No. 1 NU Offense Not Much Better Than OU's
BY BILL CONNORS
Nov 26, 1994
NORMAN -- There was an inclination Friday to think Tom Osborne was
either trying to make Miami overconfident or giving Gary Gibbs a
compassionate going-away gift.
But the real reason Nebraska, the nation's No. 1 rushing team,
could not run against Oklahoma and did not win by a bigger score to
build momentum for the Orange Bowl was more basic: Nebraska is not
much better than Oklahoma.
If Miami coaches -- Nebraska's opponent in the Orange Bowl --
watched the Cornhuskers' nationally televised 13-3 victory, they
had to be encouraged.
The same Oklahoma defense that was blown away by Colorado and
cratered in the second half against Kansas State and Texas A&M made
Nebraska look ordinary for much of the cool, overcast day.
In the first half, when Nebraska gained 63 yards, the
Cornhuskers' offense looked as though it was playing against
Oklahoma's powerhouses of the past.
Even when they took command in the second half, the
Cornhuskers could not block or run. Their only significant gains
came on passes and OU's mental mistakes.
One reason for the Sooners' defensive effectiveness was
passion; the Sooners played hard. Another reason was strategy.
As Gibbs said, ``We know how to play Nebraska. We know how to
line up against them and attack them.''
But the sobering truth is that Nebraska simply does not have
the kind of blocking and running weapons usually seen on national
championship teams or most Osborne teams.
Nebraska's execution was often flawed. And, in strict scheme
vs. scheme situations, OU's pursuit consistently throttled
Nebraska's trademark plays.
Quarterback Brook Berringer looked like the backup he was
before replacing injured Tommie Frazier two months ago. Berringer
came through nicely in most games. And, he made what few big plays
Nebraska generated Friday. But he never showed the form that
Of Nebraska's 73 offensive plays, 20 were for no gain, nine
lost yardage and four gained one yard, as linebacker Tyrell Peters
and tackles Cedric Jones and Baron Tanner had impressive games.
Based on their game last year at Lincoln, when Nebraska was
held to 179 yards but won 21-7 on OU fumbles, Gibbs and his
defensive aides thought the Cornhuskers would rather rely on
finesse than toughness.
And, so this game looked like the Texas-Oklahoma defensive
brawls of yesteryear.
Fortunately for Nebraska, its defensive unit had an easier
assignment than OU's and made fewer mistakes.
Oklahoma crossed Nebraska's 40-yard line only twice. When the
Sooners might have had a chance to threaten, their season-long
Penalties twice took them out of field position and Scott
Blanton's first attempt to kick a field goal was blocked.
Without question, this is one of Nebraska's better defenses.
Had Osborne had speedy outside linebacker Dwayne Harris and his
mates enrolled to complement his offensive powerhouses of the '80s,
he would have a national championship or two.
But it's doubtful this defense is good enough to carry Nebraska in
a low-scoring game against a good passing team. OU receivers often
found openings that Miami might exploit.
Osborne, though, was in no mood to lament any defensive
shortcomings his team might have or the sluggish offensive
``We just went 12-0,'' he said. ``I think that's pretty good.''
He credited Oklahoma's defense for forcing ``our problems. They
were smoked up and played emotional. Their tackles and linebackers
are strong and quick.''
He said the reason he did not try to add three points to
Nebraska's scoring total by kicking a field goal on
fourth-and-eight from the 12-yard line in the final minute was
``that we could use up more clock by throwing a pass.''
No, he said, he did not worry about the polls or the ranking.
The nearest he came to admitting the Cornhuskers would need more
offense at Miami was to say Frazier should be ready to play by the
``I thought Brook played pretty well,'' Osborne said. ``But it
will be nice if we have Tommie back and I think we will.''
Osborne, who has been critical of the Orange Bowl for forcing
the Big Eight champion to play Miami on its home field, winced at
the thought of having to face the Hurricanes again.
``It's the same ol' deal,'' Osborne said. ``I don't like it.''
Osborne said he also did not approve of Gibbs being forced to
resign. Noting Gibbs ``ran a clean program and graduated his
players,'' Osborne said, ``I think it is an embarrassment to
college athletics when a coach like that is not allowed to coach.''
In apparently his final press conference at the stadium where
he played and coached every year since 1970, Gibbs showed no
emotion and was pleasant as ever. He thanked the press and said he
thanked his team for its effort.
It was ``one of the better defensive efforts we've had in a
long time,'' he said.
Had the Sooners defended with the same fury for four quarters
against Texas A&M and Kansas State, Friday probably would not have
been Gibbs' farewell press conference.