Not everyone gets a second chance Ed Stewart said following Nebraska’s 13-3 victory at Oklahoma in 1994. “And we’ve got one now.”
The Huskers had earned an Orange Bowl bid for a fourth consecutive season and, more to Stewart’s point, would have a chance to win a national championship, something that eluded them the previous season when Byron Bennett’s 45-yard field goal attempt went wide left as time elapsed.
Florida State won that night, 18-16.
Nebraska had taken a 16-15 lead with 1:16 remaining, but the Seminoles had responded with a field goal 21 seconds later. As a result, the Huskers had put 1:16 on the Memorial Stadium clock during the off-season and fall practices as a reminder. The 1994 media guide included the headline “LOOKING FOR MORE IN ’94.” The Huskers acknowledged they had “unfinished business.”
Nebraska’s opponent in Miami on New Year’s Day night 1995 wasn’t immediately apparent following the Oklahoma victory, the No. 1 Huskers’ 12th in a row. It wouldn’t be No. 2 Penn State, though. The Nittany Lions would represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl.
Most likely, it would be Miami, No. 5 that day. Alabama, 10-0, was No.4, Florida 8-1, No. 3. Alabama and Florida would flip-flop after the Crimson Tide defeated No. 6 Auburn and Florida defeated unranked Vanderbilt. A week later, the Gators were tied by Florida State and the week after that they upset Alabama in the SEC championship game to rearrange the rankings again.
Miami, its only blemish a 38-20 loss to Washington in late September, moved to No. 3. And yes, the Hurricanes would be Nebraska’s opponent in the Orange Bowl.
Miami played its home games at the Orange Bowl stadium and would remain in the home locker room, even though Nebraska was technically the host school as Big Eight champ. The visitors’ locker room was smaller and less comfortable, though it was upgraded for the game.
Orange Bowl officials indicated Miami needed to stay in their locker room for security reasons. If that was necessary inside the stadium, it was needed outside as well. So Osborne closed Husker practices at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens. St. Thomas didn’t have a football team. But it did have two practice fields, which the Miami Dolphins had once used.
The game would be the last Orange Bowl played in the stadium. Orange Bowls would be moved to the Dolphins’ Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami Gardens the next season.
The Big Eight contract with the Orange Bowl would end as well, after 20 consecutive seasons. Overall, the conference had sent teams to 41 Orange Bowls. In 1996, the Orange Bowl would enter a six-year contract with the College Football Bowl Alliance.
Finally, NBC’s Orange Bowl contract, which dated to the 1965 game, would end, to be replaced by CBS. Tom Hammond and Cris Collinsworth handled play-by-play and analysis for NBC-TV that night.
Nebraska was playing in its 15th Orange Bowl, its ninth under Osborne, with a 1-7 record, the lone victory against LSU, 21-20, in the 1983 game. He was 0-3 against Miami there.
Osborne also was an assistant on Bob Devaney’s staff for five of the other six.
The Orange Bowl appearance was Miami’s eighth. The Hurricanes were 5-2.
Tickets for the game were listed at $42. It would be a sellout.
Beneath the “LOOKING FOR MORE IN ‘94” headline on the media guide were pictures of Tommie Frazier, Stewart and Zach Wiegert. Frazier had been considered a Heisman Trophy candidate before the blood-clot problem. Stewart was named the Big Eight Defensive Player of the Year. And Wiegert, an offensive tackle, was named Nebraska’s 12th Outland Trophy winner.
Miami defensive tackle Warren Sapp was the Lombardi Award winner.
Osborne was the Big Eight Coach of the Year.
Nebraska had come to the Orange Bowl ranked No. 1 three previous times, including the two times under Osborne—Devaney’s 1971 team won his second national title, defeating Alabama 38-6 in the 1972 game. Osborne’s teams came up short in the 1984 game against Miami, 31-30, as well as the previous season. The Huskers had “unfinished business.”
They were “LOOKING FOR MORE IN ’94.”
Next: Frazier or Berringer, composure and conditioning help finish business
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.