Devaney revived Nebraska football when he arrived in 1962, but by 1968 his program was in trouble, reaching its low point in a season-ending 47-0 loss to Oklahoma. The Huskers stayed home that winter, their 6-4 record not earning a bowl bid.
Devaney went looking for answers and found them in:
» Tom Osborne and Monte Kiffin, two innovative young assistant coaches who retooled the team’s offense and defense.
» Quarterbacks Van Brownson and Jerry Tagge, who would set a standard for unselfish play at Nebraska.
» Boyd Epley, a pole vaulter on the NU track team who attracted the football staff’s attention with his strength-training program.
» Jerry Murtaugh, a rough-and-tumble linebacker who was brash enough to clash with his coach — and to set the team’s sights on No. 1.
» Johnny Rodgers, an electrifying young Omahan who put a charge to the powder keg of talent in the program.
They and other legendary names of Husker football — Jeff Kinney, Rich Glover, Larry Jacobson, Willie Harper — would redefine Nebraska football forever.
A large part of the book is devoted to the Game of the Century, Nebraska’s epic 35-31 victory over Oklahoma on Thanksgiving in 1971, illustrated with some never-before published photos.
Retired World-Herald photographer Rich Janda was on the scene in Norman, Oklahoma, shooting from ground level as the game unfolded.
Janda, who retired in 2004, was 32 at the time and had been shooting Husker games since 1968. But he knew this game was different, because of the buildup of the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup.
He drove to Norman with the paper's darkroom equipment the day before the game, while the rest of the staff flew down on Thanksgiving.
"The main thing I remember is it was cold," Janda said. "We hadn't expected that."
His most vivid memories of the game were Johnny Rodgers’ punt return and Jeff Kinney’s winning touchdown.
“When you’re shooting, sometimes you don’t know what’s going on in the game, because you’re concentrating on what your doing,” Janda said. He noted that his cameras at the time lacked motor drives and automatic focusing.
He also had to navigate a crowded scene on the field.
“There were a lot of people on the sideline,” he said. “Up to that point, we hadn’t seen a lot of that.”
His favorite photo of the game was of Rodgers seeming to “run on air” during his punt return. The photo didn’t run in the paper, though, because editors chose overhead shots that showed the complete punt return, which made sense in the days before endless replays on TV.
Janda’s shot of Kinney’s winning TD did get used, however.
“I didn’t think much of the final touchdown photo,” Janda said. “It was a strange play, and my angle wasn’t the best.”
He also shot Jerry Tagge’s winning touchdown in the 1971 Orange Bowl win against LSU.
He recalled that Husker fans were on the other side of the field yelling, “We’re No. 1!” as Nebraska lined up near the goal line. Janda shot as Tagge stretched across the goal line for the winning score. “It was just a matter of getting in the right place on the goal line,” he said.
That Janda photo also appears in “Devaney: Birth of a Dynasty” — even though it also didn’t make the cut for the newspaper.
A Miami photographer’s color image of the score was used instead.
What’s it like to have his photos published after all these years? “It’s kind of amazing,” he said. “But I’m more amazed that I found them. We had a water leak in our basement and some boxes on the floor got flooded. I didn’t even know if I could find them.”
Janda’s search through his old negatives turned up shots of key points in the Game of the Century. His photos help illustrate some of the key turning points in the game, including the unforgettable play that gave Nebraska early momentum: