Tom's Time
Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletics

Tom’s Time: A Shutout on the Last Black Friday in the Big Eight

November 24, 2022

It was the day after Thanksgiving, 1995, “Black Friday.”

And it was the last game in Big Eight football history. Big 12 play would begin in 1996.

The game seemed appropriate on a windy 45-degree afternoon at Memorial Stadium, Nebraska-Oklahoma, once considered the conference, if not national, marquee match-up.

That was hardly the case now. Nebraska had won four in a row and six of the last seven against the Sooners, who came to Lincoln 5-4-1 under first-year Coach Howard Schnellenberger. They were 2-4 in the Big Eight, most recently losing to Oklahoma State 12-0. The victory was the Cowboys’ first against Oklahoma since 1976. The game before that, the Sooners lost at Kansas State 49-10.

Schnellenberger was Miami’s coach when the Hurricanes upset Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl. But Oklahoma was no Miami. And it didn’t take long to realize that.

Not that Nebraska’s offense was at the top of its game. But the Blackshirts were.

After the Huskers settled for a 31-yard Kris Brown field goal on the game’s first series, fans threw tortillas onto the field, a celebration reflecting the certainty with a victory Nebraska would be playing in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Jan. 2.

Soon after, Jamel Williams intercepted a pass and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown. At quarter’s end, Oklahoma was scoreless and had a net total offense of 31 yards, including minus-24 rushing. The Sooners remained scoreless, and though Nebraska managed only a 27-yard Brown field goal with 1 second remaining in the second quarter, a 13-0 lead almost seemed insurmountable against the Blackshirts. In case it wasn’t, Tony Veland returned a fumble 57 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter, and Brown added his third field goal, from 35.

“Today, it was the defense’s turn to carry the load,” said sophomore defensive tackle Jason Peter.

The offense wrapped up the 37-0 victory with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Tommie Frazier to wingback Jon Vedral, followed by freshman fullback Joel Makovicka’s running 17 yards for the final touchdown in Big Eight history with 44 seconds remaining.

Two weeks before against Kansas, Tom Osborne had been “very concerned” at halftime despite a 14-3 lead. Not so this time. “I never felt today we were going to get beat,” he said.

Oklahoma finished with 240 yards of offense, including a net of 51 rushing. Michael Booker also had an interception, and Jared Tomich had two sacks. Grant Wistrom had six tackles, including two for losses, and was chosen Nebraska’s player of the game by ABC, which televised the game.

Even though the offense had seemed lackluster against Oklahoma by Nebraska’s standards, the Huskers gained 407 yards, including 271 rushing. Lawrence Phillips was the leading rusher, with 73 on 15 carries. Ahman Green rushed for 44 yards to finish with 1,118. He scored a team-high 16 touchdowns, 13 by rushing, three by receiving, but was one point shy of Brown for the team lead.

Brown’s 97 points were a school freshman record.

His three-of-four field goal attempts and four extra-points weren’t the only contributions by special teams. Back-up cornerback Mike Fullman returned four punts for 79 yards and Jesse Kosch averaged 43 yards on four punts, with a long of 52. Fullman and Kosch were walk-ons.

Fullman started his college career at Rutgers but after one season starting, transferred mid-year to Southeast Community College in Lincoln with the intention of walking on at Nebraska. He attended the same Roselle, New Jersey, high school as former Husker Barron Miles, a starter at cornerback on the 1994 national championship team. Kosch, from Columbus, Nebraska, was the son of Bill Kosch, who played on Nebraska’s 1970 and 1971 national championship teams.

Frazier completed 12-of-25 passes for 128 yards and the touchdown, with one interception, and rushed for 35 yards on 10 carries, hardly a splashy performance for the Heisman Trophy candidate. “I don’t know if it hurt me or helped me,” said Frazier. “I don’t care right now.”

It was in the hands of voters, he said, and “the best guy is going to win it.”

A Big Eight player winning a second-consecutive Heisman Trophy—Colorado’s Rashaan Salaam won it in 1994—followed by a second-consecutive Huskers’ national championship would be a fitting end to the Big Eight. And if only one of those two happened, well . . .

Next up: National title match-up announced

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