No Questions: Polls Give Nebraska National Title

MIAMI -- You have seen him in Nebraska red for 33 seasons, the last 22 as its head coach. You have seen him gamble and lose, grimace and go on. You have seen him average nearly 10 victories a year, convert his detractors and become more visible in the state than corn silos.


But until Sunday night's Orange Bowl, when Coach Tom Osborne's No. 1-ranked Cornhuskers defeated No. 3 Miami on its home field, 24-17, you had never seen him like this.


Wearing an embarrassed smile, his shirt and hair soaked with ice water after a victory dousing, Osborne received a postgame shoulder taxi from his players. Done in front of an Orange Bowl-record 81,753 fans, it had to be the most wonderful joyride of his life.


The celebratory feeling was confirmed Tuesday, when in nothing less than a landslide, Associated Press voters gave the Cornhuskers 51 of the available 62 first-place votes and 1,539 points. Penn State, which beat underdog Oregon 38-20 in Monday's Rose Bowl to finish undefeated as well, could manage only 10 first-place ballots, thanks to one voter who split his No. 1 pick between Nebraska and the Nittany Lions.


For the Cornhuskers, it was the second such result in as many days. Late Monday night, coaches voting in the USA Today/CNN poll also chose Nebraska over Penn State by a 54-8 margin.


The Nittany Lions (12-0) have now finished a season unbeaten and untied on five separate occasions, but failed in four of them to earn a piece of the final No. 1 ranking. It also happened in 1968, 1969 and 1973.


The Cornhuskers finished the season 13-0 (only the third team in NCAA Division I history to do that), beat the Hurricanes on a field where Miami had previously lost just once in 64 games and did it with a quarterback who hadn't played in 14 weeks. Nebraska trailed, 10-0, at the end of the first quarter and were still behind by eight points going into the fourth quarter. Standing between them and victory was the Hurricane defense, rated first in the country, and the Cornhuskers' night-long knack of committing turnovers at the worst possible times.


A fumble by substitute quarterback Brook Berringer deep in Miami territory ended one crucial drive late in the third quarter. Then Berringer made another terrible mistake, throwing a fourth-quarter interception on a first-and-goal situation at the Miami four-yard line.


Normally that would have been enough for the Hurricanes. It has in past championship seasons.


But this time Miami wore down. Tommie Frazier, who hadn't played since Sept. 24 because of blood clots in his right calf, re-entered the game and did what the Hurricanes insisted he couldn't do: He ran the option and by doing so engineered the comeback that Nebraskans will be talking about for harvests to come.


"Everyone was very confident," said Frazier, who started the game, played the first quarter, but didn't return until 12:07 left in the final period. "We knew their defensive front was tired and their defensive front is the heart of (their team). All we had to do was pound them. We knew we were going to drive them five, six yards."


Sure enough, Nebraska tied the game midway through the fourth quarter.


The Cornhuskers did it on the ground, covering 40 yards on two runs, with fullback Cory Schlesinger doing the honors with a 15-yard score. The two-point conversion pass from Frazier to tight end Eric Alford made the score 17-17.


Then, with 2:46 left in the game, Schlesinger scored again, this time on a stumbling, bumbling 14-yard run up the middle.


Miami had one last chance, but Frank Costa's desperation fourth-down pass was intercepted by defensive back Kareem Moss in the waning moments.


"We were swarming to the ball until the end of the game," said Miami All-American defensive tackle Warren Sapp. "And then we didn't make some tackles. You have to make plays to win. They made the plays in the end and we didn't."