BOULDER, Colo. — It would be easier to list the things second-ranked Nebraska didn't do right in Saturday's 44-21 thumping of seventh-ranked Colorado.
But that wouldn't do justice to what eventually may be remembered as the best all-around performance by an NU team in Tom Osborne's 23 years as head coach.
In front of a record crowd of 54,063 at Folsom Field, including college football writers from 15 of the nation's largest publications, the Huskers:
>> Rolled past a Top 10 opponent for the second straight week without trailing.
>> Were assessed no penalty yards-despite deafening crowd noise at times-for the first time since the 1976 Oklahoma game.
>> Had no turnovers for the third straight game.
>> Allowed no sacks.
>> Scored on their first play from scrimmage on I-back Ahman Green's 57-yard run.
>> Showed a balanced offense (226 yards rushing, 241 passing) against a Colorado defense that loaded up to stop the run.
>> Held CU's Top 10-ranked offense 20 points and 122 yards under its average.
>> Got a perfect kicking job from freshman Kris Brown (3 of 3 field goals, 5 of 5 extra points).
And then there was Tommie Frazier.
The senior quarterback from Palmetto, Fla., might want to clear his calendar for Dec. 9. That's the day the Heisman Trophy is awarded in New York, and his presence as one of the three finalists for college football's top award may be requested after his showing Saturday.
"I'm an option quarterback, but I can throw when I have to, " Frazier said after posting career passing highs of 14 completions (in 23 attempts) and 241 yards.
His 52-yard touchdown bomb to wingback Clester Johnson put Nebraska ahead 21-7 in the first quarter. His 7-yard strike to wingback Jon Vedral with 10 seconds left in the first half completed a momentum-swinging 83-yard drive that put the Huskers ahead 31-14.
"I saw them deflate after that, " Frazier said. "They expected to go in down by 10, and instead it was 17."
He added 40 yards rushing, including a clinching 2-yard touchdown run with 2:46 to play.
"They seemed determined to get a shot at me, " said Frazier, who had tacklers ganging up on him throughout the game. "But I had a good pay back with my last touchdown."
With such a stunning all-around team performance, the buzz in the press box was whether Nebraska might jump past No. 1 Florida State when this week's polls come out today. The Seminoles, who haven't played a rated team, were idle Saturday.
"I don't want to get into that No. 1 vs. No. 2 controversy," Osborne said. "We'll just let the voters take a look."
Osborne also showed little interest in comparing this team to last year's national championship squad.
"I don't want to get involved in superlatives," he said. "About the time you do that, somebody pins your ears back."
But Osborne wasn't loathe to compliment his team, 8-0 overall and 4-0 and alone in first in the Big Eight.
"I like the chemistry of this team," he said. "I enjoy being around them, and I like their approach to the game. We have a pretty mature group of players. They seem to rise to the challenge every week."
Frazier showed that knack — and put himself on most every highlight reel in the country — with one play in the second quarter.
Frazier, while back to pass, took a full-speed hit about chest-high from linebacker Mike Phillips. But Frazier held his balance long enough with Phillips still clinging to him to hit Green with a swing pass for 35 yards. That gain led to a field goal.
"Frazier is a great player," Osborne said. "He kind of holds everything together. He's a very tough guy. He took some real shots. He threw the ball awfully well. And he showed a lot of poise.
"He is a difference-maker."
Is he the Heisman winner?
"I'd definitely vote for him," NU guard Aaron Taylor said. "The leadership he showed today was unreal.
"There were times out there where I couldn't even hear the center, and I'm next to him. But Tommie kept telling us to do our jobs and keep executing just like we do in practice. He's incredible."
Frazier said his poise had a purpose.
"We wanted to come in here and show people that we could go on the road and win," he said. "Everyone thought because we had five home games in a row that we were going to slack off on the road.
"But we're a better road team than we are at home because we like the hostile environment."
Colorado tried to increase the hostility with an unique pregame ceremony.
About 20 minutes before kickoff, the Buffaloes emerged from the stadium concourse area halfway up the seats and worked their way down the aisles to the field.
They clustered at midfield and, to the booms of a Samoan drum, led the crowd in a chant of "Wartime!" before going back to the locker room and coming out again 10 minutes later.
"Coach Osborne told us they were going to do something unusual," Taylor said. "He said teams that do that are worried and are looking for something else to help them."
The good feeling Colorado got from that ceremony lasted less than two minutes.
That's how long it took Nebraska to force the Buffaloes to punt and for the Huskers to score on their first play—Green's 57-yard jaunt down the sideline on an option pitch from Frazier.
"That was a new set," Osborne said. "We put an extra blocker out there, and that might have confused them."
Said Frazier: "All week, Coach Osborne said we could score on the first play. And that's what we did."
That was the second time this season NU scored on its first play from scrimmage. The other was I-back Clinton Childs' 65-yard run against Arizona State.
Colorado tied the game 7-7 when quarterback John Hessler hit Phil Savoy with an 18-yard touchdown pass—CU's first score through the air against Nebraska since 1987.
But the Huskers led 21-7 by the end of the first quarter. Weakside linebacker Terrell Farley's 42-yard interception return set up a 1-yard touchdown run for Green, who had 97 yards in 18 carries. Then Frazier completed his 52-yard bomb to Johnson, who outjumped safety Steve Rosga for the ball at the 15 and scurried in from there.
Colorado closed to 21-14 by driving 78 yards for a touchdown. Guard Heath Irwin capped the drive by falling on tailback Lendon Henry's fumble in the end zone.
But Nebraska scored 10 points in the final 5:15 of the half. Seven of the points came on an 83-yard touchdown drive in the last three minutes that included three Colorado penalties and three first downs on plays by Frazier.
"That was the turning point of the game," Taylor said. "It was so loud that we couldn't hear each other at the line.
"But in the huddle, we kept telling each other how crucial it was to take it in and show people what kind of team we are."
Colorado (6-2, 2-2) had one flicker of hope after halftime.
The Buffaloes stopped Nebraska's opening drive of the third quarter on fourth-and-3 at the CU 27, then used a fourth-down surprise to score.
On fourth-and-2 from the NU 49, Hessler faked a handoff and threw a touchdown bomb to wide receiver James Kidd over cornerback Michael Booker. That brought CU back to 31-21 with 8:18 to go in the third quarter and marked the first time this season an opponent was as close as 10 points to Nebraska in the second half of a game.
"It certainly regenerated the crowd and gave Colorado momentum," Osborne said. "But it was a real credit to our team to hold up.
"A lot of times in that situation, a team will crumble a little bit. But we didn't."
Nebraska came back with a 14-play, 69-yard drive to set up Brown's 36-yard field goal for a 34-21 lead with 2:01 left in the quarter. Frazier had a hand in three plays that produced first downs in that drive.
On CU's next two possessions, the Nebraska defense forced a punt after three plays and got an interception—from middle linebacker Doug Colman—to stop any comeback hopes.
"When they scored and got it down to 10," NU roverback Mike Minter said, "we did what we had to do—stop them in three plays. That was our big series of the game.'
Minter declined to say Nebraska should be voted No. 1 today.
"We had a great effort against a great team," he said. "But if we're not No. 1 now, we'll get a chance to play whoever is.
"So down the road, we'll see what's up."
* * *
|Yards per carry||4.4||4.2|
Nebraska is 49-19 all-time against Colorado.
|Oklahoma State||Aug. 31|
|Michigan State||Sept. 9|
|Arizona State||Sept. 16|
|Washington State||Sept. 30|
|Kansas State||Oct. 21|
|Iowa State||Nov. 4|
Nebraska has played 19 games on Oct. 28. See them all »
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