1994 Orange Bowl: The Night That Changed the Fate of Tommie Frazier
This season, Alabama Crimson Tide senior QB AJ McCarron will set out to do what no signal caller in the history of college football has ever done before. Never in the history of this great game has any quarterback won three consecutive national championships–much less a total of three at all.
Not many quarterbacks have come close to accomplishing this seemingly insurmountable feat. However, in the mid-90s, Nebraska Cornhuskers QB Tommie Frazier probably came about as close as any athlete could. Now, should McCarron fail to complete this mission this season, it will be in his final attempt. Frazier, on the other hand, failed in his first.
During the ’93 regular season, Frazier–a sophomore that year–guided the Huskers to an 11-0 record and a berth in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day to face the #1 ranked Florida State Seminoles. Led by their Heisman-winning QB Charlie Ward, the ‘Noles were a heavy favorite at times leading up to the game, But Vegas odds aside, and even with this being a few years before the BCS Era, you knew that the two best teams in the land were on the field that night in Miami.
With Nebraska up 7-6 going into the half, it seemed that the young sophomore may be able to guide the Cornhuskers to their first national championship since 1971. Frazier was doing his part, even throwing a first half touchdown–albeit on a tipped errant pass, and the blackshirt defense was holding their end by keeping Ward and the high-powered Seminole offense in check.
The second half didn’t really add much scoring, but was certainly not lacking in the dramatics.
With 1:18 on the clock, K Byron Bennett launched a 27 yard field goal through the uprights giving Nebraska a 16-15 lead. What many thought was supposed to be impossible, Frazier and the Huskers were determined to make possible.
Unfortunately for the Nebraska squad, the ensuing kickoff bounced out of bounds, giving Ward and the FSU offense the ball at their own 35 yard line. With 21 seconds on the clock, Seminoles K Scott Bentley lined up for a 13 yard field goal with just 21 seconds of time remaining. The kick sailed through, however the over-zealous reaction of the FSU sideline forced the punishment of a 15-yard excessive celebration by the referees. This would end up giving Frazier and his offense field position beginning at their own 43 yard line, as well as the gift of hope.
As it turned out, that hope was never to come to fruition. Nebraska would get no further than the Florida State 28 yard line before time expired and head coach Bobby Bowden could celebrate his first national championship of his historic career.
I recapped this game that took place over 19 years ago for a specific reason. This week, Frazier was finally elected to the College Football Hall of Fame–frankly seven years too late as he should have been elected in 2006 when he was originally on the ballot.
Of all the reasons–as moronic as they were–as too why it took this long for him to take his rightful place, I always wondered how different the circumstances would be had Nebraska held that 16-15 lead. As history taught us, Frazier and the Huskers would use this loss as motivation to roll off two straight national championship seasons in ’94 and ’95.
But you can’t help but think, what would a victory on this night in Miami would have done for Frazier? Many consider him to be definitively one of the all-time greats to ever play college football. Three straight crystal balls may have cemented him as THE greatest to ever take the field.
However you view it, the fact is that in my 28 years of existence, and of the thousands of college football games I have watched throughout, Tommie Frazier is the greatest that I have ever seen take the field at any position. I extend my sincerest congratulations to Frazier on his well-deserved, long awaited induction in the Hall.
Now, every time that I go back and watch my VHS copy of that 1994 New Year’s Day contest, I can now look at Frazier and call him, not the just greatest player I’ve seen, but also–a Hall-of–Famer.