On Monday afternoon, Sept. 26, Nebraska coach Tom Osborne was talking about what his team's offensive strategy would be without starting quarterback Tommie Frazier, who was in a Lincoln hospital for treatment of a blood clot in his right leg. "Oh, same as always," said Osborne. "You know...[pause for effect] up the middle. Pass every 10th play [tight-lipped smile, wait for reaction]."
Everybody laughed. They all thought he was joking.
Well, Osborne wasn't joking. Last Saturday the second-ranked Cornhuskers tore loose from an ugly 9-3 halftime lead over Oklahoma State with two third-quarter touchdowns en route to a 32-3 victory. A total of 23 plays, two passes. Right according to plan.
Is it possible that the dour Osborne had foreseen that his quarterback for the second half of Saturday's game would be a 5'11", 165-pound sophomore walk-on from Wahoo, Neb., a coach's dimpled kid who would look more at home in the woodwind section than behind center?
Not likely. No one could have imagined the damage done to Nebraska's quarterback position in the last two weeks; no one could have predicted that Matt Turman—called the Turman-ator by his teammates for his decidedly un-Arnold-like appearance—would assume the controls of a team designed for Frazier to guide to the national title.
Here's how it happened. In August 1992, Nebraska had live scholarship quarterbacks in camp: senior Mike Grant, red-shirt freshmen Tony Veland and Brook Berringer and true freshmen Frazier and Ben Rutz. Option specialist Veland won the job but broke his collarbone before the first game. Grant stepped in, but Frazier beat him out by the sixth game.
Frazier became a star, so Veland was moved to safety and Rutz transferred to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Also, Nebraska signed no quarterbacks in 1993, the first time that had happened in Osborne's 21 years as coach in Lincoln.
Frazier, a junior from Bradenton, Fla., started this season as the most dangerous option quarterback in the country. But a blood clot caused him to miss Nebraska's fifth game, a 42-32 victory over Wyoming on Oct. 1, and a second clot formed early last week. Frazier underwent surgery to treat the clot, and because he will be on blood-thinning drugs for several months, his season is over.
Enter Berringer, a strong-armed 6'4", 210-pound junior with a name out of Dynasty and feet about as quick as John Forsyte's—not ideal for running the option. Berringer suffered a partially collasped lung in the Wyoming game, his first start, and a prescheduled X-ray at halftime of the Oklahoma State game showed a recurrence of the collapse. This led Osborne to turn from his chalkboard and say to the Turmanator, "Matt, get ready."