Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Washington Huskies-Nebraska Cornhuskers flashback to the 90's
When the 8th ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers come to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies it will bring back memories to the 1990's when both programs were at their peaks. The Huskies took on the Cornhuskers during their prime run in the early 90's and then they squared off again during the Cornhuskers prime run. In the 90's these schools were often ranked in the top 10 and you would always find their games on ABC. The schools have faced off 7 times previously with the results being 3 wins for Nebraska, 3 wins for Washington and 1 tie. With all due respect to those earlier games I'm going to focus on the games that were played in the 1990's. Just like this Saturday this game will feature a top 10 ranked team. In the 1990's in three of the four games both teams were ranked in the top 10.
September 21, 1991: #4 Washington(1-0) at #9 Nebraska(2-0) This was the defining game of the season for the Huskies. Going into the 1991 season the Huskies were the defending Rosebowl champs and finished the previous year ranked 5th in the nation after defeating Iowa in the Rosebowl 46-34. The expectations were high for the Huskies then the spring game happened. Rosebowl MVP Mark Brunell busted his knee in the game. He was expected out for the season. Highly touted recruit but just a sophomore Billy Joe Hobert would take over as quarterback for the 1991 Huskies.
The Huskies began the season by thrashing Pac-10 rival Stanford Cardinal 42-7 on the road. The Huskies knew though this wasn't Stanford. This was Nebraska in Lincoln where nobody wins. It was a 5 p.m. PT kick off on ABC. The crowd was rocking as this was a huge game for both teams. Nebraska had something to prove as well. Going into the game the question was could Tom Osborne win the big game? He had never won fewer than 9 games at Nebraska to that point but hadn't beaten a top 10 opponent in over 3 seasons.
This game featured the nations top rushing defense from 1990 in the Huskies and the nations top rushing offense from 1990 in the Huskers. The Huskies gave up a long touchdown run to Derek Brown found themselves trailing at halftime 14-9. Then Beno Bryant set up near the 10 yard line to return a punt. He fumbled the punt at the 1 yard line. Setting up a Derek Brown touchdown to make the score 21-9. The crowd was pretty loud at that point in the ball game.
"It was an electric game, prior to the Nebraska game I couldn't imagine how a small city could produce such a great atmosphere. I'm from a big city so flying into Lincoln, the biggest building in the entire region was the football stadium which was full of nothing but red and white. There was a sense of do we belong? Can we hold our own? This was a chance to answer those questions," recalled two time all american offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy.
"It was by far the loudest stadium I had ever played in. We had to use hand signals because we could not hear Billy in the huddle," reflected by two time all Pac-10 wide receiver and 1991 Pac-10 offensive player of the year Mario Bailey. On facing a 21-9 deficit Bailey recalled "We never sulked ever."
"I felt we weren't out of it. I knew with our defense and our big hitters they would keep us in it. I was young and niave to realize how big of a moment this was and how hostile the crowd was. We could do some things on offense it's not like we were getting stuffed just stalling. We did a great job of overcoming adversity and penalties to regroup and get it all together. We just had to get over the intial crowd noise," recalled Kennedy.
That's when the season changed forever. Up until that point the telecast and the fans were focusing on who was missing at quarterback in Mark Brunell but in the next 20 minutes everyone would learn the name Billy Joe Hobert. The Huskies had just 5:32 left in the 3rd quarter trailing on the road in front of 76,304 sea of red in Nebraska.
After the Huskies had a touchdown pass from Hobert to Orlando McKay taken away they were facing a 3rd and 27 from the Nebraska 49. Hobert felt outside pressure and stepped and ran for 19 yards to set up a 4th and 8. Then offensive coordinator who raced back to the booth called a perfect play call. He called three receivers to run straight down the field and for Orlando McKay to go underneath for a first down. It was a terrific pass from Billy Joe. On the next play Beno Bryant busted a run 15 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 21-16.
The Huskies after forcing a three out led by Steve Emtman and Dave Hoffmann. The Huskies marched 69 yards in just 6 plays. Hobert found McKay with an 8 yard strike to make it 22-21. Hobert was feeling it at that point. He was pumped up and gestering and oozing of confidence. The late great Jamie Fields forced a fumble giving UW the ball again.
The Huskies marched again in six plays with Hobert rushing for his 2nd touchdown of the game giving him three total touchdowns. The Huskies now lead 29-21. The game was put away once and for all. The Huskies on their own 19 called a draw to Jay Berry on a 3rd and 12. Berry made a tackler miss and was off the races scoring 81 yards. As the Huskies were celebrating Keith Jackson had said "That was the sound of the door slamming shut." The Huskies led 36-21.
"When Jay Berry busted that the whole sideline was freaking out. It was such a great feeling watching him run down the sideline knowing we were going to win," reflecting superbowl champion and Husky great defensive lineman D'Marco Farr.
The Huskies would go on to win 36-21 having scored 27 unanswered points in the final 20 minutes of the game. The Huskies amassed 618 yards of total offense. The Huskies had two 100+ yard rushers in Beno Bryant rushing for 139 yards on just 17 carries and a touchdown. Jay Berry had 110 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. Billy Joe Hobert was 23 of 40 passing for 283 yards and a touchdown plus two rushing touchdowns.
This was a huge win for the Huskies to walk into Lincoln and come out with the win. As Mario Bailey recalled "Beating Nebraska in Nebraska was the signal to our team that we could and would win the national championship." He also described his quarterback Billy Joe Hobert as simply a winner.
"In 1991, we started off ok but were surprised by a couple new formations they had. We always felt we were much more physical on defense than anyone we played. Although the Huskers were tough as nails....our hammers were bigger. We played smart and wore them down. We overcame a couple turnovers and really owned the last quarter and a half. This is all off of memory, but how can you forget such a great experience. Both my German Grandfathers were from Nebraska and were at the game.....they were proud men and it made me feel great. My brother Steve was a redshirt and got to come on the trip too because he had such a great week of practice. The whole thing couldn't have been better," recalled two time all american middle linebacker Dave Hoffmann.
"It was very loud in Lincoln. I remember walking off the field at half time and having sodas and waters being dumped and thrown at us by their fans. You actually had to walk through a roped off area to get from the locker room and the field.... Screaming fans were just a few feet away. I was thinking this place is nuts! They just poured fuel onto the fire. We came out and hit 'em the mouth. Walking off the field after the game we were met with cheer and applause. Many of those cheering were wearing red and white. I think we earn their respect," stated Shane Pahukoa remembering back. Pahukoa was the starting safety on that team and would enjoy some years in the NFL.
"I just remember the hostile crowd and the blinding sea of red (1991). We had to walk through their concession lines at half time.........we were boo'ed and talk about so bad. All in the spirit and passion of the game however, but man were we pissed off to the highest of pisstivity! I had just fumbled a punt on our end of the field and then came a Nebraska touchdown. I think we were losing 21-6 at half. I looked around the locker room and saw a "Sense of urgency" not panic! The coaches came to speak to us and I saw nothing but confidence. That's when I knew we had something special at the Dub! Steve and the defense shut the Cornhusker offense down and Billy Joe was like a surgeon out there. Our offensive line was incredible. I don't believe Billy was touched after the 2nd Quarter. Finally, J-Barry pop a 82 yard run which was like "Poetry in motion" the beauty of that run and Orlando Mckay sprinting 82 yards to shield Jay the rest of the way.............WOW, THEY DON'T MAKE EM' LIKE THAT ANYMORE! Or do they..."HINT"!" reflected by starting running back Beno Bryant who was a highlight film sensation.
The Huskies would finish this season ranked #1 in the coaches poll, #2 in the AP and would share a National Championship. They would also win their second straight Rosebowl highlighted by Mario Bailey's Heisman pose.
September 19th, 1992: #12 Nebraska(2-0) at #2 Washington(2-0) This big game marked the first time since 1985 that Husky Stadium would be played under the lights. The defending national champions were playing in a prime time game on ESPN. This game was also on my birthday. Nebraska wanted to get some revenge on the Huskies after blowing the game the year before.
"I was just blown away at the night game. This was the first night game I had ever played in at Husky Stadium. It was like God intended this day to be great any other day it might have been bad weather but today it was beautiful. Clear sky and blue sky you couldn't have asked for a more special place. You had the boats out there and the crowd was loud it was pretty special. After 1991, we had the swagger we knew what it took to win these type of games since we proved the year before we could do it. We lost some key players but we also returned plenty of talent from the year before plus a healthy Mark Brunell and Napoleon Kaufman was a year older," recalled two time all american Lincoln Kennedy.
There was some new faces for the Huskies as Mario Bailey, Orlando McKay, Ed Cunningham and Aaron Pierce had graduated on offense. On defense the Huskies also had to replace graduates Dana Hall, Shane Pahukoa, Donald Jones and most importantly lost Steve Emtman who had left early to be the #1 pick overall in the NFL draft. Ask to fill in his shoes were D'Marco Farr and Mike Lustyk. They were facing what Tom Osborne had described as his greatest offensive line he ever had.
"Individually this was the pinacle of my career. The year before my job was easy, just sit on the sidelines watch Steve Emtman dominate then come in and be a role player. This year Steve wasn't there anymore it was on me and Mike Lustyk. Steve was like a big brother to me and he wasn't there anymore so it was my turn. I was also blessed to have the greatest defensive line coach in Randy Hart. Randy always had us well prepared for the games and it was great playing for Randy.It was always a line of succession back then and this was my turn," recalled defensive tackle D'Marco Farr.
Farr's thoughts on the game, "The atmosphere was great. It was a night game and the crowd was amazing I couldn't believe how loud our crowd was that game. Going into the game I was a bit intimated because Steve was gone so it was on me. I also had to face a tough Nebraska offensive line which featured future NFL hall of famer offensive guard Will Shields. He was a great player and it was a great challenge. I felt our defense played really well that day."
The game was a defensive struggle to start the game off. With Nebraska having the ball on their own six-inch line with the crowd going crazy they decided to have quarterback Mike Brandt drop back and pass. Tommie Smith on a safety blitz came in untouched and just smashed Brandt into the end zone turf giving the Huskies a 2-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the 2nd quarter the Huskies erupted for three touchdowns. Napoleon Kaufman had a long run setting up a 1 yard touchdown run and Beno Bryant who hadn't played in the first two wins over Arizona State on the road and Wisconsin at home scored on a 1 yard touchdown run. Then right before halftime leading 16-7 Billy Joe Hobert had hit former high school teammate Joe Kralik for a long touchdown catch which Kralik had to dive at the back end of the of the end zone. That was set up by an interception by Walter Bailey. Eric Bjornson who had served as the backup quarterback in the 1991 Nebraska game had 3 receptions for 72 yards. He was moved to receiver due to graduation and later moved to tight end in the NFL.
"The following year was fabulous! To see Nip run (look so fast) in black shoes was incredible. The offense line dominated the Cornhuskers at the FIRST EVER night game in Husky Stadium. The Cornhuskers were to have a One-Two punch that year, however we still had the stifling defense whom I loathed to compete against Monday thru Thursday! The crowd was so loud I sometimes had to focus extremely to hear the calls. The most interesting thing about the game was that we knew what Nebraska was going to do before they did. Our coaches had us well prepared from SPECIAL TEAMS down to how they tied their shoes. It was always like that! I will always remember those days......and most importantly that first night! U don't come in our home and leave without being scrapped and bruised. Most importantly..........BEAT THE HECK UP!" recalled senior tailback Beno Bryant.
"People might not have realized that game was when Jim Lambright started a new era in college football. Lambright always stressed to us to get the second quarterback in the game. Well we had knocked the quarterback out of the game. They had brought in Tommie Frazier. You can tell even though he was just a freshman that he was a stud. He was unbelievable and he was better than the first string quarterback," recalled Farr.
The Huskies would go on to win this game 29-14 and on that following Monday would rise to #1 in the AP poll. The Huskies would run their winning streak to 22 games before falling to Arizona. The Huskies were 8-0 at the time. The Huskies would win the Pac-10 and go to the Rosebowl for the third straight year. The Cornhuskers were on the verge of going on a run themselves. The next season Nebraska led by Tommie Frazier who played in the 4th quarter of this game would play for the national championship. Then in 1994 and 1995 they would win the national championship.
September 20th, 1997: #7 Nebraska(2-0) at #2 Washington(2-0) In another big game for both schools which was featured on ABC. The Huskies fresh off of killing #19 BYU on the road and beating up San Diego State at home were taking on the big boys. The Huskies had returned most of their team from 1996 which finished 2nd in the Pac-10 and went 9-3. The Cornhuskers featured future NFL pro bowl running back Ahman Green and Scott Frost who had defeated the Huskies in 1994 when he was at Stanford.
The Huskies found themselves in the hole quickly. Led by Scott Frost rushing for two long touchdowns the Huskies were trailing at home 21-0. Making things even worse was when future NFL Superbowl champion Grant Wistrom injured sophomore phenom quarterback Brock Huard. The team had to turn to true freshman quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo. Tuiasosopo found Pathon early and often. Pathon would finish the game with the 9th best receiving game in NCAA history to this point with 195 yards receiving. Tuiasosop would find Cam Cleeland for a touchdown right before halftime to make it 21-7.
"The 1997 game at home was a huge game. We were both ranked in the top 5 and both teams had great athletes all over the field. I remember struggling with both of their defensive ends. Grant Wistrom ended up rolling up Brocks ankle after Brock got rid of the ball on one play and Marcus had to come in I believe. That was a tough loss against a really good football team and was a momentum changing game for us," recalled former three year offensive line starter Tony Coats.
In the third quarter Tuiasosopo would find senior fullback Mike Reed for a short score to make the game 21-14. The Huskies crowd was loud at that point. Then Jim Lambright the head coach at the time decided to onside kick the ball despite UW having all the momentum. Nebraska recovered the ball and would score a field goal. The Cornhuskers would tack on another field goal and win the game 27-14.
Former Pac-10 defensive player of the year Jason Chorak reflects on the Nebraska game. "Yes a big game think we were Number 1 and they(big red) had a great team. Brock went down and Marcus came in the game and lit it up. Shows that if you just play the game at a high speed you can do things. The whole game they ran away from me and rolled the QB away from me out coached and schemed that game."
The difference in the game was rushing. Nebraska had held first team all Pac-10 running back Rashaan Shehee to just 43 yards rushing. Nebraska's Ahman Green and Joel Makovicka rushed for 129 yards each. The bright spot was the passing game of Marques Tuiasosopo who passed for 270 yards and two touchdowns.
Nebraska used this win to roll the rest of the season to win a share of the National Championship with Michigan. Osborne had rid himself of that can't win the big one label by winning three national championships in a four year period. He would retire at the end of the season.
The Huskies remained in the top 10 most of the season and were 7-1 at one point. Then Shehee went down and the Huskies finished the regular season losing their last three games. The Huskies despite being ranked in the top 10 all year long finished the year just 8-4. "If we had good coaches 96 and 97 would of been a lot more different than what was," reflecting by Jason Chorak.
September 26th, 1998: #8 Washington(2-0) at #2 Nebraska(3-0) The Huskies were supposed to be in a rebuilding season having lost 13 guys to the NFL. The defending national champions Nebraska with a new coach Frank Solich also lost some key people. The Huskies began the year with a miracle win over 8th ranked Arizona State in Tempe, Arizona.
This was another big game on ABC which featured ESPN's game day crew.Brock Huard decided to come back this season after flirting with the idea of going into the NFL draft. This game was a joke for Husky fans. Which appeared to be the theme for the Huskies in the mid 1990's they Dawgs got blown out on the road 55-7.
"The 1998 game in Lincoln I went in much better prepared for both mentally and physically. Unfortunately we just couldn't match up against them my Senior year. We lost 55-7 I think and had a standing ovation from the crowd as we left the field. One of the most humiliating feelings I've ever felt leaving that field," reflecting offensive lineman senior captain Tony Coats.
The Huskers ran for 434 yards on the ground led by 146 by DeAngelo Evans. The Huskies were held to just 273 yards of offense. This was a humiliating loss for the Dawgs. This was when Husky nation had finally turned on Jim Lambright.
After finishing the year with a 6-6 record and a blowout loss to Air Force with the Oahau bowl Lambright was fired. The Cornhuskers finished the year 9-4 and suffered a home loss to Heisman trophy winner Ricky Williams for the first time since the 1991 Washington Huskies had beat them.
This Saturday once again a top 10 team will be playing in this game. Nebraska appears to be back to where they belong with a running quarterback in Martinez. The Huskies meanwhile have a chance to make a statement that they are back. If the dawgs win this Saturday they could find themselves in the rankings. This game is also huge for Jake Locker and his heisman chances.