Former Oklahoma quarterback Charles Thompson will return to the site of what he calls his greatest college victory but in an entirely different role.
Thompson, one of the masters of Barry Switzer’s wishbone attack, led the Sooners to a 17-7 first-place win in Nebraska in 1987 in what was dubbed “The Game of the Second Century.” He will return to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Saturday to cheer on his son Casey playing quarterback in Nebraska against Oklahoma No. 6.
The game has a special meaning for Charles because it is a series he grew up watching. Nebraska and Oklahoma were strongmen in the Big 8 and Big 12 for decades before the Huskers left for the Big Ten, and the programs often played late-season games that influenced the national title race.
“Being a part of it in that aspect is a little different for me,” Charles said. “My son is clearly a University of Nebraska quarterback and has a chance to play against sooner is one of those deals — you can never say never.”
Charles had 21 yards for 126 yards in that 1987 game, and Oklahoma earned a Big 8 title and a chance to play in the national championship in the Orange Bowl. Some old-school Nebraska fans still remember him ruining their Thanksgiving weekend.
“A lot of fans say, ‘Hey man, we’re really happy to have Casey here, but I gotta be honest, boy, you broke our hearts that day,'” Charles said.
It has been a strange journey for Charles as a parent. Casey led the Texans, Oklahoma’s most hated rival, against the Sooners last year. He passed for 388 yards and five touchdowns, but the Sooners won 55-48.
Now, Casey has moved on to Oklahoma’s most respected competitor of all time. Charles said he wouldn’t wear the burnt orange from Texas last year, but he doesn’t mind wearing the crimson and cream from Nebraska.
“Red has always been my favorite color anyway,” Charles said with a laugh. “I’ve never worn burnt orange. I actually wore the logo, but it was either solid black or something white but never burnt orange. But I have no problem wearing Nebraska red.”
While watching Thompson’s in-game play will bring back memories for some, the elements of Saturday’s match will be very different. Oklahoma is still a powerhouse as it was in the 1980s, but Nebraska has struggled in recent years.
Nebraska won two National titles in the ’70s and three more in the ’90s, but the Huskers haven’t reached that level of greatness in the past two decades. The program has been knocking on the door for the past two years with a streak of converging losses, but the latest setback — a 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern — cost coach Scott Frost his job.
Now, under interim coach Mickey Joseph, Casey could help launch Nebraska’s return to glory. Charles said the mummy is not far from success again.
“I think they’ve played decently and I think they’re playing well enough to win games,” Charles said. “It has to be complementary football, though. They (the attack) have to do more to help the defense and vice versa.”
Casey could have been sooner. Oklahoma recruited him out of high school before he chose Texas. And when Casey was at the transfer gate, new Oklahoma coach Brent Venables tried to get him.
But Oklahoma also recruited Dillon Gabriel, who knew offensive coordinator Jeff Libby from their time together in Central Florida. Charles said the fact that Gabriel knew about Libby’s crime actually prompted him to go elsewhere.
Casey quickly adapts to Nebraska. In three games, he passed for 866 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for four goals.
It’s a winner,” Venables said. “He’s a leader. He believes in himself, so he plays with a lot of confidence. You would really prefer to have a double-threat athletic guy who’s a distracted brain, you know? He’s not. He’s kind of a stealth bomber mentality, which I love and respect.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: twitter.com/CliffBruntAP
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