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It's always meant a lot, of course. That's how rivalries work. No matter the stakes, the games mean something more for both sides.

But in 1970, as Nebraska was on the verge of becoming a nationally prominent program, the annual matchup with Oklahoma meant a little more.

The Huskers had snapped a three-game Oklahoma winning streak the year before, part of a strong finish to the 1969 season that set up 1970's run.

NU would win again in 1971 on its way to a second straight national title (and then Oklahoma would win six in a row and nine of the next 10).

The wins were hugely important for Bob Devaney as he built his program in Lincoln. And the key may have been that he didn't treat them like huge games.

"You didn’t have to tell us anything for Oklahoma. You respected ’em, you hated ’em and you loved to play ’em. No. I think the coaches knew to they couldn’t get too ramped up in it," former Nebraska defensive back Bill Kosch said. "If (the coaches) demonstrate they are excited and ready to pee their pants, it might trickle down. They kept their head, and if anything you overprepared like (Monte) Kiffin. … We had 12 days to get ready. If anything, I think you probably overpractice."

There was, by all accounts, no pants-wetting in Nebraska's 28-21 win over the Sooners in 1970 to clinch the Big Eight title, an unbeaten regular season and a trip to the Orange Bowl to face LSU. But the Huskers still had to sweat out something that would rear its head plenty over the next couple of decades — Oklahoma with the ball, late in the game, driving for a score.

It wasn't until Husker cornerback Jim Anderson picked off a deflected pass in the end zone as time ran out that NU could exhale and look ahead, and do so knowing it finally had a winning streak against its rival.

"You go back to the Bud Wilkinson era when Oklahoma was a dominant force in the country, not just in the Big Eight, but in the country. And so Oklahoma was always a contender to win the conference year in and year out," former NU quarterback Van Brownson said. "And coach Devaney came in there and started having some success against them, and it just kind of built into a good rivalry because Nebraska was getting good athletes, and Oklahoma was getting good athletes, and they were always good football games."

This wasn't a classic Oklahoma team. The Sooners came in 6-3 in the first year of running the wishbone offense, still working out the kinks in a system that would carry them to so much success down the road.

It may have just given OU a bit of an advantage. The Huskers had to prepare for something they had hardly seen, and quarterback Jack Mildren also gave the Sooners a throwing threat.

And there was that matter of really, really wanting to beat their rival.

"They liked playing us, they liked beating us, we liked beating them, and that rivalry’s been there for a long, long time. And it just continues," NU linebacker Jerry Murtaugh said. "In our day we didn’t talk much. And they didn’t either. They just came out to hit you, and beat you up. And that’s what I liked about them. There was no pussyfooting around — we’re going to come get you. And that’s the way to be. And that’s the way they were."

Contact the writer at cbasnett@journalstar.com or 402-473-7436. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.

This article originally ran on journalstar.com.

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