Last Saturday afternoon Frazier and the Cornhuskers again went forward together. He threw for a career-high 241 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 40 yards, absorbed hit after hellacious hit and generally shouldered the responsibility of steering Nebraska through an environment made terrifically hostile by the crowd, the opposing team and the circumstances. All of this came one year after Frazier missed the Colorado-Nebraska game (and seven others) with a blood clot in his leg.
"When you consider everything, the adversity he's had, the time he's missed, the style Nebraska plays, he's one gifted player," said Neuheisel, himself a former quarterback and a connoisseur of the position, after Saturday's loss. "He made big play after big play, time and time again." Said Osborne, "He was the difference."
In winning their first seven games, the Huskers kept most of their offense quietly in the bag. "We had been using maybe one-third of the possibilities," said fullback Jeff Makovicka. But last Saturday the shackles were removed. And while Nebraska owned Colorado in many ways—the Buffaloes got just 106 net rushing yards, quarterback John Hessler was intercepted twice and Colorado was penalized 12 times for 92 yards—most of the Husker offensive success sprang from Frazier's well of creativity and growing versatility.
It started on Nebraska's first offensive play of the game. Against the din of the still-juiced Colorado crowd, Frazier pitched to freshman Ahman Green, who went 57 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Then, with 1:47 left in the first quarter, Frazier froze Colorado free safety Steve Rosga with a play fake and threw over Rosga's head to Clester Johnson for a 52-yard touchdown pass and a 21-7 lead.
And then came perhaps the most impressive moment of all. Midway through the second period, as the 6'2", 205-pound Frazier stood in the pocket to throw, he was hit from the blind side by 240-pound Greg Jones at the instant he raised the ball. Frazier kept his feet, pumped once and then, as he was falling forward, rifled the ball to Green for a 35-yard completion on the left sideline. The play was a remarkable display of strength, patience and improvisation from an athlete who is still presumed by many to be an option quarterback with limited passing ability.
But Frazier is not only the soul of a team that seems certain to play for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl—"When I get in the huddle and see that fire in his eyes, it gets me rolling, too," says senior center Aaron Graham—he is also a serious candidate for the Heisman Trophy. "No question in my mind, he's the front-runner," said Neuheisel.
Frazier walked Saturday evening from the visitors' locker room up a steep incline to the Huskers' team bus balancing a can of soda on top of a pizza box. "Last year at this time I didn't even want to be around football," Frazier said. "But today...." And then he laughed at the joy of it. "Today was fun." He was the last to board, trundling up the steps as the door closed behind him.
It has been a dark, uncertain autumn for Osborne and his giant program in the plains. Questions remain unanswered, criticism will still be heard. But this also seems certain: With Frazier taking snaps, the football end is blissfully secure.