‘Devaney: Birth of a Dynasty’

BUY THE BOOK: “Devaney: Birth of a Dynasty,” a 280-page hard-cover book filled with photos, is available in The World-Herald lobby and at local bookstores. The book, which costs $29.95, also can be ordered online at OWHstore.com or by phone at 402-444-1014.

“Devaney: Birth of a Dynasty” by The World-Herald’s Henry J. Cordes includes a look at Don “Fox” Bryant’s colorful role in Husker football history.

Bob Devaney credited the longtime Nebraska sports information director, who died last week, with helping launch what would turn out to be a 32-game unbeaten streak from 1969 to 1972.

Devaney, coming off his second straight 6-4 season, had reconstructed his program before the fall of 1969. But after losing their Big Eight opener to Missouri to fall to 2-2, the Huskers faced a tough home game against Kansas, which had beaten Nebraska two straight times.

An excerpt from “Devaney: Birth of a Dynasty”:

Before this game against Kansas, sports information director Don Bryant was in the coaches’ locker room when he pulled his keys out of his pocket.

A red rabbit’s foot, one that had been given to him by some Boy Scouts, fell to the floor. After spotting it, Devaney asked if he could rub it. “We need all the luck we can get,” he said.

It seemed early on against the Jayhawks that luck indeed was with the Huskers. Kicker Paul Rogers boomed a pair of long field goals, including a school- and Big Eight-record 55-yarder.

But the Jayhawks rallied to go ahead 17-14 in the fourth quarter.

The Huskers tried to come back behind quarterback Jerry Tagge, but faced a fourth-and-16 from their own 31-yard line with just minutes remaining in the game. Tagge scrambled and heaved a desperation pass downfield.

The ball sailed far past Husker tight end Jim McFarland to fall incomplete, but pass interference was called. Kansas disagreed, probably correctly, and ended up getting another penalty.

Nebraska eventually scored on a 3-yard run by I-back Jeff Kinney with 1:22 left and won 21-17.

From “Devaney: Birth of a Dynasty”:

Adrian Fiala, a linebacker on the field that day who later served as a longtime Husker football broadcaster, couldn’t help wondering how the play could have altered the course of Husker history. “Frankly, that play today is no call,” he said. “If we lose that game, and the heat goes from simmer to high, and Bob gets run out of town, what would that have done to Nebraska’s fortunes?”

The witty Devaney later would joke about the break he caught, referring to the ref who made the call as his brother-in-law. And he and Bryant also shared a good laugh about the rabbit’s foot. This game would mark the start of a new pregame ritual for Devaney. For the rest of his time on the Nebraska sideline, he’d seek out Bryant and rub that rabbit’s foot.

They didn’t realize it that day, but it would be quite awhile before the luck in that old rabbit’s foot would run out.

The Huskers did not lose again until the 1972 season opener against UCLA in Los Angeles. And they would not lose again to the Jayhawks until 2005.

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