Frazier's will shows way for Nebraska

January 02, 1995|By KEN ROSENTHAL

MIAMI -- Seven straight bowl defeats, and Nebraska wouldn't die. Seven straight bowl defeats, a 17-9 deficit in the fourth quarter, back-to-back turnovers and Nebraska kept coming back for more.

Out went Brook Berringer. In came Tommie Frazier. Who would have believed it? Frazier marched the Cornhuskers down the field for a touchdown. Frazier hit Eric Alford for the two-point conversion to tie the score.

It was the same stadium where Nebraska had lost the past three Orange Bowls. It was the same end zone where Miami foiled the Cornhuskers' two-point attempt to win their first national championship in 1984.

And Nebraska still wasn't done.

Frazier, playing his first game since Sept. 24, simmering from his first-quarter benching, wanted another piece of that end zone. A yard scramble. A 14-yard touchdown run by Cory Schlesinger. And finally, after 22 years, a national championship for Tom Osborne.

Nebraska 24, Miami 17. Please, let's not hear a word from Joe Paterno after Penn State hammers the Oregon "Lame" Ducks in the Rose Bowl. Nebraska is the national champion. The vote shouldn't even be close.

Nebraska won last night under the most difficult circumstances imaginable, spotting Miami a 10-point lead, bouncing back from Berringer's two second-half turnovers, stunning a record crowd of 81,753 at the Orange Bowl.

"You couldn't hear yourself think," Frazier said. "Everyone was very excited. Everyone was jumping around. It was something you will savor for a lifetime."

Two fourth-quarter touchdowns. It doesn't happen on Miami's home field. The 'Canes had won 62 of their past 63 games at the Orange Bowl. Think that's intimidating? Heck, they had lost only one night game at the stadium since 1977.

But Nebraska came back, and now this magical stadium can be put to rest. Next year, the national championship game moves to the Fiesta Bowl, and in two years, the Orange Bowl moves to Joe Robbie Stadium. Now, Nebraska has its peace. It ended its Orange Bowl curse once and for all.

Miami got a terrific game from quarterback Frank Costa, but committed 11 penalties for 92 yards and kept losing its flow offensively. As usual, the Hurricanes talked too much trash. The football gods lashed back once and for all.

Frazier was the hero. Frazier, the sweet, humble kid from Bradenton, Fla. Frazier, the courageous warrior who underwent surgery for blood clots in his right leg in October, only to return to seal Nebraska's greatest victory of all.

Lawrence Phillips rushed for 96 yards. Schlesinger rushed for 48 yards and two touchdowns. The Nebraska defense did not allow a score after Miami opened the second half with a touchdown. And still, all anyone will remember is Frazier.

"He's a special athlete," Osborne said. "He can make some things happen. He really gave us some things at the end. He wasn't feeling well -- he had a cold -- but he's a real competitor. I was prepared to go the rest of the game with Brook, but I thought it was time to play Tommie."

Frazier completed only three of five passes for 25 yards, rushed only seven times for 31 yards. Yet, there was no question he was the MVP of this game. Osborne's two-quarterback system seemed destined to fail until the fourth quarter.

Twice with Berringer, the Cornhuskers seemed close to scoring the touchdown that could have enabled them to tie the score. But each time, Berringer committed a devastating turnover, and Osborne returned to Frazier in the fourth quarter.

Was there any choice? Berringer's first turnover came on a fumbled handoff at the Miami 31 after he had successfully converted a fourth-and-one on a quarterback sneak. The second was an even bigger killer, an interception in the end zone after Miami botched a punt and Nebraska took over at the Hurricanes' 4.

Frazier was magnificent late but awful early. Nebraska went three-and-out with him on its opening drive, then wasted an impressive march into Miami territory when Frazier threw an interception into double coverage on the second.

It was 10-0 by the time Osborne went to Berringer to start the second quarter. At first, the difference was minimal. But Nebraska slowly reversed the momentum, with considerable help from Miami.

The 'Canes were penalized seven times for 63 yards in the first half. Nebraska got back into the game behind its top-ranked running game, which averaged 340 yards per game this season.

Phillips rushed nine times for 56 yards in the first half, but it was Berringer who made the biggest play, a 19-yard touchdown pass to Mark Gilman off a play-action fake that pulled Nebraska within 10-7.

By halftime, Berringer had completed only three of six passes for 19 yards, but Osborne stuck with him, even after a dismal series to start the third quarter. He stuck with him and stuck with him, but ultimately he came back to Frazier.

It was the best decision he ever made, and it came out of desperation. Tommie Frazier marched Nebraska down the field. Tommie Frazier turned the end zone from hell into the end zone from heaven. Tommie Frazier purged the ghosts, once and for all.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.