#1 Nebraska hopes to break Orange Bowl losing streak

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

AMES, Iowa (AP) -- Nebraska was getting all it could handle from winless Iowa State and Damon Benning's thoughts were taking him somewhere else.

Iowa State trailed the heavily favored Cornhuskers only 14-12 in the fourth quarter, rekindling memories of the Cyclones' upset of Nebraska on the same field two years ago.

But not for Benning, who scored the clinching touchdown Saturday as Nebraska escaped 28-12. He was thinking about Miami.

"I think the only flashback I had was to not get beat and that flashback came from the Orange Bowl," he said. "We didn't want anybody to take anything away from us that we worked so hard for."

Nebraska, which remained No. 1 in The Associated Press poll Sunday, clinched at least a share of the Big Eight championship and secured a berth in the Orange Bowl, scene of so many Cornhuskers failures in the past. They've lost five straight at Miami, the most recent last Jan. 1. With a national championship on the line, Nebraska missed a field goal on the final play and Florida State won 18-16.

For three quarters Saturday, this season's national championship hopes were on shaky ground. Tailback Lawrence Phillips was struggling for yardage against a fired up Iowa State defense and the Cyclones trailed by only two points after Todd Doxzon's 58-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Branch with 3:42 left in the third quarter.

But the Cornhuskers pulled way with two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

"I figured we would see a very emotional situation," Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said. "They gave us a great game. This was their bowl game. But we never lost our poise. You could panic, but I don't think anybody ever did."

Quarterback Brook Berringer certainly didn't. The Cornhuskers kept running their offense, and Iowa State, last in the Big Eight in total defense, finally cracked.

Berringer's 28-yard run on an option set up Benning's 6-yard touchdown run with 12:09 left. The Cornhuskers then got a break when a holding penalty erased Doxzon's 32-yard touchdown pass to Geoff Turner and Iowa State never threatened again. Phillips ran 21 yards for a touchdown with 1:25 remaining.

"I think the biggest thing for me in this situation was to just show the rest of the team poise and leadership," said Berringer, who threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Abdul Muhammad in the final minute of the first half.

"It's easy for some people to go into a game like this and start to panic when it gets as close as it was."

It probably was the final game for Iowa State coach Jim Walden, who will resign at the end of the season and has been suspended by the Big Eight for the Cyclones' finale at Colorado next Saturday.

While he's trying to get the suspension lifted so he can coach one more game, Walden admitted the season has taken a toll. Iowa State is 0-9-1 and Walden is 28-56-3 in eight seasons. A loss at Colorado would leave the Cyclones with their first winless season since they went 0-9 in 1930.

"I'm tired," Walden said. "It's been an emotional rollercoaster this year. I didn't win nearly as many games as I would have liked, but what coach ever does?"

Phillips, who had only 63 yards in 27 carries after three quarters, finished with 183 in 36 attempts. Running backs always credit their linemen and Phillips had special reason to thank one of his. After slipping four times on the artificial turf, he borrowed reserve lineman's Bryan Pruitt's shoes in the fourth quarter.

"I wanted to stick to my other shoes because they're more comfortable," Phillips said. "But coach wanted me to change them so I did. They seemed to do the job."