Mike Babcock column: 1993 Orange Bowl, Nebraska vs. Florida State football
Ward supplied offense; NU ground game didn’t
MIAMI – Time and again, the Florida State lootball team turned third-down situations into first downs. Time and again, the reason was Charlie Ward, the Seminoles’ quarterback. JYard was every bit as elusive as he was supposed to be in Flori la State’s 27-14 victory against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl Friday. Tell me something I didn’t know before the opening kickoff. WITHOUT A DOUBT, Ward will be among th&early leaders in the race for the Heisman Trophy next season. He was the Seminoles’ offense on Friday. His imprint was on nearly every one of Florida State’s 436 yards. ‘ .Ward was special no question. At times, the Cornhusker pass rushers looked like the Keystone Cops in their pursuit of the mercurial junior. , Often, Nebraska’s defenders got to Ward, then watched as he ducked underneath and left them waving, helplessly. But as the half wore on, Florida State ran more and more plays from the I-formation. The Cornhuskers slowed down Florida State’s fast-break offense about as well as any team has. In fact, Ward and his “Perils of Pauline” escapes shouldn’t have been enough to beat Nebraska, which did an admirable job of pressuring him when the game could still be had. All things considered, the Nebraska defense didn’t play that badly Friday night, despite the yardage it yielded. It bent, but it didn’t break as often as it could have. ‘ i RATHER, IT WAS Nebraska’s offense that broke down. Broke down, or was sabotaged, as it was in last year’s 22-0 Orange Bowl loss to Miami and other recent bowl losses. No way was Nebraska going to shut down , the Seminoles. the only way it could have won was to outscore them. So much was made of Florida State’s speed on offense. But the Seminoles’ defensive speed, ultimately, was Nebraska’s undoing. The Cornhuskers came to the Orange Bowl with the No. 1 rushing offense in the country. However, despite an offensive line described by Coach Tom Osborne as one of his best, and despite a pair of 1,000-plus rushers in Calvin Jones and Derek Brown, Nebraska could add only 144 rushing yards to its season’s total. Jones had more than half of those yards, 76 to be exact, on 19 carries. Either he or Brown had rushed for 100 or more yards against every opponent this season, except Washington and Iowa State, the other losses. There’s a clear correlation. The Cornhuskers passed for 146 yards, the first time this season they’ve gained more yards through the air than on the ground. Nebraska needed to control the ball, keep its defense off the field against Florida State. And it didn’t THAT WAS NEVER more obvious than in the third quarter. The Cornhuskers had the emotional lift of a 41-yard touchdown pass from Tommie Frazier to Corey Dixon with 1:03 remaining in the first half, which cut the score to 20-7. But they couldn’t pick up so much as a first down during the third quarter. Nebraska ran seven plays from scrimmage and punted twice in the third quarter. One of the plays was an intercepted pass. The other six gained 14 yards. So much for comebacks. – An offense that had been essentially error-free after Frazier became the starting quarterback malfunctioned often Friday night. The Cornhuskers’ execution was hardly of postseason quality. In some ways, the game went exactly as most had predicted. In some ways, it didnt Florida State was supposed to win decisively, and the final score might have looked as if it did. But it doesn’t take much imagination to think the Cornhuskers could have won. With a little execution and more than 144 yards rushing, they could have. They were balanced, offensively, yes. But they need to run to win.