‘Husker nation?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 2, 2002

Deserving or not, Nebraska gets shot at sixth national title in the Rose Bowl against Miami


Sports Editor

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In the late 80s and early 90s, not many people cared for the University of Miami.

The Hurricanes were in the middle of capturing four national titles under both Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson, but they did it in such a brash and arrogant manner that they became the poster boys for everything wrong in college football.

Whether it was getting off the plane in Tempe, Az., wearing army fatigues for a Fiesta Bowl match-up with Penn State, to collecting the most penalty flags (119) in Miami history in 1991, the Hurricanes have always been labeled the NCAA’s "bad boys."

That is until the BCS and the 2002 Rose Bowl rolled around.

Nebraska will get a shot at its sixth national championship thanks in large part to a computer rating system that says the ‘Huskers, 12-1 and a team which couldn’t even win its own division in the Big 12 conference, is the second best team in the nation. Prior to the BCS, the motto for most coaches was to "lose early" if you wanted to remain in the national title picture. That’s not the case in the second millennium since Nebraska was buffaloed by Colorado, 63-26, in the final game of the year.

The locals of Los Angeles, Ca., have taken it out on the heartland ‘Huskers, once the white knight everyone wanted to slay the Miami dragon. Nebraska is 1-3 against Miami since the 1984 Orange Bowl.

"We’re in California where people are so used to the Big Ten-Pac 10 match-up, and of course, Oregon being left out of it, I guess is the reason for that response," said Nebraska head coach Frank Solich. "There’s never been a place we’ve gone as a football team where they (the players) weren’t at least respected for the talent they have."

But Solich and his corn-fed Nebraska team has much more to worry about then a nation of overzealous football fanatics. The 11-0 Big East champ Hurricanes have ran off 21 straight wins since last season and UM quarterback Ken Dorsey, while allowing Nebraska signal caller Eric Crouch a brief moment in the spotlight after Crouch won the Heisman Trophy, is ready to take the ultimate prize. A Nebraska defense that was blitzed for 62 points against Colorado will have a hard time slowing down Dorsey, who passed for 2,667 yards and 23 touchdowns this season.

Truly, Miami is poised for a return to greatness.

"These young guys think they’re going to be here every year," said offensive lineman Joaquin Gonzalez. "They don’t realize how some years, you work real hard for this, but no matter how hard you work, you might have a loss here or there. To actually be 11-0 is a dream come true, especially for the fifth-year seniors who have been through some tough times."

Miami, the team of the 80s, gave way to the ‘Huskers, college football’s team of the 90s. The Hurricanes last title was back in 1991, (yes, over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl). But since then, Nebraska has won three national championships, in 1994, 1995 and 1997.

It almost seems as if two decades of college football history are about to collide in Pasadena, Ca.

But while some things have changed since the last time these two teams met, (Tom Osborne is no longer the coach of Nebraska. Likewise former ‘Canes head coach Butch Davis is dodging beer bottles in Cleveland), some have not. Former offensive coordinator turned head coach Larry Coker

still directs the Hurricanes’ balanced offensive attack, while Nebraska fools nobody with option-right and option-left.

Yet the Huskers still remain effective.

"We have not changed just for the sake of changing," said Solich. "We have not necessarily gone with trends…if you can control the football and control the clock, I don’t care what kind of offense you run, you can be successful."

Crouch is the prototypical Nebraska quarterback, one who can run and pass just enough to keep an opposing defense honest. He’s thrown for 1,510 yards this season, while also rushing for 1,115 yards and 18 touchdowns.