LINCOLN — Nebraska's No. 1 quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate is hospitalized for treatment of blood clots and is out for the season.
Its No. 2 quarterback, hospitalized last week for treatment of a partially collapsed lung, had that lung deflate again Saturday just before halftime.
That meant the second-ranked Huskers entered the third quarter against Oklahoma State with a six-point lead and a sophomore walk-on at quarterback who had 12 previous career runs and passes.
Sounds like bad news, huh?
But 585 pounds of Cornhuskers in the form of offensive tackle Zach Wiegert and nose tackle Christian Peter begged to differ after Nebraska stormed away to a 32-3 victory over OSU, which was hoping to beat NU for the first time since 1961.
"I don't care who plays quarterback," Wiegert said. "The way our running backs and offensive line are operating, I don't see any team holding our offense down long."
For proof, check out I-back Lawrence Phillips.
The sophomore from West Covina, Calif., dazzled the Memorial Stadium crowd of 75,453 with career highs in yards (221) and carries (33) and three touchdowns. All that came despite Phillips becoming the focus of OSU's defense after NU quarterback Brook Berringer left with a 15 percent to 20 percent collapsed lung.
"It was pretty much understood that we would go to the I-backs quite a bit in the second half," NU Running Backs Coach Frank Solich said. "And we had already seen a bunch of eight-man fronts. So I'm really proud of the way they ran. Especially Lawrence. I've never known him not to show up ready.
"All those guys had tremendous days in terms of yards after contact. We're talking 5 or 6 or 7 yards after the initial hit."
The yards Nebraska gained after contact Saturday might have eclipsed Oklahoma State's total yardage against a Husker defense that had been scorched in NU's previous game for 380 yards and 32 points by Wyoming.
OSU, averaging 358 yards a game, was held to 136 yards — 40 rushing and 96 passing. In the second half, the Blackshirts helped take the pressure off NU walk-on quarterback Matt Turman by limiting the Cowboys to 24 yards on 15 rushes and 0 of 9 passes.
"When the offense is down," Peter said, "the defense has to step up. And that's what we did. The defense needed a game like this to get some momentum back. It will really help us.
"People are going to have questions about us because of the injuries we've had. But we're going to keep playing. We have confidence in the things we are doing."
"We're kind of becoming a team like last year where everybody thought we couldn't get it done," he said. "We're fighting with our backs to the wall, and that's going to help us."
Is that feeling enough to get Nebraska (6-0) a fourth straight Big Eight championship even with top quarterback Tommie Frazier out with his blood clot problem?
"People can say what they want about us with Tommie being gone," Wiegert said. "They can listen to (ESPN commentator) Lee Corso if they want. But he's proven he can't get the job done.
"So no matter what anybody says, we're still the second-ranked team in the country. I can't see us dropping unless we lose a game. And I don't see that happening.
"We'll be there at the end. And if it means we have to play the whole game to win by one point, we'll do it."
At halftime Saturday, the Nebraska lead was six points at 9-3 in part because of lost fumbles on its first two possessions.
But the slim lead wasn't what sent a ripple of worry through the locker room.
With about six minutes of the halftime break remaining, word came that Berringer would miss the second half. A pre-arranged precautionary X-ray session at NU Student Health — two blocks east of Memorial Stadium — showed his left lung again was partially collapsed.
"It was a little bit of a shock to everybody to all of a sudden get a phone call from Student Health and have them say Brook couldn't play anymore," NU Coach Tom Osborne said. "I had no idea and I don't think he did, either, that there was any problem because he felt good."
A chest tube was immediately inserted into Berringer's lung, reinflating it. He returned to the stadium to watch the second half, but was scheduled to go to Bryan Memorial Hospital for more testing Saturday night.
In the meantime, there was still 30 minutes of football to play.
Defensive Coordinator Charlie McBride said he huddled his players after word came on Berringer's injury.
"I told them, 'It's ours now. We've got to do it,' " McBride said. "And we came out smoking."
The offensive coaches, meanwhile, were telling Turman to take a deep breath and just play the way he has practiced for two years since walking on as a wide receiver out of Wahoo (Neb.) Neumann High.
"I was glad the defense went three and out so I could get the first play out of the way," Turman said. "After that was over, I thought things went pretty well."
In Turman's first series, the Huskers picked up two first downs to set up a 39-yard field goal that Tom Sieler missed wide left. Sieler also missed NU's first extra point.
On Nebraska's next two drives, Phillips carried six times for 33 yards and a 2-yard touchdown and five times for 27 yards and a 7-yard touchdown.
When NU added 2-point conversions after both scores — including a pass from holder Jon Vedral to kicker Darin Erstad after a bobbled snap — the Huskers' lead was 25-3 and the upset hopes of Oklahoma State (3-2) in the Big Eight opener for both schools were gone.
Phillips' 221-yard effort was the 12th best in Nebraska history. It also made him the 13th player to top 1,000 yards in a season at NU. He has 1,006 yards for averages of 167.7 a game and 7.7 a carry.
What do those numbers mean?
"The line is blocking," he said, smiling.
Two weeks ago, Phillips said in an interview that he didn't even realize he was third in the country in rushing. Since then, has he considered winning the national rushing title?
"Not really," he said. "Our team has. And if the team does, the running back has a good chance."
Phillips reached 100 yards for the sixth straight game Saturday with 1:18 left in the first quarter. But Nebraska trailed 3-0 at the quarter break after losing fumbles on the first two drives.
Phillips capped a 57-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 13:41 left in the second quarter for a 6-3 lead. On the final drive of the first half, Berringer moved the Huskers 51 yards in eight plays to set up Erstad's 48-yard field goal with four seconds left.
Phillips, who had 103 yards in 13 carries in the first quarter and 12 yards on two carries in the second, added 81 yards in 14 carries in the third.
When it was learned Phillips needed just 19 more yards at that point to top the 1,000 mark, Solich called from the press box to the sideline and had Phillips reinserted for one drive. His 25 yards in four carries boosted him to 1,006 yards.
"He's unbelievable," NU's McBride said. "I'm glad we don't have to try to tackle him."
McBride also may be glad he doesn't have to patch NU's quarterback situation together.
Team physicians said Berringer's status won't be known until early this week. Osborne said he doesn't know yet if No. 1 free safety Tony Veland, a quarterback for 2 1/2 seasons, will switch back to that spot full time.
Quarterbacks Coach Turner Gill also had no answers.
"We'll find out now if I can coach," he said. "I might have to do like we did in high school and go down the hallways and find somebody."
Osborne joked that said he might consider volunteers from the press corps.
When asked if any of them might be any good, he drew a big laugh by deadpanning: "We've got some guys who could audible."
Seriously, Osborne was asked where Nebraska goes from here, besides to Manhattan, Kan., for Saturday's 11 a.m. game against the 13th- and 19th-ranked Wildcats.
"I don't know," he said. "But I think we'll play well. We have a good football team.
"Individuals certainly make a difference. But we're going to work out a way to make it work, no matter who plays where. So we'll get the thing put back together."
|Yards per carry||1.3||5.5|
Nebraska is 37-5 all-time against Oklahoma State.
|West Virginia||Aug. 28|
|Texas Tech||Sept. 8|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 8|
|Kansas State||Oct. 15|
|Iowa State||Nov. 12|
|Miami (FL)||Jan. 1|
Nebraska has played 19 games on Oct. 8. See them all »
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