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B1G Historical Perspective: Surrender Whites

Want to know where the term ‘surrender whites’ came from? It was first used on a cold November 14, 1992 in Ames, Iowa

Iowa State quarterback Marv Seiler in action against Nebraska
James R. Burnett/The World-Herald

The Nebraska Cornhuskers accomplished many things under the leadership of Dr. Tom Osborne. Three National Championships, thirteen Conference Championships, and an overall record of 255-49-3 from 1972 to 1997. After switching to the option-based I-formation offense in 1980 Nebraska was finally able to solve the puzzle that was Barry Switzer’s Oklahoma Sooners; reeling off four straight Big 8 Championships and five in an eight-year stretch in the 1980s.

One thing Nebraska never did through 8 games of the 1992 season under Dr. Tom was lose a game to a team who finished the season with a losing record. It appeared as though this streak would remain intact on a cold Saturday afternoon in Ames, Iowa when Osborne’s 7-1 Cornhuskers took on the lowly 3-6 Iowa State Cyclones. However, as the old saying goes – that’s why they play the games.

On November 14, 1992 the #7 ranked Cornhuskers entered Jack Trice Stadium as a 29-point favorite against Iowa State. Nebraska’s only loss in the 1992 season was a 29-14 setback to #2 ranked Washington in Seattle. In the two weeks prior to the Iowa State game, the Cornhuskers had defeated #8 Colorado (their first victory over the Buffalos since 1988) and #13 Kansas (coached by future Minnesota head coach and BTN commentator Glen Mason). Nebraska also entered the stadium with a bit of an unusual look: opting to wear their home white pants with white jerseys, going with an all-white uniform look. It didn’t appear to be a bad omen; at least not at first.

Heading into the game, the Cyclones appeared to be overmatched against a Nebraska team featuring the likes of Tommy Frazier, Derek Brown, Trev Alberts, and Will Shields. Further amplifying the (apparent) talent gap, Iowa State inserted fifth-year quarterback Marv Seiler into the starting lineup. However, things seemed to be completely off-kilter for the Cornhuskers from the very start of the game.

As the game got going, Nebraska wasn’t able to do the two things it prided itself upon: run the football, and stop the run. It was Iowa State’s triple option wishbone offense that was moving the ball up and down the field; not Nebraska’s I-formation power option offense. Iowa State’s defense completely shut down both Nebraska’s option and their power running game. Nebraska took a 10-6 second quarter lead on a Tommy Frazier touchdown pass; however, Frazier had injured his knee in the second quarter and was rendered ineffective on the quarterback keeper. Two Cyclone field goals before halftime gave Iowa State a stunning 12-10 halftime lead.

Iowa State kicker Ty Stewart whose four field goals were the deciding margin in the Cyclones 19-10 upset of Nebraska
James R. Burnett/The World-Herald

Both teams were socreless in the second half until early in the fourth quarterback. Marv Seiler took off on a 78 yard quarterback keeper, moving the ball to the Nebraska 2 yard line. On the next play, Cyclone walk-on fullback Chris Ulrich scored on a triple option dive; stretching Iowa State’s lead to 19-10. Nebraska wasn’t able to move the football on their next 2 possessions, and Iowa State kept the football for the final 5 minutes and change to hang on to the 19-10 victory; with the fans at Jack Trice Stadium tearing down the goalposts following this most improbable of upset victories.

In this victory Iowa State out ‘Nebraskaed’ Nebraska. The Cyclones used their triple option wishbone offense to rush for 373 yards. It was Marv Seiler, not the much heralded Tommy Frazier – who rushed for 144 yards. Additionally, it was the Iowa State defense – utilizing a 4-3 set with no outside blitzes – who turned a Blackshirt-like performance holding the Cornhuskers to a mere 246 yards of offense; and limiting I-back Derek Brown to 64 yards rushing.

This game turned out to be the high-water mark for Iowa State in the 1992 season. They lost their season finale to Colorado the next week to finish the season at 4-7. But this Nebraska win was just Iowa State’s third since 1960 (the other 2 coming in back-to-back seasons in 1976 and 1977 under future Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce).

Nebraska would win their final two regular season games at Oklahoma and against Kansas State in the Tokyo Dome. The Cornhuskers won the Big 8 conference and an invitation to the 1993 Orange Bowl; where they lost to Bobby Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles 27-14. Nebraska obviously rebounded from this gaffe, as they won the first of their three National Championships under Dr. Tom Osborne just 2 years later in 1994. However, it would be a long time before the Cornhuskers would don their ‘surrender white’ uniforms again.

Marv Seiler breaking off a big run against Nebraska

Historical Perspectives

Northwestern - The Upset

Purdue - The Forward Pass Comes to the Midwest

Indiana - The Real Game of the Century