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Phillips back in action with Huskers

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

LINCOLN, Neb. (Nov 4, 1995 - 23:24 EST) -- Nebraska tailback Lawrence Phillips felt tired, looked heavy and was a little anxious. But after a six-game suspension for attacking a former girlfrriend, he was back.

"I definitely wasn't in the same shape that I was before I was suspended," Phillips said after a 68-yard, 12-carry performance against Iowa State. "Basically, I wanted to score a touchdown on my first carry, but that didn't happen."

Starter Ahman Green had a spectacular day, rushing for 176 yards and three touchdowns and catching a fourth score on a shovel pass. Green started the first two series, but gave way to Phillips with 10:05 remaining in the first quarter during the second drive.

On his first carry, Phillips started left, cut back and pushed ahead for a 2-yard gain.

There were loud cheers before and after the play. He drew a standing ovation in the third quarter after his 13-yard scoring run around the left end. He played in three series, and appeared slightly gimpy after spraining his ankle last week.

It was Phillips' first action since gaining 206 yards and four touchdowns against Michigan State on Sept. 9. He was suspended a day later for attacking ex-girlfriend Kate McEwen at the apartment of transfer quarterback Scott Frost.

Police said Miss McEwen cut her head and was dragged down a flight of stairs before Frost and neighbors were able to separate her from Phillips. He awaits sentencing Dec. 1 for misdemeanor assault and trespassing convictions.

His reinstatement by coach Tom Osborne has drawn criticism from women's groups and others who say Phillips should have been dismissed. There were no protests, though the reaction in and around Memorial Stadium was mixed.

"It's sending a bad message across the country that beating women is OK," said Tammy McChesney of Omaha.

Said Pam Persing of Omaha: "We're glad he's back. In this stadium, he's part of the team."

Phillips, who gained about 10 pounds during his suspension, was tentative at times and he was not needed. His 68 yards amounted to 11 percent of Nebraska's 624 rushing total.

"Lawrence did OK. He looked like a guy who hasn't played for five or six weeks," Osborne said. "I don't think that putting Lawrence Phillips in there was the difference ... You can't take that much time off and not have it effect you.

"I was hoping they (the crowd) wouldn't boo him. If they want to boo me, I'm the guy who put him out there ... I've taken my share of hits. I've kind of gone from too nice a guy to some kind of villain, a win-at-all costs kind of guy that does all these dastardly things like running up the score."

Phillips told reporters he was happy to get another chance to play.

"I'm working on anger problems and going to counseling to get that situated," he said. "I'm sorry that that has had to take place and hopefully, something like that will never happen again."

He also defended Osborne's decision to reinstate him, which has been criticized as a move to help the Huskers return to a national championship game.

"If that was his (Osborne's) motive, he would have never suspended me in the first place," Phillips said. "He's never been a guy that's all about winning. If there's a problem with discipline, then you're going to face the consequence no matter who you are and what you do for the team.

"He showed throughout the years that everybody has to pay for their wrongdoings and that's what he did for me. He just gave me a second chance. He believed that I could get help and come back and do a good job."

Asked what his goal was for the rest of the season, Phillips said: "To stay out of trouble."