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Tom’s Time: ‘A Little Sorry About the Score’ in ’93 Opener

September 21, 2020

Two plays into Nebraska’s 1993 season-opener sophomore quarterback Tommie Frazier limped to the east sideline at Memorial Stadium with a sprained right ankle, suffered on the first play.

Trouble for the Huskers? Not exactly, not on this early-September afternoon. North Texas, two seasons from moving from Division II to Division I of the NCAA, was the opponent.

Afterward, Tom Osborne would thank Nebraska fans—paid attendance was 75,643, consecutive sellout No. 189—for coming, noting the game didn’t have “a great deal of appeal for them.”

He also said he was “a little sorry about the score.”

The Huskers led 28-0 at the end of the first quarter and 42-7 at the half on the way to a 76-14 victory. It was the most lopsided opening victory since 1912, when Jumbo Stiehm’s second team defeated Bellevue 82-0. Osborne would use 116 players, including three more quarterbacks.

Sophomore Brook Berringer was the first. He completed seven passes in seven attempts, the first a 33-yard touchdown to split end Corey Dixon for the first score 2½ minutes into the game. Berringer finished with 124 yards passing and scored two touchdowns.

Sophomore Tony Veland was the second, also entering in the first quarter. He completed 6-of-9 passes, with one interception, for 76 yards and a touchdown—11 yards to junior wingback Abdul Muhammad—and scored a touchdown as well.

The interception set up the first North Texas touchdown.

Redshirt freshman walk-on Matt Turman was the third quarterback after Frazier. The only pass he threw was good for 15 yards and a touchdown to redshirt freshman split end Riley Washington and his only carry came from 1 yard out for the final touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.

“It was a real nightmare,” said North Texas Coach Dennis Parker.

But the Eagles got a paycheck of about $270,000 and Nebraska got a seventh home game.

The paycheck wasn’t the only price the Huskers paid. Nor was Frazier’s ankle sprain. With 9:21 remaining in the third quarter, the score 49-7, junior I-back Calvin Jones—who was being promoted for the Heisman Trophy—had to be helped from the field with a knee injury.

Why was Jones still in the game with a 42-point lead? Because he had gotten limited carries during preseason scrimmages, Osborne said, and needed the reps.

Jones had carried 14 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns.

Those behind him on the depth chart were young and inexperienced: redshirt freshman Damon Benning, sophomores Jeff Makovicka and Clinton Childs, who had to sit out his freshman year for academic reasons, and true freshman Lawrence Phillips prominent among them.

Phillips wouldn’t play until the next game, however.

Benning was the most productive, rushing for 82 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.

Nebraska, which had won back-to-back NCAA rushing titles, finished with 575 total yards, including 360 rushing, the 49th consecutive win when rushing for 300 or more yards.

Such rushing success was a tribute to the offensive lines, of course. The season-opening starters in 1993 were: left tackle, senior Lance Lundberg; left guard, junior Rob Zatechka; center, senior Ken Mehlin; right guard, junior Branden Stai; right tackle, junior Zach Wiegert.

They might have been the first “Pipeline,” a nickname for which Stai, who was replacing Outland Trophy winner Will Shields, has taken credit.

Four were scholarship recruits. Mehlin had walked on. In fact, the post-spring depth chart had included 73 players, 25 others, like Mehlin, coming to Nebraska without scholarships.

Fullback also played an important role in the success of the running game. Lance Lewis was gone. But junior Cory Schlesinger and senior Lance Gray, who walked on, were ready to step in.

Defensively Nebraska was adjusting to a 4-3 base alignment. North Texas managed 294 yards, primarily passing. The Eagles rushed for a net of 39 yards on 31 carries, a total that reflected five sacks for 34 yards in losses. Nebraska intercepted two passes, one of which was returned 33 yards for a touchdown by senior rover Toby Wright, and recovered a North Texas fumble.

The Eagles completed 15-of-33 passes for 255 yards and one touchdown.

North Texas picked up 11 first downs and punted nine times. Osborne said the Blackshirts were still getting “accustomed” to the new base defense, “but I thought we played pretty well.”

In addition to the Frazier and Jones injuries, starting outside linebacker Donta Jones, a junior, suffered an ankle sprain.

Nebraska was No. 9 in the Associated Press poll going into the game and remained there—the price for playing a Division II team—as it prepared to play host to Texas Tech.

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