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QB switch slowed Buffaloes

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

BOULDER, Colo. (Oct 26, 1995 - 16:36 EDT) -- Colorado's adjustment this season to new quarterback John Hessler still is not complete after four games, and therein lies a fundamental difference between the Buffaloes and the team they emulate -- Nebraska.

Last year, when Nebraska had to switch in midstream to backup quarterback Brook Berringer because of Tommie Frazier's health problems, the adjustment was almost immediate.

Berringer threw for 1,295 yards, leading the Cornhuskers to a 7-0 record in the games he started and preserving their national championship run.

"Necessity makes for a very quick adjustment," Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said as his No. 2 team prepared for Saturday's game against No. 7 Colorado. "Brook had been taking snaps, he had confidence, he was a good player and he went out and played well. We didn't go through any period of withdrawal or adjustment there.

"I doubt there's been any great adjustment for Colorado. They took snaps from Hessler every day even when (Koy) Detmer was the starter. As long as there was some possibility that Detmer could come back, it put Hessler in a bit of a subservient role. But once surgery was decided on, I'm sure it helped Hessler."

It hasn't shown, though.

Detmer tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Texas A&M;, and Hessler engineered a 29-21 victory, running for two scores and throwing for one. The following week at Oklahoma, Hessler threw a school-record five TD passes.

But in the following game, Hessler hit only 15 of 32 passes and was intercepted for the first time in a 40-24 loss to Kansas. Detmer played part of that game with a knee brace, but opted for surgery afterward.

Last week, with the starting job his alone, Hessler had his worst performance. He threw two interceptions, but the Buffs rallied to beat Iowa State 50-28.

Hessler has drawn inspiration from Berringer's success in 1994.

"I look up to him because of the job he's done there," Hessler said. "You have to admire a guy who did what he did. Now I have to go out and show him what I can do."

Hessler's play might not be a factor Saturday. The game likely will hinge on Colorado's ability to run the ball and, conversely, to stop Nebraska's ground game.

Colorado ranks 34th in the nation in rushing at 192 yards per game, a respectable figure but one that pales in comparison to Nebraska's 427 yards, which leads the nation. Huskers freshman I-back Ahman Green has averaged 103 yards per game, which might be good enough to keep reinstated I-back Lawrence Phillips in his shadow.

In its last two games, Colorado has shown a disturbing trend of giving up huge chunks of yardage on the ground. Kansas' June Henley ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns against Colorado, and last week Iowa State's Troy Davis had 203 yards and three TDs.

Like Hessler, Frazier is capable of passing effectively. Although he throws an average of only 12 times per game, Frazier leads the Big Eight in passing efficiency, having completed 46 of 85 for 789 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. Hessler has hit 69 of 124 for 1,049 yards and nine TDs with three interceptions.

Nebraska has the nation's longest winning streak at 20 games.