Calvin Jones lined up at I-back on Nebraska’s first play from scrimmage in the fourth game of the 1993 season against Colorado State at Memorial Stadium.
He had missed the two previous games because of a knee strain.
Quarterback Tommie Frazier took the snap from center Ken Mehlin and handed to fullback Cory Schlesinger, who gained 4 yards. Then Jones went to the sideline, pulled off his helmet and shoulder pads and watched the remainder of the No. 6-ranked Huskers’ 48-13 victory.
Had Jones aggravated the knee injury? No.
He hadn’t made a move as if carrying out a fake. He wasn’t supposed to. And regardless of the defensive alignment, Frazier wasn’t supposed to check out of the play.
The carry would be Schlesinger’s, no matter what.
Afterward, Tom Osborne was asked why Jones had played only the one down? Jones hadn’t played, Osborne said, correcting the grammar; rather, he had “participated.”
Osborne was detail-oriented, precise, in all things.
Jones had made the decision to “participate” after Frank Solich, his position coach, found out that in order for a player’s statistics to count in Big Eight and NCAA rankings he had to play—or participate—in 75 percent of his team’s games. Nebraska had an 11-game schedule and Jones had already missed two. You can do the math. If he missed a third, he wouldn’t qualify at season’s end.
Solich told Osborne of the requirement. And Osborne said Jones could decide.
That reflected Osborne’s character, Jones said afterward.
So Frazier had been given the strict instructions.
Though it didn’t influence Osborne’s decision, Nebraska already led 7-0 when Jones opened at I-back. On the game’s second play from scrimmage, Husker rover back Toby Wright picked off a pass and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown. Only 57 seconds had elapsed on the game clock.
The interception return for a touchdown was Wright’s second of the season. He had also returned one 33 yards for a score in the opener against North Texas.
Freshman Lawrence Phillips, who replaced Jones at I-back, ran 7 yards for a touchdown with 2:49 remaining in the first quarter, after a Colorado State field goal. Frazier ran for a touchdown and passed to tight end Gerald Armstrong for another in the second quarter, and the rout was on.
In the second half, Frazier passed 41 yards to Abdul Muhammad for a touchdown. Brook Berringer, the No. 2 quarterback, tossed to fullback Clinton Childs for a touchdown, set up by a 43-yard Kareem Moss interception return, and I-back Jeff Makovicka ran 22 yards for a touchdown, after a 57-yard punt return by Damon Benning and facemask penalty, with 1:52 remaining.
Despite the score, Nebraska didn’t dominate the game statistically, as it had become accustomed against opponents such as Colorado State, which came to Lincoln with a 1-2 record.
The Rams’ victory was by 8-5 against Air Force.
Two seasons before, the Huskers had defeated Colorado State 71-14, amassing 696 yards of offense. Those numbers were extreme, of course. Still, Nebraska managed “only” 360 yards of offense against the Rams on this afternoon. And Byron Bennett punted seven times.
He had punted a combined seven times in the first three games.
After four games, the Huskers weren’t “where we wanted to be,” said Osborne. They could be “better.”
They rushed for 254 yards against Colorado State, led by Phillips (14-79) and Frazier (11-75). And the aggressive Blackshirts did their part, with six sacks and the two interceptions.
The sacks brought Nebraska’s season total to 26—by comparison, the Huskers had 27 sacks in 12 games last season. Outside linebacker Trev Alberts led the defense with 10 tackles. Inside linebacker Mike Anderson had eight.
Next up for the Huskers was Oklahoma State in Stillwater to open Big Eight play, following a week off, which is what they needed at that point, according to Osborne, for whom the victory was No. 199.
Nebraska remained No. 6 in the Associated Press poll after the Colorado State victory but dropped to No. 7 following the bye week, when Ohio State moved to No. 6 with a 20-12 victory against Illinois.
Jones would return to play in the Oklahoma State game and all of the remaining games and would lead the Big Eight in rushing and scoring, with 1,043 yards and 13 touchdowns.
He would rank ninth nationally in both categories.
Statistically, Jones had played in nine games—bowls weren’t included in official statistics. To be grammatically correct, however, he had “played” in eight and “participated” in one.
Mike is in his 40th year covering Husker athletics, after seven years of community-college teaching. He has written and edited a dozen books, all on Nebraska football except one, a brief history of Husker basketball. He previously wrote for the Lincoln Journal and Star and Huskers Illustrated. He enjoys music, from the Grateful Dead and Jack Johnson to Van Morrison, Bob Wills, Glenn Miller and pretty much anyone else.