95 Huskers art

The national title was set. No. 1 Nebraska against No. 2 Florida and predictions were split on the winner. One point that Lee Corso emphasized was that the game was on grass. Nebraska played most of its games on AstroTurf, while Florida had played on grass all year.

Corso picked Florida to win, saying the determining factor was the grass. Nebraska ended up winning 62-24. And there was one play that summarized the season, The Run. Quarterback Tommie Frazier ran 75 yards, bulldozing and dragging defenders down; the defense was dead and Nebraska took a 49-18 lead.

Nebraska was invincibile, winning Big 8 conference games by an average of 40 points. The Huskers defense was stifling and the offense was a product that won’t be seen again. All-time defenses come and go, but the Huskers offense of ‘95 remains the pinnacle of any ground offense.

Debates rage on about the greatest college football team to ever play. 1995 Nebraska is always in that conversation with dominant wins, a dominant title run and beating four top 10 teams. All four wins were by at least three touchdowns and Nebraska’s closest victory was 14 points.

Sometimes, the discussion surrounding the greatest offense is measured by the prevalence of eventual pro-players on those teams. Teams like 2001 Miami or 2013 Florida State dominate these discussions. In fact, the debate surrounding crowning the greatest college team has sometimes turned into which team had more NFL players, even if a number of players on the team to go pro never played for their school or during that specific season.

That’s what makes the 1995 Huskers so different from the crowd. The Huskers averaged 400 rushing yards per game, and scored over 50 points per game, yet didn’t have the amount of NFL talent expected to see from the greatest team to ever play.

Frazier, the driver of the offense, had his professional career with the Montreal Alouettes end shortly to blood clots in 1996. The 1995 starting offensive line combined for 99 NFL starts from center Aaron Graham and tackle Chris Dishman. No other lineman started in the NFL.

Only two I-backs from the team were rostered in the NFL. The lack of perceived NFL-level talent is why this offense is one of the most unique in college history. There were no NFL Hall of Famers taking over the game, a testament to the pinnacle of Osborne’s offense.

One year prior, Nebraska won the Orange Bowl against Miami with a 15-point 4th quarter comeback, sealing Nebraska’s national title. The Huskers wore down the Hurricanes on the ground, but that same title-caliber offensive line from 1994 was mostly gone when the new season began.

Nebraska lost All-American 6-foot-5 tackle Zach Wiegert and 6-foot-4 guard Brenden Stai to the NFL Draft, while 6-foot-3 guard Joel Wilks and 6-foot-5 tackle Rob Zatechka both graduated. The Huskers lost four of five starters on the offensive line with only All-American center Aaron Graham staying.

The offensive line that came in were not future NFL gems but instead shorter than their 1994 counterparts. The players who left after 1994 had more than double the NFL experience than the new-look 1995 line. Wiegert started 137 games himself, Stai started 96 games while Zatechka started 9 games.

In 1995, 6-foot-4 senior right guard Steve Ott, 6-foot-1 sophomore left guard Aaron Taylor, 6-foot-4 tackle Eric Anderson and 6-foot-3 tackle Chris Dishman made up the new offensive line. Despite the size decrease, the new line smashed the 1994 team rushing yards average by 60 yards or a 17% increase, and also gave up zero sacks with less than one penalty per game.

Nebraska had 513 rushing yards against Oklahoma State and 552 rushing yards against Michigan State with Lawrence Phillips as the star. Those were the first two games before Phillips was suspended. The star back who dominated touches was now gone with his return date unknown.

The question of who got the touches eventually turned to a freshman. Omaha native Ahman Green filled into that role and the offense did not skip a beat. Green did not get Phillips’s 1994 workload, but the ground offense improved dramatically.

Junior Damon Benning, senior Clinton Childs and senior Jeff Makovicka all increased their usage from 1994. James Sims, along with Joel Makovicka and Brian Schuster rounded out the ground game. All six backs had over 100 yards in Phillips’s absence.

Frazier had his fair share of the ground game with over 600 yards and kept passing at a minimum with just 163 passing attempts. Now, any playoff contender needs a quarterback willing to pass a lot. Nebraska didn’t.

Green led the ground game with 1,086 rushing yards on just 141 carries while Phillips eventually returned to play three more games, finishing with 547 yards. Green and Phillips were the only two to make the NFL.

The rest of the offense did not have professional football careers, and slowly reverted back into private life. The same offense that scored over 50 points a game has a significant number of players most people can’t name off the top of their head.

It’s not 2019 LSU with Joe Burrow or the early 2010s Oregon with LaMichael James and Marcus Mariota. The 1995 Nebraska offense is one of the greatest offensive achievements ever because not one player stood out.

sports@dailynebraskan.com