Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Desert Frostbite Nebraska's Ranking, Reputation Got Cold Shoulder in Tempe

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Desert Frostbite Nebraska's Ranking, Reputation Got Cold Shoulder in Tempe

Article excerpt

Was it just two games before, on the same field in Tempe, Ariz.?

Was it just that long ago that seemingly invincible Nebraska dismembered best-of-the-rest Florida 62-24 to win its second successive national championship in the Fiesta Bowl?

Was it just two games ago that Nebraska's bare-knuckles football smashed Florida coach Steve Spurrier's toy offense into smithereens - and suggested that the Nebraska way was here to stay and that the Gators might want to study Charles Atlas instead of Star Wars? The answer to all three questions, of course, is yes - despite the impossible/misprint/must-have-been-inverted Saturday night score of Arizona State 19, Nebraska 0. The 'Huskers, winners of 37 successive regular-season games - including a 77-28 sandblasting of the same Sun Devils last season - and winners of 26 successive games overall, thus were summarily evicted from their top ranking on Sunday. "I haven't ever seen a Nebraska team drop the ball like that and have miscues like that. They were clearly out of sync," Texas coach John Mackovic said, adding conventional coachspeak in explanation. "Everybody has to know and understand that teams are more evenly paired now (because of scholarship limits) than ever before. Every week, it's like high-stakes poker." The loss, coach Tom Osborne concedes, should scrape away part of Nebraska's traditional edge - an often self-fulfilling prophecy that the 'Huskers seemed unbeatable. "Now you say, `Well, who knows?' " Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes said during Monday's weekly Big 12 Conference media briefing. "You always feel like you've got a chance to win every game, don't get me wrong, but reality is way more important than wishful thinking." But Nebraska, which had the indignity of seeing Florida ascend to No. 1 as it fell to eighth, isn't necessarily eliminated from contending for an unprecedented third successive consensus national title. "I really don't know what's going to happen," said Osborne, who cited several examples of teams winning the title despite blemishes on their record. He added, "I'm not going to make a big deal out of the national championship right now. I think it's very important that we play well this week." And no place will it be more important than at quarterback, where fir st-year starter Scott Frost had a meltdown Saturday. He completed just six of 20 passes, and Nebraska was hemmed in for three safeties and three turnovers. Frost, of course, has the unenviable task of replacing the fabulous Tommie Frazier. "We knew a lot about their offense," Arizona State coach Bruce Snyder said after the game. "But the one thing we didn't know about was Scott Frost. Maybe he was the next Tommie Frazier, we didn't know. But we decided that we wanted to take everybody else away and see if Scott Frost could beat us. …

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