In 1997, the minimum wage was $5.15 and a gallon of gas averaged about $0.69. Titanic, Men in Black, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park were the blockbuster hits of the year, and it was also the year that Princess Diana was killed in a motorcade accident.
Times were different back then, and so was football. In 1997, you could run the ball down your opponent’s throat and play hard-nosed defense to win football games. Okay, maybe football wasn’t all that different from what it is now, but it certainly doesn’t look like it did 25 years ago.
With pre-snap motions, spread offenses, and nickel defenses, I bet that coaches that were around in that era have a hard time recognizing the sport at times.
Nonetheless, here are how things went down in 1997.
1997 Football Season
As was the case for the majority of the 90s, Nebraska ran the Big 12 conference in ’97 just as they did the Big 8 before that, but more on them later.
Texas A&M and Oklahoma State were the top two teams in the Big 12 South at 9-4 and 8-4 on the year. Texas, who started the season ranked 12th, ended up with a 4-7 record (sound familiar?) while Oklahoma, in their second year under John Blake, went 4-8 and suffered one of the worst losses in school history, a 69-7 loss to Tom Osburne’s Cornhuskers.
Kansas State had one of its best seasons in school history in 1997, finishing 11-1, with their only loss coming to Nebraska, a 56-26 thumping in Lincoln. Since they shared the North division with Nebraska that loss kept them out of the Big 12 Championship, but they still managed a bid the Fiesta Bowl. There, they defeated No. 13 Syracuse, 35-18, and finished the season ranked eighth in the AP Poll.
Tom Osburne and Nebraska were an absolute problem in 1997, as the Cornhuskers defeated every foe they faced and it typically wasn’t close, outscoring opponents 47-17 on average. At 13-0 you would’ve assumed that Nebraska was the undisputed champion, but in those days it was left up to the voters, and this time it was split. The AP Poll felt that 12-0 Michigan deserved to be declared national champions, while the Coach’s Poll declared Nebraska its national champion. In the end, both teams got a trophy, a rare instance where the honor was shared by two schools. The 1997 title gave Osburne three titles in four seasons with the Huskers and gave him the satisfaction he needed to retire, which he did.
I bet you can’t guess who the quarterback for the 1997 Cornhuskers team was.
Ever heard of a guy named Scott Frost?
1997 Big 12 Conference Awards
- Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year – Grant Winstrom, DL, Nebraska
- Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year – Rick Williams, RB, Texas
- Big 12 Coach of the Year – Bob Simmons, Oklahoma State
Here is a peek at the final standing in 1997, courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.
|North||W||L||Pct||W||L||Pct||Off||Def||SRS||SOS||AP Pre||AP High||AP Rank|
|South||W||L||Pct||W||L||Pct||Off||Def||SRS||SOS||AP Pre||AP High||AP Rank|
1997 NATIONAL AWARDS
- Texas RB Ricky Williams won the Doak Walker Award after rushing for 1,893 yards and 25 touchdowns on 279 carries. His performance in ’97 also helped him finish fifth in the Heisman voting that year.
- Nebraska DL Grant Winstrom took home the Lombardi Trophy after collecting 51 tackles, 8.5 sacks, a whopping 17 tackles for loss. Winstrom was a captain for the Blackshirts in ’97 and a major reason for the Huskers’ defense finishing fifth in total defense and second against the run.
- Nebraska OL Aaron Taylor won the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s best interior offensive lineman. Taylor was an anchor for NU’s offensive line at left guard, starting all 13 games in 1997 and finishing the year with 137 pancake blocks, or 11.3 per game. Nebraska’s ranked first in total offense, rushing offense, and scoring offense in 1997.
- Kansas State K Martin Gramatica won the Lou Groza Award after hitting 19-20 field goals, going 3-for-3 outside of 50 yards. He also hit 37-of-38 extra points that season.