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Big showdown out West now just a big worry for Huskers

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

LINCOLN, Neb. (Oct 23, 1995 - 00:12 EDT) -- Nebraska-Colorado was supposed to be a huge showdown. The final Big Eight Conference title on the line. Maybe a Fiesta Bowl bid.

Most of Saturday's possible drama disappeared with the Buffs' national title hopes in an Oct. 7 loss to Kansas. The game now is a potential stumbling block in the Cornhuskers' march for a second national championship game, a chance for No. 7 Colorado to salvage its season and throw the Big Eight race into a jumbled mess.

You could almost hear Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier sigh when he was asked if the Buffs (6-1, 2-1 Big Eight) are considered a rival for the second-ranked Huskers (7-0, 3-0).

"Some people might say there's something special about Colorado week, but I see it as another Big Eight game," he said. "I approach each game the same, whether it's Colorado, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Kansas -- it doesn't matter.

"I don't see it as a rivalry. If you're to say it's a rivalry, you have to put Oklahoma in that category. Colorado hasn't been a rival in the last five years. They want to be a rival, but we're not seeing it that way."

Colorado, including a 19-19 tie in 1991, has not beaten Nebraska since 1989 and 1990. The game has decided the Big Eight title and the Orange Bowl berth that used to go with it since 1988.

The series has been all Nebraska recently. There was a 52-7 win in Lincoln in 1992, a 21-17 victory at Boulder in 1993 and last year's 24-7 victory when the Buffs were ranked No. 2 and Nebraska No. 3.

Frazier, a senior, has seen Nebraska lose only one Big Eight game in his career and it was not to Colorado. It was a 19-10 loss at Iowa State on Nov. 14, 1992, his freshman year.

He missed last year's game with blood clot problems. It was a game that saw the Buffs go 0-for-15 on third- and fourth-down conversions. Backup Brook Berringer engineered the victory, but it will be a healthy Frazier behind center in Boulder.

"He is having an outstanding season," quarterbacks coach Turner Gill said Sunday. "He has matured as a passer since he's been here and he's always had the running tools."

Frazier has rushed for a team-high nine touchdowns and thrown for 11, including a career-high four passing TDs in a 49-25 victory over Kansas State last week. His completion rate is 54 percent.

Frazier, whose 68 touchdowns are a school record and his 4,667 total yards are 616 short of the school mark set by Jerry Tagge, also is 27-1 in regular-season starts.

"He has the innate ability that you love to see in a football player," Gill said. "It is very, very special to see that in a quarterback. It's an ability to lift up a team."

Colorado coach Rick Neuheisel knows all about Frazier and a Nebraska rushing attack that rolls up 426.8 yards per game. Iowa State's Troy Davis had 203 yards in a 50-28 loss to Colorado last week.

"But you know what? Kids find a way to rise up and I'm excited about our chances," Neuheisel said.

Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, who has watched his defense allow 20 rushing yards in the last two weeks, isn't concerned about the trip to Boulder.

"We play well out there," he said. "I don't mind going on the road with this team. I think this team will play well anywhere."