LINCOLN — It got personal Saturday for Nebraska's Tommie Frazier.
The senior quarterback had read story after story after story last week about how Washington State planned to "shock the world" with an upset of the second-ranked Huskers.
"All the talking they had been doing was an insult to me and my teammates,'' Frazier said. "I wanted to prove that they weren't going to beat us."
Even though the Cougars created a tremor with an early 87-yard touchdown run, the work of Frazier, I-back Ahman Green and an agitated defense allowed Nebraska to stay in control and claim a 35-21 victory before 75,777 fans at Memorial Stadium.
Frazier, despite banging an already sore elbow and thigh, passed for 99 yards and one touchdown and ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns.
"They sent out a challenge to us when they made those comments in the paper about us being their next victim and how they were going to shock the world," Frazier said. "They thought they could gain an advantage and intimidate us.
"When you come to our place, you don't intimidate us. We try to intimidate you. I guess they found out it's best not to make those statements until after the game."
Green came off the bench to gouge Washington State's defense, ranked fourth nationally against the run, for 176 yards and a touchdown in 13 carries.
"Ahman did some great things," NU Coach Tom Osborne said. "He played awfully well for a freshman.
"Three or four weeks ago, he couldn't have done this. But he's getting more confidence and is growing up with the system."
While Frazier and Green got the offense perking, Nebraska's defense rebounded from its early breakdown.
The Blackshirts, after allowing Frank Madu's 87-yard touchdown run less than seven minutes into the game, held Washington State to 92 yards in the next seven possessions, including one first-half stretch in which the Cougars went for no gain or negative yards on nine straight plays.
That 38 minutes of dominance allowed the Husker offense to build a 28-7 lead after three quarters.
Washington State used fourth-quarter touchdown passes of 33 and 30 yards to close to 35-21 with 3:38 left in the game. The Cougars then recovered an onside kick at their 34.
But middle linebacker Doug Colman and defensive tackle Jason Peter smashed WSU quarterback Chad Davis for an 8-yard loss with three minutes left to take the ball away from the Cougars for good.
"I guess we finally beat Washington State, " Osborne said, alluding to the Cougars' 3-0 series record against NU. "It wasn't easy.
"It was a good game for us. They really played well. They've got a good team. I don't know if they'll win the Pac-10, but they'll be real competitive with anybody they play."
Washington State (2-2) entered the game allowing an average of 69.7 yards rushing and 327.7 total yards a game. Nebraska (5-0) ran for 428 yards and gained 527 overall, marking the first time in Osborne's career that his offense has gained 500 or more yards in five straight games.
Yet the 23-year head coach wasn't satisfied.
"When you get over 500 yards against a team like that, it's pretty good movement, " he said. "But the scoring wasn't commensurate with the yards.
"We missed two or three scoring opportunities. A couple of times we didn't execute. And a couple of times, maybe I could have called something a little more intelligent."
Osborne rarely missed Saturday when he called Green's number. The ex-Omaha Central star had just three first-half runs, but all of them came on scoring drives. The gains of 24, 36 and 54 yards came against a defense that had allowed no run longer than 21 yards in the first three games.
Late in the game, Green stirred the crowd and his teammates with several tackle-breaking efforts. He finished with his third straight 100-yard game and moved into third on NU's all-time freshman rushing chart behind Calvin Jones and Monte Anthony.
"He was intense!" NU defensive tackle Christian Peter exclaimed. "He wanted to put some punishment on those guys.
"When we see things like that, everybody gets fired up."
Nebraska looked fired up at the start Saturday, marching 71 yards to the WSU 14 on its first possession. But fullback Jeff Makovicka fumbled on the 11th play, and Cougar linebacker Chris Hayes recovered at the 9-yard line.
Two plays later, Washington State caught Nebraska blitzing and sprung Madu on an 87-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead with 8:44 left in the first quarter.
That was the longest run against NU since Oklahoma tight end Keith Jackson raced 88 yards on a reverse in 1985. It also put Nebraska behind for the first time this season.
"It was different looking at the scoreboard and seeing somebody ahead of us," NU rush end Jared Tomich said. "It gets the blood flowing a little more than usual. You feel threatened, so you want to get after it."
The Huskers started their comeback when linebacker Terrell Farley partially blocked George Martin's punt late in the first quarter, sending it out of bounds after 19 yards at the NU 34.
The Huskers needed just six plays to score. Fullback Brian Schuster broke runs of 23 and 10 yards, then Green added a 24-yard burst before Frazier scored on an option play from the 4. The touchdown—the season's first on the ground against WSU—tied the game 7-7 with 14:43 left in the second quarter.
After the Blackshirts held in three plays, Nebraska started another 66-yard touchdown march. Frazier's 16-yard scramble on third-and-11 at the WSU 44 kept the drive alive. Two plays later, Frazier ran 20 yards on the option for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead with 8:29 left in the half.
Another defensive stop in three plays led to another Nebraska score on quarterback Brook Berringer's first series, despite a broken play and a timeout to avoid a delay penalty. Green's 36-yard run set up Kris Brown's 33-yard field goal for a 17-7 lead with 5:08 to go in the half.
Frazier said he was on a roll when he was replaced for the one series.
"But I'm not going to pout about it," he said. "It was Coach Osborne's decision. He felt we had a good enough lead where it was time to put Brook in."
Just before halftime, Nebraska got into position for another score.
Green's 54-yard burst on a draw play with 27 seconds left moved NU to the WSU 13. The drive stalled at the 5, so Brown kicked a 22-yard field goal with six seconds left to put the Huskers ahead 20-7.
Early in the third quarter, the teams traded missed field-goal tries before Nebraska struck again.
Green capped a 48-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1. A two-point conversion on a pass from the kicker Brown to Schuster put NU up 28-7 with 27 seconds left in the third quarter.
Washington State came right back with a 90-yard drive. Davis beat an NU blitz by hitting wide receiver Shawn Tims with a 33-yard touchdown pass to close the gap to 28-14 with 12:14 to play.
Two series later, Nebraska appeared stopped after three downs, but a defensive holding penalty gave the Huskers a first down. They took advantage when Frazier hit tight end Mark Gilman with a 35-yard touchdown pass for a 35-14 lead with 7:20 to play.
Washington State again clawed back with Davis hitting Tims with a 30-yard touchdown pass to make it 35-21 with 3:38 left. WSU recovered an onside kick at its 34, but couldn't make a first down.
After winning four games by an average of 43.5 points, Osborne said Saturday's 14-point victory can help the defending national champions.
"We have an open date now," he said. "I think we're probably going to go into that open date with a little better attitude about getting better than if we had won 49 - 7.
"I think they understand that they aren't there yet. But they can be if they get a little better."
|Yards per carry||3.0||6.8|
Nebraska is 1-3 all-time against Washington 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|
Nebraska has played 12 games on Sept. 30. See them all »
©2019 BH Media Group