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Former Nebraska QB Tommie Frazier says Huskers would have beaten PSU in 1994

Frazier calls current Nebraska QB Martinez a "Jekyll and Hyde" player

November 8, 2012
By Cory Giger ( , The Altoona Mirror

There's no doubt in Tommie Frazier's mind who would have won had Penn State played Nebraska for the 1994 national title.

"We would have won the game," the former Cornhuskers star quarterback said. "It would have been a tough, hard-fought game, but we would have won it because I think we were more mentally ready for that type of environment."

Frazier led Nebraska to both the 1994 and '95 national championships -- the only quarterback to win it back-to-back since the 1950s -- but it's that first one that will forever anger Nittany Lion fans.

Quarterback Kerry Collins led a juggernaut offense in 1994, and Penn State finished undefeated but No. 2 in the polls. The Lions went to the Rose Bowl and beat Oregon (38-20), while Nebraska beat Miami (24-17) in the Orange Bowl for coach Tom Osborne's first national title.

The debate has existed ever since then about what would have happened had the Lions played the Cornhuskers.

"Of course you would have loved for it to be settled on the field," Frazier, who still lives in Nebraska and hosts a radio show, said by phone Wednesday night. "But when you leave things up to people to vote on, it's also what people see in their opinions, and you have to go with people's opinions."

Many voters' opinions, of course, were changed after No. 1 Penn State beat Indiana, 35-29, in a game that was only that close because the Hoosiers scored two late touchdowns against backup defenders. Still, that close of a score against a weak Indiana team led to voters dropping PSU from No. 1 to No. 2, and that ultimately cost the Lions a shot at the national title.

"Everyone has a right to their opinion," Frazier said when asked what he would tell PSU fans who think the Lions were better. "The body of work that you do, it is tough to be No. 2 because No. 1 wins, and at No. 2 you're left out. ... They can be upset, but they should have been No. 1 going into the [championship] game."

Both teams had a number of players who went on to lengthy NFL careers, and Collins, who could not be reached for this story, was the last Big Ten quarterback drafted in the first round. Frazier was bothered by blood clots, went undrafted and never played in the NFL.

"I would love to have played that game because people would have really saw how good that '94 team that we had was," said Frazier, who went 33-3 as a starter at Nebraska. "Penn State had some great athletes, but great athletes don't necessarily mean it's a good team."

One reason Frazier believes the Cornhuskers would have beaten the Lions is because his team was more battle tested. Nebraska lost the 1993 national championship game to Florida State, 18-16 in the Orange Bowl, by missing a last-second 45-yard field goal.

"Considering that we had everything going in our favor, knowing that the year before we played a tough game versus Florida State, who had great athletes in that game and we missed a field goal at the end of the game, we were more prepared for going into an environment like that." Frazier said of a potential showdown with PSU in 1994.

Had the BCS been in place that year, the Cornhuskers and Lions would have met in the championship game. Instead, Penn State was locked into the Rose Bowl and couldn't play Nebraska.

"Hindsight is 20-20," Frazier said. "You can't say that back then had we played what would have happened. We went by the system that they had. Was that system wrong? You don't know. You look at the BCS now and say the BCS needs to be fixed. You have to go by what you have at that point in time and then go from there.

"I personally liked the old system better than the system now because when you start putting computers involved in deciding who's going to play in the championship, I think it's wrong."

The bottom line for Frazier is that his team won the title and that will never change.

"The facts are the facts," he said. "I'm not going to say Penn State would beat us because that means I don't have faith in my team. But guess what? That's the one question we'll never know."

Frazier had a phenomenal career at Nebraska, but the Huskers' current quarterback, junior Taylor Martinez, already has set the school's career record for total offense (8,166 yards). Martinez has enjoyed some success and has his team contending for a Rose Bowl, but he still has his share of detractors in Nebraska.

"Taylor is a very good athlete," Frazier said. "People question his play at quarterback because he is kind of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde -- you don't know what you're going to get."

Martinez might be the best dual-threat quarterback PSU faces this season. He's not the runner that Ohio State's Braxton Miller is, but he's a better passer.

Martinez is coming off a big win last week against Michigan State as he led the Huskers back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

"Taylor is pretty calm and has a lot of confidence," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. "Let's face it, he's getting better as a football player. As you get better, your confidence grows and you have some success and you have a belief that you can go into a situation like that and have success.

"I don't exactly want to find us in that situation again. He's a guy who can execute when need be."

Problem is, Martinez sometimes makes big mistakes with costly turnovers that cost his team dearly. He was picked off three times in the Huskers' 63-38 blowout loss to the Buckeyes.

"If he goes out and eliminates the mistakes he's been making offensively, as far as turning the ball over, they sky's the limit for him," Frazier said. "But until he does it on a more consistent basis, he's always going to have people out there being skeptical about what kind of quarterback he really is."

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