UCLA Coach Terry Donahue was effusive in praising Tommie Frazier following No. 2 Nebraska’s 49-21 victory against his Bruins, 2-0 and ranked No. 13, at Memorial Stadium in mid-September of 1994.
In fact, effusive might be understating. You can be the judge.
“I made this comment before the game, that I thought Tommie Frazier was in an elite class of athletes in college football,” Donahue said. “After having played him this year on AstroTurf I probably feel stronger about my belief than before the game.”
Wait, it gets more effusive.
“He’s the type of player that makes your whole football team totally different. He’s a Michael Jordan-type player that just makes such a difference in a game,” said Donahue.
Michael Jordan-type. It didn’t get much better in 1994.
Donahue’s evaluation didn’t depend on statistics.
Frazier carried seven times for 29 yards and a touchdown and completed 5-of-11 passes for 59 yards and two touchdowns. Efficient but not necessarily eye-catching.
I-back Lawrence Phillips’ performance was eye-catching. He carried 19 times for 178 yards, an average of 9.4 yards per carry, and scored the second touchdown as the Huskers took a 12-0 first-quarter lead. The first extra-point kick was blocked, the second, a two-pointer, failed.
Clinton Childs, the No. 3 I-back, also was impressive, carrying seven times for 78 yards (11.1) and a touchdown. Childs was among 12 Huskers who got carries in the game.
“Defensively, we just couldn’t hold up with their speed, quickness, ability to break tackles and run the option,” Donahue said. “Our defense just didn’t hold up on the perimeter at all.
“We felt coming into the game the fullback would get some yards, but not that many.”
Husker fullbacks Cory Schlesinger and Jeff Makovicka each carried seven times for 50 yards.
Strongside linebacker Troy Dumas, weakside linebacker Ed Stewart and rover Kareem Moss led the Blackshirts. Each was credited with 10 tackles. And for the second game in a row first-time starter Tony Veland, who stepped up at free safety when Mike Minter was injured against Texas Tech, intercepted a pass. Eric Stokes also filled in at free safety, moving from cornerback.
Sharmon Shah rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown for the Bruins, and quarterback Wayne Cook was 15-of-28 passing for 217 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted twice and sacked twice.
All-America wide receiver J.J. Stokes was injured and didn’t suit up.
Even so, Donahue said he thought the Bruins could gain some yards against Nebraska’s defense—they finished with 24 first downs and 414 yards.
Tom Osborne was concerned about the 414 yards.
“I don’t like to just have to outscore people,” he said.
Defensive coordinator Charlie McBride wasn’t concerned about the yardage, however. His concern was “how many kids who didn’t (get to) play,” he said.
Nebraska used 94 players, including 42 on defense.
The Blackshirts “played extremely well,” according to Donahue.
“One of the things that helps them so much on defense is their offense is so strong and it constantly puts you under the gun all the time to put points on the board,” he said.
Nebraska, which had 555 yards including 484 rushing, led 28-7 at halftime.
The Bruins cut the lead to 28-14 2:30 into the second half and had a chance to pull closer after recovering a Frazier fumble at the Nebraska 37-yard line with 5:16 remaining in the third quarter. But a missed field goal gave the Huskers the ball at their own 25-yard line. Four plays later, they led 35-14.
Phillips accounted for 60 of the 75 yards to the UCLA 7-yard line on a second-down run.
“Just when it looked like we were going to get the momentum, they got it right back,” said Donahue, whose team would lose the next five Pac-10 games and finish 5-6.
Nebraska’s offense was the key. “Their offense was overwhelming,” he said.
It was “far and away the most difficult offense we face,” he said. “No one is near as difficult to defend when they have good players in their offense, as they do now.”
The “key” to the offense was the “Michael Jordan-type,” Frazier, who suffered a bruise to his right calf muscle during the game.
“He’s a very, very special and very different player,” Donahue said.
“And I think he’s phenomenal. That type of player makes such a difference, that unless you’ve played or coached against him, you can’t understand it.”
A week later, the “key” to Nebraska’s offense would be lost.
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.