Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
17 yards: Bear down

17 yards: Bear down

  • Updated
  • 0
Curtis Craig 1976

Curtis Craig dives to make a catch at the KU 1-yard line. NU vs. KU 1976. LJS Library archive photo

The distance: 17 yards

The star: Curtis Craig

The date: Sept. 17, 1977

The outcome: Huskers 31, Alabama 24

Most Husker fans were ducking for cover as the Bear wandered into Lincoln that year.

There was more than good reason. The week before, No. 15 Nebraska had been upset at home by unranked Washington State.

The season-opening loss knocked Nebraska out of the polls, with Bear Bryant’s fourth-ranked Alabama team coming to town.

Despite all that, Husker quarterback Tom Sorley boldly declared that the Bear and his team were going down.

“Hey, I don’t see any way we can be beat,” Sorley told The Lincoln Star. “We’re getting Alabama in our pit with our fans. Shoot, we’re going to win.”

Those laughing when they read that Saturday morning were no longer doing so by the third quarter.

A wildly entertaining game was tied and the Huskers were driving down the field.

Things were about to get wilder. With the ball at the Alabama 17-yard line, the call came for a reverse to wingback Curtis Craig, the older brother of Roger Craig.

Craig scooted around the right side. There was congestion as he headed inside the 10. One of his linemen was in his way.

No problem. Craig jumped over him, bouncing off an Alabama defensive back, and just inside the pylon into the end zone.

The stadium was just beginning to rock. Alabama pulled even with a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Nebraska had answers.

The Huskers drove 79 yards but needed 80, facing a fourth-and-goal just outside the 1. Tom Osborne went for it.

He got his reward when Rick Berns dove over the pile, giving Nebraska a 31-24 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

The Bear was desperate. Bama ran a flea-flicker in the final minutes, but Nebraska’s Jim Pillen stepped in front of the pass for the fifth interception by the Husker defense.

Among other things, the game proved to be vindication for quarterback Randy Garcia, who had lost his starting job after the opening-week loss. But after an injury to Sorley early in the first quarter against Alabama, Garcia came to the rescue.

“A lot of people seemingly gave up on Randy last week,” Osborne told reporters after the game. “I think it was inexcusable the way they booed him.”

Bryant puffed on a cigarette for a few moments after the game before coming to the conclusion he hadn’t played enough of his players, causing his team to wear down.

“That’s why Nebraska dominated the fourth quarter,” he said.

Bryant was friendly to Husker fans as he left the stadium, stopping a few times to have his picture taken and to sign autographs.

He’d get his revenge on the field a year later when the Huskers found the going rough in Tuscaloosa, losing 20-3 to the eventual national champions.

But on this Saturday, the party would go long into the night in Lincoln.

“To beat a team coached by Bear Bryant is a great feeling,” Osborne said. “Out of respect for him, not animosity.”

Reach Brian Christopherson at or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

  • Updated

Bill "Thunder" Thornton scored two touchdowns in Nebraska's 25-13 win at Michigan in 1962, including a 16-yard run on a perfectly executed trap play that sealed the victory in the fourth quarter.

  • Updated

Ice, oranges and a whole lot of drama. Add it all up, it was one of the more entertaining Huskers-Sooners clashes in the rivalry's history. Thanks to a 15-yard run from Calvin Jones, it was also a Nebraska win.

  • Updated

It was a play that ended seven straight years of bowl game frustrations for the Huskers and gave Tom Osborne what he'd been waiting 22 years for — a Nebraska national championship.

  • Updated

Fans probably remember the ending better than anything else — Stanford band anyone? — but Zac Taylor's 13-yard touchdown strike to Terrence Nunn is what ended up being the difference in a dramatic Husker win over Michigan in the 2005 Alamo Bowl.

  • Updated

Matt Davison never tires of talking about it. Neither do Husker fans. Yes, it's safe to say the Fleakicker — perhaps the most iconic play in Husker football history — just refuses to get old inside the Cornhusker State.

  • Updated

The Huskers had to travel all the way to Japan to claim a Big Eight Conference title back in 1992. Corey Dixon helped make it happen with an 18-yard touchdown reception in front of 50,000-plus in the Tokyo Dome.

  • Updated

The Huskers were down 17-0 and badly in need of a touchdown in the 1984 Orange Bowl when Tom Osborn went to his bag of tricks — Big Dean Steinkuhler stepping on the gas and the NBC cameras frantically trying to catch up.

  • Updated

A touchdown run in a 59-14 blowout makes the 100 Club list? Well, if you happened to see Joel Makovicka's bruising 20-yard run, you'd understand why.

  • Updated

Eric Crouch didn't start 1999 as the Huskers' starting quarterback. But thanks in part to a bruising 21-yard touchdown run against Iowa, the QB pecking order didn't stay that way for long.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

Daily Alerts