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Huskers give Osborne one last hurrah
JANUARY 2, 1998


Scott Frost and the Huskers finish the season undefeated.

MIAMI -- The Nebraska Cornhuskers made Tom Osborne's final Orange Bowl memorable, and this time he settled for a tie.

Nebraska and Michigan shared the national championship in the final rankings by the two major polls released today.

Hours after beating Tennessee 42-17 in Osborne's last game, the Cornhuskers finished a distant second to Michigan in the Associated Press poll, receiving 18 1/2 first-place votes to the Wolverines' 51 1/2. But Nebraska was crowned the champion in the coaches' poll with 32 first-place votes to Michigan's 30.

"It certainly is very gratifying," Osborne said this morning. "Most all of us were in doubt. From our standpoint it couldn't have worked out any better.

"I'm really pleased for the University of Michigan, strangely enough. They very much deserve to be national champions. . . . I have respect for both polls. It's just sad we're still dealing with polls. You wish there was just one (poll) or a playoff."

Many of the Nebraska players were in their hotel room watching television when the poll results were announced at about 3 a.m. EST.

"We were so loud when we saw it, the hotel security had to come up to tell us to be quiet," defensive end Grant Wistrom said.

"It's just a real sense of relief, especially to do it for coach Osborne," All-American defensive tackle Jason Peter said.

Ahman Green sparked the victory over Tennessee with an Orange Bowl-record 206 yards and two touchdowns, while the Cornhuskers limited Peyton Manning to 134 yards passing in his final college game.

"We proved we've got the best team by far," safety Eric Warfield said. "We couldn't show it any better."

"I don't think there's anybody out there with a clear conscience who can say that Nebraska and that great man Tom Osborne doesn't deserve a national championship for this -- at least a share," quarterback Scott Frost said.

Osborne forgot to vote until he received an early-morning phone call reminding him.

Tennessee finished 11-2 and fell from third to seventh in the final AP poll. The Cornhuskers capped a 13-0 season, while Michigan, which beat Washington State 21-16 Thursday in the Rose Bowl, finished 12-0.

"We can't do any more than win 13," said Osborne, his shirt soaked from an ice-bucket bath courtesy of his players. "It's a great way to end 25 enjoyable years. It's been a lot of fun."

Osborne, who announced his retirement Dec. 10, finished a 25-year career with a record of 255-49-3, including 60-3 in the past five years. Nebraska won the national title in 1994, capping a perfect season with an Orange Bowl victory, and again in 1995.

The Big Red's red-haired coach missed a shot at another national championship with a 31-30 loss to Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl, when he declined to settle for a tie and a last-minute two-point conversion attempt failed.

Against Tennessee, Osborne's play-calling clicked. Frost threw for 109 yards in the first half before Nebraska's vaunted running game buried the Volunteers in the second half.

The Cornhuskers' pass rush, meanwhile, forced Manning to hurry his throws. The All-American completed 21 of 31 passes, but with a long gain of just 20 yards, and he was replaced by Tee Martin with four minutes remaining.

"Tom Osborne, in his last game, had them ready to play, and they whipped us," Manning said. "As a senior it's disappointing to go out on this note. But it can't overshadow the great things we've done this year."

Nebraska led 28-3 before the Vols scored their first touchdown on a 5-yard pass from Manning to Peerless Price. Tennessee committed three turnovers during a 10-minute span in the first half, which helped Nebraska go ahead 14-0.

The Huskers rushed for 227 yards in the third quarter alone, throwing just one pass. Three long drives were capped by touchdown runs of 1 and 11 yards by Frost and 22 yards by Green, making the score 35-9.

Green was held to 38 yards in the first half but gained 159 yards on 13 carries in the third quarter.

"You let Nebraska have an inch, and they take a mile," middle linebacker Leonard Little said.

Green, named Nebraska's most valuable player, finished with 29 carries and broke the Orange Bowl record of 205 yards set by Roland Sales of Arkansas against Oklahoma in 1978.

"We wanted to make a statement by the way we played, and I think we did that," Green said.

"This is the first game we played strictly on emotion," Wistrom said. "We wanted Tom to go out on top. We played all 60 minutes on emotion."

Copyright 1998 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Nebraska Tennessee

Michigan grabs a piece of the national title
The Wolverines win the national championship by a margin more convincing than their Rose Bowl victory over Washington State.

Last game a bummer for Manning
Tennessee's Peyton Manning finishes his college career with 134 yards, his second-lowest passing total.

Fitting farewell: An Orange win
In his last game as Nebraska coach, the Huskers send Tom Osborne off with a perfect season.

Bowl game is peachy for Auburn
Dameyune Craig engineers three fourth-quarter scoring drives as Auburn rallies for 21-17 win over Clemson in the Peach Bowl.

Michigan keeps an eye on Nebraska
Michigan players insist the outcome is not important, but that doesn't mean some of them didn't watch the Orange Bowl.

Copyright © 1998 The Sporting News All rights reserved.