For 23 straight games Tom Osborne had counted on the quick feet
and quicker mind of Tommie Frazier to direct the Cornhuskers' option
attack. But on Sept. 25, doctors discovered that what they had
initially diagnosed as a bruise in Frazier's right calf was actually
a blood clot behind his knee. In a few days, after further testing,
Frazier underwent minor surgery to tie off the vein that appeared to
be causing the problem. He would spend the rest of 1994 on the
sidelines, taking blood thinners to stave off more clotting and
crossing his fingers that he would be able to play again.
So during the Wyoming game at Memorial Stadium, Frazier, dressed
in a warmup jacket and jean shorts, spent much of his time lying atop
a table and watching the game from that position. Osborne, meanwhile,
placed the starting offense in less familiar hands, those of backup
Brook Berringer. Through most of the first half, though, the hot
hands belonged not to Berringer but to Wyoming freshman Jeremy
Dombek, a redshirt from Henryetta, Okla., the town that once produced
a slightly more renowned Cowboy quarterback -- Troy Aikman.
Doing his best Aikman imitation, Dombek placed Nebraska in its
first hole of the season, spurring Wyoming to a 21-7 lead with 2:12
left in the second quarter. (Although this was the first Husker point
deficit, it was by no means the first time the team felt at a loss.
Coming into the Wyoming game, Nebraska trailed Florida in the AP
poll, a position the Huskers found themselves in after voters dropped
them from No. 1 to No. 2 when they were idle the week after routing
The hurry-up offense has not been a trademark of the Cornhuskers,
partly because of their ground-based attack and partly because they
usually have matters so firmly in hand that they don't need heroics.
But now they did -- and Berringer, a 6 ft. 4", 210-pound junior from
Goodland, Kans., provided them.
Taking over at the Nebraska 36, Berringer completed seven straight
passes to five receivers, the touchdown coming on a five-yard bootleg
sprint. The march gave the Big Red -- and Berringer -- a hefty hunk
of momentum for ultimately securing a 42-32 victory. ''That drive
helped his confidence,'' quarterbacks coach Turner Gill said. ''No
doubt about it.''
''We never panicked,'' offensive tackle Rob Zatechka said
afterward. ''If it were the third quarter and we still weren't doing
anything, that's when we would have.''
By the time the second half rolled around, there appeared to be
little cause for concern. On the Cornhuskers' first three possessions
of the third period -- two of them launched after interceptions, by
Tyrone Williams and Barron Miles -- Berringer led Nebraska into the
end zone and on to a 35-21 lead. He wound up connecting on 15 of 22
passes for 131 yards, rushing for a career- high 74 yards on 12
carries and scoring three touchdowns.
''Brook Berringer was great today,'' Osborne said. ''A lot of
times, if you're taking over and things aren't going well, you tend
to get jittery. But he never did.''
''We came out a little sluggish,'' Berringer said, ''but we still
scored 42 points, and that was good enough against this team.''
The Cornhuskers made sure it was enough with some rugged work
against the Cowboys' Ryan Christopherson, the nation's No. 5 rusher
at the time. Christopherson tried the Nebraska line 12 times and came
up dead empty: zero net yards. Meanwhile, Lawrence Phillips, the
country's third-ranked rusher, cracked triple digits for the fifth
straight game, gaining 168 yards on 27 carries. His third touchdown,
from eight yards out, came with 5:28 to play after Wyoming fumbled a
The absence of Frazier and the peskiness of Wyoming were
tribulation enough for the Huskers. But there would be more. After
the game Berringer, complaining of shortness of breath, was taken to
Bryan Memorial Hospital for an examination. And when its results
were announced, there was a collective shortness of breath across the
state. Berringer's left lung was partially collapsed; his status was
uncertain. Nebraska's season was beginning to seem more snakebit than
charmed. -- H.H.
This is an article from the Jan. 17, 1995 issue