[ Big Eight Conference Features Page | The Big Eight Conference Page | The Football Server ]

Huskers roll on despite problems and disputes

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

LINCOLN, Neb. (Nov 22, 1995 - 20:42 EST) -- Nebraska is putting together one of college football's most remarkable runs, but it has been overshadowed a bit by offseason controversy and disputes over the battle for No. 1.

Nebraska is 34-1 over the last three seasons, the lone loss coming in the 1994 Orange Bowl to national champion Florida State, 18-16.

If the top-ranked Cornhuskers beat 33-point underdog Oklahoma in Friday's regular-season finale and then win the Fiesta Bowl, they would become the first team to win 36 games in three seasons.

Only Toledo (35-0, 1969-71) and Brigham Young (35-4, 1983-85) have 35 wins over a three-season span.

While there have been some close calls -- 14-13 over UCLA and 21-20 over Kansas in 1993 and 17-6 at Kansas State last year -- a win over the Sooners will mean a third consecutive national championship game.

"Their program is just so consistent and so good year after year after year," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said. "Tom Osborne has simply done wonders up there forever."

A victory in the Fiesta Bowl would likely mean a second consecutive national championship, but the arguments over who's really No. 1 would probably simmer again. An undefeated Penn State team finished behind Nebraska last season, and No. 2 Ohio State now is two victories away from an undefeated season.

Osborne hates talking about the polls, but he knows about winning. All 22 of his teams have played in a bowl after winning at least nine games each season, though Osborne didn't get his first national championship until January's Orange Bowl victory over Miami.

The good times continue. Nebraska (10-0, 6-0 Big Eight) has the nation's longest winning streak at 23 going into the game against Oklahoma (5-4-1, 2-4).

"The leadership level and the unity has been very good, and I've appreciated it," Osborne said.

The unity has been needed over the past two seasons. In 1994, quarterback Tommie Frazier was sidelined for eight games with blood clots in his leg; he returned to start against the Hurricanes.

This season, however, has been even more trying. Osborne and his program continue to be criticized for allowing starting tailback Lawrence Phillips to play after a six-game suspension for beating up a former girlfriend.

Phillips, a junior, awaits sentencing Dec. 1 on misdemeanor assault and trespassing charges. Osborne credited his team with focusing on football through the controversy.

"Contrary to some published reports, I think the character level is among the very top teams that we've had," Osborne said. "I think they care very much about being a good football team. I think they care very much about a lot of the right things .... But they found a way to get it done one way or another."

Nebraska center Aaron Graham remembers the 27-14 loss to Florida State in the 1992 Orange Bowl when he and other freshmen linemen vowed to win another Big Eight title and two national titles.

"That wasn't a joke," said Graham, a senior. "We knew we had the talent to do it, the class and the work ethic ... we don't have any people around here who are slackers.

"We've wanted to win two national championships ... I'd put it in our favor that we get it done."

Oklahoma coach Howard Schnellenberger, whose Miami team stopped a 22-game winning streak by beating Nebraska 31-30 in the 1984 Orange Bowl, called this year's Husker team one of the best he has seen.

"I don't see a weakness on their team anywhere," he said. "They've done an excellent job of recruiting, they've done an excellent job of keeping a high level of interest and of keeping the roll going.

"They're outstanding, there's no question about that."