As Last Word On Sports continues its Mount Rushmore series of the greatest players and coaches, we take a look at Nebraska football. Nebraska is known as one of the most historic programs in all of college football. While times have been tough in Lincoln recently, this is still a very proud program with a great deal of tradition. The Cornhuskers rank fourth in all-time victories with 880 wins, and have five national titles along with a whopping 46 conference titles. This is certainly a program that has had plenty of happy times. Now it’s time to narrow down the four most important figures in this program’s history.
Nebraska Football Mount Rushmore
Bob Devaney was the head coach of the Cornhuskers from 1962-1972. He turned around a Nebraska program that was struggling from 1941-1961. In those 20 years, Nebraska had a winning percentage of .368, the 126th best out of the 133 Division 1 teams at that time. However, when Devaney came in, he prompted an immediate turnaround. Nebraska went 9-2 in his first season and won their first ever bowl game against Miami in the 1962 Gotham Bowl. Nebraska’s NCAA ongoing streak of sold-out games began in the 7th game of that 1961 season. After a couple of average years in 1967 and 1968, Nebraska would lose just four games combined over the following four seasons. This would include winning their conference every season and winning their first and second national championships in 1970 and 1971. Devaney subsequently stepped down in 1972 and became Nebraska’s athletic director.
Tom Osborne, who was offensive coordinator for Nebraska while Devaney was head coach, would become the succeeding head coach for the Huskers. He would create a dynasty that was one of the best in college football history. He was Nebraska’s longest tenured head coach and would be the fifth winningest head coach in Division 1 in his 25 years as the head coach. In all of his seasons, Nebraska never won fewer than 9 games and he captured 13 conference titles. Osborne’s Huskers broke through for the 1994 National Championship, Osborne’s first one as a head coach, but the 1995 championship team was very memorable. Many call the ’95 Huskers the best college football team of all time. They averaged approximately 53 points per game and would allow an average 14 points a game. This would include the shellacking of Florida in the National Championship game that season in a 62-24 win. The 1994 and 1995 teams would go both undefeated with a combined 25-0 record and were the only consensus back-to-back National Champions since Oklahoma in 1955 and 1956. Nebraska would win another national championship in 1997, sharing with Michigan, and had a record of 60-3 from 1993-1997 to end Osborne’s career as head coach.
Tommie Frazier is a former Nebraska quarterback that played on those legendary Husker teams of the mid 90’s. He would suffer some injuries in his career but he is certainly one of the legendary players in college football history. He was rated the No. 3 recruit in the country and led Nebraska to four consecutive New Year’s Day Bowl games. Despite losing to Florida State in the 1993 National Championship game, he was named most valuable player completing 13 of 24 passes for 206 yards and a 34 yard touchdown. He would also rush 14 times for 77 yards with a 32 yard run in that game. Despite the tough loss, Nebraska would finish that season 11-1 and would win the next two national championships. He was considered a Heisman favorite in the first part of the 1994 season but would miss the second part of the season due to a blood clot in his leg. Nebraska back up quarterback, Brook Berringer, would continue the dominance that season, leading them to a 12-0 record and facing Miami in the Orange Bowl. Frazier started that game but was replaced by Berringer after a turnover. Trailing 17-9 with only seven minutes left, Frazier returned and led Nebraska to two touchdown drives, tiring out Miami, and winning 24-17. Frazier was restored to full health in his senior season in 1995, guiding Nebraska back to another championship the same year, dominating every single opponent. Arguably his most famous moment, during a 75-yard touchdown run against Florida in the championship game, he broke seven tackles, making the Gator defenders appear inadequate.
Rodgers was a Heisman Trophy winner in 1972 and was certainly one of the early Husker legends. He would get an NCAA all-purpose yard record of 5,586 yards. In all of this, Rodgers was a punt returner, in which Tom Osborne said he had the greatest ability to return punts of any player he had ever seen. Rodgers was also a receiver and a running back. In 1971, what many call “The Game of the Century” against Oklahoma, Rodgers returned a punt for 72 yards for Nebraska’s first touchdown of the game, in a 35-31 win over the Sooners. He also had a legendary game in 1973 against Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. Nebraska won easily 40-6 over the Irish with Rodgers rushing for three touchdowns, catching a 50-yard pass for another touchdown and even threw a 54-yard touchdown pass. Johnny Rodgers was also the first ever Husker to win the Heisman, setting a tradition nearly unmatched in college football.