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CORNHUSKERS LOST THE GAME BUT GAINED NATION’S RESPECT

SHARE CORNHUSKERS LOST THE GAME BUT GAINED NATION’S RESPECT

Haunted by a history of big-game flops, the undefeated Nebraska Cornhuskers entered the 1994 Orange Bowl as 17-point underdogs to top-ranked Florida State. Nebraska outplayed the Seminoles, but lost 18-16 when a last-second field goal attempt sailed wide.

Largely as a result of that impressive performance, the Cornhuskers are one of the favorites to win the national championship this season. Ranked No. 4 in the preseason poll, they open Sunday against No. 24 West Virginia in the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium."I think the Orange Bowl changed the public perception of Nebraska," said offensive tackle Rob Zatechka. "It didn't change us, but it changed what people thought about us."

"Everybody was saying Florida State would kill us, that they were one of the greatest teams ever," said defensive tackle Terry Connealy. "Well, I think we showed we could play with anybody in the country."

Although Nebraska has been the most consistent winner in college football over the past three decades, its national reputation has been hurt in recent years by poor showings against top teams. The Cornhuskers have lost seven straight bowl games and have beaten only one top-10 team since 1989.

But the heartbreaking loss to Florida State seemed to gain Nebraska more respect than its 11 victories last season. The Cornhuskers received the most first-place votes in the preseason Associated Press poll.

"I think they're as good as any team in the country," said West Virginia coach Don Nehlen.