Instead of Arkansas
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Instead of Arkansas, Nebraska Ended Up with Its First I-AA Opponent

October 25, 2018

Mike Williams was asked on Monday if he knew anything about Bethune-Cookman, Nebraska’s opponent on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

“Not really,” he said.

Did he know the mascot?

“Uh, is it a Wildcat?” he said.


Did he know where it was located?

“Daytona,” he said with a laugh.

Correct again. Williams is from Lake City, Florida. He should know.

The Huskers’ junior wide receiver hasn’t been alone in answering such questions this week. And there’s no disrespect intended toward the NCAA FCS Wildcats from Daytona. Similar questions were asked about Middle Tennessee State when the Blue Raiders from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, came to Memorial Stadium to play Nebraska in the second game of the 1992 season.

They were asked about North Texas when the Mean Green from Denton, Texas, came to Memorial Stadium to play the Huskers in the opening game of the 1993 season, too.

Nebraska hadn’t played a non-major school since 1964, when Bob Devaney’s third team opened with a 56-0 victory against NCAA Division II South Dakota. The Huskers have played only nine more non-FBS/Division I-A opponents since 1993. Bethune-Cookman will be the 10th, and 12th overall.

Nebraska is 11-0 against those opponents.

As with the cancellation of this season’s opener against Akron, some scheduling intrigue, going back to the 1970s, was involved in the Middle Tennessee and North Texas games.

Non-conference schedules were set well in advance and Nebraska had scheduled games with Arkansas, home-and-home, in 1992 and 1993. The 1984 Husker media guide listed the 1992 game in Lincoln, the 1993 game in Fayetteville. The 1985 media guide had the locations reversed. And in the 1986 media guide Arkansas had been replaced by Temple and Texas Tech, both in Lincoln.

The Razorbacks had opted out of the scheduling agreement.

Confused yet?

Temple’s contract with Nebraska had a $25,000 opt-out clause, which it decided to pay, reportedly to schedule a series with Penn State, leaving Coach Tom Osborne with no opponent for the second week of the 1992 season. So in December of 1991, Middle Tennessee State was added.

It should be noted that the week before the Middle Tennessee State game was played, Arkansas lost to The Citadel, a Division I-AA team, 10-3 – at Fayetteville.

Anyway, approximately 1,500 tickets remained on the Monday before the Middle Tennessee game, including 800 returned by the visitors. But the tickets were sold by late in the week and the game was consecutive-sellout 184. The opener against Utah hadn’t sold out until late in the week, either.

Nebraska, No. 11 in the Associated Press poll, struggled with the Blue Raiders, who had 25 fewer scholarship players, during the first half. The Huskers scored on their second possession, a nine-play, 74-yard touchdown drive, aided by a personal foul penalty, and capped by I-back Calvin Jones’ 2-yard run. But they led only 14-7 at halftime, and it might have been closer. Middle Tennessee State missed two field goal attempts, one a 27-yarder into a wind gusting to 30 miles an hour.

After listening to an upset Osborne at halftime, however, the Huskers took control, scoring on third-quarter touchdown “drives” of 65 yards on two plays, 53 yards on two plays and 55 yards on five plays. I-back Derek Brown scored on runs of 44 and 4 yards, fullback Lance Lewis on a 42-yard run.

Back-ups Andre McDuffy and Tommie Frazier scored fourth-quarter touchdowns. The Blackshirts shut out the Blue Raiders in the second half. And the final score was 48-7.

Osborne used 108 players, 50 more than Middle Tennessee State.

Nebraska finished with 600 yards of total offense, including 490 rushing. Brown and Jones, the “We-backs,” each rushed for more than 100 yards, Brown 154 on only 14 carries, Jones 119 on 16 carries. Mike Grant rushed for 68 yards and completed 7-of-16 passes for 87 yards, with one interception.

Four other quarterbacks saw action for the Huskers: senior walk-ons Joel Cornwell and Jon McMillen, as well as redshirt freshman Brook Berringer and Frazier, a true freshman.

The game was Frazier’s second at Nebraska. He also played in the opener against Utah.

The Huskers were supposed to open the 1993 season against Wyoming, but the Cowboys opted out and North Texas was added in April of 1990, for a $275,000 payday. 

Middle Tennessee State had received a reported $300,000.

North Texas earned its money. Even though Frazier was injured on the first play of the game, Berringer completed 7-of-7 passes for 124 yards and the first of 11 touchdowns; Nebraska scored 28 points in the first quarter, led 42-0 at the half and won 76-14.

No disrespect. Just show me the money.


  • Middle Tennessee State, 1992 (48-7)
  • North Texas, 1993 (76-14)
  • McNeese State, 2002 (38-14)
  • Western Illinois, 2004 (56-17)
  • Maine, 2005 (25-7)
  • Nicholls State, 2006 (56-7)
  • South Dakota State, 2010 (17-3)
  • Tennessee-Chattanooga, 2011 (40-7)
  • Idaho State, 2012 (73-7)
  • South Dakota State, 2013 (59-20)
  • McNeese State, 2014 (31-24)
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