Berringer takes McCartney challenge and opens up passing attack

(c) Copyright the News & Observer Publishing Co. and The Associated Press, 1994

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Nebraska quarterback Brook Berringer thanks Colorado coach Bill McCartney for a good game plan to beat Kansas: Pass to the wide receivers.

One week after Berringer led No. 1 Nebraska to a 24-7 victory over Colorado by hitting his tight ends on nine of 12 completions in 17 attempts, McCartney said the Cornhusker quarterback still hadn't proved he could pass to his wide receivers.

"He said we had to throw to our wide receivers," Berringer said with a grin Saturday. "So that's what we did."

Berringer had the seventh-best passing day ever by a Nebraska quarterback in a 45-17 victory over Kansas. He hit 13 of 18 passes for 267 yards and two long touchdowns to wide receivers.

"I feel very comfortable that if we had to go out and throw it 35 or 40 times, we'd be pretty effective," Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said. "I don't want to do that if we can help it because I don't think in the long haul we'd be quite as effective as doing what we're doing. But if we had to, I think we could do it pretty well."

Saturday's offensive balance impressed enough voters in the USA Today-CNN coaches' poll that the coaches put Nebraska No. 1 this week, a position the 'Huskers already held in The Associated Press poll. Penn State is No. 2 in both polls after struggling to a six-point win over Indiana on Saturday.

"I was a little surprised to see that this morning." Osborne said Sunday. "I thought it would be close and we might possibly be rated ahead in both polls. But I wasn't sure that we would. I was somewhat surprised by the swing in the coaches' vote."

Apparently Nebraska's win was more impressive, the coach said, although he noted both teams were in similar games with their opponents scoring late.

Perhaps Nebraska's newfound passing game behind Berringer's arm is creating a new image for the run-happy Cornhuskers, too. He stepped in for the sidelined option star, Tommie Frazier, on Oct. 1 and has thrown at a better-than 62 percent completion rate since.

"You go with what your players can do," Osborne said. "Berringer is probably more suited to throwing the ball than option football but he can run the option and if we had another quarterback or two around, if Frazier was healthy and Berringer was around, we'd run Berringer a lot more than we are. So we still like option football."

But passing wasn't bad Saturday and going to the wide receivers was the name of this game. Reggie Baul hauled one in TD toss for 51 yards and Clester Johnson took another one 64 yards from Berringer.

"They were playing for the isolation run play and we had success faking it," Baul said. "It was open for us. Their defense was keying the tight end when they did play the pass and forgot about us."

Baul also had a 49-yard reception to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by I-back Lawrence Phillips.

Phillips, the nation's No. 3 rusher averaging 148 yards per game, struggled to gain 35 yards on 11 carries in the first half as Kansas loaded up to stop Nebraska's running game. After Berringer's 249-yard passing half, the Huskers forced a defensive change and Phillips rushed for 118 on 10 carries in the third quarter alone. It was his 10th-straight 100-yard rushing day.

"I knew if they had any sense, they had to go in at halftime and start talking about defending the pass," Phillips said. "I figured that would open up a lot of running room."

Fullbacks Cory Schlesinger and Jeff Makovicka also scored on runs of 40 and 8 yards.

"We gave up way too many big plays," said Kansas coach Glen Mason, who admitted voting Nebraska No. 1 a week ago and saw nothing Saturday to change his vote. "Obviously when you go against a team averaging 370 yards rushing, you have to stack it up against them. When you do that, you leave yourself vulnerable in other areas. They hit a couple of big plays that really hurt us."