All-America Center Aaron Graham anchored NU’s offensive line in 1995.
By Randy York
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m guessing the vast majority of football fans had no idea how important last Monday night’s BCS finale was for the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers, which can still call themselves the most dominating college football team of all time. Florida State’s 34-31 triumph over Auburn may have stopped the Southeastern Conference’s streak of seven consecutive national championships, but it fell far short of being included in the same sentence with the ’95 Huskers, who remain in a league of their own as the only college football team in history to win every game by a minimum of 14 points. The Seminoles fell a combined touchdown, a two-point conversion and a field goal short of that hallowed ground.
I wish I could have watched the Florida State-Auburn game with Tommie Frazier, Aaron Graham and Jared Tomich. Those three 1995 first-team Husker All-Americans had to be rooting for Auburn to keep the game close from opening kickoff to final gun. Second-team All-American Terrell Farley and third-team All-Americans Grant Wistrom and Aaron Taylor undoubtedly were in the same camp, along with Ahman Green and Christian Peter, who were honorable mention All-Americans on that 1995 Fiesta Bowl championship team that steamrolled second-ranked and previously unbeaten Florida, 62-24, in the most lopsided national championship game ever played.
27 Huskers on ’95 Team Earned an NFL Chance
“It was very gratifying to work with a group of players who had the kind of focus and drive to carry them through the season at such a high level,” Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said. Thirty-three players on that team earned a chance to play professional football, including 27 who connected with NFL teams. Frazier, the MVP of two national championship games and Nebraska’s MVP in an 18-16 national title loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl his sophomore season, had an abbreviated stint with the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League. Blood clots forced him to give up football. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame last month.
Let the record show that even if Florida State’s 2013 team found a way to beat Auburn by at least 14 points to buy its way into a conversation about the most dominant college football team of all time, the Seminoles would need a hometown judge to win a debate against Nebraska’s 1995 model. Even in a mock courtroom, Mark May would fall asleep listening to Lou Holtz count the ways that Nebraska would be superior before he’d let May give his closing argument. Whether you’re a Nebraska fan or not, let these eight power points speak for themselves:
To Honor the Old Big 8, Eight Dominating Facts
1) Nebraska’s smallest margin of victory in 1995 was 14 points in a 35-21 win over Washington State. It was the only game in which Nebraska trailed all season before taking a 28-7 lead into the fourth quarter and letting its subs get meaningful snaps. Reserve freshman I-back Ahman Green, who would go on to become the Green Bay Packers’ all-time leading rusher, finished the Washington State game with 176 yards rushing and one touchdown on 13 carries. The Huskers out-rushed the Cougars, 428-72. And get this: In the fifth game of the season, Washington State came into Lincoln with the nation’s fourth-ranked rushing defense, giving up only 69.7 yards per game.
2) In 1995, Nebraska averaged 400 yards rushing per game while allowing only 78 yards rushing per game to its opponents. The Huskers scored 51 rushing touchdowns in ’95 and gave up only six rushing TDs. Nebraska averaged a Division I-A record 7.0 yards per rushing attempt for the entire season, including the bowl game shellacking of Florida.
3) Question: With an offensive line anchored by 1995 All-America center Graham, guess how many quarterback sacks Nebraska gave up in that remarkable 12-0 season? Answer: If you said zero, you would be right.
4) Want to talk special teams? Kris Brown, one of college football’s and one of the NFL’s best kickers ever, connected on 13 of 16 field goal attempts whenever Nebraska’s offensive juggernaut hit a skid mark. And get this, the Huskers tied an NCAA record in ’95 by allowing only five punt returns all season for a grand net total of 12 yards. Yikes!
5) Nebraska’s average margin of victory in 1995 was more than 38 points, the largest average of any Division I-A team since World War II. The margin exceeded a six-touchdown average despite Nebraska resting its starters in the second halves of most games.
6) Here’s something to chew on. Nebraska averaged 29.8 points per first half in 1995. That’s a higher scoring average in one half than at least three national championship teams averaged in a whole game – Alabama (1992), Ohio State (2002) and Florida (2006).
7) For the 1995 season, Nebraska averaged 53.2 points per game and allowed only 14.5 points per game. When you think about making a big deal out of Florida State’s 2013 team having the possibility to win every game by at least 14 points like Nebraska did, this particular stat screams rather loudly that the Huskers should stand alone in this spotlight.
8) I saved my best stat for the last stat. In the final rankings from the 1995 season, Nebraska beat four teams that finished in the final AP Top Ten rankings – national runner-up Florida (62-24), No. 5 Colorado (44-21), No. 7 Kansas State (49-25) and No. 9 Kansas (41-3).
There you have it – eight crystal-clear facts that helped frame a Big Eight powerhouse as the most dominant college football team of all-time. The Huskers did, after all, beat four schools in the ‘95 final Top Ten by an average of more than 30 points a game. If that’s not living in a league of your own, what is? Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Someday, someone will make another serious run at Nebraska’s lofty status, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen in the next seven years. Why? Because we think this ’95 team deserves a Silver Anniversary celebration in 2020 – a vision that seems not only realistic, but highly probable.
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Voices from Husker Nation
Another great article. I agree with everything you wrote about the 1995 Huskers. Even though no Husker won the Outland in 1995, the ’95 offensive line was dominant. As you pointed out, the line allowed no sacks. Your article reflected all of the thoughts I was thinking about during the Florida State/Auburn game. I did not want people putting FSU in the same sentence with the ‘95 Huskers. Jonathan Ladner, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota
Great job on the 1995 Husker article, but a couple of facts always seem to get forgotten and they could really cement our all-time juggernaut status. In 1995, we put 77 points on Arizona State and 62 on Florida, which won the national championship the next season with one loss and a total annihilation of Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. It’s one thing to beat some good teams. It’s another thing to blast teams that would become national championship caliber the very next season with most of the same players. That also applies to our ‘97 team. We beat Peyton Manning and a team full of NFL players when we destroyed Tennessee in the Orange Bowl. The next season, Tennessee won the national championship by upending Florida State. It’s no secret that the SEC changed its style of play because of the beat-downs Florida and Tennessee suffered at our hands. Ben Eicher, Rapid City, South Dakota
I have something else to add about the ‘95 Nebraska team and the Big 8 Conference. 1995 is the only time in the history of any poll that one conference had four teams all finish inside the Top 10 final ratings. All four finished the season with 10 or more wins and 2 or fewer losses, and all four teams won their respective bowl games. Andy Purvis, Grand Island, Nebraska
Great article on the ‘95 Huskers, but I’d like to add a few more reasons why that Husker team was the greatest of all time. First, the ‘95 Florida Gators were recently rated the third best offense in SEC history. All four of Florida’s starting defensive linemen were drafted four months after giving up 62 points to Nebraska. Second, the most recent contenders for Nebraska’s “Greatest of All-Time” claim are the 2001 Miami and the 2013 Florida State teams. Both had 85-player scholarship limits and Nebraska had a 100-player limit in 1995. Bottom line, the Huskers were so much deeper, particularly in the o-line and the d-line. Osborne loved to stockpile depth at both positions and nobody’s done that better than he has. Third, both the ’01 Hurricanes and the ’13 Seminoles struggled to win at Boston College. Miami even needed a miracle interception returned for a TD with no time left. In contrast, the ‘95 Nebraska team had every game under control before the end of the first quarter. Fourth, Colorado lost only 10 games that season and had five players drafted the next spring. Nebraska destroyed the Buffs on their home field and high altitude air in ’95. Fifth, Nick Saban, the master, the great one, the guru, had no answer for the ‘95 Huskers, which beat his Michigan State team, 55-10, in East Lansing. It was complete domination. Matt Hagood, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
You make excellent arguments for the ‘95 Huskers being the most dominant Nebraska team. You are probably right. But I want to make a case for the ‘71 Huskers. The final rankings for 1971 were: 1) Nebraska; 2) Oklahoma; 3) Colorado; and 4) Alabama. Bear Bryant paid the ultimate tribute to Nebraska that Saturday night after a humiliating Orange Bowl defeat. “I surely think they are one of the greatest if not the greatest team I’ve ever seen. We were beaten soundly by a far superior team. At times they seemed to just be toying with us,” Bryant said. When comparing the greatest Husker team, you have to consider the competition of the era. You can’t compare the 1971 team to the 1995 team or the 2013 Florida State team because it is a different game in each era. Remember the ‘71 team finished #1 but played and beat the #2 Oklahoma, #3 Colorado and #4 Alabama. That had never happened before and is unlikely ever to happen again! Nebraska also never scored fewer than 31 points (vs. Colorado 31-7) that season. The Blackshirt defense had only three teams score more than one touchdown on Nebraska and the Huskers shut out three teams in ’71! The only game that was even close, of course, was “The Game of The Century”. Everyone in the country was watching that game. I know because I was living in Pennsylvania at the time. Everyone there agreed the Huskers were the most dominant college football team they had ever seen. There will never be another “Game of the Century” because it was the only game televised that week and everyone was watching it. Again, you can’t compare other eras. Today we can see almost any team on television, and a 52-48 game is now common. It’s a different game. Thanks! Bill Simic, Woodruff, Wisconsin
Great article on the ’95 Huskers. My favorite part of that team: Phillips, Green, Benning, Childs and Sims – five quality running backs. Wow! Go Big Red! Tommy Thompson, Mascoutah, Illinois
My name is Greg Heim, and I live in South Plainfield, N.J. I have been a
diehard Husker fan since 1982 (junior year of high school). I am also a lifelong New Jersey resident and never set foot in Nebraska until the 2001 Notre Dame game. My maternal grandfather was on morphine dying from congestive heart failure the night of the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. The guy across the hall from me was a Florida fan, and his wife was also on morphine from terminal ovarian cancer. We were both wearing our team’s respective gear that night and doing a little trash talking before the game. When Florida took a 10-6 lead after the first quarter, he was getting feisty. The nurses told us we had to keep it down a bit, to which the other guy replied. “I don’t think it really matters. I think my wife and his grandfather would like that we have something to keep us occupied!” When Nebraska scored 29 second-quarter points, I chose to go home (I only lived three miles from the hospital). I gave the other guy a hug, and he said: “I think the Gators are toast!” I received a phone call around 2:30 a.m. on January 3rd that my grandfather had passed away. When I got to the hospital waiting for my mother and aunt, I saw the guy. His wife passed away 15 minutes after the game was over. We just looked at each other, and the first words out of this mouth were: “That’s the greatest football team that I have seen in my life.” Half of the Big 8 finished in the top 10, and all of those teams won their bowl games. Colorado, K-State, and Kansas had two losses each: One to Nebraska and one loss within that group. In all but one of those Top 10 games, Nebraska won by an average of 49-18. Don’t give me this 2001 Miami bull. They had some tight games late. The Hurricanes’ first-round NFL draft pick argument holds no water. You measure a team with regard to how they play against other teams, and the strength of those teams that line up against them. Warm regards. Greg Heim, South Plainfield, New Jersey
Great article on ‘95 team. Brings back wonderful memories. All that was missing was Tommie’s Heisman. John Bruns, 1981 UNL grad, Overland Park, Kansas