Tom's Time
Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletics

Tom’s Time: Defense Carries the Day in Norman

December 23, 2021

Never mind that Nebraska was averaging a nation-leading 358.5 rushing yards per game. Or that the undefeated and top-ranked Huskers were averaging 493.8 yards of offense and 38.4 points going into their last regular-season game in 1994.

And never mind that Lawrence Phillips had rushed for over 100 yards in every game that season and was averaging 152 yards per game. Or that the sophomore I-back from West Covina, California, had rushed for 1,672 yards, third-most in a single season at Nebraska.

The opponent was Oklahoma, in Norman. So never mind that the Sooners were in, for them, a down year at 6-4. Or that their coach, Gary Gibbs, had just announced his resignation.

Oklahoma was a Tom Osborne nemesis. His record was 9-13 against the Sooners. Oklahoma was the only Big Eight school with a winning record against him. So the trip to Norman for the game the day after Thanksgiving was sort of like being sucked into the Twilight Zone.

The Twilight Zone image worked on a foggy day with temperatures in the 40s.

Fortunately, Nebraska took the Blackshirts along, because without them, well, who’s to say?

The Huskers struck first, 49 seconds into the second quarter—yep, following a scoreless first quarter—when Darin Erstad kicked a 45-yard field goal.

In addition to punting, Erstad, who averaged 47 yards on five punts that day, had earned the job kicking longer field goals, while Tom Sieler handled the shorter ones.

Erstad had come on as if to attempt a 46-yard field goal on fourth-and-11 at the Oklahoma 28-yard line in the first quarter, but holder Matt Turman, the back-up quarterback, took the snap and got to the Sooner 19 before being stopped, just 2 yards short of a first down.

The Sooners drove to the Nebraska 16-yard line on the possession following Erstad’s field goal, but the drive stalled; Husker cornerback Barron Miles blocked Scott Blanton’s 33-yard field goal attempt.

The block was Miles’ fourth of the season.

The 64-yard drive would be Oklahoma’s longest of the game.

Blanton would kick a 25-yard field goal to tie the score with 2:19 remaining in the half. That drive, set up by a personal foul, reached the Nebraska 8-yard line before stalling.

The Blackshirts were unyielding when it mattered.

The score was tied 3-3 at halftime.

Oklahoma might’ve considered the second half something of a Twilight Zone. The Sooners had gained 132 yards on 28 plays in the first half. They ran 22 plays in the second half, for a net of 47 yards. On their last play from scrimmage in the third quarter they gained 3 yards on a pass.

In the fourth quarter, the Sooners would finish with minus-4 yards, punt twice, throw six incomplete passes and one interception—by Miles—and give up a sack, by Terry Connealy. Christian Peter and Donta Jones also had sacks. Kareem Moss had an interception.

Troy Dumas would lead the Blackshirts in tackles, with 12. Peter had nine, Jones eight.

“I was real proud of our defense,” Osborne said. “I thought they carried the day. I felt the strongest part of Oklahoma’s football team was their defense, and that concerned me coming into the game. We were concerned about moving the ball on the ground.”

Nebraska picked up the pace offensively in the second half. Sieler kicked a 26-yard field goal on the Huskers’ first possession, and Berringer took the ball into the end zone from 1 yard out with 13:25 remaining in the game for a final score of Nebraska 13, Oklahoma 3.

The Huskers finished with 302 yards of offense, 239 of them in the second half. Phillips was limited to 50 yards on 21 carries. He did move to second on Nebraska’s single-season list, however.

The Huskers were held to 136 yards on 50 carries for the game.

Brook Berringer rushed for 47 yards and the touchdown on 15 “carries,” three of which were sacks for 23 yards in losses. He completed 13-of-23 passes for 166 yards, with one interception.

As mentioned in the previous Tom’s Time, Tommie Frazier made the trip and was on the sideline in a No. 17 jersey. Osborne said he looked Frazier’s way “a few times” but stuck with Berringer.

“The story of the game was the two defenses and our kicking game,” Osborne said.

It was, after all, Oklahoma. And that’s what was needed, kicking and defense.

Next: Back to Miami for “Unfinished Business”

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