Nebraska vs. Oklahoma.
National titles, conference championships and undefeated seasons. There's no denying the stakes for these football games over the years.
But it's impossible to really know how much the games have meant to Husker and Sooner fans without considering one fact: The two schools played the day after John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Both schools brought unbeaten Big Eight records into the 1963 game in Lincoln, and $4 tickets were selling for as much as $40.
Excitement built on the NU campus in the days ahead of the game, with about 3,000 students making an impromptu march from campus to the Governor's Mansion on Thursday night and, discovering that Gov. Frank Morrison was gone, marching back again. It was unclear what they would have done had the governor been at home.
The next day, Nov. 22, Kennedy was shot in Dallas.
The Nebraska Board of Regents quickly convened a special meeting, taking six hours to make a decision after consulting with the governor, a Big Eight official and the presidents of the eight conference schools.
“The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska, deeply sorrowful of the death of President Kennedy, believes the people of Nebraska would have the Nebraska-Oklahoma game played as scheduled,” a university statement announced at 7:30 Friday night.
Wayne Duke, executive director of the Big Eight, noted that “the importance of this particular game was given consideration.”
Morrison later related that he had tried to convince OU coach Bud Wilkinson, President Kennedy's consultant on national fitness, that the game should be postponed. But Wilkinson thought the game should go on, Morrison said.
The governor added that before he departed for the president's funeral in Washington, he had told NU coach Bob Devaney to show “what a group of really physically fit young men could do.”
It was one of only a handful of college games played that Saturday, as most schools chose to cancel or postpone play until the following weekend.
Flags flew at half-staff at Memorial Stadium, and a moment of silence was observed after the national anthem was played. Military jets arrived a bit late, flying over the stadium just after the start of the game.
The Huskers won 29-20.
Fans stormed the field and pulled down the goal posts, then headed to downtown Lincoln with the marching band for a parade that one observer described as “orderly, but high-spirited.”
Nebraska students were able to start their Thanksiving holiday early.
Monday classes had already been canceled on the Lincoln campus for a national day of mourning over President Kennedy's death.
George Round, NU's public relations director, announced after the game that because of the victory over Oklahoma, students also could take off Tuesday.