Published Saturday, August 31, 2013 AT 10:20 AM / Updated at 10:20 AM
Game Day: Looking back at Wyoming-Nebraska close call in ’94
Rich Kaipust Omaha World-Herald

It’s been 19 seasons since Wyoming last visited Memorial Stadium, and the years have probably made some forget just how uncomfortable the Cowboys made No. 2-ranked Nebraska feel that Saturday.

Former Husker I-back Damon Benning remembers.

“That game was a grind,” Benning said Friday. “It was one of those games where they came out guns-a-blazing. We tried to punch, they counterpunched, and we realized they weren’t going to go away.”

Wyoming held leads of 14-0 and 21-7 in the first half, and went to halftime ahead 21-14. It was poised for maybe one last threat when it trailed 35-32 and was trying to fair-catch a late punt inside its 10-yard line.

The Cowboys fumbled, Benning recovered and I-back Lawrence Phillips scored on an 8-yard run on the next play for the 42-32 margin with 5:28 left that would stand.

The win made Nebraska 5-0 on its way to a 13-0 record and the first of three national championships in a four-year span. A home loss to Wyoming and head coach Joe Tiller certainly would have extended Tom Osborne’s wait for his first title.

“That season wasn’t near as pretty as revisionist history would want us to believe,” Benning said.

Benning will be the BTN sideline reporter Saturday night for the Nebraska-Wyoming game that kicks off at 7 p.m. NU might not be headed for another national championship, but Benning said one of the similarities to 1994 is that the 2013 Huskers will be breaking in a number of young and inexperienced players against the Cowboys.

With quarterback Tommie Frazier sidelined in 1994, the late Brook Berringer was making his first career start against Wyoming. He suffered a collapsed lung in the game but returned, and finished with 74 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Phillips also scored three TDs and carried 27 times for 168 yards. Benning added 46 yards on six carries as NU picked up 322 on the ground.

Wyoming did its damage behind redshirt freshman Jeremy Dombek, who completed 17 of 35 passes for 264 yards before getting knocked from the game. John Gustin finished as the Cowboys passed for 344 yards on NU.

The close shave came after Nebraska had started the season by outscoring its first four opponents 192-58, including a 31-0 whipping of West Virginia in the Kickoff Classic. Before the Cowboys’ visit, the last time NU had trailed at half at home was 14-3 to Oklahoma in 1991.

“When we went in at half, I couldn’t remember trailing at any point in my career at home,” Benning said. “I remember Coach Osborne’s message to us was just to wake up.”

About Rich Kaipust

Rich Kaipust is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football. You can follow Rich on Twitter (@RKaipustOWH) or email him at rich.kaipust@owh.com