With no sports due to the COVID-19, it gives everybody a chance to look back at things from the past. Today we take a look at the 1981 Orange Bowl, featuring #4 Nebraska taking on top ranked Clemson.
The game would ultimately decide the national championship and was played on January 1, 1982 at the Orange Bowl in Miami Florida.
The Cornhuskers entered the game with a 9-2 record while the Tigers came into the game undefeated at 11-0.
The Tigers were led by head coach Danny Ford, while the Cornhuskers were led by Tom Osborne. Clemson came into the game trying to win its first ever championship.
Nebraska started the 1981 season poorly but then won their next eight games to emerge at 9-2 and fourth in the polls.
Earlier in the day #2 UGA and #3 Alabama both lost (24-20 to #8 Pitt and 14-12 to #6 Texas respectively), opening the door for the Orange Bowl victor to claim the national title. The Cornhuskers came into the game as a 4½ point favorite but the Tigers would not be denied.
Clemson scored first on a 41 yard field goal by Donald Igwebuike to take a 3–0 lead. Nebraska then succeeded with a trick play that saw running back Mike Rozier throw a 25 yard halfback pass to Anthony Steels for a touchdown and the Cornhuskers took their first lead 7-3.
Igwebuike then kicked his second FG, a 37 yarder to pull the Tigers to within 7–6. Following a Nebraska fumble, Cliff Austin scored on a 2 yard touchdown run and Clemson led 12–7 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Clemson’s Homer Jordan threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Perry Tuttle and Igwebuike added another field goal, this time a 36-yarder. With that kick the Tigers extended their lead to fifteen points at 22-7.
In the fourth quarter, Roger Craig scored a touchdown for the Huskers on a 26-yard run. Following a Nebraska penalty on the first two point try Craig scored from the eight on a two point conversion attempt. That score closed the margin to 22–15. The Huskers got the ball back but penalties ultimately killed the drive and forced them to punt the ball back to Clemson.
The Tigers maintained possession for the bulk of the last six minutes and secured their first national championship in college football. They remained on top of both final polls. Nebraska dropped to eleventh in the AP poll and ninth in the UPI poll.