Scott Frost's college career can be defined by two plays this
season: one that happened and one that didn't.
On Nov. 8 Frost, Nebraska's quarterback, threw a touchdown pass
that would become many fans' play of the year. As time ran out
at Missouri, freshman Matt Davison made a diving catch of a
deflected throw by Frost in the Tigers' end zone, allowing the
Cornhuskers to tie the game and send it into overtime. Nebraska
went on to win 45-38. Davison's reception capped a 67-yard,
62-second, no-timeouts drive that Frost executed with
devastating efficiency. The comeback victory helped assure the
Huskers of a Jan. 2 date in the Orange Bowl against No. 3
Tennessee. If No. 2 Nebraska wins that game and No. 1 Michigan
loses to Washington State in the Rose Bowl, Nebraska will be the
national champion for the third time in four years.
"That drive is the biggest accomplishment of my career," Frost
says. Because Missouri nearly beat the Huskers, however, "it's
also the game in which we lost the Number 1 ranking," he adds.
"The defining moment of my career shouldn't be the same moment
that the thing we worked for hardest is taken away."
Then there was the play that didn't happen. By gaining 280 yards
in total offense (201 passing and 79 rushing) as the Huskers
rolled toward a 54-15 victory over Texas A&M in the Big 12
championship game on Dec. 6, Frost finished this season with
2,332 yards--exactly one yard short of the school record set by
Jerry Tagge in 1971. One more play could have given Frost the
mark. However, he sat for most of the fourth quarter of the
blowout. "It's amazing that nobody knew I was that close," he
December 29, 1997
If Frost's career is ever made into a movie, it might resemble
Forrest Gump as directed by Tim Burton. Unlike Gump, Frost is
not dim-witted--he's an Academic All-America, and he graduated
last Saturday with a degree in finance and a 3.45 GPA--but, like
Gump, he has the uncanny knack of being at the center of
important events. Things happen to him, not all of them cause
for celebration. His life has been like a box of dark chocolates.
When Bill Walsh, during his second tour as Stanford's coach,
from 1992 to '94, was investigated by the NCAA for possible
recruiting violations, one of the recruits in question was
Frost. When Cornhuskers I-back Lawrence Phillips broke into an
apartment in the middle of the night two years ago and assaulted
his former girlfriend, she was staying with Frost in his
apartment. When Nebraska fans booed a Husker this season for the
first time in just about anyone's memory, they booed Frost. "I
expected everything to be easy," Frost says of quarterbacking
Nebraska. "It's just been one challenge after another."
Even when the 6'3", 220-pound Frost performed well, things
sometimes went awry. This fall, for example, he became the 10th
player in Division I-A history to exceed 1,000 yards both
passing and rushing in one season. He threw for 1,237 yards and
five touchdowns, and he rushed for 1,095 yards (second among
quarterbacks to Chris McCoy of Navy) and 19 touchdowns. He led
the Huskers to a 12-0 record and the No. 2 ranking. Yet the Big
12 coaches voted him third team all-conference, behind Corby
Jones of Missouri and Michael Bishop of Kansas State. "Another
slap in his face," says Huskers senior guard-center Matt
Hoskinson, one of Frost's closest friends. The vote even got a
rise out of Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, who said Frost should be
mentioned in the same breath as Cornhuskers greats Tommie
Frazier, Turner Gill and Tagge.
Frost has a special feeling for Osborne, which is odd given that
as a high school senior in Wood River, Neb., Frost spurned
Osborne's offer of a scholarship and chose to play at Stanford.
Frost lasted two years in California before he came home; he
left the Cardinal because he wasn't happy with what was
happening to his football career. Unlike Osborne, Frost allows
his emotions to flow to the surface. After delivering the last
speech at Osborne's retirement news conference on Dec. 10, he
turned and threw a bear hug around his coach.
Frost and Osborne have butted heads on other occasions, as when
Osborne learned last March that Frost had been patronizing one
of the casinos in Council Bluffs, Iowa, an hour from campus,
into the wee hours. Osborne phoned Frost at 8 a.m. to tell him
not to go again. As Osborne well knew, Frost isn't an early
riser. According to senior guard Aaron Taylor, Frost's idea of a
predawn pheasant and quail hunt is one that begins at 10 a.m.
"I'm glad Coach put the casino off-limits," Frost says. "You
realize that it was not a smart thing to be doing."
Osborne eventually barred the rest of the team from the casinos,
but not before senior tight end Tim Carpenter won $89,000 last
spring by drawing a royal flush in a poker game.
Frost has had no such luck at Nebraska. In 1996, his first
season of eligibility with the Huskers, he led them to an 11-2
record and a No. 6 ranking. Coming on the heels of consecutive
national championships, that record was considered an
unmitigated disaster by some Nebraska fans. "You could have been
Joe Montana and still had problems if you came here after Tommie
Frazier," Hoskinson says, referring to the hero of the
Montana was exactly whom Frost tried to be during his two years
at Stanford. On a recruiting visit he met Montana at Walsh's
home, a potential NCAA no-no because it could have constituted
improper contact with a booster--had it been deemed that Walsh
was using Montana to help recruit Frost. The NCAA didn't
sanction Frost or the Cardinal. Yet Frost suffered at Stanford,
where he abandoned his training regimen and altered his throwing
style. "All the other [Stanford] quarterbacks were smaller than
me, so I stopped lifting," he says. "I changed my throwing
motion to be more like Montana. I had a tape of him working out.
I used to slow it down to watch his motion. I tried to make
myself into someone else. You can pick up things from other
people, but you can't be anything but yourself." Adding to his
confusion, the Cardinal coaches started Frost at safety in five
games during his sophomore year.
It took Frost awhile to become himself again at Nebraska. After
the Huskers lost 19-0 at Arizona State in his second game as
quarterback in '96, his confidence evaporated. Hoskinson, whose
Battle Creek High team beat Frost's Wood River High in the 1992
Nebraska Class C-1 playoffs, pulled Frost aside one day. "He
used to run people over," Hoskinson says. "I told him, 'I
remember playing you in high school. We had a great team, and
you made some of my buddies look bad. Now you hook-slide. That's
not who you are.'"
By the end of the 1996 season Frost's old aggression had
returned. This year he averaged 6.2 yards per carry and
delighted in delivering blocks after the option pitch.
Frost never had more to prove than during the second game of
this season. Osborne decided before the game to give backup
quarterback Frankie London some quality playing time in the
second quarter, so he sent him in for Frost with the Huskers
trailing Central Florida 10-7 in Lincoln. London led Nebraska on
a 65-yard scoring drive, and when Frost returned to the lineup
on the Cornhuskers' next possession, some fans booed him. After
the game Frost cried in the locker room.
"The thing that upset me the most wasn't the booing," he says.
"I've come to expect that from the people around here. In the
national and local media the impression went out that I was
playing poorly. I had a good game that day. Even when I was
doing things well, there has been a negative light."
The following week, while playing at then No. 2 Washington,
Frost delivered a message to his critics. On Nebraska's first
two possessions he ran for touchdowns of 34 and 30 yards to
quickly put the Cornhuskers in control. Sales of the $55 number
7 jerseys at the Huskers Authentic store across the street from
Memorial Stadium began to pick up. Not that Frost would win over
everyone. "There are still die-hard fans who will never forgive
him for going to Stanford," Taylor says. "They still say that in
the local cafe."
Frost's two best performances this season have each followed a
game in which he felt challenged. After Nebraska allowed
Colorado to score two late touchdowns in the teams'
regular-season finale, a 27-24 Huskers victory, Frost approached
the Big 12 championship game a week later with renewed focus. In
the first half against Texas A&M he completed 10 of 11 passes
for 176 yards. At the intermission Nebraska led 37-3.
As for Frost's having a future in the NFL, Colorado defensive
coordinator A.J. Christoff says, "He's not a drop-back passer,"
but Frost may get an opportunity to become one. He spent two
years under Walsh's tutelage, which will allow him to break the
code of virtually every pro playbook. Yet he is mentally
prepared to accept never playing quarterback in the NFL. "I'm
just going to feel it out," he says. "I'm definitely going to
play quarterback in the East-West Shrine Game. And I'm going to
ask to be on every special team I can be on. I feel like I'm a
good athlete. That's the number one thing I offer people."
The East-West game will be played on Jan. 10 at Frost's onetime
home field, Stanford Stadium. "It's a fitting end to the whole
thing," he says. "Start out at Stanford, come back to Nebraska.
I've finally been successful at Nebraska. To finish at Stanford
is perfect. I am going full circle."
In the end, if he could choose any team and coach to play for
next year, he knows which they would be. "I would love to have
had the opportunity to play for Coach Osborne for three or four
years," Frost says. "I could have gotten some things done."
Scott Frost could lead the Cornhuskers to this season's national
championship and still not get the acclaim some of his
predecessors at Lincoln received. Here are the top six
quarterbacks, with their claims to fame.
CAREER PASSING: CAREER RUSHING:
YARDS TDS YARDS TDS
Tommie Frazier (1992-95) 3,521 43 1,955 36
A pair of national titles makes him the best ever
Scott Frost (1996-97) 2,677 18 1,534 28
Tommie has left the building, but his ghost hasn't
Turner Gill (1980-83) 3,317 34 1,317 18
Won 28 of his 30 starts but never prevailed in a national title
David Humm (1972-74) 5,035 41 -15 11
Teamed with Johnny Rodgers in deadly '72 combo; first team
All-America in '74
Jerry Tagge (1969-71) 4,704 32 616 18
Scored winning touchdown in the Orange Bowl to seal 1970
Steve Taylor (1985-88) 2,815 30 2,125 32
Option maestro is Huskers quarterback rushing leader
REGULAR-SEASON STATS ONLY