MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

October 30, 2008

Oklahoma and Nebraska look to return rivalry to its storied past

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska’s last visit to Oklahoma was an embarrassment to one of college football’s great all-time rivalries.

Former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan’s “hillbilly” comment? The collision of a Nebraska player and an OU spirit group member that resulted in a felony assault trial? Callahan’s throat-slash gesture the next year?

The Cornhuskers and Sooners insist there’s no bad blood in advance of Saturday’s game in Norman.

Instead, players on both sides have educated themselves on the classic battles that took place in the years before most of them were born. Coaches are reminiscing about watching Nebraska-Oklahoma games while eating Thanksgiving leftovers.

And, to show the ties that bind run deep, a reunion dinner will be held Friday night for players and coaches from the 1971 “Game of the Century” — won by Nebraska.

The series between the former Big Eight powers took a major hit when the Big 12 formed in 1996 and put the two in separate divisions. The scheduling format matches the teams in consecutive years, then puts the series on hiatus for two years before they play again.

Sentimental fans hearken to the glory days in years like this.

“I’m very respectful of all that’s been here before we arrived here 10 years ago, and it’s amazing — the conference championships, national championships, all of it,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “I love it and I do respect it, appreciate it and realize that you don’t get it a lot of places.”

For all the history, things hit a low point in 2004.

Darren DeLone, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound offensive lineman, collided with a member of OU’s heckling Ruf/Neks spirit group during pregame warmups and was charged with, and later acquitted of, felony aggravated assault. As Callahan walked off the field that night, he called Sooners fans “hillbillies.”

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