Tom's Time
Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletics

Tom’s Time: All Hands on Deck, at QB at Least, Against Pacific

September 30, 2021

Three weeks before the Texas Tech game in 1994, quarterbacks coach Turner Gill told freshman Adam Kucera to check out pads. Kucera was a student manager.

Nebraska was short of quarterbacks, so Kucera joined freshman Ryan Held, a walk-on from Overland Park, Kansas, and now the Huskers’ running backs coach, as quarterbacks on the scout team.

Held was listed on the roster as a wide receiver.

The 5-foot-8, 150-pound Kucera (for some reason the roster listed him at 180) had played high school football in Lake Havasu, Arizona, for his dad, Bill, who had been a Husker grad assistant.

Bill flew to Lincoln to watch the fourth game of the season against Pacific.

Adam, who wore a No. 8 jersey (as did starting right cornerback Tyrone Williams), quickly earned the nickname “Rudy,” a reference to the popular 1993 movie of that name, recounting the experience of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, a walk-on at Notre Dame.

With 5:22 remaining in the Pacific game, Kucera ran onto the field to applause and chants of “Rudy” from some among those who stayed to the end in the crowd of 75,273.

The score was 70-21—it had been 49-0 at halftime and 56-0 four minutes into the third quarter.

On second down, Kucera carried for 4 yards. But the play was nullified by a penalty.

Held finished the possession.

That was a subplot to the game, of course, a minor one. The first concern was a victory, about which there was little doubt early on. The second was junior quarterback Tommie Frazier, who played nine snaps then gave way to Brook Berringer.

The issue was a sore right calf that carried over from the UCLA game. Tom Osborne said he didn’t think it was serious. So Frazier started.

The next day, however, he was at Lincoln’s Bryan Memorial Hospital, undergoing tests. The testing continued on Monday, with results showing a blood-clot issue.

Nebraska’s depth at quarterback had been depleted by the departures of Ben Rutz and Jon Elder. Rutz, a recruit along with Frazier in the 1992 class, transferred to Northeastern A&M Junior College in January. The 1993 recruiting class didn’t include a quarterback. And Elder, the only quarterback in the 1994 class, transferred to Wayne State College before the season began.

Other top-ranked quarterbacks the Huskers recruited in 1994 went elsewhere. Because of Frazier’s presence it was difficult to recruit “a so-called blue-chip” quarterback, Osborne said.

That left Berringer and walk-ons Matt Turman, a sophomore, and Monte Christo, a freshman who made the travel roster for the Kickoff Classic but suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb during practice and didn’t return until mid-October—along with Held and Kucera.

The plan had been to redshirt Christo.

Berringer played well against over-matched Pacific, completing 8-of-15 passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns, without an interception, and running for another.

Lawrence Phillips again was the leading rusher, carrying only nine times for 138 yards and a touchdown. Back-up I-backs Damon Benning and Clinton Childs also scored touchdowns.

Fullback Cory Schlesinger ran for two touchdowns—he carried only three times—and Turman passed 24 yards to Jeff Lake for the Huskers’ final touchdown.

Nebraska finished with 699 yards, including 510 rushing, while holding Pacific to 84 yards rushing and 290 total yards. Williams and Leslie Dennis intercepted passes.

Barron Miles blocked a punt and returned the ball 21 yards to the Pacific 19-yard line, where he fumbled and Tony Veland recovered to set up Nebraska’s third of four touchdowns in the first quarter. Miles also got a hand on the Tigers’ first punt of the game.

The Huskers used 104 players, maybe everyone who suited up—42 had a least one tackle, led by cornerback Darren Schmadeke, a junior walk-on, who came off the bench to make eight.

As for Frazier, he left the hospital and returned to classes on Wednesday. But his playing in the immediate future—or ever—was uncertain.

Kucera would continue working on the scout team, but he wouldn’t see game-action again.

Next: Wyoming and more quarterback issues

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