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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Birth of a Rivalry - Part VI

Nebraska came into the 1992 season hoping to improve on their 9-2-1 mark of a year ago. The Huskers once again found themselves looking for help at the quarterback position. They would begin the year with Mike Grant as the starter. However, both fans and coaches knew that hot-shot recruit Tommie Frazier was available on the bench. Nebraska began the year with blowout wins over Utah and Middle Tennessee State. The schedule got tougher, however, in week three as the 12th ranked Huskers had to travel to Seattle to take on the 2nd ranked Washington Huskies. Washington utilized its edge in the quickness department to defeat Nebraska 29-14. After suffering their first loss, the Huskers bounced back to beat Arizona State, Oklahoma State and Missouri. Nebraska was now 5-1 and ready for a Homecoming date with Colorado.

Colorado begin the 1992 season ranked 12th nationally. With quarterback Koy Detmer, the Buffaloes were looking to switch from an option-oriented attack to a pass-first attack. CU began its campaign with easy victories over non-conference opponents Colorado State, Baylor, Minnesota and Iowa. Their conference schedule then kicked off with a tough fought 6-0 victory at Missouri. The following week the Buffaloes hosted unranked Oklahoma and managed to escape with a 24-24 tie. After shellacking Kansas State, Colorado was 5-0-1 as it headed to Lincoln.

This game would mark the only meeting ever between two teams tied for the same spot in the AP Poll, as the teams shared the #8 ranking. To add to the frenzy, it was Halloween night and the home crowd was jacked up despite a constant drizzle. Colorado's T.J. Cunningham fumbled the opening kickoff. CU recovered, but then quarterback Koy Detmer threw an interception on the first play. The Huskers needed just 15 yards for their first touchdown. Nebraska’s second score came just as easily as I-back Calvin Jones took a handoff 47 yards on the first play of a drive. Detmer, who had three interceptions and a fumble, threw an interception on the next drive, and the Huskers turned that into a field goal for a 17-0 lead.

Colorado then had an 81-yard touchdown drive, with all but three of the yards on coming on passes. Then after the Huskers punted, CU had the ball, trailing just 17-7 with 1:49 to play in the half. On the next play, however, Detmer fumbled at the CU 27. Nebraska then set up its final touchdown of the half by dusting off one of its most famous trick plays - The Fumblerooskie. Center Jim Scott appeared to snap the ball, but instead put it back on the ground for 305-pound guard Will Shields, who picked it up and rumbled 16 yards to the CU 5. Of his one shining moment, Shields said:

"I felt great once I got going. I doubt I'll run very often, though. We've got enough quality backs in there."

Nebraska went into halftime with a 24-7 lead, and although they had no intention of letting up, the game was over before they took the field for the start of the third quarter. In the end, Nebraska outgained the Buffalos 428-144 on their way to a 52-7 blowout win. The goalposts came down and Husker fans celebrated their first win over a Top-10 team since 1988. The game also marked the Buffaloes' largest margin of defeat since 1983, when they lost by 50.

While the match up was supposed to showcase Colorado’s “modern” passing offense, it instead highlighted the power of Nebraska’s running game. When asked about the differing styles after the game Osborne said:
"I guess there's always a temptation when things go your way to say, ‘I told you so’. I've been at it long enough to know you shouldn't do that. But at this locale, with this climate, you've still got to be able to jam it at people some. Colorado's defense was on the field so much. You can only take so much pounding. And they had to take a lot of it because they were three plays and out so much on offense."
After its loss to Nebraska, Colorado recovered to win out over Oklahoma State, Kansas and Iowa State. They were 9-1-1 as they headed into the Fiesta Bowl against #6 Syracuse. The Orangeman defeated the Buffaloes 26-22 and Colorado finished 1992 9-1-1.

The momentum of the win over CU carried over into the following week as Nebraska rolled over #13 Kansas 49-7. However, just when the Huskers seemed to be playing their best along came an unassuming trip to Ames, Iowa and a match up with unranked Iowa State. In what remains arguably NU’s most shocking loss, Marv Seiler and ISU defeated the Huskers 19-10. After the ISU loss Nebraska finished the regular season with victories over Oklahoma and Kansas State in the Tokyo Dome. This finish again sent Nebraska to the Orange Bowl where they would face 3rd ranked Florida State. Nebraska played fairly well, but fell to the Seminoles 27-14.

Although the Huskers were big winners against Colorado in 1992, the teams seemed to have pretty similar levels of talent at this point in time. Where the Huskers seemed to lag behind the Buffaloes for a few years prior to this, might things be swinging in the opposite direction?