Overall record: 9 - 2 - 1. Big Eight record: 4 - 2 - 1 (tie 2nd). Final national ranking: 7th AP, tie 11th UPI. In many ways, Osborne’s first season offered hints of things to come. He won his opening game 40 - 13 over UCLA. He went for a two - point conversion in the final minute against Missouri and it failed, leading to a 13 - 12 loss. He gambled on a run on fourth - and - goal from inside the 1 with 2:23 to go against Oklahoma State and came up short in a 17 - 17 tie. And Oklahoma never let NU snap the ball in Sooner territory in a 27 - 0 rout.
Overall record: 9 - 3. Big Eight ecord: 5 - 2 (tie 2nd). Final national ranking: 9th AP, 7th UPI. Twice during the season, All - America quarterback Dave Humm left games early with injuries and the Huskers lost both (to Wisconsin and Missouri). True freshman I - back Monte Anthony ran for 157 yards against Colorado. NU led top - ranked Oklahoma in the third quarter before losing 28 - 14. In the Sugar Bowl, the Huskers rallied for all their points in the fourth quarter of a 13 - 10 win over Florida.
Overall record: 10 - 2. Big Eight ecord: 6 - 1 (tie 1st). Final national ranking: 9th AP, 9th UPI. Nebraska, which opened the season No. 6, steadily climbed to No. 2 with 10 straight victories, including four shutouts. The “Bummeroosky” fake - punt play for a touchdown keyed a 30 - 7 romp over Missouri. But No. 7 Oklahoma drilled the Huskers 35 - 10, then NU lost 17 - 14 to Arizona State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Overall record: 9 - 3 - 1. Big Eight record: 4 - 3 (tie 4th). Final national ranking: 9th AP, 7th UPI. Nebraska was preseason No. 1 and had a star quarterback returning in Vince Ferragamo. But the Huskers never lived up to their billing. They opened the season with a tie at LSU. Then three league losses, including two at home, dropped NU to a tie for fourth in the Big Eight - the lowest league finish Osborne would have in his career.
Overall record: 9 - 3. Big Eight ecord: 5 - 2 (tie 2nd). Final national ranking: 12th AP, 10th UPI. The season started wildly. First came a 19 - 10 home loss to Washington State, coached by ex - Husker aide Warren Powers, then a 31 - 24 upset of Alabama and Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. The Alabama game was the coming out party for walk - on I - back I.M. Hipp. A home loss to Iowa State and a 38 - 7 drubbing at Oklahoma stopped any league title hopes.
Overall record: 9 - 3. Big Eight record: 6 - 1 (tie 1st). Final national ranking: 8th AP, 8th UPI. After losing in the opener at top - ranked Alabama, Nebraska started its own serious challenge for the national title. The Huskers won their next nine games, capped by a 17 - 14 upset of No. 1 Oklahoma. The win moved NU to No. 2, but the Huskers fell at home to Missouri the next week. Then they learned they would be paired in the Orange Bowl with Oklahoma, a painful rematch that produced a 31 - 24 loss. After the season, a frustrated Osborne flew to Colorado to discuss coaching the Buffaloes. He decided to stay, and the fan support that followed boosted Osborne’s spirits enough for him to call it “a turning point” in his career.
Overall record: 10 - 2. Big Eight record: 6 - 1 (2nd). Final national ranking: 9th AP, 7th UPI. Wins over Iowa and Penn State followed by three consecutive shutouts and the emergence of I - back Jarvis Redwine had Husker fans thinking big. NU was 10 - 0 and No. 3 going to Oklahoma, but the Sooners got 247 yards rushing from Billy Sims to win 17 - 14. The Husker scored a late touchdown on the “Fumbleroosky” guard - around play.
Overall record: 10 - 2. Big Eight record: 6 - 1 (2nd). Final national ranking: 7th AP, 7th UPI. This was the first season that Osborne’s option - I offensive formation was fully installed. A surprise early season loss at home to Florida State was the only blemish until a late - season matchup with Oklahoma. The Huskers got 158 yards rushing from Redwine and 122 from fullback Andra Franklin, but Sooner Magic struck again as Buster Rhymes broke a long run to set up his own winning touchdown run from the 1 with 56 seconds to play.
Overall record: 9 - 3. Big Eight record: 7 - 0 (1st). Final national ranking: 11th AP, 9th UPI. After the worst start in Osborne’s career (1 - 2) and a quarterback change in the second half of the fourth game (to sophomore Turner Gill), the Huskers bounced back to win their first outright conference championship under Osborne. The exclamation point was a 37 - 14 road spanking of Oklahoma with 100 - yard rushing performances from Mike Rozier and Roger Craig. A series of bowl upsets gave NU a chance at the national title in the Orange Bowl, but Clemson kept its No. 1 ranking with a 22 - 15 victory.
Overall record: 12 - 1. Big Eight record: 7 - 0 (1st). Final national ranking: 3rd AP, 3rd UPI. Clearly Osborne’s best team to this point (first nationally in total offense, 14th in total defense). The only loss, 27 - 24 at Penn State, was influenced by a Nittany Lion pass completion on the winning drive that TV replays clearly showed should have been ruled incomplete. For a time, Osborne installed the “weak set” offense, which used Rozier and Craig in the backfield together. But Rozier became the regular I - back and Craig eventually moved to fullback. The Huskers rallied for 30 points in the fourth quarter to beat Hawaii and nipped LSU in the Orange Bowl.
Overall record: 12 - 1. Big Eight record: 7 - 0 (1st). Final national ranking: 2nd AP, 2nd UPI. A squad often misidentified by outsiders as Osborne’s best up to that time. Sports Illustrated and Time magazine wrote stories touting this as a team for the ages. Without doubt the offense was, led by the Triplets (Gill at quarterback, Heisman winner Rozier at I - back, Irving Fryar at wingback) and Lombardi and Outland winner Dean Steinkuhler at guard. But the defense was 73rd nationally. Even the coaches admitted to the Blackshirt weakness in the Orange Bowl with a bizarre jersey - switch among defensive backs to try to confuse Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar. It didn’t work. The Hurricanes upset seasonlong No. 1 NU 31 - 30 with Osborne choosing to go for two points and the win after scoring in the final minute. Though the pass was knocked away, the decision drew nationwide praise.
Overall record: 10 - 2. Big Eight record: 6 - 1 (tie 1st). Final national ranking: 4th AP, 3rd UPI. The Blackshirt defense went from 73rd nationally to first, but the offense sputtered in two key games. The Huskers, ranked No. 1, lost 17 - 9 at Syracuse one season after having beaten the Orangemen 63 - 0. Nebraska plowed through Big Eight play unbeaten to get back to No. 1 before facing Oklahoma at home. But the Sooners scored 10 points in the fourth quarter for a 17 - 7 upset. Osborne began feeling chest pains in December and had heart bypass surgery in 1985.
Overall record: 9 - 3. Big Eight record: 6 - 1 (2nd). Final national ranking: 11th AP, 10th UPI. Oklahoma spoiled another Nebraska bid for a national championship. The Huskers bounced back from a season - opening home loss to Florida State to win nine straight games and reach No. 2 in the polls. In a win over Missouri, Dale Klein set an NCAA record by kicking seven field goals. The Huskers went to OU ranked No. 2, but were dominated 27 - 7. In the Fiesta Bowl, true freshman quarterback Steve Taylor led a late rally that fell short in a 27 - 23 loss to Michigan and quarterback Jim Harbaugh.
Overall record: 10 - 2. Big Eight record: 5 - 2 (3rd). Final national ranking: 5th AP, 4th UPI. Nebraska earned two strong road wins (at Illinois and South Carolina), but slipped 20 - 10 at Colorado (which finished 6 - 6) in week seven. That was the first time an Osborne - coached squad lost to a team that finished the season without a winning record. NU warmed up for Oklahoma with three more wins, including the Kansas State game played in heavy snow the first half. Against OU, a late face - mask penalty kept a drive alive, and the Sooners went on to score 10 points in the final 1:22 to win 20 - 17.
Overall record: 10 - 2. Big Eight record: 6 - 1 (2nd). Final national ranking: 6th AP, 6th UPI. In a stunning move, Osborne allowed this team to strut, brag and bluster on what Broderick Thomas called the Hell Raisin’ Tour. For nine weeks, the Huskers had a lot to talk about as they moved up to No. 1 and had just one close call (35 - 28 at Arizona State). Taylor set a school record with five TD passes against UCLA. But No. 2 Oklahoma came to town and rolled up 444 yards in a 17 - 7 win that could have been 35 - 7. And that was the end of the officially sanctioned loose - lipped Huskers forever. A 31 - 28 bowl setback to Florida State started a seven - year postseason skid.
Overall record: 11 - 2. Big Eight record: 7 - 0 (1st). Final national ranking: 10th AP, 10th UPI. Nebraska opened with a Kickoff Classic win over Texas A&M, but two games later fell behind UCLA 28 - 0 in the first quarter of a 41 - 28 loss. The Huskers bounced back to beat Arizona State and had three 100 - yard rushers in a game for the first time (Ken Clark, Steve Taylor, Terry Rodgers). The win string reached nine straight despite a late - season offensive slump (wins of 7 - 0 over Colorado and 7 - 3 over Oklahoma). In the Orange Bowl, only a 50 - yard field goal kept NU from getting shut out by Miami.
Overall record: 10 - 2. Big Eight record: 6 - 1 (2nd). Final national ranking: 11th AP, 12th UPI. Without question this was the weakest schedule ever under Osborne. Nebraska rolled to an 8 - 0 record and moved up to No. 3 before a showdown with No. 2 Colorado. NU outgained CU 397 - 227 but lost 27 - 21. A 41 - 17 Fiesta Bowl drubbing from Florida State knocked Nebraska, ranked No. 11, out of both final Top 10s for the first time in Osborne’s career.
Overall record: 9 - 3. Big Eight record: 5 - 2 (3rd). Final national ranking: 24th AP, tie 17th UPI. This may go down as the only team that quit on Osborne. The Huskers started 8 - 0 and moved up to No. 3. But they lost three of their final four games, and allowed 45 points each to Oklahoma and Georgia Tech to end the season. The final rankings were NU’s worst since being unranked in 1968. Rumors swirled at the Citrus Bowl that Osborne’s health might force him to resign. He said an abnormal heart test reading that proved to be a false alarm led to the rumors.
Overall record: 9 - 2 - 1. Big Eight record: 6 - 0 - 1 (tie 1st). Final national ranking: 15th AP, 16th USA Today - CNN. History was made in the home opener when the game was delayed 19 minutes because of lightning. NU lost at home to Washington in the third game, but hasn’t slipped at Memorial Stadium since. The Huskers fell to 16th after that game and never were higher than ninth after that. The 22 - 0 loss to Miami in the Orange Bowl was the first time NU was shut out since Osborne’s first season, covering a span of 221 games.
Overall record: 9 - 3. Big Eight record: 6 - 1 (1st). Final national ranking: 14th AP, 14th USA Today - CNN. Nebraska opened the season ranked 11th and never got higher than seventh. After a loss at Washington, momentum was building after back - to - back thrashings of No. 8 Colorado and No. 13 Kansas. But the biggest upset of Osborne’s career - a 19 - 10 loss at 4 - 7 Iowa State - followed, as freshman quarterback Tommie Frazier tried to play with a leg injury.
Overall record: 11 - 1. Big Eight record: 7 - 0 (1st). Final national ranking: 3rd AP, 3rd USA Today - CNN. The “Refuse to Lose” team won the hearts of Husker fans with their gutty performances, and gave Osborne proof that his plan to restore NU to national prominence - mainly by changing to an attacking 4 - 3 defense - was working. One - point wins at UCLA and Kansas kept the undefeated season alive. Nebraska entered the Orange Bowl 11 - 0 and as a 17 - point underdog to No. 1 Florida State, but came within a field goal (and a universally decried bad call that nullified Corey Dixon’s punt - return touchdown) of the upset. Though the loss was disputed, many coaches and players felt the outcome provided the fire for the ensuing run of success.
Overall record: 13 - 0. Big Eight record: 7 - 0 (1st). Final national ranking: 1st AP, 1st USA Today - CNN. Osborne’s first national championship didn’t come easily. Frazier missed 8 games with blood clots in his leg. Backup quarterback Brook Berringer missed parts of three games with a collapsed lung. I - back Lawrence Phillips, playing with a broken thumb, sparked a win over Kansas State in which walk - on Matt Turman started at quarterback. Berringer bounced back to lead a 24 - 7 romp over No. 2 Colorado. After slipping past undefeated Penn State in the polls the next week, the Huskers capped their title run with a 24 - 17 Orange Bowl win over Miami as Frazier came off the bench to lead two late touchdown drives.
Overall record: 12 - 0. Big Eight record: 7 - 0 (1st). Final national ranking: 1st AP, 1st USA Today - CNN. You can boil this season down to three words - simply the best. This team trailed for only 12 minutes in 12 games, saw no one get closer than 10 points in the second half and had an average margin of victory of 39 points a game. The all - time Sagarin power rankings listed this squad as college football’s best, with the 1971 NU team the runner - up. But this squad also will be remembered for its off - the - field turmoil. Phillips was suspended for six games for assaulting an ex-girlfriend, while tackle Christian Peter, cornerback Tyrone Williams and receiver Riley Washington were involved in high - profile legal actions that brought the harshest national spotlight on the program ever. The sad finish came the following April when Berringer died in the crash of a light plane.
Overall record: 11 - 2. Big 12 record: 8 - 0 (1st North, 2nd overall). Final national ranking: 6th AP, 6th USA Today - CNN. The post - Frazier era started ruggedly with a 19 - 0 loss at Arizona State in the second game. The Huskers rode their defense and kicking game to the first Big 12 North Division title and put themselves within one win of a shot at the national title. But NU lost to unranked and 21 - point underdog Texas in the league title game.
Overall record: 13 - 0. Big 12 record: 8 - 0 (1st North, 1st overall). Final national ranking: 2nd AP, 2nd USA Today - ESPN. Quarterback Scott Frost shook off the criticism he took from the year before to rush and pass for 1,000 yards. The Huskers won at Washington early and moved up to No. 1 in mid - October. On Nov. 8, NU played its first overtime game ever and won 45 - 38 over Missouri after tying the game on the final play of regulation with a freakish deflected pass from Frost to wingback Shevin Wiggins to split end Matt Davison. The Huskers won the Big 12 title on Dec. 6, then four days later Osborne announced his resignation effective after the February signing date for recruits.