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Tom Osborne Interview Part 2

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This is part two of a two-part series with legendary Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne. Coach Osborne led the Cornhuskers to three National Championships in four years. Part 1 covering his early life, NFL career, and assistant coaching career, can be found here.

This episode of The Game before the Money Podcast focuses on Tom Osborne’s career as head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He discusses winning the National Championship three out of four years and narrowly missing out on three other National Championships. He also talks about using all three quarterbacks on his roster to win the 1994 National Championship.

Hear the backstory of the “Fumblerooskie” and how Coach Osborne’s pregame and halftime speeches at the Orange Bowl helped spurn the Cornhuskers to their first of three national titles under Tom Osborne. You will also learn what Tom Osborne is doing today.

You can learn more by listening to the podcast on the player below or on your favorite podcast listening app. You can also scroll through the transcription on the player below.

Please note that transcriptions are automatically generated and may contain errors.

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Tom Osborne on The Game Before the Money Podcast — Part 2 was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best audio automated transcription service in 2020. Our automated transcription algorithms works with many of the popular audio file formats.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Welcome to “The Game Before the Money” Podcast. Brought to you by NB Autographs .com . That’s N as in Namath, B as in Biletnikoff – NB Autographs .com.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
“The Game before the Money” Podcast.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Celebrating pro and college football history. One legend at a time.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Hello and welcome to “The Game Before the Money” podcast. I’m your host. Jackson Michael, author of The “Game Before the Money”, The Book The “Game Before the Money” is available on Amazon.com, also at Barnes& Noble. And you can also get it at our Web site, the game before the Money.com. I also have a new audio book out Celebrating the Love Ya Blue Era Houston Oilers. You can download it at Houston seventy-nine dot com (Houston79.com). That’s Houston seventy nine dot com.

Intro and Background Info

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
This episode is part two of coach Tom Osborne and Nebraska football. In part one we covered Coach Osborne growing up in Hastings, Nebraska, His brief NFL career and his time working under head coach Bob Devaney at Nebraska also covered Nebraska’s back to back national championships under Coach Devaney an all time classic. Nebraska/OU game in nineteen seventy one. So it’s a great listen if you haven’t listened to that one yet. And before we really get started, I’d like to quickly interject. You’ve almost surely heard Coach’s name pronounced Osborne (Oz-Born) as well as Osborne (Oz-burn). And from what I understood from his outgoing phone message, Coach actually pronounces his last name, Osborne (Oz-burn). And so for that reason, I’ve chosen to pronounce his last name. Osborne (Oz-burn), for these two episodes. Kind of giving you some background on where we’re going to start today. The transition at Nebraska from head coach Bob Devaney to coach Tom Osborne. Devaney stepped down after the 1972 season pass the coaching keys on to coach Osborne and Bob Devaney had a high level of success at Nebraska two national championships, no losing seasons. In his eleven years, he had become a Nebraska legend by the time he retired. And so when you think about it, that really put a lot of pressure on Tom Osborne as he took over the program, because by that time, the fans expected a very high level of success.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
So following up a legend is a tough gig. And historically, programs have a difficult time achieving that same level of success after a legendary coach leaves. You look at what happened when Ray Perkins took over after Bear Bryant retired at Alabama. Terry Brennan at Notre Dame after Frank Leahy. Doug Williams taking over for Eddie Robinson at Grambling. It’s really difficult to match the success of a coaching legend when you take over. It’s a really tough gig. There are really historically only a few examples of where a coach was able to continue that high level of success after following a legend. Even rarer is when that next coach exceeds the success of the previous legend.

Tom Osborne Accomplishments at Nebraska

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
But here’s a rundown of some of Tom Osborn’s accomplishments as head coach at Nebraska. He won three national championships in a four year span in his 25 years of coaching the Cornhuskers. They want at least nine games every season. That’s not an average. That’s a minimum of nine games per season.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
In his last five seasons, he won at least eleven games each year. Not even Bear Bryant can claim a run like that. Now, there’s no reason to compare Tom Osborne with Bear Bryant. I always say once you get to a certain level, it’s really difficult to compare greatness to greatness and say that one is better than the other. But there is no question that Tom Osborne had one of the best college coaching runs in the history of college football. Now, it wasn’t without some heartbreak. Nebraska’s biggest rival, Oklahoma, won six of seven regular season matchups from 1973 to 1980. And adding salt to that wound was there after Nebraska topped Oklahoma in the regular season in 1978, the Orange Bowl set up a rematch between Nebraska and Oklahoma. Oklahoma took advantage of that rematch and topped Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

Tom Osborne and Nebraska switching to option offense

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
But as for Nebraska and Coach Osborne being a top tier college football program and going from that level of success to the championship level of success, Coach Osborne made two major adjustments. The first was the switch to the option based offense, which started with Jeff Quinn in the late 1970s after Vince Ferrag had graduated. And let’s listen to Coach discuss that move.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
I’m not sure that that was the whole thing, but the reason we went to more option football was we’re having such a tough time in Oklahoma and it shows how critical it was and how hard it was to stop the option and a couple of games

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
prior to that we had him on the ropes and it appeared we were going to win and their quarterback would buy some time with his feet and run for a first down or else buy some time, make a pass at a critical point. Prior to that time we have quarterbacks who were more drop-back passer type guys. We Had to shift to athleticism, speed and quarterback. And I think that diversification eventually paid off for us.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Nebraska’s option really took off in the early 1980s with quarterback Turner Gill. Gill reportedly chose Nebraska in part because he felt Coach Osborne could build him into a better player and person as well. Character building means a lot to Coach Osborne. He created what was called a theme of the week, which taught players that character was important in life and football.

Nebraska Theme of the Week

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
We developed something called the theme of the week.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
So each week there’s a different theme. There’s always a character trait, which is honesty, perseverance, loyalty, self-sacrifice. Those kind of thing, certainly. Let’s talk about that everyday, that trait. We give them sort of quotes from famous people that they’ve illustrated that character traits. As time went by, I saw that I was able to detect our players kind of buying into the idea that there’s more to football than just blocking and tackling. And that character was important. Anyway we really did emphasize the it and found it pays dividends. And I think as time went on, I began to hear sometimes a players conversations or maybe their comments to people in the press or whatever, some reference to some of the things that we’ve talked about, which led me to believe that it was making a difference.

1982 Nebraska Football

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
In 1982, Nebraska had a tremendous amount of talent with Turner Gill at quarterback center Dave Rimington. You may have heard of the Rimington Award that’s named after him. There were also future Pro Stars Mike Rozier. Roger Craig, along with wide receiver Irving Fryar, who became the first overall pick in the 1984 NFL draft, and that nineteen eighty two Nebraska team traveled to Penn State on the road, took the lead with just over one minute left. On the ensuing drive, Penn State landed at the Nebraska Two after a highly controversial catch by tight end Mike McClosky. It’s a play that might have been overturned with today’s replay and Penn State scored on the next play to win. That loss was the only blemish on a season that ended with a win over LSU in the Orange Bowl. Penn State won the national championship and Nebraska ended up ranked third. Now a Nebraska win against Penn State likely would have given the Huskers at least a share of the national championship and given Coach Osborne and Nebraska an undefeated season in 1982.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
I think you certainly have to have good players and coaches, but you have to have a little good fortune. Back in eighty two, We had a great team and only lost one game, that was to Penn State.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
There are a couple calls in that game that were a little controversial and we lost by four points. And I think Penn State lost a couple weeks later at Alabama by three or four touchdowns and we were voted ahead of them. At that time, there was no playoff. So the end of the year they voted and Penn State ahead of us.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
So we didn’t win the national championship. But it came down to the vote.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
And as Coach Osborne said, Alabama beat Penn State by three touchdowns and Nebraska at that point jumped over Penn State in the polls. Both Nebraska and Penn State won out. But Penn State jumped over Nebraska in Week 10 after they beat Notre Dame and the polls ended up awarding Penn State the title. We’ll delve more into how national championships were decided later in this show.

1983 Nebraska Football

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
But in 1983, Nebraska’s title hopes continued. Many starters returned, including the three players who were known as the triplets — Turner Gill, Mike Rozier and Irving Fryar. It’s also notable that future Forty-Niners star Tom Rathman also played for Nebraska in nineteen eighty three, and that nineteen eighty three Nebraska team finished the regular season at 12-0, and they were the first NCAA football team to score 600 points in the season. That’s 50 points a game my friends. Take a listen to some of these point totals. They started the season by beating Penn State, Forty four to six. They beat Rose Bowl bound UCLA, Forty two to ten. They tagged Syracuse for sixty three points and effect that nineteen eighty three Nebraska team scored sixty points against five teams. They even tapped Minnesota for eighty four points. Those crazy point totals earned the team the nickname the scoring explosion. Rozier won the Heisman.

Nebraska Fumblerooskie

Turner Gill was also a finalist, and at that point the last time a Heisman Trophy winner and another finalist were on the same team. That was also Nebraska in 1972 with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers and finalist Rich Glover in 1983. Nebraska stayed number one from the preseason through the regular season. And they went unbeaten and untied and they owned an opportunity to secure the national championship in the Orange Bowl versus Miami. A win would make them the first wire to wire number one since Army in 1945. Things started out rough for Nebraska in the 1984 Orange Bowl Miami, quarterbacked by Bernie Kosar, jumped out to a 17 nothing lead in the first quarter. In the second quarter. Nebraska countered with a trick play famously known as the Fumblerooskie on that play, quarterback Turner Gill purposely dropped the snap and faked running the option guard Dean STEINKUEHLER, who in both the Outland and Lombardi Awards that year picked the ball up off the ground and rumbled into the end zone, passed a confused Hurricane defense for a touchdown. The play worked in various forms throughout college football history. But Nebraska’s use in the 1984 Orange Bowl likely stands as the most memorable example. Osborne speaks of how he discovered the play.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
Saw it on a high school film.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
Looked good, the play was hard to follow and so we put it in.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Now for extra credit, you can listen to the Gene Stallings episode of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame Podcast, which I also host. And Stallings used a version of the fumblerooskie called the Texas Special as head coach of Texas A&M in a 1965 game against the Texas Longhorns. The NCAA eventually banned the play and Coach Osborne and fills us in as to why.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
We ran it four times and it worked all for times and they eventually said, the

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
Officials said they didn’t want us to do it anymore so they passed a rule against it. They couldn’t follow the football — that was the problem. Evidentally, they just would lose track of the football and as a result they decided to make it an illegal play. There wasn’t anything illegal about it except I don’t think they could follow it.

Nebraska Miami Orange Bowl (second half)

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
The fumblerooskie helped trim Miami’s lead to 17 14 by halftime. Miami pushed back and took a 31 17 lead into the fourth quarter. And by that point, the Huskers had also lost Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier to an ankle injury. But Nebraska still found a way to pull within seven in the fourth quarter. And then Miami missed a field goal with about a minute fifty left. Nebraska needed seventy four yards for a touchdown. Gill drove Nebraska inside the Miami 30 and then threw a perfect pass and a sure touchdown to Irving Fryar. But the pass was dropped. After that, Nebraska faced a fourth in eight on the Miami 24. Gill ran right and pitched to Jeff Smith, Mike Rozier’s replacement in the game, and Jeff Smith, the man with a common name, showed uncommon valor and raced into the end zone with just seconds remaining in the game.

Tom Osborne goes for two in the Orange Bowl

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
That touchdown made the score thirty one thirty in Miami’s favor. And it also set up an historic situation because at that time there was no overtime in college football. Games tied at the end of regulation ended in a tie. Always. It didn’t matter if it was the first game of the year or the Orange Bowl to decide the national championship. Even a tie against fifth ranked Miami would have almost surely given Nebraska the national championship. Since number two Texas had already lost number three Auburn barely got out of the Sugar Bowl in an ugly nine to seven final score and fourth ranked Illinois got pounded in the Rose Bowl by UCLA. Who, you might remember, got pasted by Nebraska early in the season. So a tie probably would have given Nebraska the national championship and Coach Osborne had planned for this prospect ahead of time. He knew earlier in the week that if it came down to a scenario like this, he’d have to go for two points and the win. A national championship isn’t something that he felt a team could back into with a tie, especially when words like code and honor have deeply respected meanings in a school’s vocabulary.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
So the Cornhuskers lined up for the two point conversion and the win. Gill rolled right and through a short pass to Smith and Miami, defensive back Kenny Calhoun got barely two fingers on the ball. But enough of it to knock it away.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Incomplete, no championship and no 13-0 season.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Instead, the senior class’s final game was a heartbreaking one point loss by literally a fingertip.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
The 1980s were different in many ways. There was no overtime. A coach today could simply kick the extra point and extend the game, even get the ball on the opponent’s twenty five yard line. Also, there was no college football playoff. In today’s world, it would be an easy choice to kick the extra point and go into overtime. Of course, Osborne could have kicked the extra point and probably won the national championship. But can you imagine players jumping up and down and fans screaming, rushing onto the field to celebrate a tie? And in some ways it also might say that, hey, you don’t need to fully get the job done to reap the highest reward. You could back down from a challenge rather than confront it and still be a champion. In speaking with Coach Osborne for this episode, I got the impression that he’s the type of man who wouldn’t want to live in a world where such notions were considered acceptable. And after the game, he said that you play football to win. So he went for the win. Great coaches face decisive moments in their career, and the end of the 1984 Orange Bowl might be described as a defining moment for coach Tom Osborne.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
The moment defined his courage, his integrity and his values. He likely stands more respected as a coach and a leader by going for two and being denied a national championship than if he would have kicked the extra point and won by default. Miami’s deflection of the ball and the 31 30 victory gave the Hurricanes the national championship, jumping them from number five to number one in the polls. And for the second straight year, Nebraska’s only loss was to the national champion. Before that Orange Bowl game, Nebraska had won twenty two straight games from October 1982 through the 1983 regular season. The next year, nineteen eighty four Cornhuskers didn’t have the offensive firepower of the 1983 team, but they still finished in the top five, and that gave Nebraska a 34 and four record in three years from 1982 through 1984. Nebraska stayed a top program through the late 1980s and early 90s. But Coach Osborne decided he needed to make a defensive adjustment to take the team to an even higher level. He switched from a 5 2 defense to a 4 3.

Nebraska 4-3 defense

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
So we were basically a five man front, an odd front for many years. We did experiment that a little bit with the 4-3 defense on passing downs because that gave us some extra coverage. And we were playing Oklahoma and not doing very well. Kind of out of desperation we went to 4-3 defense and began to stop them pretty well. I thought why in the world are we doing both. We better just go with the 4 3 to better fit our personnel and so that’s what we did and it worked out well for us.

1993 Nebraska Football

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
In 1993, Nebraska’s 4-3 defense helped the Huskers earn their first undefeated regular season in several years. Sophomore quarterback Tommy Frazier made a name for himself the previous season as a freshman leading Nebraska to lopsided wins over ranked teams and into the Orange Bowl. The nineteen ninety three Nebraska Cornhuskers returned to the Orange Bowl for a rematch against Florida State. Both quarterbacks on those teams returned. Tommy Frazier for Nebraska and Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward for Florida State. Coming into the game, the coaches poll had Nebraska ranked number one and the AP poll ranked Florida state number one Florida State. Head coach Bobby BOWDEN led the Seminoles to several top five finishes. But like Coach Osborne had yet to claim a national title. The 1994 Orange Bowl between Nebraska and Florida State is remembered for its bizarre moments and a very close final score. Early in the game. Nebraska’s Corey Dixon ran a punt back for a touchdown, but a clipping penalty brought the ball back to the Nebraska twenty three. And just like in the 1984 Orange Bowl against Miami, injuries affected Nebraska’s offense. Calvin Jones, the second leading rusher in Nebraska history at the time, left the game with a shoulder injury after only nine carries. Nebraska also lost its leading receiver, Abdoul Muhammad, to injury in that game.

Nebraska Florida State Orange Bowl

Still, Nebraska recovered and took a 7 6 lead into the locker room at halftime. And that was a huge statement for Nebraska’s defense. As Florida state averaged forty three points per game during the regular season. Florida State scored an early second half touchdown by running back William Floyd. And that was also a strange play as he jumped in the air at the Goal line and came down without the ball. Nebraska recovered in the end zone, but officials ruled it a touchdown. Of course, there wasn’t instant replay in confirming calls in those days and watching it now, the replays really prove inconclusive, but it still was a strange play in a game that would be remembered for strange happenings. After William Floyd’s touchdown, Florida State went for two and Nebraska’s Toby Wright dove and made a fantastic deflection to prevent the conversion. And Florida state led 12 to 7. Later, the Seminoles added a field goal to lead 15 to 7 on the first play of the fourth quarter. Nebraska freshman Lawrence Phillips broke up the middle for a 12 yard rushing touchdown and that made the score 15 to 13. And once again, in the Orange Bowl on the same field, exactly 10 years after the 1984, Orange Bowl Osborne faced another two-point decision.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
He chose to go for it. But the Seminoles chased Tommy Frazier out of bounds before he crossed the Goal line. Florida State led 15 to 13. An odd score in a somewhat odd game. Late in the game, Tommy Frazier bolted through the Florida state defense, gained about 30 yards and got to the Seminole 9 a facemask penalty, put the ball in the Florida state for Nebraska, couldn’t break through and kicked the field goal with just over a minute left. The Huskers led 16 to fifteen. On the ensuing drive. Florida state barely made a fourth down conversion to stay alive and a mixture of penalties and plays quickly got the Seminoles inside the Husker five. With no timeouts left, Florida State head coach Bobby BOWDEN elected to kick a field goal on second down with twenty one seconds left in the game that gave Florida state an 18 to 16 lead. Miami’s Orange Bowl Stadium, heavily populated with Florida state fans, went berserk and so did the Florida state players. An excessive celebration penalty gave Nebraska good field position at their own forty four with 14 seconds left in the game.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
And here’s where the somewhat strange game had an even stranger ending. Frazier hit Tight end Trumaine Bell for a big gain on second down, but the stadium clock clicked down to zero. Florida state players celebrated. They dumped an ice bucket on coach Bobby BOWDEN and they rushed the field to celebrate. Bowden went to shake Coach Osborne’s hand but couldn’t find him. That was because Osborne was busy speaking with officials. It turns out that the stadium clock differed from the official clock, which had one second remaining. The refs cleared the chaotic field and spotted the ball at Florida State’s 34 yard line, and things got a little bit weirder. That mark proved inaccurate as Bell actually had made it to the twenty nine. After conferring with the press box, highly unusual in the days before video replay was in the rulebook, officials corrected the spot. Nebraska lined up for a game winning championship winning field goal attempt and it sailed wide left. The loss obscured an exceptional Nebraska defensive effort.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Nebraska sacked quarterback Charlie Ward five times after Florida State allowed only 10 sacks all season. Nebraska also held Florida State to one for 12 on third down conversions. The nineteen ninety three season magnified the problems of the poll in determining the national championship. Nebraska lost only once to Florida State, who lost only once. To Norte Dame, who lost only once — to Boston College, who lost to a West Virginia team that went undefeated in the regular season. Did you follow that? Imagine being a poll voter and having to sort that out. Auburn complicated matters by going undefeated. But they were on probation. Ultimately, voters decided the Florida state had the best overall season and won the national championship in both the AP and the coaches poll. Perhaps Florida state linebacker Derrick Brooks, who later earned a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said it best. He said there would always be confusion around the national championship until there was some sort of a playoff. For Coach Osborne with over 20 years of tremendous success as a head coach at this point, he still hadn’t won a national championship in 1982, 1983 and 1993. He literally stood inches away from championships.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
In 83, we had a great team, undefeated team, and went for two points at the end of the game to win instead of settle for the tie and the pass was deflected just slightly by the defensive back, who might have got one finger on the ball, otherwise we would have converted that. So that was a very close call. In 93 we missed a Field goal with one second left on the clock and that was the difference in that game with Florida State. It was just a matter of a very Short distance or a little bit of luck one way or another.

1994 Nebraska Football

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
1994 marked Tom Osborne’s 22nd year as a head coach. Quarterback Tommy Frazier started his junior year in amazing fashion as Nebraska played West Virginia in the kickoff classic, matching two undefeated teams from the previous year’s regular season. Tommy Frazier dashed for three touchdowns and passed for another in the thirty one to nothing route. Nebraska’s defense collected eight sacks and only gave up eighty nine yards for the entire game. That’s eighty nine yards rushing and passing combined. That defines dominating defense. A few weeks later, Nebraska rushed for four hundred and eighty yards against UCLA. That’s right. Four hundred and eighty yards rushing. Lawrence Phillips accounted for one hundred seventy eight of those yards, and Nebraska won easily.

Tommie Frazier blood clots

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
At that point, Tommy Frazier’s path to a Heisman Trophy looked as clear as his path to the end zone on many of his touchdown runs. He felt tightness in his calf, however, and doctors discovered blood clots. Frazier was likely lost for the entire season. Osborne subbed in Brook Berringer, at quarterback. Beringer scored three touchdowns in his first game, but then suffered a collapsed lung. Osborne turned to third string quarterback Matt Turman to win a road game against previously unbeaten Kansas State in week seven,.

Matt Turman Nebraska Kansas State game, Brook Berringer Nebraska quarterback

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
There’s really nothing to do. You just play the guy that’s healthy. Tommy Frazier went down after three games. He had a blood clot the length of his leg. They told us he couldn’t play anymore. Probably wouldn’t play anymore that season might NEVER a play again. Then Brook Berringer stepped in and Brook had two successive collapsed lungs. And they told us that he had any more trouble. He was going to be done for the year. So we started Matt Turman at Kansas state and Matt did a good job. And Brook came in the latter part of the game. And we still won the game. They had a good team. The Brook hit his stride. We went the rest of the way undefeated. Tommie did come back and played in the bowl game. So it was unusual that we did have three quarterbacks play, played. We had a lot of resole.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
And we had a good defense and we were able to hang in there no matter what happened.

1995 Orange Bowl Nebraska

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
The Cornhuskers climbed to the top of the polls and finished the regular season unbeaten and untied. That put the 12 in 0 Huskers matched up against third ranked Miami in the Orange Bowl. Osborne started Tommie Frazier at quarterback. Frazier hadn’t played since September and Osborne made clear that he’d sub in Brook Beringer. Coach Osborne isn’t famous for fiery speeches necessarily, but his 1995 Orange Bowl speeches etched spots in college football folklore. Before the game, he told his team that few players ever get to play for a national championship. He reminded his players that this was two years in a row and to make a count. He also predicted that Nebraska would pull away late in the game. Miami jumped out to a 10 nothing lead.

Tom Osborne Orange Bowl Halftime Speech

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
By the end of the first quarter, Beringer subbed in and crafted a 60 yard touchdown drive and it was 10 – 07, Miami at halftime. Coach Osborne’s halftime speech was the stuff of legend seemingly channeling Gene Hackman in Hoosiers, Osborne gathered his players and kept hammering the message that Nebraska would get it done in the second half.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
He predicted that they would where Miami down and pull away in the fourth quarter. He also made one more major point that he discusses with us now.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
There have been quite a bit of conversations during the first half of the games where some of the Miami players were doing a lot of talking.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
I felt that at some point during the game that was going to result in something a little bit more explosive, somebody would lose their cool or somebody would take a swing at somebody. And I cautioned the players at half time to make sure that it wasn’t somebody from Nebraska. Sooner or later, it might be costly to Miami if we held our cool and kept our poise. And we did have an incident.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Miami scored an early third quarter touchdown and led seventeen to seven. So Nebraska was faced with a task to come back from 10 points down against the Miami Hurricanes, who had won 62 of their last 63 games in their home stadium, The Orange Bowl. Plus Miami’s defense had two future pro football Hall of Famers: Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis. But Coach Osborne’s words soon came to life.

Corey Schlesinger Orange Bowl TD

A personal foul against Miami’s offensive line produced no retaliation from Nebraska’s prepared players and the penalty put Miami back at their own five yard line. Nebraska sacked Hurricane quarterback Frank Costa for safety. And it was 8:43 game momentum indeed started to change on a penalty early in the fourth quarter. Nebraska recovered a failed punt snap inside the Miami Five. The opportunity was erased by an interception. Tommy Frazier returned to the game and Nebraska later started a drive at the Miami Forty. Nebraska needed only two plays to score a brilliant twenty five yard run by Lawrence Phillips and an inside handoff to Corey Schlesinger for a 15 yard touchdown. Nebraska made the two point conversion and tied the game at 17. That year,

Nebraska Orange Bowl offensive strategy against Miami, Warren Sapp, Ray Lewis

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
A tie might not win the national championship. Penn State went undefeated in the regular season and we’re slated to face Oregon in the Rose Bowl the next day. Nebraska’s defense rose to the occasion, forcing their fourth consecutive three and out. A Tommy Frazier run put the Huskers on the Miami 28. And as Osborne had predicted, the Miami defense looked tired. Frazier took another run to the Miami 14 as a game clock slipped under three minutes. Corey Schlesinger then took another inside handoff and dashed in for the score. Nebraska led twenty four to seventeen. Coach Osborne tells us why he thought the inside handoff would prove effective against Miami’s defense.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
They were very good on defense. They had Warren Sapp who later, well, even at that point, was a great player played in the NFL, and Ray Lewis was all their linebackers and one of the all time great linebackers, but they reacted very quickly to the ball. And so both of those plays were trap plays, where the play appeared to be going wider than it did and both handoffs to the fullback. There were different traps. I think we were able to take advantage of their aggressiveness and their reaction to what appeared to be the flow of the ball.

1994 NCAA Football Champs

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Nebraska won twenty four to seventeen giving Coach Osborne his first national championship as a head coach. The team visited the White House in March. President Clinton said he admired the team not only for winning the national championship, but by doing it the right way.

Nebraska Unity Council

Tom Osborne placed a high emphasis on character development, as previously described with the theme of the week. By this point, he had also created the Unity Council was comprised of team leaders who met once a week to build team unity and gave players a voice, even in certain disciplinary measures. Osborne talks about the Unity Council and two other elements he found important to winning the national championship and the future success the Cornhuskers would experience.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
Recruiting picked up to some degree, and I think we also developed through things like what was called the Unity Council. Our team was more focused, more unified. So it wasn’t all personnel, a lot of it was chemistry and team unity. And we had an experienced staff that stayed together for a long time. I think all those things worked to our advantage. And this is one of five year period that was very solid.

1995 Nebraska Football

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
Going into 1995, seven of Nebraska’s assistants had at least 10 years with the Huskers. Over half of those assistants were in their 19th season or later. But on the field, only eight starters returned. Nebraska lost four starting offensive lineman, three of them to the NFL. The new offensive line proved itself early, though, as the Huskers ran for over 500 yards in Week 1 against Oklahoma State. Nebraska also posted over 60 points in the win. Two weeks later, Nebraska scored 63 points against Arizona State in the first half. That’s right. Sixty three points in the first half. Nebraska later faced three top 10 ranked opponents in a four week stretch of the big eight conference schedule. Nebraska scored at least 40 points in each game, won each by at least three touchdowns and never trailed for a single second. In fact, Nebraska only fell behind once the entire season — early in the first quarter against Washington state. Nebraska ended the season ranked number one. Florida also went through the season undefeated. And the Gators also defeated three top 10 teams in their schedule. That set up a showdown in the desert in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl to determine the 1995 national champion. Florida head coach Steve Spurrier won the 1966 Heisman Trophy playing quarterback at Florida. The Fiesta Bowl would feature two Heisman finalist quarterbacks, Nebraska’s Tommie Frazier and Florida’s Danny Werfel.

1996 Fiesta Bowl Nebraska Florida

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Florida opened the game with a field goal and Nebraska trailed for only the second time all season. But Nebraska immediately plowed back with a screen from Frazier to Phillips for a score. Florida blocked the extra point and it was 6 to 3. The Gators led ten to 6 by the end of the first quarter and then the second quarter happened. Lawrence Phillips jigged forty two yards around a swarming gator defense for a touchdown on the second play of the quarter. Nebraska led 13 to 10 at that point and never looked back. The defense crushed Florida quarterback Danny Werfel for a safety. Freshman running back Ahman Green scored a Husker touchdown a few plays later. Nebraska then kicked two field goals and ran back an interception for a touchdown before the half even ended. A twenty nine point second quarter outburst gave Nebraska a thirty five 10 halftime lead. Late in the third quarter. Tommie Frazier bolted through the Gator line for a thirty two yard touchdown run. Nebraska had scored thirty six unanswered points and owned a forty two to ten lead against an undefeated opponent.

Tommie Frazier TD run

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
The Gators followed up with a quick touchdown, and then Tommy Frazier responded with one of the most memorable plays in college football history. With seconds left in the third quarter. Frazier ran right from the Nebraska twenty five yard line. A defender grabbed his jersey from behind, but Frazier’s speed and power left that tackler in the dirt. Two more tacklers attempted to drag Frazier down from behind a few yards later, but to no avail. Four more tacklers met him from the front. But Frazier refused to go down. He pounded his way through the gang tackled and muscled his way through each and every defender. Then he slipped through yet another tackler on his way to the sideline before he dashed the remaining fifty yards to paydirt. I strongly encourage you to look for that play online. If you haven’t seen it before or haven’t seen it in a long time, it’s a truly remarkable run.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
On Florida’s next possession the Husker defense notched their seventh sack in the night and collected their third interception when the final gun sounded. The scoreboard showed complete domination in Nebraska’s favor. A final score of sixty two to twenty four. Nebraska turned the Florida running game into an algebra problem by swallowing the Gators for a negative twenty eight yards rushing. That’s right. Minus twenty eight yards rushing. The win gave Tom Osborne and Nebraska their second straight national championship. It also placed the nineteen ninety five Nebraska Cornhuskers on the short list of greatest teams of all time. The ninety five team had several all big eight selections on both sides of the ball and both NFL dot com and Bleacher Report rate the nineteen ninety five Cornhuskers as the greatest college team ever. And they are not alone in their opinion, among experts and fans.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
That season also lofted Tommy Frazier’s legacy as one of the greatest college football players ever. Frazier played for the national championship, his sophomore, junior and senior years and was voted MVP of all three games. More importantly, his team won two of those games. Big change came Nebraska’s way in 1996. The Big Eight conference merged with four members of the Southwest Conference to form the Big 12 conference. The Cornhuskers lost two games in 1996, but still ended the season with 11 wins, an Orange Bowl victory in another high poll ranking finish.

1997 Nebraska Football

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Enter nineteen ninety seven. Osborn’s twenty fifth season as head coach. It would be his last. Nebraska pocketed an impressive road win over second ranked Washington early in the season and then turned around and thrashed a 17th ranked Kansas State team that would eventually win the Fiesta Bowl and finish in the top 10. Later that season, Nebraska outscored opponents one hundred and thirty three to seven over a three week span. Those three wins guaranteed Nebraska its thirty sixth consecutive winning season.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Thirty six straight winning seasons. Remember, a five hundred season doesn’t count in there. Thirty six straight winning seasons. The Huskers added four more after Osborn’s retirement for a ridiculous total of forty consecutive winning seasons. Twenty five of those seasons were under Tom Osborne’s watch. And remember, his teams never won fewer than nine games in a season. That’s how incredible of a program coach Osborne built at Nebraska.

Nebraska Flea Kicker vs Colorado

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Nebraska’s toughest test in nineteen ninety seven came at Missouri. Missouri led by seven with only one minute left in the game. And Nebraska started their final drive on their own Thirty three with no timeouts left. Quarterback Scott Frost drove Nebraska to the Tiger 12 with only seven seconds left. Frost rifled a pass to CHEVAN Wiggins at the Goal line. A defensive back hit Wiggins and knocked the ball away. A second defender reached for the ball as Wiggins tried to kick the ball back to himself. The ball hit Wiggins foot and looped end over end into the air. Husker freshman Matt Davison dove and caught the ball for a touchdown. Kicker Kris Brown booted the extra point and Nebraska went on to win in overtime. The miraculous TD became known as the flea kicker. Overtime was fairly new to college football, and the game marked Nebraska’s first ever overtime appearance.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
On December 6th nineteen ninety seven. Nebraska ravaged Texas A&M in the Big Twelve Championship game on December 10th. Coach Osborne announced his retirement effective after the bowl game.

Nebraska Tennessee Orange Bowl Peyton Manning

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Nebraska held a 12 and 0 record and earned a berth in the Orange Bowl against Tennessee, led by senior quarterback Peyton Manning. Although Nebraska had a twelve and own record, Michigan held the number one spot in both the AP and Coach’s poll with an eleven and 0 record. Nineteen ninety seven would be the final year polls would ultimately decide the national championship without some sort of college football championship game or playoff. A lot of times the polls would split and two teams would each declare a title. Coach Osborne discusses the split national championships in college football during his tenure as coach.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
I know there always been controversy about national championships. I’m glad we’ve now got a playoff wo it’s settled on the field.

1998 Orange Bowl

So for the 1997 season, second ranked Nebraska ended up playing third ranked Tennessee in the 1998 Orange Bowl. Top ranked Michigan played eighth ranked Washington state in the Rose Bowl. Tennessee was a tough draw for a bowl game. Peyton Manning wasn’t the only future NFL star in their lineup. Running back, Jamal Lewis later rushed for over two thousand yards in one season for the Baltimore Ravens and finished his NFL career with over 10000 thousand yards rushing. Defensive end Shaun Ellis and Leonard Little each played 12 years in the NFL, as did offensive tackle Chad Clifton. All three of those linemen went to Pro Bowls during their careers. Moreover, the volunteers would win the national championship the next year by winning the first ever b.c.’s championship game. It was the confident Cornhuskers who dominated this Orange Bowl matchup from the start however. The Defense forced three turnovers in the first half and Nebraska jumped out to a seven nothing lead, then a 14 nothing lead. They led 14 3 at halftime and kept pouring it on in the second half, starting out with an 80 yard touchdown drive to make it twenty one to three. Soon afterwards, they led twenty eight to three. By the end of the third quarter, Nebraska led thirty five to nine.

Scott Frost Nebraska QB

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Scott Frost later scored his third touchdown of the game to make it forty two to nine as Nebraska completely dismantled the third ranked team in the country. The final score was forty two to seventeen. And remember, that Tennessee team had a lot of future NFL stars like Peyton Manning on it. Michigan clipped eighth ranked Washington State twenty one to sixteen in the Rose Bowl. And that left Michigan with a 12 and 0 record in Nebraska at 13 and 0, with no playoff to decide a victor. Ultimately, the coaches pulled decided Nebraska’s 13 wins and unquestionable victory over Tennessee was good enough to vault the Huskers to the number one rating and the national championship in the final poll. The AP poll kept Michigan at number one, hence giving each team a share of the national championship. The Bowl Championship Series, better known as the b.c.’s, started the next year to hopefully avoid such situations. Although the b.c.’s wasn’t without criticism, especially when more than two teams finished the year undefeated. In 2014, a four team college football playoff was developed. Nineteen ninety seven — Tom Osborne’s final year as Nebraska’s head coach — closed one of the greatest coaching careers in NCAA history. He finished strong with three national championships in four years.

More Tom Osborne Nebraska Coaching Accomplishments

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Over those four years, Nebraska was forty nine and two. Over his last five years. The Cornhuskers only lost one regular season game. And remember, Osborne narrowly missed winning three straight national championships and four out of five. It was only a missed field goal at the end of the Orange Bowl against Florida state that prevented that from happening. Those five years weren’t the only amazing stretch in his career. You might remember he missed back to back championships in 1982 and 1983 by a last second loss to Penn State and a nicked pass against Miami. From 1982 to 1984, Nebraska went thirty four and four. From nineteen eighty six to nineteen eighty nine. Nebraska held a forty one in eight record over those four seasons. And here’s another fact: Nebraska never once finished out of the AP top 25 in Osborn’s 25 year tenure. In fact, Nebraska finished in the top fifteen twenty four out of those twenty five years they finished in the top 10 in eighteen of those twenty five years. That’s seventy two percent of the time. Throughout Osborn’s twenty five years as head coach, that Nebraska finished in the top 10 with the high level of success that Coach Osborne had at Nebraska,

Tom Osborne Seattle Seahawks, Tom Osborne Colorado coaching job

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
You can probably guess that he was offered other opportunities. There were stories about perhaps the University of Colorado trying to gain him as a head coach. Even the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks pursuing a possibility of hiring Tom Osborne. I asked him about those opportunities and why he chose to stay at Nebraska.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
Yeah, they’re both true. I just felt I recruited some players and told them that this is a good place.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
I didn’t know quite how to go back on that word. So I didn’t know how to tell players I was leaving very well, so I stayed here.

Tom Osborne House of Representatives

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
After retiring from coaching, Coach Osborne was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served three terms. He later ran for governor of Nebraska and lost by a slim margin. He then served as Nebraska’s athletic director from October 2007 until January of 2013. During that time, Nebraska migrated from the Big 12 conference to the Big Ten conference. Tom Osborne won a lot of football games and provided countless memories for Nebraska fans. Don’t forget he earned a p_h_d_ as well. Osborne, however, keeps things in perspective. He knows that winning and accomplishments are important, but he also knows the building character and providing opportunities mean even more. In 1991, he and his wife founded the Teammates Mentoring Program and are still actively involved. Coach Osborne discusses the inspiration behind the teammates mentoring program.

Teammates Mentoring Program

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
I noticed some changes in the family structure. We were getting more and more kids who were without fathers. As a result. We decided to just do something about it. And asked our players if they cared to be a mentor to some boys in Lincoln public schools and 22 hands went up. So we paired them up and as time went by 21 of 22 graduated on time and 18 went on to college.

TOM OSBORNE: Nebraska Cornhuskers head football coach, College Football Hall of Fame inductee, former NFL player (Washington Redskins):
So we thought, well, maybe there’s something to this and created the program. Today we’re mentoring 8,700 kids in 169 school districts, so it’s grown a great deal.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
You can learn more about Coach Osborne and the impact of the teammates mentoring program at teammates.org. That’s teammates.org. Coach Osborne created a college football legacy at Nebraska, establishing one of the greatest program runs in NCAA history. His impact off the field appears more important to him, however. On the cover of Osborn’s book, “Beyond the Final Score, there’s more to life than the game,” Investor Warren Buffett is quoted as saying, quote, “Tom Osborne improves the life of everyone he encounters.” As a head coach. He worked to improve the men who were the scarlet and cream uniform of Nebraska, not only as players, but as individuals. While in Congress, he served the people of Nebraska in other ways, working on legislation to help farmers and students. Today, he continues to impact the lives of others through the teammates mentoring program. Coach Osborne wasn’t the only man that the great Bob Devaney recommended for a coaching job. He recommended Marv Levy for an NCAA head coaching job in the early 1960s that helped launch Levy’s Hall of Fame career. Coach Levy will share that story and much more in a future episode of the game before the Money podcast. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss out.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
A special thanks to Coach Osborne for interviewing for this podcast. Please listen to Part 1 of Tom Osborne and Nebraska football. If you haven’t already.

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
Thank you for listening to this episode of The game before the money podcast. The game Before the Money podcast is brought to you by NB autographs.com. And our transcription partner, Sonix. A I

Narrator: Jackson Michael, author of football history book THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY:
That’s s o n i x dot a. I.

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