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AND THIS MAN IS AT THE TOP
John Underwood
September 13, 1971
Nebraska football was once flat as a wheatfield, but since Bob Devaney took over in 1962 he has built a mountain of winners, including last year's undefeated national champion
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September 13, 1971

And This Man Is At The Top

Nebraska football was once flat as a wheatfield, but since Bob Devaney took over in 1962 he has built a mountain of winners, including last year's undefeated national champion

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There is no such thing as a "typical Devaney team." Like most good coaches, he adjusts to the available talent. At Wyoming his teams were quick and exciting; his early Nebraska teams were characterized by thick necks and slow feet. Twice embarrassed by smaller, faster Alabama teams in bowl games, Devaney himself began to sacrifice size for speed, and suffered through two mediocre years (6-4 in both 1967 and '68). Lately he has had size and speed, and a high-percentage passing game the concept and execution of which amazes Gibson. Nebraska completed 61% of its passes in 1970. "Unbelievable," says Gibson. "No wonder I can't sleep."

Pepper Rodgers depicts Devaney as a "positive kind of coach," a man unafraid to take a chance. "Our third year at Kansas we had Nebraska by three points, two minutes to play, and Nebraska with fourth down and 13 on its own 20, or thereabouts. Most coaches would have punted and hoped for a break. Not Devaney. Tagge ran all around and finally threw an incomplete pass. Interference was called and we got an additional 15-yard penalty for protesting, and when it was over they had a first down on our 12. They scored. And we lost."

It is unlikely that Bob Devaney's Nebraska team for 1971 will be any more accommodating than it was as a national champion in 1970—a big, fast, well-balanced team with a strong will to defend ground won. Devaney does not mind talking about these possibilities in the privacy of his den, surrounded by all those replica "1's," but his interest will wane and then he is likely to lapse into a whimsical recollection of those bowl games with Alabama and how Bear Bryant, after winning the first one 39-28 in Miami, had called the next year and said, "Let's get together and have some more fun, Bob." And how Bob agreed, and they got together in New Orleans, and Alabama won 34-7. And how a couple years later Bryant called again, suggesting they get together once more.

"I said, 'Which bowl did you have in mind, Bear?' and he said, 'Well, we were thinking about the Liberty Bowl.' I said, 'Gee, sounds great.' The next day we signed to go to the Sun Bowl."

But for pure Devaney, the gem was collected by John McKay of USC one year when McKay's team was playing in Lincoln. In the first half, USC was penalized four times for pass interference. Though ahead, McKay was livid. Muttering to himself as the teams broke for the dressing rooms, McKay suddenly found himself side by side with Devaney. He says Devaney grinned, rather sheepishly he felt, and said, "Well, John, how do you like my brother's officiating?"

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