If you grew up anywhere near Nebraska football the past half-century, you know where those two words appeared every August.
“BOWL GAME'' filled the bottom line of schedule posters printed by banks, insurance agencies, beer distributors and newspapers.
Nebraska set the NCAA record for most consecutive bowl seasons at 35 (1969-2003), so those posters, as a matter of course, soon included a spot to write in the score after the final regular-season game.
It wasn't bragging. It was an indisputable fact — until 2004.
Huskerdom learned nothing lasts forever when Bill Callahan and the athletic director who shall not be named combined to go 5-6 to end that streak, then repeated the “I'll be home for Christmas'' routine in 2007 by going 5-7.
Though the streak ended, the Huskers are still third on the all-time bowl appearance list.
Alabama is first with 60. Texas is second with 52. NU's matchup with Georgia at the Gator Bowl is the Huskers' 50th.
That's a lot of plane rides and sunburns and awkward civic banquets with mayors mispronouncing names and missed curfews and romps in the ocean and hospitality rooms and scrimmaging on the same day you got up at 6 a.m. and traveled to the bowl destination. (Former players are grimacing and nodding their heads at the last part of that sentence).
But where else would a college football team want to be in late December or early January? The players get treated like royalty, eat like kings and receive gifts most couldn't afford themselves.
Best of all, you play another game, often in warm weather. In a sport in which work days year-round outnumber game days by about 30 to 1, any game is a good game.
I've covered 35 bowl games, 23 involving Nebraska. Basketball duties will keep me from a bowl trip this year. But it won't stop me from reminiscing about some of the strange and surprising things I've seen or heard about in these season-ending celebrations.
See if you recall the following:
1987: Nebraska's wishbone; Oz a Buckeye?
After nearly 15 years of trying to stop the wishbone formation, Tom Osborne decided it was time for Nebraska to implement it.
In a 31-28 Fiesta Bowl loss to Florida State, the Huskers ran seven times out of the three-back formation for 26 yards and tried one pass, completing it for 48 yards to tight end Tom Banderas, father of current Husker Josh Banderas.
NU first lined up in the wishbone on its second possession. Steve Taylor was the quarterback, Micah Heibel the fullback, Richard Bell the right halfback and Keith Jones the left halfback.
“I can't say if we'll run it again or not,'' Osborne said the day after the game.
The Huskers didn't, though Taylor was willing, saying: “If Coach wants to run the wishbone, I'll plan to do it. He put that in just like he does other formations, and it worked.''
That wasn't the only surprise of the 1987 bowl season for Nebraska.
About two weeks before the bowl, I learned Osborne had been approached by representatives of Ohio State about replacing the fired Earle Bruce.
Osborne, after asking the graduate assistants to leave the room, led a discussion with his full-time staffers about trading Lincoln for Columbus, Ohio. Among the topics discussed were easier access to a more-populated recruiting base and the difficulty of feeding NU fans' desires after 15 straight Top 10 finishes.
The Nebraska staff decided to stay. Ohio State hired John Cooper from Arizona State. It worked out way better for NU than OSU.
1984: The lie-detector test
Osborne's to-do list before a Sugar Bowl matchup with LSU included offense, defense, special teams and a lie-detector test.
After Nebraska had arrived on site, the Los Angeles Examiner reported that Booker Brown, a former USC offensive lineman Osborne tried to recruit to Lincoln in 1972, had accused Osborne of offering him cash, a car and six free trips to Nebraska for his mother.
Osborne was so outraged by the accusations that, four days before the game, he spent 2Ĺ hours in the office of a New Orleans private detective agency taking — and passing — a lie-detector test about Brown's charges and all of Osborne's years of recruiting.
Because of the vagaries of lie-detector testing, Osborne was counseled not to do it. But he was so agitated by the allegations of wrongdoing that he did it anyway.
At a press conference the next day, Osborne spent 20 minutes talking about the game and more than half an hour addressing the allegations of Brown, who also claimed to have passed a lie-detector test. Brown's representative was agent Mike Trope, whom Osborne had spatted with previously over representation of 1983 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier.
Later that day, Nebraska had what Osborne called “the first good practice'' of the trip. The Huskers built enough momentum over the final three workouts to carry over into a 28-10 win. And Booker Brown was soon forgotten by most everyone, except Osborne.
1972: What Heisman jinx?
Johnny Rodgers set the bar almost out of reach for future Heisman Trophy winners in bowl games with his dynamic performance in Nebraska's 40-6 pummeling of Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl.
The senior out of Omaha Tech, normally a wingback, moved to I-back for this game and had a hand in five touchdowns. He ran for TDs of 4, 5 and 8 yards. He caught a 50-yard scoring pass from Dave Humm. And, after catching a lateral, he threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Frosty Anderson.
Rodgers ran 15 times for 81 yards and caught three passes for 71 yards to help send coach Bob Devaney into the athletic director's office full time with a victory.
Rodgers soon proved his zig-zagging wasn't limited to the field.
He spurned the San Diego Chargers of the NFL to sign a three-year deal with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League that made him the CFL's highest-paid player at $100,000 annually.
1993: A knowing smile
Nebraska had plenty to squawk about after losing 18-16 to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
A phantom penalty nullified a 71-yard punt return touchdown. On Florida State's only touchdown, a 1-yard run, replays showed the runner fumbled before crossing the goal line. And three FSU field-goal drives were aided by late-hit penalties.
Osborne said he couldn't comment on the officiating, but Husker senior captain Trev Alberts didn't hold back.
“I was absolutely amazed by some of the officiating,” Alberts said. “I think it was some of the worst I've ever seen.''
For all the key plays, what is most memorable is how Osborne looked the next morning after his seventh straight bowl loss. Working on three hours sleep, he smiled broadly, cracked jokes during taping of his TV show and answered sportswriters' questions fully and in good humor.
The reason was Osborne knew his football program was back in the national conversation.
Nebraska, after four straight years finishing outside the Top 10, was voted No. 3 in the final 1993 poll. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said his team was lucky to have beaten the 17Ĺ-point underdog Huskers.
That performance proved to Osborne that the changes he had made in his program after the 1990 and 1991 seasons — defensive alignment, practice habits, recruiting targets, creating a Unity Council — had paid off.
By the end of 1997, Nebraska had completed a 60-3 run with three national championships. As much as it hurt to lose the title game in 1993, players and coaches agree that setback created the burn to launch the greatest stretch in school history.
1989: Disputing Big Ten rumors
Before Nebraska left for the Fiesta Bowl, school officials had to deal with a Chicago Tribune report that the Big Ten was courting NU to join along with Penn State, and that the Huskers were interested.
“That comes as a total surprise to me,” Osborne said.
Devaney noted that the Big Ten had approached Nebraska in the late 1970s to judge interest in changing conferences. Nothing happened then, the athletic director said, and it wasn't going to happen this time, either.
“That's a lie. We've never made any overture to the Big Ten,” Devaney said. “We like being in the conference we're in.''
A few days later, the Big Ten announced that Penn State — an independent at the time — would join sometime in the early 1990s. The actual start date was 1993.
1995: No respect
The closer it got to game time at the Fiesta Bowl, the more the national media started thinking No. 2 Florida would beat No. 1 Nebraska for the national championship.
The point spread dropped to NU favored by four points. Sports Illustrated picked the Gators in its final analysis. So did ESPN's Lee Corso and Craig James.
Husker wingback Clester Johnson pulled Corso aside at the bowl's media day to ask if Corso had watched Nebraska's offense.
“We've gained more yards and scored more points than Florida,” Johnson said he told Corso. “And we are No. 1, you know. But he just looked at me.”
As the line of questioning through the week changed to how Nebraska could possibly handle Florida's athletes, NU offensive lineman Aaron Taylor shook his head in disbelief.
“Lord, have mercy,” Taylor told me at the team hotel after the final interview sessions. “You would think we'd get some respect sooner or later.”
It came the next night: Nebraska 62, Florida 24.
1969: Huskers-Bulldogs 44 years ago
Nebraska vs. Georgia in a bowl isn't new. It first happened in 1969 at the Sun Bowl. And the deciding factor was “want-to.”
The Huskers went 8-2 in the regular season after 6-4 marks in 1967 and 1968 that led to no bowl invitations and petitions being circulated to oust Devaney as head coach. In interviews years later, seniors on that NU team said they were so eager to play in a bowl that they would have crawled to El Paso, Texas.
Meanwhile, Georgia was coming off seasons of 10-1, 7-4 and 8-1-2 with two conference titles and trips to the Cotton, Liberty and Sugar Bowls. Bulldog fans let it be known few were interested in a hike to the western tip of Texas.
“I sensed that the Georgia players weren't all that excited about being there, either,” Osborne, NU's offensive coordinator that season, said in a 2008 interview.
Nebraska jumped to an 18-0 lead in the first quarter and cruised to a 45-6 victory.
“We beat Georgia badly,” Osborne said. “I don't think there was all that much difference in talent, but there sure was a lot of difference in motivation.”
It was a lesson Osborne never forgot, saying: “Bob Devaney commented at the time that before you go to a bowl game, you'd better be sure your players really want to go there.
Now you know something to watch for in determining the result Wednesday at the Gator Bowl.
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Video: NU coach Bo Pelini at the Gator Bowl press conference:
Video: UGA coach Mark Richt at the Gator Bowl press conference:
Video: Watch the Husker pep rally in Jacksonville: