UCLA Circa 1988- Ahhhh, the Memories
The first (and only time) I visited LA was waaaaay back in 1988. Nebraska in the Rose Bowl to play UCLA Bruins led by some guy named Troy Aikman. I was a Jr Tight End that backed up All Big 8, Todd Millikin. It’s a good thing we ran so many double TE sets or I might not have seen the field much.
We were coming off a big win a couple games earlier against Texas A&M in the Kickoff Classic. The SWC Aggies were supposed to be big (they were), physical (indeed), and fast (ummm, much quicker than this farm kid from Brady). We wore down the Aggies and won 23-14 using double TE sets, power running, and play action. Steve Taylor had a whale of a game.
We flew to the other coast to play the “soft, flashy, laid-back” Bruins coached by Terry Donahue. THAT game ended up being branded in my mind as ugly and humiliating. The final was UCLA 41 Neb. 28. I don’t remember a ton but here is what I can recall about that Sept, 1988 game in the Rose Bowl.
- The Rose Bowl was beautiful, huge, with grass like a soft carpet. During Friday walk-through we looked like horticulturists as we plucked, sniffed, and marveled as this strange green stuff. The grass at the UNL practice fields had long since dried up.
- The bowels of the Rose Bowl were old, cramped, and not nice. Maybe that was just the visitor’s side but I remember finishing dressing in the hallway because of the tight quarters.
- The UCLA students were chanting “Steroids! Steroids!” during pre-game. There had been a recent Sports Illustrated article where Dean Steinkuhler had admitted to using them. I was laughing during warmups and told backup QB, Gerry Gdowski, “they obviously aren’t talking about you and me…look at us.”
- We were shell shocked, getting down 28-0 and I remember thinking how embarrassing it was. That stuff just DIDN’T happen to the Huskers. We played our butts off just to make it respectable and a two TD game in the end.
- I blocked this small defensive end who wasn’t that strong. It was surprising how fast he was but was not great at the point of attack. That Cat ended up being an All-Pro safety. Obviously, Carnell Lake was meant to play off the line of scrimmage. One of my claims to fame was handling this DE who became an All-Pro for the Steelers. I usually forget to mention he was playing out of his natural position when I blocked him.
- I saw the hardest hit I have EVER seen in person. Dana D-Rock Brinson was hit so hard after catching a pass, I thought he was dead. I was standing about 10 yards away next to Coach Osborne & Dana’s mouthpiece flew out and landed at my feet. As the trainers were checking Dana’s pulse, Coach turned to me and said, “guess we’ll have to put another Wingback in”…always understated, that guy.
- One of the weirdest plays ever also took place in the 2nd Q when Aikman threw an interception. Mark Blazek dove, picked it off, rolled over and jogged toward the sideline holding the ball above his head. Shockingly, no official blew their whistle and Mark continued to jog half speed and slowely made his way 75yds into the end zone. Officials called it a TD…no replay in those days.
- The locker room speech by Coach after the game was typical. “it’s only one game, our goal is to win the Conference (which we did, FINALLY beating OU in Norman later that year), represent yourselves well tonight and we will start work again Monday.” Again, consistent and calm.
- Strangely, we stayed in LA that night and flew back to Lincoln on Sunday. I remember Gerry and I wanting to see the ocean and actually finding a couple of girls that had a car. We kept trying to talk them into driving to the beach (all innocent of course). They seemed to want to go out “clubbing”…I’m not sure what term was used in 1988. This story could have actually been a little better and more exciting BUT Gerry and I were probably two of the most boring college guys you would ever meet. We both had girlfriends back in Lincoln (both of whom we are still married to by the way). We declined the invitation from these California girls and made an excuse about having a strict bed check/curfew. Probably a very good long term decision.
Here is hoping that the 2012 version of Huskers vs Bruins goes better than in 1988. Either way, I bet that these players will have some memories twenty four yrs from now as well. Good times!!!