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September 05, 2010

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EXCERPT | September 5, 1983

Big Red Machine

Nebraska overwhelmed Penn State on opening day

With a powerful offensive line and a backfield that included quarterback Turner Gill and All-America I-back Mike Rozier, the Cornhuskers were touted as one of the country's top teams. Jack McCallum reported for SI.

This time Nebraska didn't take any chances. The last time Nebraska played Penn State—on Sept. 25, 1982—the Cornhuskers blew a three-point lead in the final four seconds and suffered a bitter 27--24 defeat. The Nittany Lions went on to win the national championship. On Monday night, though, in the inaugural Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands, Nebraska gave Penn State not the slightest opportunity to stage late-game heroics. Or, for that matter, early or mid-game heroics. Unleashing a formidable offensive attack coolly led by quarterback Turner Gill, the Huskers rolled up 500 yards on the way to a 44--6 romp that was even more one-sided than the score.

With Penn State behind him—far, far behind—Nebraska coach Tom Osborne noted afterward that a team usually improves the most between its first and second games of the season. Yikes. Heaven help Wyoming, the next victim on the Huskers' schedule.

Gill turned down a baseball offer this summer from the New York Yankees—he's a shortstop—to direct Osborne's option offense. The senior completed 11 of 14 passes for 158 yards and one touchdown, ran for 53 yards and a score, and constantly befuddled the Lions with his option trickery. Penn State would play the pass—and Gill would run. Penn State would play the run—and Gill would pass.

The Huskers finished 12--0 and Rozier won the Heisman, but they lost the national title to Miami in a memorable Orange Bowl, falling 31--30.

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This week SI.com takes a look at the alltime greatest NFL players at each number, from 00 to 99

Our decision was based on a combination of the player's impact on the game, statistics and the team's success when the player wore that number. Wearing number 51 for nine seasons with the Bears, Dick Butkus(above) appeared in eight Pro Bowls and remains the standard by which all middle linebackers are judged.

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PHOTOPhotograph by HEINZ KLUETMEIERI-BACK ATTACK Rozier rushed for only 71 yards against Penn State, but he finished the season with 2,148 and 29 touchdowns. PHOTOHY PESKIN PHOTOHEINZ KLUETMEIER PHOTODUANE BURLESON/AP PHOTOJOHN G. ZIMMERMAN/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (BUTKUS) PHOTOANN HEISENFELT/AP (STRASBURG) PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (ADDAI) PHOTOGREG NELSON (ARIZA) PHOTOANDY HAYT (WHITE)#92 Reggie White PHOTOPETER READ MILLER (RICE)#80 Jerry Rice PHOTOPETER READ MILLER (ELWAY)#7 John Elway PHOTOJERRY WACHTER (PAYTON)#34 Walter Payton PHOTOJAMES DRAKE (UNITAS)#19 Johnny Unitas PHOTOJOHN IACONO (SANDERS)#20 Barry Sanders

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)