The appearance of the ceremonial orange should have triggered a
jubilant celebration at the end of a triumphant afternoon at Owen
Field. The No. 1- ranked Cornhuskers had just whipped Oklahoma 13-3
before a crowd of 70,216 to clinch their fourth straight Big Eight
title and their second straight shot at the national championship. Ed
Williamson, the Orange Bowl Committee president, was in the Nebraska
locker room, presenting coach Tom Osborne with a bid to his bash in
Miami. ''I guess they want to take a photo of you with the orange,''
But Osborne did not seem thrilled with the proposition of being
flash- blinded while holding an orange -- no matter how symbolically
sweet it was. ''Yeah,'' he said. ''Whatever.''
Despite having raised their record to 12-0, the Huskers were in no
mood to revel. ''It's not time to cut loose yet,'' linebacker Troy
Dumas said. ''All the work we've been doing has been toward one game
-- the national championship.'' And after seven straight bowl losses,
Nebraska could hardly rest easy while awaiting Jan. 2 and a likely
rendezvous with Miami.
The Huskers' nerves had also been jangled by this game, the swan
song of Oklahoma coach Gary Gibbs. The archrival Sooners played hard
for Gibbs, whose resignation had been announced four days before the
kickoff in Norman. The interior of the Sooner defense thwarted the
nation-leading Nebraska ground game, holding Lawrence Phillips to
double-digit yardage (50, on 21 carries) for the first time all fall.
''In light of (Gibbs's quitting), I predicted Oklahoma would play
very well,'' Osborne said. ''I do not believe we missed on our
But the Husker players came into the game with far less tentative
forecasts. ''We figured if we scored three points -- O.K., six
points -- it would be enough to win with the way we've been playing
defense,'' linebacker Ed Stewart said.
After surrendering 132 yards in the first half, which ended in a
3-3 tie, Nebraska yielded a mere 47 yards in the final two quarters,
including minus five in the fourth. Oklahoma quarterback Garrick
McGee did not complete a pass in that last period, thanks largely to
senior cornerback Barron Miles, who ran his school record of passes
broken up in a season to 11 and his conference- leading interception
total to five. Miles had earlier blocked his fourth kick of the
season, snuffing out a 33-yard field goal attempt with 8:58 to play
Still, the Nebraska attack, third in the land in scoring (38.4
points a game), was struggling. After Darin Erstad kicked a 46-yard
field goal at the start of the second quarter, the Huskers went
almost 20 minutes without a first down. Brook Berringer completed
only four of 11 passes for 23 yards in the first half and was sacked
three times. More than once, Osborne turned and glanced at the
familiar face of Tommie Frazier, who was on the sideline, wearing the
unfamiliar number 17.
No one had expected Frazier to be back in uniform in '94, least of
all the equipment manager, who had not cleaned his number 15 jersey.
But blood thinners had helped dissolve the clots that sidelined
Frazier, and he was ready to at least stand by. ''We told the doctor
we wouldn't put Tommie in unless Brook went down or something really
catastrophic happened,'' Osborne said. ''But it was nice insurance to
have him on the sidelines.'' (Also, though Osborne had applied for a
medical redshirt for the quarterback in hopes of giving Frazier an
additional year of eligibility, the NCAA denied the request.)
Berringer, meanwhile, refused to look over his shoulder at
Frazier. ''When I heard he was able to play, I just put it out of my
mind,'' he said. Osborne stood by his starter, and with Nebraska
facing a third-and-three on its own 22 in the third quarter, his
faith paid off. Berringer bootlegged for 28 yards and set up a
26-yard Tom Sieler field goal that put the Big Red up for good.
''That one play was the biggest of the ball game,'' Gibbs said. ''We
had gained field position with our opening drive and then lost it
with that one play.''
At the start of the fourth quarter, Berringer struck again, on
another third-down call. Catching Oklahoma in man-to-man coverage, he
connected with wingback Abdul Muhammad on a 44-yard heave. ''I don't
feel like I have to be the big-play guy,'' Muhammad said, ''but I
like to be.'' Three snaps later, Berringer snuck over from the
one-yard line for the game's only touchdown.
Though Phillips never did spring free, he finished the season with
1,722 yards rushing, second in Nebraska history to Mike Rozier's 1983
total of 2,148. But the day belonged to Berringer (13 completions in
23 attempts for 166 yards) and the Husker D. ''We played a tough team
in a physical game under tough circumstances, and we won it,''
Stewart said. ''We came so close a year ago. We haven't forgotten
that. Not everybody gets a second chance, and now we've got one. We
have a chance to go back again and do it right.'' -- H.H.
This is an article from the Jan. 17, 1995 issue