Some folks tried levity.
One suggested Nebraska quarterbacks coach Turner Gill might soon be out of a job, not because of incompetence but rather because he wouldn’t have anyone to coach.
Another suggested the Huskers just needed to snap the ball directly to I-back Lawrence Phillips and let him run with it. He had already rushed for 1,006 yards and 10 touchdowns.
A return to the long-gone single-wing, maybe?
Tackle Zach Wiegert could be the blocking back, Tom Osborne said.
Osborne was joking, though the situation didn’t warrant humor.
Husker cornerback Barron Miles said he might have to play quarterback. Miles had been an option quarterback at Abraham Clark High in Roselle, New Jersey.
Such was the situation in mid-October of 1994, the week of Nebraska’s second Big Eight game of the season against 4-0 and No. 16-ranked Kansas State in Manhattan. Tommie Frazier was hospitalized with blood clots. And Brook Berringer was being tested daily because of a partially collapsed left lung.
As has been written, Frazier and Berringer were Nebraska’s only scholarship quarterbacks in 1994. Jon Elder (1994 recruiting class) and Ben Rutz (Frazier’s 1992 class) as well as Todd Gragnano and Matt Jones, members of the 1990 recruiting class, all had transferred.
In addition, Tony Veland (1992) and Clester Johnson (1991) had switched positions.
Such was the influence of Frazier’s success, beginning as a true freshman.
Sophomore walk-on Matt Turman began the 1994 season third on the depth chart, but the week of the Kansas State game, he was potentially the starter if Berringer was unable to play. Berringer had returned to practice, with limited contact.
And as mentioned earlier, he was tested daily.
Following the Wyoming game, Osborne decided Veland was too important to the defense at free safety to be in the quarterback mix, so Johnson began taking practice snaps the week of the Kansas State game. Osborne told Johnson that’s what he would do, rather than asking.
It made sense. Johnson was a wingback; he was familiar with the offensive schemes.
So Johnson was listed third on the depth chart, behind Berringer and Turman.
At that point, the plan was still to redshirt Monte Christo, a walk-on from Kearney, Nebraska.
Following Thursday’s practice, Osborne said Turman would probably start against Kansas State and he was hoping Berringer would be cleared and available.
Osborne said he was “so tired” of talking about quarterbacks. That’s all he’d done for the previous couple of weeks, beginning with Frazier’s blood clot issues, diagnosed after the Pacific game.
“We’ve got 21 other positions on the team,” he was quoted.
He asked reporters if they wanted to talk about any of those other positions.
The next question was about Berringer.
His lung had remained inflated, Osborne said, but a decision on his availability probably wouldn’t come until the morning of the game.
The quarterback concern was magnified by Kansas State’s success under Coach Bill Snyder. Though the Wildcats had 25 consecutive losses to Nebraska, they hadn’t lost in their 16 previous home games, going back to the 1991 season—the 1992 Nebraska game was played in Tokyo.
KSU Stadium was sold out, with additional seating added to meet demand. As Colorado Coach Bill McCartney had done, Snyder discouraged the sale of tickets to Nebraska fans. Manhattan was an easy drive for many Husker fans. But Nebraska would be playing before a hostile crowd.
Oh yes, another Husker quarterback issue surfaced the week of the Kansas State game. Student-manager-turned-scout-team quarterback Adam Kucera was having problems throwing because of tendinitis in his shoulder.
“When they told me that, I thought it can’t be true,” Osborne was quoted.
Kucera’s tendinitis was real, not levity.
Osborne’s concern about a scout-team player reflected the attention to detail that made him a Hall of Fame coach.
Next: Kansas State’s hopes crushed
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.