Tom's Time
Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletics

Tom’s Time: Huskers Weather the Storm for Osborne’s First Title

January 06, 2022

When Tom Osborne, Tommie Frazier and Brook Berringer arrived at media day for the 1995 Orange Bowl, the frenzy began. Reporters jostled for position near the three.

Osborne and Frazier would answer questions from the stands, Berringer on the field.

At issue, of course, was whether Frazier or Berringer would start at quarterback against Miami on New Year’s Day night.

Frazier hadn’t played since the Pacific game, and then only briefly because of a blood-clot issue suffered in the UCLA game, an injury that would sideline him for the remainder of the regular season, although he did travel and suit up for the Oklahoma game.

Berringer had led the Huskers to the Big Eight championship and the trip to Miami, starting seven-of-the-eight games Frazier missed—Matt Turman started the Kansas State game out of caution for Berringer, who had been dealing with a collapsed lung.

Under the circumstances, the consensus of opinion seemed to be Berringer would remain the starter. But as reporters learned just before Osborne arrived—an assistant had told someone, who told someone else, etc.—Frazier would get the start.

And yes, Berringer was clearly disappointed but uncomplaining.

S.L. Price from Sports Illustrated asked Berringer if the decision had been fair.

“I’d rather not answer that,” Berringer said.

Frazier hadn’t lost the job, Osborne explained, he had been injured. And both would play, Osborne said, in the first half. Afterward, he would say: “We were winging it with the quarterbacks.” Berringer entered in the second quarter, and Frazier didn’t return until early in the fourth quarter.

Berringer got Nebraska on the scoreboard  with a 19-yard pass to tight end Mark Gilman midway through the second quarter after Miami had taken a 10-0 first-quarter lead.

That’s how the score stood at halftime, 10-7.

Not to worry, Osborne told the Huskers at halftime. “Keep hammering,” he said. They were in better condition and would wear Miami down. Plus, at some point, the Hurricanes would be frustrated to the point of losing their composure. Don’t try to retaliate, he said.

Less than 2 minutes into the second half, Miami scored its second touchdown, like the first on a Frank Costa pass, 44 yards, to increase the lead to 17-7.

But Osborne’s halftime prediction proved right soon after when Husker defensive tackle Christian Peter was shoved to the ground after the whistle. Peter, maybe the most likely Husker to respond in such a situation, resisted the urge and Miami was penalized back to its 4-yard line.

And the next play, outside linebacker Dwayne Harris pulled Costa out of the end zone for a safety, swinging the momentum in Nebraska’s favor and leading to the accuracy of Osborne’s other halftime assertion. The Hurricanes wore down, and the Huskers controlled the fourth quarter.

Miami’s depth on defense was limited. Senior Dwayne Johnson—“the Rock”—was listed as the top back-up at right and left defensive tackle as well as right defensive end.

Warren Sapp, the All-America and Lombardi Award winning right tackle, had to take a knee in an attempt to catch his breath during the fourth quarter. And he wasn’t the only Hurricane.

Brenden Stai, Nebraska’s All-America right guard, switched with left guard Joel Wilks for the game to match up against Sapp. And though the Huskers were limited to 199 yards rushing, well below the nation-leading 340 they averaged during the season, the “Pipeline” got the job done.

Nebraska scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, while the Blackshirts shut down Costa and Miami. Costa was sacked five times in the game, including three by Harris, and threw one interception. The Hurricanes had minus-35 yards net in the fourth quarter.

They went three-and-out four times.

Fullback Cory Schlesinger scored both second-half touchdowns on runs of 15 and 14 yards. The game-winner came with 2:46 remaining, capping a drive that began at the Nebraska 42-yard line with 6:28 on the clock. Frazier converted twice on third down, running options for 25 and 6 yards.

During a rally at the Devaney Sports Center when the team returned after the game, Schlesinger told a crowd of 14,000: “When I scored, I looked at the grass in the end zone and it was a lot greener than anywhere else on the field.”

The carry was Schlesinger’s sixth of the game, the touchdown his sixth of the season, though official NCAA statistics wouldn’t include bowl games until 2002.

Appropriately, perhaps, Miami’s last-ditch hopes ended when Terry Connealy sacked Costa and then Kareem Moss intercepted the 35th pass Costa threw—18 were complete.

Nebraska was voted national champion (by both the AP and UPI) for the first time under Osborne as well as the first time since 1971. And both Frazier and Berringer had contributed.

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