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Tom's Time
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Tom’s Time: Bizarre Breaks in the Huskers’ 1992 QB Race

June 04, 2020

With Keithen McCant, the coaches’ Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year in 1991, gone, Mike Grant stepped in as the starting quarterback in the 1992 opener against Utah.

It wasn’t his starting debut at Nebraska, however.

The fifth-year senior from Tampa, Florida, started the 1990 opener against Baylor, a defense-oriented, 13-0 victory at Memorial Stadium, during which he suffered a bruised knee. As a result, junior Mickey Joseph started the next two games until Grant recovered and was ready to go.

Grant started two more, then gave way to Joseph, who held the job until the Citrus Bowl against Georgia Tech. Joseph had suffered a severe laceration in his left leg in the Oklahoma game.

So Grant started for a fourth time, in his home state, though he didn’t stay in the game long. He threw four incomplete passes, was sacked once, and gave way to Tom Haase, whose third pass went to tight end Johnny Mitchell, good for 32 yards and a touchdown.

By that time, the Huskers trailed 21-0.

Haase, a junior walk-on from Aurora, Nebraska, finished 14-of-21 passing for 209 yards and two touchdowns—the second to tight end William Washington, 21 yards.

Haase was sacked three times by the aggressive Yellow Jackets. 

We’ve already been through this on our Tom’s Time journey.

But hold on. There’s more here than numbers, a bit of national-title related irony. 

Move ahead now to the spring of 1991, with competition for the starting job involving Haase, Grant, Joseph and McCant, all seniors. Based on that, Grant opted to redshirt. 

He had planned to redshirt as a sophomore, after directing the freshman-jayvee team to a 5-0 record in 1988, finishing with 912 yards of offense and 18 touchdowns passing and rushing. The 912 yards were the second-most in freshman-jayvee history, behind Turner Gill’s 979 in 1980.

Three games into the 1989 season, however, Grant was pulled from the redshirt and spent the remainder of the season, along with Joseph, backing up Gerry Gdowski, the Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year.

With Grant slated for a redshirt, the post-spring depth chart in 1991 included Haase at the top, followed by Joseph and McCant—who would be the starter from the second game on in 1991.

Again, we’ve been through this.

Now the spring of 1992, when competition at quarterback included Grant as well as redshirt freshmen Tony Veland and Brook Berringer, scholarship recruits, and senior walk-ons Joel Cornwell and Jon McMillen. Freshman recruits Tommie Frazier and Ben Rutz had not yet arrived.

Grant was easily the most experienced and directed the No. 1 offense until suffering a broken collarbone midway through the spring. Veland, who had been listed as a quarterback-defensive back on letter-of-intent-signing day, stepped in as the No. 1 quarterback and remained there.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Veland was the fastest of the quarterbacks, having run the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds in testing. That made him the sixth-fastest player on the team. He tied wingback-kick returner Tyrone Hughes for the third-fastest in the 10-yard dash, at 1.54 seconds. 

Veland led the Red team to a 33-21 victory in the spring game, running 37 yards for a touchdown and passing 17 yards to wingback Vincent Hawkins for another.

So Veland and Grant went into fall camp sharing the top spot on the depth chart, with Cornwell third. Two weeks before the Utah opener, however, in a controlled scrimmage, Veland suffered the same fate as Grant during the spring, a broken collarbone, causing him to miss the first five games.

What if Veland hadn’t suffered the broken collarbone? 

If he had emerged as the starter, the 1992 media guide—printed well in advance of the season opener—noted, he would be “the first freshman (redshirt or otherwise) to start at quarterback for Nebraska since freshman eligibility was reinstated in 1972.”

That would happen, but it wouldn’t be Veland. 

And there was more to it than that . . . 

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