I was born too late to experience the Scoring Explosion. Too late to witness the ’84 Orange Bowl. My first memories of Nebraska football were the ’87 Oklahoma game (ouch!) and the ’88 UCLA game (yikes!). I recall the disappointment of Colorado ’89, then a slow decline in ’90 and ’91.
Those were not the easiest years for a Nebraska kid to love the Huskers.
The only thing more certain than an incomplete pass on third-and-9 was a New Year’s Day bowl loss. Tom Osborne was revered. Beloved, in fact. But in the same way you loved your town’s water tower or your Mom’s chocolate chip cookies. He represented your values. He was home.
I remember the disastrous Citrus Bowl in which Nebraska got creamed — hey kids, a 24-point loss felt like doomsday back then. Coaches and players later called that day the low point. But I also remember getting shutout by Miami in the ’92 Orange Bowl. Had Osborne sent the Pony Express to send in his plays, his offense wouldn’t have been any more outdated. NU recorded nine first downs. Miami won 22-0 and it could’ve been 42-0.
Had you told me — a 10-year-old in Rising City — on the morning of Jan. 2, 1992 that Nebraska would outplay Florida State in the national championship game two short years later, I would’ve choked on my apple Jolly Ranchers — man, I loved those things.
That day, as history tells us, Osborne visited a high school quarterback named Tommie Frazier in Bradenton, Fla. (Note: Henry Cordes’ book about the 90s dynasty is worth buying for the chapter on Frazier’s recruitment alone.)
At the time, we had no reason to believe Frazier was any better than Mickey Joseph or Mike Grant or any other one-dimensional option quarterbacks Osborne recruited. They were wizards against Kansas, but exposed against top-10 defenses.
After another lopsided loss in September ’92 — 29-14 at Washington — Osborne called on Frazier to replace Grant.
I remember listening to Frazier’s first start on the radio; Nebraska beat Missouri 34-24 in Columbia. I remember watching the ’92 Colorado game from Grandma’s living room. Suddenly the Huskers were alive again.
Tommie Frazier by himself did not save Nebraska football. He didn’t save Tom Osborne’s career. Saying so would be disrespectful to Trev Alberts and Will Shields and Barron Miles and so many more great players who, even without Frazier, would’ve won a lot of games.
But No. 15 changed the culture. He instilled Nebraska with a Tiger Woods/Michael Jordan-like confidence it didn’t have. A cockiness that only a kid from Florida State’s and Miami’s backyard could supply. Frazier lit the fuse and the fireworks didn’t stop popping until Thanksgiving Friday 2001.
Like most people, I occasionally get tired of the 90s romanticism. And yet days like today, as Frazier enters the College Football Hall of Fame, we owe it to ourselves to step back and think of the big picture. Where would Nebraska have been without Frazier? How many more games would it have lost? Would it ever have won a national championship?
Nobody knows. I do know that Frazier is the best Nebraska football player I’ve seen in 25 years, followed by Ndamukong Suh, Lawrence Phillips, Grant Wistrom and Mike Brown. I do know that for an 11-year-old in Rising City and for thousands of people like me, he changed the way we thought of our football program and our state.
If I were Touchdown Tommie, I’d take that over a Hall of Fame induction any day of the week.
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>> I spent most of Monday at Omaha Country Club for U.S. Senior Open media day. (There were still a few little snowdrifts on the north side of the clubhouse. If they’re still there on July 8, we’ll have a problem.)
The Senior Open will be Nebraska’s biggest golf event ever and only the third USGA event — the others were the 1941 U.S. Amateur at Field Club and the 1996 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Firethorn.
“I was here for about 10 minutes and I knew we were going to come here,” tournament director Tim Flaherty said.
Nebraskans can look forward to Fred Couples, Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman (my favorite growing up) and, making his Senior Open debut, Colin Montgomerie.
What will they notice first about O.C.C.? According to the USGA’s Jeff Hall, who’s in charge of course setup, it’s the same thing he noticed.
“What is all this movement in the ground?” he said.
O.C.C. lies across dramatic, wooded hills off North 72nd Street, just south of the I-680 beltway. I’ve played it twice, including Monday afternoon, an absolutely perfect day for golf. (Twice a deer crossed our fairway). The greens were slower than normal. There was no wind. I still managed only 86, which felt about as good as 9-4 feels to Bo Pelini.
I don’t expect the pros to shoot 86. In fact, I expect a lot of rounds in the mid-60s, barring strong winds. I expect they’ll love how, despite a bevy of uphill approach shots, the course is relatively easy to figure out with just a few days preparation. No gimmicks. No goofy holes. Just good, solid shotmaking, specifically with the irons.
I’ll be writing more about O.C.C. in the next two months. I can’t wait for July 10.
>> This is the point on the calendar when I beg you to shed your NBA stereotypes — Don’t you dare say it was better in 1992 — and start watching.
Last night’s Bulls-Heat game was a nice little upset to kickstart what should be a lopsided series. Nate Robinson outplayed LeBron and Wade down the stretch. But the good stuff didn’t start until about 10:30 p.m. when Steph Curry got silly again.
Two months ago, I asked Twitter followers to rank the five NBA teams to which they’d want to buy season tickets.
If I had to name the five most exciting NBA players to watch, Curry may be No. 1 — ahead of LeBron and Durant. When is the last time a great shooter was also a great dribbler, Shaq asked Kenny Smith after the game. It’s a rare skill set, especially when you combine Curry’s incredible touch around the rim.
Unfortunately, Curry’s jumper disappeared in the fourth quarter and the Spurs rallied from 16 down in the final 4 minutes, winning a double-overtime thriller that ranks among the 10 best NBA games I’ve ever seen. As I wrote on Twitter, I feel sorry for all the responsible adults who went to bed at 11 p.m.
Can Golden State make it a series? I doubt it. My instinct says San Antonio wins Game 2, then steals one in Oakland, wrapping things up in Game 5. That gives Steph Curry four more games to build his legend.
>> Bruce Feldman looks back at the quarterback class of 2010. Of the 31 top QB recruits, 22 have transferred, including Brion Carnes.
>> What more could Tom Brady want? A new ESPN feature.
>> College golfers are more likely to be gamblers than any other athletes, by far.
>> If Floyd Mayweather is so great, why are his fights so boring? Jay Caspian Kang explores.
>> Very cool gesture from Matt Kemp.
>> Omahan Jake Ellenberger got a short profile from ESPN.com.
>> The Houston Astros are horrible. But are they historically terrible? Joe Posnanski examines.
>> Tim Tebow is the most influential athlete, according to Forbes.
>> Saturday night on Twitter, I got rolling on Joakim Noah’s Game 7 performance and what a perfect fit he’d be on a U.S. Olympic team — Noah, who grew up in Brooklyn, has played for France in international competition. That sparked a discussion on ideal Olympic teams for 2013 (if there were an Olympics this summer). I wouldn’t want the best 12 players, I’d want 12 players that fit together the best.
Starters: Chris Paul, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah
Bench: Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Shane Battier, Tony Allen, Paul George, Kenneth Faried, Kevin Garnett.
Notable omissions: Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, James Harden, Deron Williams
>> I want to agree with Bob Stoops here, I really do. He says SEC propaganda has warped our perception of college football’s top conference. His basis for that opinion: It’s not the whole conference succeeding, he says, just the top half.
“So you’re listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you,” he said. “You’re more than smart enough to figure it out. Again, you can look at the top two, three, four, five, six teams, and you can look at the bottom six, seven, eight, whatever they are. How well are they all doing?
“What’d we (the Big 12) have, eight of 10 teams in bowl games this year? Again, you figure it all out.”
Uhhh Coach, by definition there has to be a winner and a loser each Saturday. If you put the 10 best teams in college football in the same league, at least one or two would finish with a losing record. And their coach would probably get fired. That’s why we don’t judge conferences by total wins or by bowl teams.
The SEC might be a tad overrated, I agree. But your argument needs some offseason conditioning.