Quarterback talk has left running backs out of limelight

(c) Copyright the News & Observer Publishing Co. and The Associated Press, 1994

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Two of the nation's top running backs have been lost in the pregame talk of quarterbacks in Saturday's meeting of Wyoming and No. 2 Nebraska.

Most of the interest this week has been centered around the loss of Cornhusker quarterback Tommie Frazier. The spotlight is on his backup, Brook Berringer.

Wyoming also will have a new quarterback. Redshirt freshman Jeremy Dombek will replace John Gustin for the Cowboys (2-2) against Nebraska (4-0).

Dombek broke all of Troy Aikman's high school records for single-season and career passing at Henryetta (Okla.) High. He hit eight of 23 with one interception after replacing Gustin in last week's 42-7 loss at Utah.

But Wyoming's success has depended largely on the success of running back Ryan Christopherson and also will depend Saturday on the Cowboys' ability to stop Nebraska's Lawrence Phillips.

Christopherson, a bruising 240-pounder, is fifth in the nation in rushing with his average of 152 yards. The fleet-footed Phillips is third with an average of 154.

Wyoming coach Joe Tiller said there is one way for his 40-point underdog Cowboys to better match up.

"If we could trade their offensive line for ours, then we would feed the ball to Christopherson a little bit more," he said. But the game will not be between Christopherson and Phillips, he said.

Phillips agrees. There's the line, the quarterback, receivers and Nebraska's backup backs that give him support. The defenses also will have a say in the outcome.

"We just looking to get a win. It's not going to be a one-on-one thing with the running backs, I don't think," the NU sophomore said.

And it won't be Berringer out there alone, either, Phillips said. There is a huge offensive line in front of him and a bunch of good backs behind him.

"I think he's very confident in the line. Everyone is very confident in the line. The line shouldn't be a problem," Phillips said.

And if any defense should try to key on the I-backs since Frazier isn't there to turn the corner on the option?

"I think they'll still have to worry about our fullbacks and quarterbacks. Brook is pretty fast, too, and I think if they try to key on any one person in our offense, there's a lot of people in our offense who can hurt them."

Phillips is confident Berringer will be just fine when it comes to leading this team of Huskers.

"He hasn't really had a chance to lead the offense yet. I wasn't really in the game too much when he was in the last game. But I think as far as everybody else is concerned who's played with him, they're pretty confident in his leadership abilities."

Frazier likely will be walking the sidelines Saturday to offer his support. A blood clot sidelined the junior star indefinitely. He was released from the hospital Wednesday when the clot was dissolved by treatment but he remains on blood-thinner and that will keep him out of physical contact, at least for a while, coach Tom Osborne said.

Osborne and the rest of the Huskers are confident Berringer will do the job in his first start. Afterall, his only two extensive periods of play for Nebraska resulted in a 76-14 win over North Texas State, when Frazier was sidelined after the second play of the game a year ago, and the 70-21 blowout of Pacific last week, when Osborne pulled Frazier and many of his No. 1 unit players after two quick touchdowns.