Tom's Time
Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletics

Tom’s Time: A Win to Open 2-0 in ’94, But a Big Loss in the Secondary

September 16, 2021

Nebraska won the game handily, but lost Mike Minter for the season.

The Huskers also lost the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll. Go figure. More about that later.

Poll rankings weren’t the concern. The loss of Minter was. The Husker media guide described him as the “quarterback” of the defense. The sophomore from Lawton, Oklahoma, was the starting free safety, after backing up Toby Wright at rover as a redshirt freshman.

Senior Kareem Moss was the rover in 1994.

Minter suffered a torn ACL attempting to make a tackle during the third quarter of the Texas Tech game, which was played on a Thursday night to accommodate ESPN. Minter had to be helped off the field by head trainer George Sullivan. People couldn’t imagine what he “means to the defense,” defensive coordinator Charlie McBride was quoted afterward.

Minter underwent surgery two weeks later.

His loss depleted the secondary to the degree that Michael Booker and Octavious McFarlin probably would have to be taken out of redshirts, McBride said. They would be.

Sedric Collins, listed as a No. 2 free safety, had left the team following the Kickoff Classic—in which he intercepted a pass to end a Mountaineers’ drive late in the fourth quarter.

As a result, converted quarterback Tony Veland, a junior, moved up to No. 1 at free safety. As noted in an earlier Tom’s Time, Veland was recruited out of Omaha Benson as a quarterback-defensive back and began his Husker career at quarterback. He earned a share of the No. 1 spot on the depth chart—with Mike Grant—after leading the Red team to victory in the 1992 spring game.

Two weeks before the 1992 season-opener, however, Veland suffered a broken collarbone. He returned, after missing five games, and saw limited action in five games.

In the second game of the 1993 season, Veland suffered a ruptured patellar tendon (against Texas Tech) and when he was able to return, he was moved to free safety, behind Minter.

Veland intercepted a pass midway through the second quarter of the ’94 Tech game and returned it 35 yards to the Red Raiders’ 33-yard line. But the Huskers couldn’t convert the possession into points.

Five days before, Texas Tech had opened its season with a 37-31 victory against New Mexico. Coach Spike Dykes’ team was coming off a 6-6 season—and would finish 6-6 again.

Nebraska offensive line coach Milt Tenopir challenged his players, setting a rushing goal of 400 yards, 32 more than the Huskers’ rushing total against West Virginia.

The line—left to right: Rob Zatechka, Joel Wilks, Aaron Graham, Brenden Stai, Zach Wiegert—were up to the challenge, and then some. Nebraska rushed for 524 yards on 63 attempts, only three more rushing attempts than in the Kickoff Classic.

I-back Lawrence Phillips, the Big Eight Offensive Player of the Week, led the way with 175 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Quarterback Tommie Frazier and fullback Cory Schlesinger each rushed for 84 yards, Schlesinger on only six carries.

Frazier rushed for two touchdowns, the first on a 58-yard run two minutes into the first quarter, and threw a touchdown pass.

I-back Clinton Childs scored the other touchdown on a 30-yard run with two minutes remaining.

Nebraska, at times, was “shaky” in the passing game, and on defense, Frazier was quoted afterward. “It took a while to get going.”

That happened when “we went back to traditional Nebraska football.”

The numbers didn’t exactly support Frazier’s defensive assessment. The Blackshirts limited Tech to 297 total yards, including only four first downs and a 49-yard field goal in the first half.

Nebraska had moved from No. 4 to No. 1 following a 31-0 victory against West Virginia in the Kickoff Classic, replacing Florida. The Gators, who had opened with a 70-21 victory against New Mexico State six days later, dropped to No 2. But a 73-3 victory against Kentucky two days after Nebraska’s 42-16 victory against Texas Tech in Lubbock convinced voters to flip-flop the teams.

Florida and Nebraska would remain first and second in the poll until mid-October.

The Huskers would’ve had the vote of Texas Tech linebacker Zach Thomas, who finished with a game-high 14 tackles. “They’ve got a great chance for a national championship,” he said.

Notre Dame, as John Feinstein had predicted, did not. The Irish, No. 3 in the preseason rankings, dropped to No. 8 after losing to No. 6 Michigan in South Bend two days after the Tech game. As mentioned in the previous Tom’s Time, by mid-October, they were out of the Top 25 for good.

Next up for Nebraska, UCLA. And once again Frazier would be the focus of attention.

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