Florida State 18, Nebraska 16

Miami, Fla., Jan. 1, 1994 — Nebraska entered its record-tying 25th consecutiye bowl undefeated and ranked No. 2 by AP, but No. 1 in the CNN/USA Today Coaches poll and in the combined Bowl Coalition poll. The Florida State Seminoles held the AP No. 1 rank and were second by the coaches and Coalition. It was the 10th time that the AP’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams met in a bowl game for the national title.

Although the Huskers were undefeated, beating four ranked teams along the way, Nebraska was tagged as a 17½-point underdog. Despite the odds, the Huskers outplayed the Seminoles, before a record crowd (81,536) and a national NBC television audience, and put themselves in a position to win their first national title since 1971. But Byron Bennett’s 45-yard field goal attempt with one second left on the clock sailed wide left and Florida State won the thriller, 18-16, and the school’s first national championship. Nebraska earned the nation’s respect and finished No. 3 in both polls, its highest final ranking since 1983.

The Huskers appeared to get on the board first when Corey Dixon took a Florida State punt at the NU 29, broke four tackles and burst into the end zone. However, the touchdown was called back for an illegal block. After a scoreless first quarter, FSU freshman Scott Bentley hit on a 34-yard field goal, then Nebraska took the lead when a tipped pass from quarterback Tommie Frazier found sophomore Reggie Baul for a 34-yard score. Bentley followed with a 25-yard field goal and the Huskers went in at intermission with a 7-6 lead.

Embed from Getty Images

Nebraska’s leading receiver on the season, Abdul Muhammad, and leading rusher, Calvin Jones, both left the game with injuries and missed the second half. In the third period, Florida State scored on a 1-yard William Floyd run and followed with a 39-yard field goal by Bentley to take a 15-7 lead.

True freshman Lawrence Phillips came in for the injured Jones and on the first play of the fourth quarter scored on a 12-yard run. Nebraska, now within two points, continued to give the ball to Phillips, and the sellout crowd watched as he totaled 64 yards on 13 attempts, with all but one carry coming in the fourth quarter.

Set up by Phillips’ 17-yard scamper and Frazier’s 32-yard sprint to the 4-yard line, Bennett appeared to have kicked the game-winning 27-yard field goal with 1:16 remaining. But with Nebraska up 16-15, Florida State began its game-winning drive at its own 35. FSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward hit Warrick Dunn on passes of 21 yards and 9 yards, and Nebraska was called for personal foul and pass interference penalities that moved the ball to the NU 3. Toby Wright then tackled Sean Jackson for a 2-yard loss, and on second down from the 5, FSU’s Scott Bentley kicked his fourth field goal of the game with 21 seconds left (22 yards) to give FSU an 18-16 lead; it was the fifth lead change of the game.

Nebraska’s final drive started at its 43-yard line with approximately 15 seconds on the clock after Barron Miles returned the Seminole kickoff 23 yards. Frazier missed tight end Trumane Bell at the sidelines but hit Bell on the second try over midfield for a 29-yard gain to the Seminole 28. NU immediately called time out as one second remained. Bennett waited to set up for his second field goal of the game as officials cleared the field of those who thought the game was over, but his kick was wide left.

Embed from Getty Images

Nebraska totaled 183 yards rushing to FSU’s 47, outyarded the Seminoles, 389-333, and held the nation’s No. 1 offense to just one conversion on 12 third-down attempts. Ward completed an Orange Bowl record 24 passes (of 43 attempts) for 286 yards but was sacked five times (after FSU quarterbacks had been sacked just 10 times all season) and was held to negative rushing yards.

Nebraska’s Trev Alberts proved he truly was the nation’s best linebacker, if not the best defensive player overall, as he was responsible for three of Ward’s sacks and did so basically without the use of his right arm, which he dislocated in the Oklahoma game. Alberts had six tackles, while Miles and Tyrone Williams had nine and Wright totaled eight.

Frazier was Nebraska’s MVP as he matched Ward yard for yard, with 283 total-offense yards, leading all rushers with 77 yards and passing for 206. Bell was Nebraska’s leading receiver with four catches for 75 yards.

Source: 1994 Nebraska football media guide