Even saying there was “considerable” interest in No. 2 Nebraska’s 1995 game at No. 7 Colorado might have been understating.
The game drew a Folsom Field record crowd of 54,063. And 566 press credentials were issued, the second-most in Folsom Field history—first was 607 for the Nebraska game in 1989. Both were greater than the populations of small western Nebraska farming communities.
In addition, ABC televised the game regionally, the Huskers’ fourth TV appearance.
It was a new era for Colorado. The Buffaloes had finished 11-1, their only loss to Nebraska, and ranked No. 3 in 1994, Bill McCartney’s final season as head coach.
Rick Neuheisel succeeded him. In addition, Colorado’s version of the “triplets,” quarterback Kordell Stewart, receiver Michael Westbrook, and running back and Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam, were gone. Starting quarterback Koy Detmer had been lost for the season because of injury as well.
Even so, the Buffaloes were formidable with quarterback John Hessler leading them. They had been ranked as high as No. 4, before losing to then-No. 24 Kansas three weeks earlier, their only loss in seven games. Nebraska was still behind Florida State, which had a bye week, in the AP rankings.
To mix things up, and motivate, Neuheisel brought his team down through the stands before the game “to try and give them a little bit of a distraction so they wouldn’t sit in the locker room and think all the time about what we had to do,” he said.
There was drama on Nebraska’s side, too. Lawrence Phillips had been allowed back on the team, with university stipulations in place. He had practiced leading up to the game but wasn’t included on the travel roster. If things didn’t work out, “I’ll take the heat,” Tom Osborne said. “I’ll probably take the heat for the way it is now. That’s OK. That’s part of the deal.”
The “deal” had more to do with Phillips than the team’s need.
Osborne said he was “ready to live with it.”
But Phillips wasn’t in Boulder. Ahman Green was. And on Nebraska’s first play from scrimmage, the freshman I-back took an option pitch from Tommie Frazier and ran 57 yards for a touchdown.
Colorado tied the score at 7 with 8:19 remaining in the first quarter, but Terrell Farley’s interception and 42-yard return set up Green’s second touchdown, from 1 yard, and Frazier passed 52 yards to wingback Clester Johnson for a touchdown with 1:47 remaining.
Nebraska increased its lead to 31-14 at halftime, with a 25-yard Kris Brown field goal and a 7-yard touchdown pass from Frazier to wingback Jon Vedral.
Brown kicked two more field goals from 36 and 37 yards, the first in the third quarter, and Frazier finished off the Husker assault with a touchdown from 2 yards out with 2:46 remaining in the game.
Final score: Nebraska 44, Colorado 21.
The Huskers didn’t have a turnover for the third consecutive game and weren’t penalized for the first time since 1976. Jamel Williams was Nebraska’s leading tackler, with 10, Farley had seven and the interception, his third of the season. Doug Colman also had an interception, Grant Wistrom and Jon Hesse had sacks. Most of Colorado’s 382 yards and two touchdowns came through the air—276.
The Huskers, who went into the game averaging 426.9 yards rushing, were held to 226 (4.2 per carry), but Frazier completed 14-of-23 passes for 241 yards and the two touchdowns.
During his weekly news conference on the Tuesday before the game, Osborne endorsed Frazier for the Heisman Trophy. If voters only looked at statistics, Frazier “probably isn’t going to win it,” said Osborne. “If they look at moving the football and winning games, being a great competitor and being multi-faceted, then I think Tommie has a great chance.”
Counting the Colorado game, Frazier had rushed for 408 yards and nine touchdowns and completed 60-of-108 passes for 1,030 yards and 13 touchdowns, with two interceptions.
Bottom line. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Osborne said, “beholder” being voter.
Frazier “beauty” was evident that afternoon, in front of the hostile, record crowd.
“At times, the players said they couldn’t hear, but we still changed the play,” said Osborne. “How they knew, I don’t know. I think it had to do with the poise and leadership of Frazier.
“He’s the difference maker. He wasn’t very much off the mark with anything.”
There were plenty of reporters, some Heisman voters, on-hand to see that.
Next up: Lots of offense by the nation’s top-ranked team
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.