Photo by Randy Hampton
Nebraska Football

Tom's Time: Huskers Get Closer to Tommie's Time

July 2, 2020
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In the three Saturdays following its victory against Arizona State in late September of 1992, Nebraska played only once, against Oklahoma State at Memorial Stadium.

The Huskers had a week off after the Arizona State game and would have another following Oklahoma State’s visit to Lincoln. They had been scheduled to play Kansas State at Manhattan the next Saturday, but that game was moved to December 5—in Tokyo. 

In retrospect, Tom Osborne said, he wished Nebraska hadn’t agreed to the Japan trip. A second week off just one game into Big Eight play might be more detrimental than beneficial.

Whether that was the case, the two weeks before Oklahoma State came to town could’ve had a significant effect on the course of Husker history. Freshman quarterback Tommie Frazier considered transferring, or at least mentioned “transfer” in a discussion with Osborne.

“That’s when all hell broke loose because that’s when they (the coaches) got on the phone and started talking to my parents, trying to get them to persuade me (to stay),” Frazier said, looking back during an interview a dozen years later. “It wasn’t that I had been looking. It was just something, I guess, that was said out of frustration of the situation.”

He had seen limited action in the first two games—completing 2-of-6 passes for 23 yards and rushing for 30 yards and a touchdown on eight carries—but hadn’t played against Washington or Arizona State. Senior Mike Grant was the only quarterback to play in those games. 

The Washington game was understandable; it was on the road and the Huskies were second ranked. Plus, Frazier had a sore shoulder. But Nebraska had taken some measure of control in the second half of the 45-24 Arizona State victory, at home, yet Grant continued to play.

Frazier had gone to Osborne. “I was like, ‘Well, if I’m not going to redshirt, how come I’m not playing when the game is out of order . . . how come I’m not seeing more playing time?’” he said.

“When you’re 18 years old and you’re away from your family and you love the game of football but you’re not playing and you feel that you should, frustrations are going to come out.”

Frazier called home. He would stay and take it one day at a time.

On the Monday before the Oklahoma State game, redshirt freshman quarterback Tony Veland returned to practice. Veland had finished spring atop the depth chart after Grant had missed the second half of spring practice because of a broken collarbone. 

The pre-fall depth chart listed Grant first and Veland second, with senior walk-on Joel Cornwell third. But Veland continued in contention for the starting job until also suffering a broken collarbone 10 days before the opener against Utah. Veland wasn’t game-ready when he returned, of course, but quarterbacks coach Turner Gill had redshirt freshman Brook Berringer and senior Jon McMillen, also a walk-on, competing along with Frazier and Cornwell for playing time behind Grant. 

All five took snaps in the 55-0 victory against Oklahoma State. 

Grant and Frazier took most of the snaps, though. Grant played the first quarter and started the third. Frazier started the second and fourth quarters and saw action at the end of the third quarter. Those substitutions had been predetermined by Osborne.

Nebraska led 13-0 when Frazier went in. Regardless of the score, getting the second-string quarterback playing time when it mattered was important, according to Osborne.

Frazier directed a five-play, 54-yard touchdown drive, carrying twice and finishing it with a 42-yard touchdown pass to split end Corey Dixon. He would throw another touchdown pass, 8 yards to tight end Gerald Armstrong in the final minute of the third quarter.

Grant also threw a pair of touchdown passes and rushed for a touchdown.

Nebraska amassed 506 yards, including 366 rushing, led by “We-back” Calvin Jones, who gained 176 yards (on seven carries), 138 of them for a pair of touchdowns—the first a 90-yarder.

Derek Brown rushed for 72 yards on 18 carries.

Oklahoma State, which was playing without its top two receivers—both suspended—and its top running back—sore neck—managed only 155 yards. The Blackshirts had spent the week preparing for Oklahoma State’s play-action passing. The Cowboys threw three passes, all incomplete.

They only crossed mid-field once and punted 11 times.

Nebraska’s Mike Stigge punted four times, including an 87-yarder, the Huskers’ longest since 1966.

Next up for Nebraska was a 1-5 Missouri team—its only victory against Marshall—in Columbia that lost at Oklahoma State 28-26 on the Saturday the Huskers were off.

Despite the Tigers’ record, there would be more quarterback drama that week.

 
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