Tom's Time
Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletics

Tom’s Time: Wyoming’s ‘Basketball on Grass’ Puts Some Pressure on ’94 Huskers

October 07, 2021

Brook Berringer ran 5 yards for a touchdown with 12 seconds remaining in the first half of Nebraska’s final nonconference game in 1994 against Wyoming at Memorial Stadium.

He apparently suffered a collapsed lung on that play. Though he was wearing a flak jacket, he was hit by a defender’s helmet in the side and back as he crossed the goal line.

The collapsed lung wouldn’t be diagnosed until after the game, when Berringer, in addition to soreness, was nauseous and had problems breathing.

So he spent Saturday night at Bryan Memorial Hospital.

The scenario was a replay of the previous Saturday night, after the Pacific game, when Tommie Frazier went to the hospital with a blood clot. As a result, Frazier couldn’t play in the Wyoming game. And because of further testing, he wasn’t expected back until at least mid-October.

The thought at that point was, Frazier might return for the game at Missouri on Oct. 22.

That Berringer would play the second half against Wyoming was not only an indication of his toughness but also a seeming necessity with Frazier sidelined.

Berringer’s back-up was sophomore walk-on Matt Turman. And after Turman? Tony Veland, the starting free safety, had taken snaps in practice at quarterback, the position he played until that season.

After Veland? Scout-team walk-ons Ryan Held, a converted wide receiver; Adam Kucera, a converted student manager; and Trent Schlake, a scout team addition that week.

Tackle Rob Zatechka said he had some experience at quarterback—through the second grade.

In any case, Berringer not only played the second half—Turman took only one snap—he played well, rushing for two touchdowns in the final 30 minutes and finishing 15-of-22 passing for 131 yards, with one interception. Nebraska needed his leadership. The No. 2-ranked Huskers won 42-32.

The score was 35-32 after a Wyoming touchdown with 9:09 remaining, and the Huskers were forced to punt on the ensuing possession, Darin Erstad’s eighth punt of the game.

Erstad had only punted 10 times total in the first four games.

Fortunately, Nebraska’s special teams stepped up. Troy Dumas forced a fumble and Damon Benning, a back-up I-back, recovered at the Cowboys’ 8-yard line.

On the first play, Lawrence Phillips covered the 8 yards for his third touchdown. And Tom Sieler’s extra-point kick increased the lead to 10 points. Wyoming threw three incomplete passes, punted, and the Huskers ran out the final 3:54, driving to the Cowboy 2-yard line.

Phillips finished with 168 yards on 27 carries, his most of the season. Through five games, he had rushed for 785 yards (8.1 per carry) and seven touchdowns.

Nebraska fans, 75,333 were on-hand for an overcast, 62-degree kickoff, didn’t expect such a narrow victory against Coach Joe Tiller’s Cowboys, who came to Lincoln with a 2-2 record; they would finish 6-6.

“We let them have the ball way too long,” said Tom Osborne. “It seemed like we just couldn’t handle their crossing patterns when we were (in) man-to-man (coverage).”

The Cowboys used picks in the secondary to their advantage. Husker defensive coordinator Charlie McBride said because of all the picks it seemed like “basketball on grass.”

Wyoming rushed for 36 yards on 21 carries but passed for 344 yards and three touchdowns. Marcus Harris caught eight passes for 149 yards and one of the touchdowns. Tight end Jeremy Gilstrap caught the other two. Eddie Pratt also caught eight passes, for 126 yards.

Nebraska intercepted three passes, two by Barron Miles the other by Tyrone Williams, and all three set up touchdowns. Dwayne Harris had the game’s only sack. Ed Stewart led with 12 tackles.

“The one thing that was good about today is that at least we had a little pressure on us,” said Osborne. “We had our backs to the wall a little bit.”

Wyoming jumped out to a 14-0 lead after one quarter, the second touchdown preceded by a fumble recovery and the possession begun with a 56-yard pass, and led 21-7 with 2.:12 remaining in the first half, before an eight-play, 64-yard drive that culminated in Berringer’s first touchdown.

Berringer was out of the hospital on Sunday and by mid-week it appeared he’d be able to start the Big Eight opener against Oklahoma State at Memorial Stadium.

Frazier, however, was back in the hospital, in the intensive care unit, after another blood clot was found, casting doubt on his availability for the remainder of the season.

Next: Big Eight opener, enter Matt Turman

  • Never miss the latest news from Hail Varsity!

    Join our free email list by signing up below.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap