In Nebraska, kids grow up dreaming about playing for the Cornhuskers. They imagine leading the high-powered rushing attack up and down the field. And mostly, they dream about game winning drives for National Championships. I can remember listening to the games on the radio while helping my dad out around the house. It gave us a lot of pride that our small state had a nationally competitive team that was well respected.
I wanted to be apart of it too. I dreamed about being a hero and being a football player. I wanted to have my name on the back of a jersey and have the crowd chant "MOOSE" when I made a big play. I won plenty of "championships" playing street football, but as far as 'playing' on the field at Memorial Stadium, I needed my french horn for that. It wasn't my destiny to win the crystal football, but there was one young man that got to live this dream.Brook Berringer was born in Scottsbluff, NE but ended up in Goodland, KS after his father passed away. He was a very good athlete in high school and had an interest in being a pilot. He was recruited by many of the Big 8 schools, but chose to attend Nebraska. It wasn't until his junior season, though, that Brook saw any significant playing time.
In 1993, Nebraska went undefeated during the regular season and lost when a last second field goal attempt by Byron Bennett sailed wide left.
The 1994 season was all about "Unfinished Business". The team had come so close the previous year to winning it all. Now they would settle for nothing less. '94 started off against a West Virginia team that was undefeated the previous year until the Sugar Bowl when they lost to Florida. Nebraska looked like a National Champion by dismantling the Mountaineers in the Kick Off Classic. Texas Tech and UCLA would be no match either and the following week vs. Pacific, we hit paydirt 10 times. Tommie Frazier started having troubles with blood clots, though, and all of the potential that the 1994 season had going for it seemed lost because of Frazier's injury. Every week it just seemed like we were hanging on for dear life.
The next week against Wyoming was a crazy game. The cowboys went up 14-0 in the first quarter, but Nebraska came back and by early in the third quarter, Berringer had lead the Huskers to their first lead. Wyoming held tough, but Nebraska was able to put them away. By the end of the game, reports were coming out that Berringer had suffered a collapsed lung.
He did play next week against Oklahoma State but was limited the following week for Kansas State. That game became know as the "Matt Turman hand off to Lawerence Phillips" game. It wasn't pretty, but the Huskers survived against the 17th rated Wildcats that day. Phillips had 31 carries that day for 126 yards. Nebraska was just hanging onto their undefeated season by the skin of their teeth, and a walk-on quarterback nicknamed "The Turmanator".
Berringer was back for Missouri and the Huskers steamrolled the Tigers. Back then Missouri was a pretty sorry lot and we typically had our way with them. It was the next week against Colorado that Berringer made people believe Nebraska wasn't just holding on for dear life this season. He made them believe that a national title could still be won. Nebraska completly dominated Colorado while winning the time-of-possession battle 38:24 to 21:26. The game was pretty much over by the time Colorado scored for the first time near the end of the 3rd quarter. Nebraska just played keep away against the team that would finish #3 in the country. Kansas was no match for the Huskers, Iowa State kept things close until the fourth, and the Huskers-Sooners 1994 vintage was a typical game between the two where the team that could push the other the furthest won.
So without mighty Tommie Frazier for the majority of the season, Brook Berringer took the team on his shoulders and got us to Miami undefeated and a shot at another title. By the time the Orange Bowl rolled around, Frazier was able to suit up and the two QB's tag-teamed the Hurricanes. By mid-fourth quarter, Warren Sapp, Ray Lewis and the other 'Cane defenders were sucking air as Cory Schlesinger was doing his best human bowling ball impression, barrelling through the defense while giving the Huskers the lead and eventually the win. This video has a few blips here and there, but it still shows a good recap of the entire game.
The following year was Nebraska's crown jewel. Everything came together and Nebraska just decimated everyone. Tommie was able to play a full season and Brook only saw mop up duty. He was ok with that, though because he was on this team and that was his job. And because he did it so well, we have that 1994 trophy. Life isn't fair, though. Two days before the NFL draft in 1996, a plane he was flying crashed into a field near Raymond, NE. Even though he was only 22 when he died, he got to live the dream that most kids growing up in Nebraska only get to imagine.