated and #2 USC, ninth-ranked Oklahoma carried their lowest ranking in five years into their annual showdown with visiting and seventh-ranked Nebraska (10-1). The only blemish on both teams' records had come from early season visits to California, for the Huskers had won eight in a row since their loss at UCLA. Meanwhile, the Sooners had rebounded to win seven straight games, and they also came in riding a 31-game winning streak in Big Eight conference play, dating back over four years to October 1984, and a 19-game home winning streak, dating back to October 1985.
Guiding the Sooners offense again was sophomore quarterback Charles Thompson, who had directed the team to a win a year earlier in big showdown in Lincoln. After starter Jamelle Holieway went down with an injury in the team's fifth game, he came on to rally the team to five wins in a row.
On a cold and rainy day, with sheets of sleet pouring onto Owen Field prior to the game, an Orange Bowl bid. Both Nebraska coach Tom Osborne and Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer had taken over their respective programs in 1973, and in the ensuing years, Switzer had dominated, compiling a 12-4 record over Osborne in their previous 16 meetings, including the last four in a row.
A year earlier, it had been a match up of the two top ranked teams in Lincoln, and all of Nebraska's smash-mouth talking had been stuffed by a dominating Sooners' win. This would be the last game for Husker seniors to have a chance to experience a win over their rivals. Among them was senior All-American defensive end-turned-linebacker Broderick Thomas, one of the top defensive players in the country and projected as a high first round selection in the upcoming NFL draft, and quarterback Steve Taylor, the two who had been the most vocal a year earlier.
Nebraska received the ball first, and began at its own 20-yard line. I-Back Ken Clark picked up 33 yards on an early third down play, and Taylor completed a 20-yard pass to Richard Bell on another third down play, as the Huskers moved down the field. With the ball at the Oklahoma 11, Taylor called his own number on three straight plays, capping the 80-yard drive with a one-yard sneak into the end zone. It put the visitor's up, 7-0.
From there, Thomas and the Blackshirts quickly took charge. The Husker defense was able to shut down the Sooners' attack as they allowed only three first downs and 52 offensive yards in the first half of the game. The Huskers had other chances to score in the first half, as they twice moved the ball inside the Sooner 20, but both drives ended with nothing on the scoreboard thanks to a missed field goal and an Oklahoma interception in the end zone.
The Sooners' biggest threat in the game was thwarted when Lorenzo Hicks intercepted a Charles Thompson pass at the Huskers' two-yard line. On the next play, Clark broke into the Oklahoma secondary, but he fumbled and the Sooners recovered at the 31-yard line. With the home team looking to score, Nebraska's defense stood their ground and limited the home team to a 29-yard Tim Lashar field goal.
It would be the only points the Sooners could manage, as Nebraska was able to hold on to pull off a 7-3 victory, the first time since 1942 that the Huskers had kept Oklahoma out of the end zone. The Sooners' offense was held to a season-low not only in points, but also in production. They came in as the nation's fourth-best rushing team, averaging 367.9 yards per game, but the wishbone managed only 98 yards on the ground, only 137 yards in total offense, and picked up only eight first downs all game.
"The day really belonged to our defense," said Osborne. "Our defense just stuffed them when we had to. There's been some talk about our defense this year and even about some of our defensive coaches. I can't imagine how anyone could feel that way."
"We couldn't do anything offensively, that's the trouble," countered Switzer. "Our ineptness on offense didn't allow us to compete in the ballgame. Our defense played well enough to win."
The win ended four years of frustration and gave Nebraska their first outright Big Eight title in five years, and ended Oklahoma's winning streak. Nebraska was also able to wrestle Oklahoma's two-year hold on the rushing title away, as the Huskers finished with a 382.3 average per game. For their efforts, the Nebraska earned a trip to Miami and the Orange Bowl, opposite the hometown #3 Hurricanes, while the Sooners would head to the Florida Citrus Bowl to play #15 Clemson.
Source: Jeff Linkowski