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Nebraska's Frazier wise now after four illustrious years

(c) 1995 Copyright The News and Observer Publishing Co.
(c) 1995 Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (Oct 11, 1995 - 16:24 EDT) -- It was 1992 when Nebraska coach Tom Osborne first turned to a freshman named Tommie Frazier with just a few weeks of experience and started him against Missouri.

Since then, Frazier has lost just one regular-season game in 26 starts, won two Orange Bowl MVP awards and a national championship. Frazier, now a senior, once again is helping No. 2 Nebraska (5-0) prepare for Saturday's game against Missouri (2-3).

Frazier still remembers the 1992 game against Missouri. He ran for three touchdowns to lead Nebraska to a 34-24 road win; his 234 total yards were a season high.

"Coach Osborne kept the offense real basic -- basic option, basic dive, hand off, nothing fancy," Frazier said. "That's something I could look back on and tell any freshman who's going into a college game, that if you're capable of playing, the coach will keep it real simple. After that, it's up to you to learn the offense."

Few have learned it better than Frazier. He has rushed for 1,612 yards (21st on Nebraska's career list) and 28 touchdowns in 29 games; he has thrown for 31 touchdowns and 2,667 yards (sixth).

But it's Frazier's intangibles that Osborne loves. The guy wins games.

Frazier's 2-point conversion pass tied the game 17-17 against Miami in the Orange Bowl last January; his 25-yard run on third-and-4 set up the winning score. He led Nebraska to a come-from-behind 21-20 win at Kansas in 1993 with an injured shoulder. He finished with 238 total yards in the 1994 Orange Bowl loss to Florida State -- the same as Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward.

But while Frazier has led Nebraska to five victories amid off-field problems and injuries to the team's tailbacks, there has been little talk of the Heisman for the Bradenton, Fla., native.

"That doesn't concern me," he said Tuesday. "I've said all along that it's nice to have your name mentioned, but I couldn't care less about winning that. The main goal is to be successful as a team. It's just a trophy -- it's not guaranteeing you a good job after football."

Frazier, who expects to graduate in May with a degree in communications, has improved his completion rate from 43.2 percent to 52.7 percent this season. Osborne said he has improved his touch.

"He makes some tough throws," Osborne said. "His athleticism is always very important because he can get the ball off when other people would have been sacked. Sometimes he'll scramble and make a 15-yard run when someone else would be sacked.

"It makes a difference when you run option football ... the whole thing is built on being able to run options."

The Huskers are running well this year, with NCAA-best 491.2 yards per game. Frazier, fourth on the team with 261 yards, missed the second half earlier this year against Michigan State with a thigh bruise.

The quarterback position, thin last season because of Frazier's blood clots and backup Brook Berringer's collapsed lung, is thin again.

Berringer, a senior, may not practice until late this week because of a sore knee, and his availability for the Missouri game is uncertain.

That leaves junior Matt Turman (4-for-10 for 73 yards and a TD), though freshman place-kicker Kris Brown has taken snaps. Osborne said redshirt freshman Frankie London would be an emergency backup.