A Colorado man sat in the cold, the wind, the rain and the gloom of Lincoln, Neb. last week and pondered whether he would rather die slowly of strangulation or have a dagger plunged into his stomach. These are the alternatives, said Colorado's assistant athletic director, Fred Casotti, if a football team has to choose between Nebraska and Oklahoma as an opponent. "They both kill you with a lot of pain," Casotti said. "It just depends on which kind of pain you prefer—fast or slow."
When the bruising, efficient Cornhuskers had finally finished destroying Colorado by 31-7, Casotti stood up from his seat and said, "Well, now I've got to go back to Boulder and get ready to answer seven thousand questions about Nebraska and Oklahoma and who we think is the better. I still don't know. But I hope the Nebraska defense doesn't line up on the runway at the airport in front of our DC-9. We'll never get home."
After these weeks of the 1971 season, Colorado, a common opponent, presented the first opportunity to compare Nebraska, voted the nation's No. 1 team, and Oklahoma, No. 2. Colorado had lost to OU 45-17, and Nebraska Coach Bob Devaney admitted before last week's contest that this would be the Cornhuskers' first "emotional" game.
Wandering around Lincoln on Thursday night with a couple of journalists, and while stopping in at a couple of saloons to visit with friends, the easygoing Devaney said, "I just hope we can get down to that game with Oklahoma on Thanksgiving in good shape. It ought to be something worth seeing. But I'm worried about Colorado. We don't know how good we are."
If he really didn't know it already, Devaney found out two days later that his 1971 team was probably the best he has had, among a lot of good ones. Nebraska simply manhandled Colorado in its usual physical way with perhaps a little more spirit and enthusiasm than the big sod busters normally display.
There had been a warning that something like this might happen on Friday as the Nebraska players moved out of the wind and drizzle into the dining quarters for their lunch of cold cuts and salad. Huge brooding types with relatively short hair who like to wear their letter jackets, the Cornhuskers, hidden out there on the plain where the wind blows from Laramie to Lincoln—untouched—sort of bristled at the mention of Colorado. And then Oklahoma, in that order.
" Colorado took some cheap shots last year," said Dick Rupert, a fine guard. "We kind of remember that."
Larry Jacobson, who might be an All-America defensive tackle despite his boyish grin and horned-rimmed glasses, said, "Naturally, we think about Oklahoma now and then. But there's no doubt in our minds that we'll beat them. There just isn't."
Quarterback Jerry Tagge talked about Nebraska's nonstar system and how it does not bother anybody, especially him, the prime mover of the team.
"It's almost become a tradition under Coach Devaney that we don't have any stars on the team," smiled Tagge. "We just have a lot of good football players who concentrate and carry out their assignments."