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June 28, 2011

Remembering NU's five worst losses vs. the Big Ten

While Nebraska enters its firs season as members of the Big Ten Conference with plenty of fond memories against its new league foes, there are also plenty of moments to forget.

With the Huskers set to officially join the Big Ten on Friday, HuskerOnline.com decided to take one last look back on five games to forget against the Big Ten.

1945: Minnesota 61, Nebraska 7

This 54-point blowout stood as the worst loss in Nebraska history for nearly 60 years until the 70-10 debacle at Texas Tech in 2004. It also served as the perfect example of Minnesota's dominance over the Huskers for more than a half century.

After the Gophers won the very first meeting between the schools 20-12 in 1900, they went to win 29 of the next 37 match-ups with Nebraska. At one point, Minnesota won 10 straight games in the series from 1940-49.

It wasn't until Bob Devaney took over as NU's head coach that the Huskers' finally turned the tide in the series. Since then, Nebraska has won the past 14 meetings, though the teams haven't played since 1990.

1981: Iowa 10, Nebraska 7

Iowa has had little to brag about against Nebraska over the past 30 years, but the Hawkeyes did get one big one to open the 1981 season. A year after the Huskers crushed Iowa 57-0 in Lincoln, they traveled to Iowa City for their season opener ranked No. 7 in the country.

Nebraska couldn't seem to catch a break all game against the Hawkeyes, who took a 10 lead into halftime and held NU scoreless on three 4th quarter trips into Iowa territory. The Hawkeyes sealed the win on an interception with 39 seconds remaining.

The Huskers would go on to finish the season 9-2 and played top-ranked Clemson in the Orange Bowl for the national championship, but the Tigers came away with a 22-15 win. Nebraska hosted Iowa again the following season in 1982 and got the last laugh with a 42-7 win in Lincoln.

1982: Penn State 27, Nebraska 24

There is little arguing what was Nebraska's all-time most frustrating loss against a Big Ten opponent, and it came in State College, Penn., in 1982. In a game that would end up deciding that season's national champion, the No. 3 Huskers took a 24-21 lead over No. No. 8 Penn State when quarterback Turner Gill ran in from 1-yard out with 1:18 left in the game.

All the Blackshirts needed to do was get a stop to seal the win, but PSU quarterback Todd Blackledge orchestrated a 65-yard coring drive in the final 1:18 to lead the Nittany Lions to the upset. What made the game so controversial, though, was the play just before the winning touchdown. On a 2nd-and-5 from the 18-yard line with 13 seconds left in the game, Blackledge hit tight end Mike McCloskey on a 15-yard pass down the sideline. However, replays clearly showed McCloskey was out of bounds when he caught it, and he's since admitted he was out years later.

Even so, the play stood, and Penn State when on to win the national title that year while Nebraska finished 12-1, with that loss standing as their only blemish on the year.

1986: Michigan 27, Nebraska 23

While Nebraska has gotten the best of Michigan for the most part over the years, the Wolverines did come away with one big one in the 1986 Fiesta Bowl. The Huskers, led by two-time All-Big Eight running back Doug DuBose, came into the game with a roster that featured 20 future NFL players and were the heavy favorites.

After NU jumped out to a 14-3 lead at halftime, though, Bo Schembechler's Wolverines came storming back with 24 unanswered points to pull off the win. Michigan was led by quarterback Jim Harbaugh and running back Jamie Morris, who was named the game's MVP, and it ended the season ranked No. 2 in the polls.

Nebraska dropped to No. 7 overall following the loss, but it did find its quarterback of the future in freshman Steve Taylor, who came in during the fourth quarter and led the Huskers to their lone touchdown of the second half.

2002: Penn State 40, Nebraska 7

Twenty years after Nebraska was robbed of a national championship berth in '82, the Huskers returned to State College as the No. 8 team in the country to take on unranked Penn State. In a nationally televised game that still stands as one of the largest crowds ever at Beaver Stadium, the Nittany Lions ran all over the Huskers in a 40-7 blowout.

That game would only be a glimpse of things to come for Nebraska's 2002 season, as it ended the year 7-7 and lost to Ole Miss in the Independence Bowl. It marked the first time the Huskers didn't post a nine-win season in more than 30 years.

The loss would also signify the beginning of the end for head coach Frank Solich, as he went on to finish his final 22 games at Nebraska with a record of just 13-9.

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