Friday, December 13, 2002
1995 - Nebraska 24, Miami 17
By Alex Laracy
ABC Sports Online
After suffering three Orange Bowl defeats to Miami in 10 years, the Nebraska Cornhuskers enacted big-time revenge against the Hurricanes in a 24-17 come-from-behind national championship win on Jan. 1, 1995 in front of a record crowd of 81,753.
The Cornhuskers entered the game as the nation's top-ranked team, while No. 3 Miami boasted the top-ranked defense in the country, led by its monstrous defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
"Going into the game, we knew we had a really solid team even though it was kind of an up and down year with our quarterbacks," says former Nebraska and current Detroit Lions fullback Cory Schlesinger. "But we had a lot of character. We knew with the coaching staff we had and the game plan we had that it was going to be a good, tough game, but we knew we were going to win."
But the game did not start out as Schlesinger and the Huskers had planned. Miami rocketed out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter after quarterback Frank Costa completed six of eight passes for 130 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown pass to Trent Jones.
The Cornhuskers offense, on the other hand, struggled early, as Sapp stifled the Huskers noted rushing attack led by freshman Lawrence Phillips and junior Tommie Frazier.
"Warren Sapp was the main key going into that game," explains Schlesinger. "We knew of his combination of speed and power, and how hard he charged the field. But we had a big offensive line with a group of heavy guys who we thought could wear Sapp out as the game progressed."
Nebraska finally scored on a 19-yard pass from the late Brook Berringer to tight end Mark Gilman to pull within 10-7 with 7:24 left before halftime.
Costa struck again in the third quarter, hitting a streaking Jonathan Harris for a 44-yard touchdown to give the Hurricanes another 10 point lead.
With the Huskers offense struggling, Nebraska's defense was forced to jumpstart the team. Dwayne Harris drilled Costa in the Hurricane end zone for a safety to pull Nebraska to within eight, at 17-9.
With the Miami defense clearly focusing on stopping Phillips and Frazier, Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne decided it was time to shake things up on offense for the Huskers. Schlesinger, who averaged only three or four carries a game throughout the season, was who Osborne called upon.
"Warren Sapp would often charge upfield so hard and so quickly," recalls Schlesinger, "so we had practiced a play all week where I'd get a quick, simple handoff right up the middle. It was a play I knew was going to work. I got past the line of scrimmage and saw nothing but daylight to the end zone."
Schlesinger's 15-yard touchdown was followed by a two-point conversion pass from Frazier to Eric Alford to even the score at 17.
|Nebraska players carry coach Tom Osborne off the field after beating Miami.|
Momentum was unquestionably on Nebraska's side, but the Cornhuskers were sure to keep their poise and focus on closing out the game.
"We didn't get overexcited, because of what happened the year before when we thought we had the game won, but Florida State came back with 1:16 left to beat us," says Schlesinger, referring to the Huskers' 18-16 loss to the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl with the national title on the line.
On the Huskers' ensuing possession, Nebraska started its drive to the national championship at its own 42 with 6:28 left in the game. On a key third-and-four play, Frazier scrambled 25 yards to the Miami 27. Three plays later, Osborne called Schlesinger's number again, and the fullback rumbled 14 yards straight up the middle for the game-winning touchdown.
"I don't feel any different or any more vindicated than when we played here last year," Osborne said in describing his first-ever national title victory.
"It was very exciting to win the national championship for Coach Osborne, but also for the state of Nebraska," explains Schlesinger. "We'd played hard for so many years, but had just missed out on our opportunities. The whole state just went crazy. I think people will always remember that game because it was our first one for Tom Osborne."
|Nebraska's Jason Jenkins (96) carries teammate Tom Seiler off the field after the Huskers won the championship.|