The fumble that wasn’t a fumble

John Ruud’s (46) hit on Oklahoma’s Kelly Phelps (on ground) during the 1978 game at Memorial Stadium is still shown in Husker highlights. The officials ruled that Phelps was down before the fumble.

the Lincoln Journal Star

Nov. 11, 1978

Top-ranked Oklahoma lost five fumbles in the game, but the biggest fumble didn’t count after Nebraska’s John Ruud blasted OU’s Kelly Phelps on a fourth-quarter kickoff.

Ruud’s hit, called by some the best of all time, came after No. 4 Nebraska took a 17-14 lead.

Phelps, a freshman, took the kick near the OU sideline at the 10-yard line. Ten yards up the field, Ruud drove his helmet into Phelps’ right shoulder, the ball popped loose and NU’s George Andrews recovered at the 14. “Wait a minute, OU gets the ball,” radio announcer Lyell Bremser said as the crowd of 76,015 let its displeasure with the call known.

Nebraska won the game, giving Tom Osborne his first victory against OU. Fans tore down the goal posts. 

Ruud said he still gets asked about “the hit.”

— Ken Hambleton