Tribune Online Sports

[Back | Archive]

Story ran on October 14, 1995

LINCOLN, Neb. -- A year ago the memory of losing a national championship was
burned in Nebraska's mind as well as on its scoreboard.

Throughout the summer, Nebraska players saw the score 16-15. The scoreboard's
clock also posted 1:16 as the time remaining because that was when the
Cornhuskers took the lead from Florida State. But the Seminoles came back to
win that game 18-16.

This year, the gimmicks were removed. The only thing greeting the players this
summer was the message `National Champions' on the scoreboard after Nebraska
defeated Miami in the Orange Bowl.

So the obvious question is, do the Cornhuskers have the same motivation as
they did last year?

``They are pretty focused and a very committed group, and you can tell that by
their work ethic,'' Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said of his team. ``I didn't
see anyone seeming to feel they could rest on what they did a year ago.'

With Colorado and Oklahoma each losing one conference game, No. 2-ranked
Nebraska (5-0, 1-0 Big Eight) is in control of its own destiny. But Osborne
doesn't think that gives the Cornhuskers license to look past today's game
with Missouri (2-3, 0-1).

The Tigers will play Nebraska at 1 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

Instead of rebuilding, Osborne knows only of reloading. When asked if he could
relate to what it took to rebuild a program, the differences between Missouri
and Nebraska became even more apparent.

``Well, I've never been in that situation, and I think that is one of the
things I really lack,'' Osborne said. ``I've never started at the ground

But that didn't stop Osborne from sounding concerned about Missouri's offense
-- whatever that might be. After losing to Kansas State 30-0 last week,
Missouri coach Larry Smith said he would make some changes on offense.

``That might leave us a little vulnerable,'' Osborne said.

The Cornhuskers' offense hasn't needed any such overhaul, even without the
talents of preseason Heisman Trophy candidate Lawrence Phillips. Osborne
dismissed him from the team indefinitely when Phillips was arrested after he
hit his ex-girlfriend.

True freshman Ahman Green is expected to start today. If he does, he will be
just the third true freshman Osborne has started at I-back in 23 years.

But Smith said it really didn't matter who Nebraska threw into the game at
I-back. The results would still be the same.

``It doesn't matter who they play they are all pretty good,'' Smith said. ``It
won't affect our preparation.''

Nebraska's offense has been on a tear, averaging 491 yards rushing per game,
tops in the nation. The Cornhuskers are scoring an average of 55 points a
game, which is second best nationally.

That success, Smith said, is a direct reflection of Nebraska's offensive line.

``They had 165 knockdowns against Pacific,'' Smith said. ``They knocked the
other guy on the ground 165 times. They chop the living daylights out of

While the Tigers have managed just two offensive plays of more than 20 yards
in the last two games, Nebraska has had 16 touchdowns this season of 20 yards
or longer.

And the Cornhuskers are happy to defend their national title in such
resounding fashion.

``I'm really fired up,'' Clester Johnson said. ``A lot of these teams haven't
been put to the 'Husker test. I don't think too many teams can stand up to

The worst test that Nebraska has had to endure so far this season has been a
variety of off-field incidents that have resulted in player arrests and

Yet on the field no one can say Nebraska has shown any symptoms of an
emotional hangover from last year's success.

``We're on track,'' center Aaron Graham said. ``It's our goal to win the whole
thing all over again. So far, so good. I'd like to say it's all downhill after
this, but that's not true. But we like where we're at.''

[Back | Archive]

Send questions or comments to: