LINCOLN — Top-ranked Nebraska's 73-14 victory Saturday over Iowa State was no sweat. The Huskers scored on their first 10 possessions and ran for the second-most yards—624—in school history.
No, it was what happened in the 24 hours before that record-rewriting romp that had NU Coach Tom Osborne mopping his brow.
Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier, who hopped toward the top of the Heisman Trophy race last week, came up limping Friday with a sore leg—the same leg in which two blood clots developed last season.
Doctors late Friday afternoon performed a leg scan, which was negative. But the four-year starter, who missed seven games last season with clotting problems, woke up Saturday morning with the soreness still there.
"Frazier had me worried," Osborne said. "He was really limping yesterday during our short workout and limping again when he got up this morning. I was holding my breath. They said no blood clots. It was more like shin splints.
"He moved awfully well today. But I was afraid he might be one series and out of the game."
Iowa State wishes that were the case.
As it turned out, by the time Frazier sat down Saturday he had marched Nebraska to scores on all eight of his possessions—seven touchdowns and a field goal—for a 52-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
No. 2 quarterback Brook Berringer led touchdown drives on the next two series to build the lead to 66-7 by the end of the third quarter. Nebraska's streak of consecutive scores ended at 10 when the Huskers were stopped by a dropped pass on fourth-and-5 at the ISU 15 with 9:21 to play.
Frazier, who rushed for 62 yards and two touchdowns and completed 10 of 15 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns, said the leg soreness didn't scare him.
"I knew I would play," he said. "It was just a question of how effective I would be. My leg was real sore yesterday after practice. I got treatment, and it was still sore after that."
Frazier said he couldn't recall a specific hit that led to his leg soreness.
"It just got real stiff as we went throughout last week, " he said.
You couldn't tell it from watching Saturday's performance, in which Frazier boosted his record as a starter to 30-3, breaking Steve Taylor's school record of 29-6 from 1985 through 1988.
The Huskers, in front of a Memorial Stadium crowd of 75,505:
Scored more points than any Iowa State team had ever allowed. The former mark was 72 by NU in 1983.
Ran for the second-most yards in school history, trailing only the 677 gained against New Mexico State in 1982.
Rolled to 776 total yards, the school's fifth-best total. Nebraska gained 10 yards or more 27 times, on 21 rushes and six passes.
Completed a fourth straight game without a turnover.
I-back Ahman Green kept a lot of the spotlight off the return of suspended I-back Lawrence Phillips by running for 176 yards in 12 carries. That boosted Green's season total to 997 yards, breaking Calvin Jones' NU record for freshmen of 900 yards in 1991.
Green ran for touchdowns of 17, 26 and 64 yards and caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Frazier.
"Ahman played great," Osborne said. "He's got that extra step that you need."
Phillips, playing for the first time since a Sept. 10 assault of his ex-girlfriend, huffed and puffed to 68 yards on 12 carries. His 13-yard touchdown run in the third quarter put Nebraska ahead 59-7.
"It was a short touchdown," Phillips said. "I wanted a longer one. But I was pretty happy just to be back in there playing, and those guys are happy to have me back in there."
The crowd applauded Phillips' entry to the game with about 10 minutes left in the first quarter. He carried four straight times for gains of 2, 5, 1 and 4 yards.
"I was hoping they wouldn't boo him," Osborne said. "If they want to boo me, I'm the guy who put him out there."
Phillips, who entered the game No. 2 on the depth chart behind Green, said he would like to regain his starting job.
"If I deserve it, I care if I get it back," he said. "But today was a very average performance. So I think Ahman deserves to have the starting spot."
Osborne said until Phillips gets back into playing shape that "I doubt if he's any better than second, and he might be third."
"I don't think putting Lawrence Phillips in there was the difference," Osborne said. "Hopefully, he'll return somewhat to where he was. He was a great back—probably as good as we've ever had here."
While Nebraska rolled to 624 yards rushing, the Husker defense held Iowa State's Troy Davis—the nation's leading rusher at 190.8 yards a game—to 121 yards in 28 carries and no touchdowns.
At the time NU's first defense left the game midway through the third quarter, Davis had 65 yards on 16 carries and ISU trailed 52-7. By going on to reach 121 yards, Davis became just the second player this season to top 100 yards against NU's second-ranked rushing defense. The first was Oklahoma State's David Thompson, who ran for 128 yards in 16 carries on Aug. 31.
NU defensive tackle Christian Peter said the pregame hype about Davis' threat to the Husker defense stirred the Blackshirts.
"All week we kept hearing how he was going to win the Heisman Trophy running against us," Peter said. "But it's not going to happen."
Osborne said Nebraska used a defense popularlized by Arizona called "the bubble." In that alignment, one or two linebackers step toward the line of scrimmage into the gaps between the defensive tackles.
"That takes away the cutback lanes," he said. "The thing about the bubble is that it makes you play a lot of man-to-man coverage. So we were a little concerned about big plays in the passing game."
Iowa State freshman quarterback Todd Bandhauer completed passes of 19, 13 and 15 yards on the Cyclones' second-quarter touchdown drive that cut Nebraska's lead to 20-7. But the longest of his 11 completions in 24 attempts was 24 yards.
Osborne said he was worried that Nebraska (9-0 overall, 5-0 in the Big Eight) might let down emotionally Saturday against Iowa State (3-6, 1-4). The game was sandwiched between two straight victories over then-Top 10 teams (Kansas State and Colorado) and two upcoming games against current or formerly rated opponents (Kansas and Oklahoma).
"I was a little apprehensive," Osborne said. "But we played with good consistency and good effort. It wasn't an inspired football game, but it was a solid game."
Nebraska halted Osborne's fears early by scoring 14 points before Iowa State touched the ball.
The Huskers, after I-back Clinton Childs' 31-yard return of the opening kickoff, zipped 69 yards in eight plays to score. Frazier capped the drive with a 4-yard option run.
On the ensuing kickoff, Kris Brown chunked a popup about 25 yards. But instead of catching the ball, Iowa State players ran away from it, allowing NU safety Eric Stokes to recover it at the Cyclone 41.
"It was a sand wedge," Brown said. "But they treated it like a punt. I'm glad we recovered because I would have been in big trouble."
Frazier's 6-yard shovel pass to Green made it 14-0, then Green scored on a 17-yard draw to put Nebraska ahead 20-0 with 28 seconds left in the first quarter.
The margin grew to 38-7 at halftime. Then after Iowa State's Preston Rhamy fumbled away the second-half kickoff at the Cyclone 23, Frazier scored on a 1-yard run on fourth down to put NU up 45-7.
Following an Iowa State punt, Green bolted 64 yards on a counter sweep for a 52-7 lead 10 minutes to go in the third quarter.
Frazier said he wasn't surprised that Nebraska scored on its first 10 possessions.
"I had a good idea that we would score every time we touched the ball," he said. "When we execute like we can, we can score at any time."
With an offense like that and a defense that is climbing closer to the Top 10 nationally each week, one question remains:
Is this Osborne's best team in his 23 years as head coach?
"We'll know after Jan. 2," he said. "They are playing very well right now. I've been very pleased with them. They seem to hang together well.
|Yards per carry||3.8||9.2|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa State.
|Oklahoma State||Aug. 31|
|Michigan State||Sept. 9|
|Arizona State||Sept. 16|
|Washington State||Sept. 30|
|Kansas State||Oct. 21|
|Iowa State||Nov. 4|
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