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Cornhuskers may only make things go from bad to worse for Missouri

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

LINCOLN, Neb. (Oct 13, 1995 - 17:06 EDT) -- Missouri was shut out last week, closed practices this week and threw out part of its playbook for Saturday's game at No. 2 Nebraska. It could get worse.

The Tigers will face Ahman Green, a freshman who will make his first start at tailback for the Cornhuskers (5-0, 1-0 Big Eight). Green leads the team with 525 yards and his 21 rushes of at least 10 yards are more than twice that of the nearest player.

"Ahman has always had great ability," Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said. "But he's really improved his grasp of the offense. He makes fewer mistakes; he's a lot more confident and he's a lot more physical."

Green had a career-high 176 yards in his last game against Washington State. He averages 10.3 yards per carry and has scored seven touchdowns. He is only the third first-year player to start at Nebraska's premier position and the fourth starter this season.

The 6-1, 210-pound Green, an Omaha native, needs 375 yards to reach the freshman rushing record of 900 set by Calvin Jones in 1991.

Green will split time with senior Clinton Childs and junior Damon Benning, who have nursed nagging injuries for much of the season. Lawrence Phillips, who started the first two games, remains suspended for attacking a former girlfriend.

Missouri coach Larry Smith said he is more concerned with stopping senior quarterback Tommie Frazier, who has run for six touchdowns and thrown for five in averaging 153.8 yards of offense per game.

"They ran the option last year, but they featured more tosses, isolations, traps, what have you," Smith said. "This year, they still do that but they seem to run the option in short or long yardage situations. They're using the talents of their best player and that's Frazier."

Frazier and the tailbacks will run behind a line that helps Nebraska lead the nation with 491.2 rushing yards and 656.2 total yards per game. The Tiger defense allows 144.4 rushing yards per game.

"We've been concentrating on trying to slow them down and it will take all 11 guys," Smith said. "They have receivers who are excellent blockers ... it's very effective because you end up focusing on the run and they slip people behind you."

Smith is also concerned with the Tiger offense, which is last in the league in offense (316.6 yards and 16.6 points per game). Missouri was shut out 30-0 by the top-ranked Kansas State defense last week including seven straight possessions without a first down.

Smith responded with the private practices and a declaration that his quarterbacks were off limits to reporters. He vowed to make his offense "simpler."

He said Brandon Corso, a junior who completed 6 of 18 passes for 44 yards and an interception last week, was overloaded against Kansas State.

"We had too much in there to execute," Smith said. "Our first 10 or 12 plays are scripted, but then we would fall apart. So we went back and threw out a bunch of plays."

Smith said a safe bet is that Missouri (2-3, 0-1 Big Eight) will rely on sophomore running back Brock Olivo as much as possible. Olivo averages 101.8 yards per game.

"He's been the highlight of our offense," Smith said. "He is a highly motivated, intense individual. He's the one that other guys on offense look to. He's one of those guys that's a leader without even trying."