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Drama down for Husker-Buffalo clashes

(c) 1995 Copyright Nando.net
(c) 1995 Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (Oct 25, 1995 - 18:30 EDT) -- Colorado and Nebraska for the last seven years have settled the Big Eight Conference title and an Orange Bowl berth in a big game with national title implications and lofty rankings on the line.

This year is a little different.

The rankings are still there. And No. 2 Nebraska (7-0, 3-0 Big Eight) and No. 7 Colorado (6-1, 2-1) still will receive regional television exposure, but there just isn't the drama of past Buffalo-Husker clashes.

Nebraska tailback Lawrence Phillips stole the show without trying Tuesday by coming back to practice. It was the first appearance on the field for Phillips since his Sept. 10 suspension for hitting a former girlfriend.

Then, there was Kansas, the Big Eight's other undefeated team. The Jayhawks beat Colorado on Oct. 7, spoiling the Buffs' perfect record and national title hopes and setting up a potential showdown Nov. 11 against Nebraska.

"Things happen for a reason," Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier said. "It would have been nice for them (the Buffaloes) to come in undefeated where it could be the game everyone wants it to be."

There's not even a rivalry any more. First-year Colorado coach Rick Neuheisel put an end to that.

"All of a sudden, when Colorado reached the pinnacle of college football by winning its own national championship in 1990, I don't think it was necessary anymore," said Neuheisel. "This game has special significance regardless of rivalry and it seems folly to me to have one team call it a rivalry and the other team not. By mere definition, that means it's not."

Nebraska coach Tom Osborne never singled out Colorado -- or any team -- as a rival. He was puzzled by the antics of former Colorado coach Bill McCartney, who used to print Nebraska in big red letters on team schedules and ban red clothing around the football offices.

This year, Nebraska has been preparing like it always does for a big game. Earplugs were available for the offensive linemen, and crowd noise was piped into Memorial Stadium this week to emulate the fans at Colorado's Folsom Field.

Colorado players and coaches played down the Nebraska game.

Neuheisel said Nebraska "is not the premier college football program in the country by default, but they put their pants on one leg at a time just like we do."

Buffs' linebacker Matt Russell said: "It's no longer the red-letter game. We're not going to make them out to be superhuman, something they're not. They put their pants on the same way we do in the morning. They're just ranked higher."

Nebraska center Aaron Graham said Colorado is taking a page from the Husker play book.

"Every past Colorado game we've sat up here and heard how they're putting their whole season on the line for this game," said Graham, a senior. "That philosophy has never been taught here ... I think it's more respectable this way. I think it's best just to settle these things on the field."

Colorado center Bryan Stoltenberg said he didn't mind dropping the rivalry tab, but wasn't sure it was sincere.

"Any player or coach who tells you this isn't the big game of the season is probably lying," he said. "It's huge."