Pospisil: A tough loss to a team from Colorado in Year 2? Bob Devaney knew the feeling

Bob Devaney had a game much like Scott Frost early in Year 2 as Husker coach. His was the 17-13 upset loss — at home, however — to Air Force in October 1963.

The Huskers couldn’t hold the lead. Their last possession of the game ended in disaster.

Sound familiar?

Sound familiar?

Their coach appeared tired and so did the team.

Sound familiar?

Local sports writers didn’t mince words about pass defense and play calling.

Sound familiar?

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Bob Devaney had a game much like Scott Frost early in Year 2 as Husker coach. His was the 17-13 upset loss — at home, however — to Air Force in October 1963.

Nebraska gained a 13-10 lead in the final minute of the third quarter, but Air Force got the ball with 4:10 left and went 80 yards in six plays and 89 seconds. Falcons quarterback Terry Isaacson went 5 for 5, and the other play was a lateral. He connected with Fritz Greenlee — the first African American to play for the academy — for a 38-yard touchdown pass with 2:41 left.

Greenlee was 5 yards behind the Husker secondary when he made the catch.

When the Huskers began their final drive at the NU 35, Fred Duda was in the game for injured Dennis Claridge at quarterback. Duda hit Larry Tomlinson for 19 yards to the Falcon 46 and immediately went back to him. But Tomlinson was hit as he caught the ball, which the Falcons’ John Puster grabbed in midair for the clinching interception to drop NU’s record to 3-1.

Gregg McBride and Wally Provost were among the World-Herald writers at the game.

“Devaney made the long trek to the dressing room alone. In contrast to the scene following victories in Lincoln and at Minnesota, no alumni slapped him on the back. Bob moved through a crowd of bandsmen and into the field house without a kid seeking his autograph,’’ wrote McBride on Sunday. “Devaney appeared tired and so did the team. He predicted the next couple weeks will determine whether Nebraska has a ‘good team.’ ”

The next day:

McBride: “... Nebraska did little to indicate it belonged in the nation’s top ten. It will be an uphill battle to regain lost ground.

“The ‘gift’ touchdown which won for the Air Force is said to have been made possible by a ‘mixup in Nebraska defensive signals.’ If there is further confusion in the secondary it will be a long, rough road until late November.”

Provost: “The Cornhuskers can profit by a look at themselves in a mirror. They will see that their competition has been more respectable than any one realized; they are in excellent position for a championship challenge; their full potential has not yet been realized.

“When they are able to put three or four quarters of solid football together, they could be very tough to handle.”

Sound familiar?

Devaney also had to walk into the mightiest of the Monday morning quarterback dens, the weekly Extra Point luncheon, and explain why he went for two when Nebraska went up 13-10. The World-Herald referred to it as a “prize boner” and a “goof.”

With typical wit, he told the luncheon crowd: “If the Air Force had kicked a field goal and produced a tie, I would have cut my throat in the middle of the field. I must have arrived at the decision because I had Nebraska by five points.”

Mind you, Air Force was a good football team that was 2-1 with a win over then-No. 10 Washington when it played Nebraska. It ended up with a 7-4 record after a shutout loss to North Carolina in the Gator Bowl.

Leaving Lincoln with a win, coach Ben Martin said, was a plum: “I can’t think of any victory bigger than this since I’ve been at the academy. By far it’s our biggest accomplishment. Everyone knew Nebraska has a tremendous team.”

As for the rest of Nebraska’s 1963 season, the Huskers didn’t lose again. Won the league title and beat Auburn in the Orange Bowl to finish 10-1.

Will any of that sound familiar?

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