td_vs_ou_celebrationtd_vs_ou_celebration
Football

Black 41 Flash Reverse

It was first-and-ten with 6:30 left on the clock in the fourth quarter.

According to the BCS rankings, Oklahoma was the No. 1-ranked team in the country at the time, and Nebraska, leading 13-10, was the No. 2-ranked team.

The magnitude of the game.

The intensity of the crowd.

Everything came together in this one moment.

Snap.

Eric Crouch handled the ball, handed it off to Thunder Collins, and Mike Stuntz came barreling from the opposite direction to catch the pitch.

“As I’m making my way across, I look behind the defense and see daylight with Crouch wide open downfield,” Stuntz remembered. “I rear back, make the throw, and then the crowd exploded.”

Stuntz, an 18-year-old true freshman at the time, didn’t fully understand how big of a play it was at the time. But once the game was over and everyone was talking about the play, he began to realize how special it was. 

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When the Time is Right

According to Stuntz, that play was actually in the works for the entire week leading up to the game—he just wasn’t sure if it would get called.

Nebraska’s coaching staff had scouted some of Oklahoma’s defensive tendencies in advance and drawn up the Black 41 Flash Reverse on a Sunday. The Huskers spent the entire week going over the play in meetings and implementing it in practice.

“I always knew it was a possibility, but never a certainty,” Stuntz said. “They told me a few times during the game itself to ‘get ready for it’, but the call never came.” 

He waited and waited—and waited.

In the first quarter, nothing happened.

It was the same in the second quarter. 

And even in the third quarter—the same thing—it didn’t happen.

It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that they finally made the call.

“I was actually surprised at that point because it was so late in a close game,” Stuntz said. “But was I nervous when they did? Not really. Maybe it was the fact that I was so young and didn’t know any better. Maybe it was the simplicity of the play, at least from my perspective. All I had to do was catch a very easy pitch from one guy and make the throw to the other guy that’s hopefully incredibly open. It was something we’d done a million times.”

For Stuntz, it didn’t really matter who they were playing, how big the game was, how many people were in the stadium, or any of that stuff, really. He was convinced that if you’ve practiced it enough and everyone was on the same page, you can execute it. 

“Of course, that’s a lot easier said than done,” he added. “But that’s how I approached it. And honestly, keeping that in mind just made everything easier.” 

The Power of Nebraska Football

After Nebraska ended up winning 20-10, Stuntz didn’t anticipate this one play to gather this much attention. Even in the first few days after the game, some people told him how this was “one of the biggest plays they’ve ever seen.”

“You know, with that being my first year, I thought we were going to do stuff like that all of the time,” Stuntz said. “You don’t realize how difficult pulling something like this off is at that level.”

Stuntz quickly realized that while the play has caused a lot of buzz, it didn’t mean much the next game. Or the one after that. 

“Every game starts back at 0-0 and you have to earn everything out there,” he said. “But to this day, I still get excited whenever a random Huskers fan comes up and mentions that play.”

When Stuntz still lived in Nebraska, he said conversations like that would happen a couple of times a week. To his surprise, even decades later, people still recognized him on the streets and brought it up. 

“I’ve heard hundreds of stories from people—probably more than that actually—about where they were sitting, how they watched the game, or how they were hugging complete strangers,” Stuntz said. “Just knowing that play impacted so many people is amazing and incredibly rewarding.”

But the Black 41 Flash Reverse didn’t just leave its mark on Husker fans around the world. Stuntz also recalls how this play allowed him to tap into the power of Nebraska football and form connections that went far beyond sports. 

And it is those connections that Stuntz pinpoints as the biggest impact from this historic play. 

There will be a moment for everyone, and he hopes that these young men and women have faith and trust in the process.

Mike Stuntz

Everyone Has a Story

“People start their college careers with all of these expectations out of high school,” he said. “You’re sort of gassed up with talk of how you’re the greatest player being recruited. Of course, you want to believe all of those things, but then you get to college and realize, well, everybody else is the greatest, too. So, you need to find a way to make your mark. Perhaps it’s in a different way than you initially expected, but you never give up, shrug, or shrivel away from the opportunity. You need to be there. You need to be ready when it’s your turn. When that moment comes, you might only get one shot at it.”

That’s what Stuntz hopes people will take away from his story. 

He hopes to inspire other athletes whose college careers may not go as expected. Stuntz is a firm believer that there will be a moment for everyone, and he hopes that these young men and women have faith and trust in the process. 

And who knows? It just might happen this weekend.

Against Oklahoma.

20 years after Stuntz’s moment.