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My favorite Nebraska football team is the 1994 squad. Although the 1995 squad is widely considered one of the best ever, I think the 1994 team could have been better if only for the injury bug. It started when Mike Minter tore his left ACL against Texas Tech, but then went epidemic at the quarterback position. Tommie Frazier only played nine plays against Pacific before leaving with a calf bruise that later was diagnosed to be a blood clot behind his knee. Frazier ended up spending three days in the hospital, and would miss the rest of the regular season. Brook Berringer took over as the starting quarterback against Wyoming, and led the Huskers on a second half comeback after suffering a partially collapsed lung. The injury, which apparently happened late in the first half on a five yard touchdown run, resulted in Berringer spending the night in the hospital as well. But the rash of quarterback injuries led to Nebraska slipping out of the top spot in both the AP and coaches polls.
Berringer started the next game against Oklahoma State, and the game play tried to limit Berringer's exposure. At halftime, a precautionary X-ray of Berringer's lung indicated that it was leaking again, and walk-on Matt Turman from Wahoo took over at quarterback with a narrow 9-3 lead. The Huskers rallied and won convincingly behind the running of Lawrence Phillips. Things looked rather bleak going on the road to #11 Kansas State the next week with Matt Turman scheduled to start. Relegated to a power rushing attack with Phillips carrying the load, the Huskers won 17-6 thanks to a stout performance by the Blackshirts. Over the next couple of weeks, Berringer's lung healed up allowing him to take a few more risks of a hit.
Nebraska regained the #1 ranking by defeating Colorado 24-7 in Lincoln. Pundits didn't give the Huskers much of a chance against the Buffs due to the one-dimensional offense the Huskers ran while Berringer was banged up, but Berringer was an efficient 12 for 17 passing. Meanwhile, the Blackshirts clamped down on eventual Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam and future NFL quarterback Kordell Stewart. Berringer repeated his heroics the next week, completing 13 for 18 passes for 267 yards in a 45-17 victory over Kansas. Nebraska finished the regular season 12-0 by defeating Iowa State and Oklahoma on the road.
Facing Nebraska in the Orange Bowl was their long-time nemesis, #3 Miami, and once again, on their home field. Frazier started the game, but split time with Berringer. The speedy Hurricanes broke out to a 10-0 first quarter lead, but Nebraska began to take over the game by overpowering the Hurricanes. The 'Canes got a second wind at halftime, and jumped out to a 17-7 lead early in the third quarter, but Dwayne Harris signaled the beginning of the end of the U's dominance at home with a sack of Frank Costa in the end zone. When Frazier returned to the game late in the 4th quarter, the 'Canes were the exhausted team. Duncan, NE native Cory Schlesinger ripped a trap play up the right side and into the end zone to pull the Huskers within 2. Frazier threaded a pass to Eric Alford for the two point conversion, tying the game at 17-17. The Blackshirts stepped up their game, with a lucky break when Costa overthrew Taj Johnson who was wide open after a blown coverage. The 'Canes punted...and the Huskers began the drive to destiny. On third and four, Frazier raced 25 yards to get into scoring position. Facing third down again, Frazier sprinted for six yards and another first down. Once again, Nebraska went to the fullback trap, and Schlesinger tumbled into the end zone untouched for "the" touchdown to put the Huskers into the lead 24-17. The Blackshirts sacked Costa two more times before Kareem Moss sealed the victory with an interception that led to mass pandemonium as Tom Osborne finally won his first national championship.
The heart this squad showed, whether it's fighting through the injuries, the lack of respect from the rest of the college football world, and finally slaying the Miami beast, is the reason the 1994 Huskers are my favorite Husker team of all time.
Another favorite is the 2003 Husker squad, who rebounded from a uncharacteristic 7-7 season to win ten games, thanks to a salty defense that found a way to force turnovers like no other team we'd ever seen. In every game, the Huskers were in position to win, though fourth quarter collapses against Missouri, Texas, and Kansas State caused the scores to get out of control. Knowing at the time that then-athletic director Steve Pederson was looking to fire the entire coaching staff, this squad did their darndest to try and keep Pederson from making the blunder that resulted in the hiring of Bill Callahan.
I'd have to rank the 1983 team as one of my favorites, largely because of Turner Gill. Watching him run the Scoring Explosion offense was a wonderful experience, even if the team didn't win the national title because of that failed two-point conversion against Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl. Mike Rozier finished the season with 2,148 yards rushing and won the Heisman Trophy. Dean Steinkuhler won the Outland and the Lombardi, and Osborne was National Coach of the Year. Gill finished his Husker career with a 28-2 record, but no national titles.