With its Heisman Trophy candidate struggling and its potent offense stifled, No. 1 Nebraska turned to its defense to beat Oklahoma and wrap up a trip to the Fiesta Bowl for a shot at a second consecutive national championship.
The Cornhuskers (11-0, 7-0 Big Eight) needed two defensive touchdowns to spark a 37-0 victory Friday as quarterback Tommie Frazier had a very average day. Frazier, locked in a tight Heisman Trophy race with Ohio State tailback Eddie George, completed 12-of-25 for 128 yards with one interception. He threw a 38-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter."I don't think I played a bad game," said Frazier, who improved to 32-3 as a starter. "I did everything I normally do. It's just that things didn't fall into the right places for me today."
It was a lot worse for Oklahoma (5-5-1, 2-5). Of its 14 possessions, 10 ended in punts, two in interceptions, one in a fumble and the other on downs. Oklahoma managed just 51 rushing yards, 162 below its average.
The teams combined for seven fumbles, 12 penalties and 14 punts in Nebraska's first shutout of Oklahoma since a 7-0 victory in 1942. The victory concluded Nebraska's third consecutive undefeated regular season.
"It was a solid performance, maybe not inspired or spectacular, but solid," Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said. "I think the real measure and the real focus now is the whole ball of wax."
Fiesta Bowl officials said a bids can't be issued until Dec. 3, but they told Osborne and the players to expect an invitation to the Jan. 2 game at Tempe, Ariz.
Nebraska, which led the nation in scoring (54 points) and rushing (413 yards), finished with 271 rushing yards against the nation's 12th-ranked defense, led by 73 yards from Lawrence Phillips. While the offense sputtered, Nebraska's defense scored two touchdowns, forced three turnovers and allowed just 3.8 yards per play.
Oklahoma, which averaged 2.6 turnovers per game, also had nine penalties for 97 yards in the final game between two Big Eight Conference teams.
"Our football team played giveaway throughout the year and that was the story today," Oklahoma coach Howard Schnellenberger said. "I'd really like to see these two teams play with us taking out all our giveaways."
Nebraska opened the scoring on a 31-yard field goal by Kris Brown. On the ensuing possession, linebacker Jamel Williams picked off the third pass by Oklahoma redshirt freshman Eric Moore and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. It was the fifth interception return for a score by Nebraska this season.
That score did not turn into momentum for Nebraska. The Huskers added a 27-yard field goal by Brown, but punted three times and failed on a fourth-and-15 play on the other first-half possessions.
"They were doing some things that caught us off guard," Frazier said. "They were shifting around up front a lot."
The Sooners offense, however, couldn't do much. Senior Garrick McGee, who replaced Moore after Oklahoma's third possession, completed half of his 30 passes for 159 yards, with one interception.
"I think our offense is just predictable," Sooners tailback Jerald Moore said. "Everybody knows we had to come out and run the ball to be successful. It wasn't a secret at all. They knew what they had to do and they stopped us."
Nebraska opened a 20-0 lead midway through the third quarter when safety Tony Veland picked up James Allen's fumble and ran 57 yards for a touchdown.
Brown added his third field goal seven minutes later and Frazier found Jon Vedral open at the 15 as Nebraska stretched the lead to 30-0. The final score came with 44 second left on Joel Makovicka's 17-yard run.