LINCOLN — By the time kickoff rolled around on Dec. 20, 1969, Nebraska had heard just about enough out of Georgia.
The Bulldogs had been doing their share of talking in the days leading up to the Sun Bowl. At least twice, finger-pointing and chest-puffing had livened up the scene at team functions.
“It had got a little loud and talkative a couple times, and I thought there may even be a little action before the game,” former Husker fullback Dan Schneiss said.
The physical part somehow held off until game day — then Nebraska took all the fight to the Bulldogs in the El Paso, Texas, cold, on a field scraped up by snow-removal equipment and painted over for looks.
“I think we were so excited and wanted to play that game so bad that we would have played it on a sheet of ice if we had to,” Schneiss said. “We had had enough of their talk, and we wanted to play the game.”
It's been relatively quiet, by comparison, in the three weeks since Nebraska and Georgia were announced as opponents for the Capital One Bowl. The New Year's Day game in Orlando will be the second all-time meeting between the Huskers and Bulldogs.
NU fans no doubt would take a repeat of that first one from 43 years ago, when the Huskers pummeled Georgia 45-6 for one of their most lopsided bowl wins ever.
If No. 14-ranked Nebraska needed any extra motivation after being passed over by the Cotton Bowl, the Bulldogs were foolish enough to supply it despite going into the Sun Bowl unranked and with just a 5-4-1 record.
“It was just that sort of brash Southern style, I think,” said former NU linebacker Adrian Fiala. “Those guys liked to talk a lot, and they did. With our guys, and with a lot of teams, you don't want to do that. It just kind of got us jacked up a little bit, and by game time we were jacked up a lot.”
The impending destruction might have seemed like just another win on the surface, but was so much more:
>> The trip to El Paso started the 35-year bowl streak that became an NCAA record and ran until the 2004 team stayed home for the holidays after a 5-6 season. The 9-2 record also was the first of 33 consecutive nine-win seasons.
>> Nebraska not only finished the 1969 season with a seven-game win streak but would not lose again until starting the 1972 season with a 20-17 setback at UCLA. The Sun Bowl launched the Huskers toward back-to-back national championships and a combined 24-0-1 record in 1970 and '71 for the late Bob Devaney.
>> NU finished 1969 with 44 points at Oklahoma and 45 against Georgia, hitting its stride under a 32-year-old first-year offensive coordinator by the name of Tom Osborne.
It took a team vote to get Nebraska to El Paso, with some initial dissenting ballots after the Huskers felt snubbed by the Cotton Bowl's selection of Notre Dame. Once there, they took out any lingering frustration on Georgia.
Paul Rogers kicked four field goals in the first quarter and I-back Jeff Kinney added an 11-yard touchdown run for an 18-0 lead at halftime. The Huskers tacked on a pair of third-quarter scores for a 32-0 lead, with Van Brownson throwing an 8-yard touchdown pass to Mike Green and scoring on a quarterback sneak.
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Schneiss, better known as the lead blocker for Kinney, finished with a team-high 63 yards rushing and a fourth-quarter TD.
“I just got the ball a couple times and got away a little bit,” Schneiss said. “I probably couldn't have outrun some of their equipment managers with my speed, so the holes must have been pretty good.”
After the game, Georgia coach Vince Dooley said the Bulldogs didn't belong on the same field with the Huskers, and years later remarked: “We should have been home by the fire watching Nebraska whip up on somebody else.”
After failing to make bowl games in both 1967 and '68, Devaney made sure Nebraska was all business for the Bulldogs.
“We thought that when we got down there it'd be a little more relaxed, but it wasn't,” former NU linebacker Jerry Murtaugh said. “He let us out a couple nights — and, of course, we got in a little trouble — but we did practice hard every doggone day. He wasn't going to let up on us.
“I can say now that they had no right being in that game with us. We were too good, and we should have been playing somebody a lot better than them, and Coach Dooley said the same.”
There was some fun in drawing Georgia, though.
The Huskers' only previous exposure to SEC teams came in bowl games against Alabama and Auburn in the '60s. They didn't schedule regular-season contests with SEC teams, didn't recruit that area much and generally only knew what they heard or read about other teams at a time when televised games were much more limited.
“You got to test yourself against people that came from a different part of the country,” Brownson said. “Georgia didn't have the best year of competition that they would have liked to have had, but they sure had our respect.”
Brownson, then a sophomore, recalled Nebraska almost striking for a touchdown on one of the first plays of the game, when tight end Jim McFarland broke past a Bulldog safety. But McFarland stumbled briefly on the soft turf, Brownson didn't put enough air under the ball and the pass ended up slightly overthrown.
Brownson finished 11 of 18 passing for 109 yards. Jerry Tagge had the Huskers' last score on a 2-yard run with four minutes left and also completed 6 of 12 passes for 53 yards.
The Huskers held an overall edge of 355 to 185 in total offense and forced eight Georgia turnovers — Murtaugh returned one of NU's six interceptions to the 1-yard line — before a modest crowd of 31,728.
As he thought back on the game, Fiala recalled that the Huskers did a little talking of their own beforehand. It was at a barbecue a couple of nights before the game that NU defensive tackle Bob Liggett stood up and delivered his own message after hearing all he cared to hear from some Bulldogs.
“Bob was pretty brash, and he was telling these Georgia guys, 'You know what, Georgia, you know where it's at,'” Fiala said. “Our guys were all going, 'Aw, man. All right. Here we go.'
“But anything that remotely resembled trash talk in that game was gone after the first eight minutes, and we were beating the tar out of them.”
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