The 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers football team represented the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and was the national champion of the 1995 NCAA Division I-A football season. The team was coached by Tom Osborne and played their home games in Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Cornhuskers scored 638 points (53.2 per game) while only allowing 174 (14.5 per game). Their average margin of victory was 38.6 points, and their lowest margin of victory, against Washington State, was 14 points. They are regarded by many as the greatest college football team of all time.
Nebraska won the final Big Eight Conference football championship in 1995, as the league expanded to form the Big 12 Conference the following season. The Cornhuskers successfully defended their national championship by beating Florida in the Fiesta Bowl 62–24.
Following the success of the 1994 season, in which Tommie Frazier and Brook Berringer led the team to Tom Osborne's first national championship, the 1995 version improved in every facet. With the powerful rushing offense and a dominating defense, Nebraska captured its second consecutive national title. The 1995–1996 season set up a record-breaking three championships in four years, as the 1994 and 1995 seasons were followed by Tom Osborne's third title in 1997.
No. 2 Nebraska started the year with a 64–21 win at Oklahoma State in the season and conference opener for both schools. The Cornhuskers piled up 671 total yards and 513 rushing yards while allowing 282 total yards to the Cowboys. After fumbling on its first possession, Nebraska scored on its next eight straight possessions. An explosive second quarter saw Nebraska take a 16–0 lead following a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown by reserve weakside linebacker Terrell Farley, a JUCO transfer who went on to become Big 8 Defensive Newcomer of the Year. Oklahoma State, which netted -15 yards on its first three drives, responded by taking advantage of one of the young Husker defense's early mistakes, as a draw play by running back David Thompson on third and 10 went 79 yards to the Husker 2-yard line. After a 2-yard touchdown run by Oklahoma State running back Andre Richardson, Nebraska scored on the very next play after the kickoff, as Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips cut inside, dodged several defenders and raced for an 80-yard touchdown. Phillips later scored on a 27-yard run in the second quarter as the Huskers took a 36–7 halftime lead. Phillips finished the game with 153 yards on 12 carries. Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier, making his first regular-season start since the previous September, played sharply, carrying 10 times for 64 yards and a touchdown while also completing 6 of 10 passes for 120 yards and another score. Early in the third quarter, Frazier hit wide receiver Reggie Baul down the sideline for a 76-yard touchdown. Early in the fourth quarter, touted Husker freshman running back Ahman Green scored his first career touchdown on a 14-yard run. Nebraska had seven players who rushed for at least 30 yards, including five who rushed for at least 50. The game marked twenty-two straight wins for the Huskers over the Cowboys.
No. 2 Nebraska lost quarterback Tommie Frazier early in the second quarter with a bruised thigh but still dominated Michigan State in a 50–10 rout at East Lansing. The Cornhuskers outrushed the Spartans 552 to 45 and piled up 666 total yards to the Spartans' 335. Lawrence Phillips led all rushers with 206 yards and four touchdowns (three 1-yard scores and one 50-yard score off a direct snap play) on 22 carries. The Huskers also received strong rushing performances from Clinton Childs (eight carries, 83 yards) and Ahman Green (4 carries for 74 yards, including one 57-yard touchdown), as well as Jay Sims, who had one carry for an 80-yard touchdown late in the game. Backup quarterback Brook Berringer, stepping in place of Frazier, threw for 106 yards on 6 of 11 passing, including a 51-yard bomb to a diving Reggie Baul. The Nebraska defense recorded three sacks, two fumble recoveries and one interception. The game marked MSU's worst margin of defeat since a 42–0 loss against Michigan in 1983. It remains the most one-sided defeat in the coaching career of Nick Saban, who was in his first season at East Lansing.
Nebraska set a modern school record with 63 points in the first half en route to a 77–28 victory over Arizona State. Back-up I-back Clinton Childs, starting in place of the suspended Lawrence Phillips, ran 65 yards for a touchdown on the game's first play from scrimmage. The Huskers gained 508 yards in the first half and finished with 686 for the game – 394 rushing and 292 passing. Arizona State added to the first half offensive fireworks as quarterback Jake Plummer found wide receiver Keith Poole for three touchdown passes. For the game, Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier completed 7 of 10 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 35 yards and two more scores. Childs ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game in the second quarter with a sprained knee. Back-up Husker I-back Ahman Green ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Nebraska pulled in the reigns on its offense in the second half but managed to get a defensive touchdown when linebacker Terrell Farley returned an interception 21 yards. The game was a source of a minor controversy as ASU coach Bruce Snyder accused Nebraska coach Tom Osborne of running up the score after third-string Husker quarterback Matt Turman threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide-open reserve receiver Lance Brown in the game's final moments.
Nebraska totaled 731 yards, the fifth-highest total in school history, on its way to a 49–7 win over Pacific. Meanwhile, the Husker defense held the Tigers to 197 total yards and forced 11 punts. I-back Damon Benning, starting in place of the injured Clinton Childs, rushed for 173 and three touchdowns on 10 carries before leaving in the third quarter with a sprained ankle. I-back Ahman Green added 112 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. In all, seven Huskers rushed for at least 29 yards. Nebraska began substituting in the second quarter and eventually used 102 players. The Huskers had three drives stall inside the Pacific 30-yard line, including one that ended with Kris Brown missing a 30-yard field goal.
Nebraska overcame an early deficit – in what ultimately proved to be the only time the Huskers would trail during the entire regular season – to beat Washington State 35–21. The Huskers took the opening drive inside the Cougar 10-yard line but fumbled away the scoring threat. Moments later, Cougar tailback Frank Madu ran past a Husker blitz for an 87-yard touchdown. Nebraska fumbled on its next drive as well but took a 20–7 halftime lead with two Tommie Frazier touchdown runs and two Kris Brown field goals. A 35-yard touchdown pass from Tommie Frazier to Mark Gilman extended the Husker lead to 35–14 before Washington State quarterback Chad Davis accounted for the final margin with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Shawn Tims. Nebraska played sloppy at times, losing three fumbles on the day and missing a 20-yard field goal. The Huskers ended the game with second- and third-team players on offense, who fumbled the ball away inside the Washington State 5-yard line. Despite the early long touchdown run by Madu, Nebraska went on to outrush the Cougars 428–72. Washington State had entered the game with the nation's fourth-ranked rush defense, having allowed just 69.7 rushing yards per game through its first three games. Tommie Frazier, in leading his team to 527 total yards, personally rushed for 70 yards and threw for 99. Reserve Husker I-back Ahman Green finished the game with 176 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Husker sophomore defensive end Grant Wistrom had a breakout game, tallying four tackles for loss to lead the Blackshirt defense.
Nebraska's Blackshirt defense forced five fumbles and recovered two of them, intercepted two passes, held Missouri to 122 total yards, and notched the Huskers' first shutout of the season in a 57–0 win over the Tigers. Missouri managed 39 rushing yards on 39 carries. Husker linebacker Terrell Farley blocked a punt that led to a Husker safety. Meanwhile, the Husker offense tallied 475 total yards, with quarterback Tommie Frazier accounting for 71 yards rushing (and three rushing touchdowns) and 133 passing (and two touchdown passes). Husker I-back Ahman Green, making his first start, rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
Using a combination of stifling defense, surprising passing, and strong special teams, No. 2 Nebraska jumped out to a 35–6 halftime lead over No. 8 Kansas State en route to a 49–25 victory. Sprung by a block by freshman defensive end Mike Rucker, Husker return man Mike Fullman took a punt back 79 yards in the first quarter to open the scoring. Nebraska also scored in the first half on a fumble recovery in the end zone by Jon Vedral and on an interception return by backup defensive lineman Luther Hardin, as well as on two touchdown passes by quarterback Tommie Frazier. Frazier threw two more touchdowns in the second half, including a 32-yarder to a wide open Vedral in the third quarter as the Huskers took a 42–6 lead. After three quarters, Nebraska's defense had held Kansas State to minus-4-yards rushing and 128 total. Nebraska began substituting reserve players shortly thereafter, however, and the Wildcats rallied to put 19 fourth quarter points on the board and pull within 42–25. Nebraska's starters re-emerged and drove for another touchdown to account for the game's final margin. Despite the rally, the Wildcats finished with just 256 total yards, minus-19 rushing yards, and the Nebraska defense recorded eight sacks and two interceptions. Frazier went 10 of 16 through the air for 148 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Ahman Green ran for 109 yards on 22 carries and had two touchdown receptions. Ultimately, Kansas State went on to finish second nationally in scoring defense; more than a third of the 145 points that the Wildcats allowed during the regular season were scored by the Huskers.
Nebraska scored on a 57-yard run by I-back Ahman Green on its first play from scrimmage, committed no turnovers or penalties, and never trailed during a 44–21 win at No. 7 Colorado. Quarterback Tommie Frazier threw for a career-high 241 yards on 14 of 23 passing with two touchdowns (a 52-yarder to Clester Johnson in the first quarter and a 7-yarder to Jon Vedral in the second) and ran for 40 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Colorado quarterback John Hessler was 21 of 43 for 276 yards on the day but threw two interceptions that led to 10 Husker points, and the Buffaloes were flagged 12 times for 92 yards in penalties. After Nebraska took a 31–14 halftime lead, Colorado scored on a 49-yard pass from Hessler to James Kidd on 4th and 2 to pull within 31–21 in the third quarter. But the Buffaloes came no closer, as two field goals by Kris Brown and Frazier's touchdown run put the game away. Green finished the game with 97 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. One of the game's most memorable plays came when Colorado defensive end Greg Jones hit Tommie Frazier in the backfield. Frazier, who was not sacked during the entire 1995 season, managed to absorb the blow and get off a 35-yard pass down the sideline to Ahman Green on a drive that ended in a Husker field goal. On the day, Nebraska outyarded the Buffaloes 467 to 382 and outrushed them 226 to 106.
New No. 1 Nebraska scored on its first ten possessions and posted 624 rushing yards (second-most in school history) and 776 total yards (fifth-most in school history) en route to a 73–14 win over the Cyclones. Freshman I-back Ahman Green led the way with 176 rushing yards and three touchdowns on twelve carries and added a touchdown reception. A 64-yard touchdown run by Green in the third quarter marked the team's sixth one-play drive of the season. The game marked the return of Lawrence Phillips, who gained 68 yards on 12 carries. Tommie Frazier, who rushed for 62 yards and two touchdowns on 8 carries, threw for 118 yards and two more touchdowns on 10 of 15 passing. Nebraska's Blackshirt defense limited Iowa State to 254 total yards, which included 121 yards on 28 carries by Heisman Trophy candidate Troy Davis. The Blackshirts also recorded two interceptions and forced two fumbles with one fumble recovery. The 73 points were the most ever scored by Nebraska against Iowa State (the 1997 Cornhuskers broke that mark by scoring 77 against the Cyclones).
The 10th-rated Jayhawks were 8–1 entering the game against No. 1 Nebraska. Kansas, unbeaten at home on the season and featuring its best team since its last victory over the Cornhuskers in 1968, outplayed Nebraska for much of the first half as the Cornhuskers had their sloppiest performance of the season. By the end of the first half, Kansas had outgained Nebraska 199–110 in yards, had 10 more first downs and had run 23 more plays. Nonetheless, Nebraska still led 14–3 at intermission after recovering a fumbled punt in the end zone for a score and getting another touchdown after a short drive following another fumble recovery at the Kansas 30-yard line. Kansas repeatedly drove deep into Nebraska territory but suffered from five turnovers on the day. The Jayhawks' only points came on a field goal after an 86-yard drive stalled at the Nebraska 2-yard line. Nebraska took over in the second half, and an 86-yard interception return by reserve defensive back Mike Fullman closed the scoring at 41–3. Tommie Frazier led all rushers with 99 yards on 10 carries; Kansas as a team ran for 72 yards on 32 total rushing attempts. The Nebraska offense had three uncharacteristic turnovers of its own on the day, the first of which – a fumble by backup quarterback Brook Berringer – snapped a streak of 18 straight quarters without a turnover. The game marked Nebraska's third win over a top ten team in less than a month, with an average victory margin of 45–16. With the win, Nebraska clinched the final Big 8 football championship, its fifth in a row.
Nebraska entered the contest favored by more than 30 points, one of the largest point-spreads in the history of the series. But the Sooners played tough defensively, as Nebraska failed to score a first-half offensive touchdown for the first time all season. The Huskers nonetheless led 13–0 at halftime, thanks to a pair of field goals by Kris Brown and a 36-yard interception return for a score by linebacker Jamel Williams. A 57-yard fumble return by free safety Tony Veland pushed the score to 20–0 early in the third quarter. Frazier eventually threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Jon Vedral. Frazier went 12 of 25 for 136 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception; the unspectacular performance eventually factored heavily into his finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting. Late in the game, backup quarterback Brook Berringer scrambled to convert a 4th and 16 situation. Later during the same drive, reserve fullback Joel Mackovicka scored the game's final touchdown, giving the Huskers 37 points and therefore a 52.4-point-per-game scoring average, breaking the 1983 school record of 52. In all the Husker offense tallied 271 rushing yards and 407 total. The Husker defense, meanwhile, limited the Sooners to 241 total yards and forced three turnovers. The game marked the first shutout of Oklahoma by Nebraska since 1942. At the time, the game was also the second-largest victory ever by the Huskers over the Sooners (44–6, 1928). The game stretched the Huskers' unbeaten streak in the conference to 23 games, marked three straight undefeated seasons in the Big 8, and also completed three straight undefeated regular seasons.
Entering the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, Nebraska was thought of by some to be an underdog (including Sports Illustrated in their 12/26/1995 issue), even though it came into the game riding a long streak as the #1 team in the country. Their opponent, the 12–0 University of Florida Gators, were considered to possess a defense with overwhelming speed. Many favored the Florida defensive speed in contrast to the traditional run-first, power-option offense of Nebraska, even though oddsmakers had made Nebraska a 3.5-point favorite. On January 2, 1996, Nebraska defeated Florida 62–24, marking the largest margin of victory and highest score in a national championship game in history. Included among several NCAA bowl records the Huskers set were a team rushing total of 524 yards (out of a total offensive output of 629 yards). I-back Lawrence Phillips carried 25 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns, and he also caught a 16-yard touchdown pass. Quarterback Tommie Frazier finished the game with 199 yards on 16 carries. The game also included one of the most famous plays in Nebraska history: a 75-yard touchdown run in the third quarter by Frazier in which he broke an estimated eight tackles. Florida had entered the contest by having won every game of its regular season by no fewer than 11 points, and the Gator offense had averaged more than 44 points per game, 360 passing yards per game, and 534 yards of total offense per game. The Nebraska defense limited the Gators to 269 yards of total offense and -28 rushing yards while registering a safety, seven quarterback sacks, and three interceptions, including one returned 42 yards for a touchdown by Michael Booker. The Huskers' 29 points in the second quarter set a Fiesta bowl record.
Due to their performance against Florida as well as beating 4 teams that finished in the top 10 by an average score of 49–18, their consistent dominance (smallest margin of victory was 14 points, trailed only once all season, averaging 400 yards rushing per game while allowing only 78, scoring 51 rushing touchdowns while allowing only 6), their record setting offensive performance, and their statistically impressive defense throughout the season, the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers are widely considered one of the greatest teams in college football history. The team set Division 1-A records by averaging 7.0 yards per rushing attempt and also by allowing zero quarterback sacks on the season. Noted for its strong special teams play, the team also connected on 13 of 16 field goal attempts, and it also tied an NCAA record by allowing only five punt returns (for a total of 12 yards) all season. The 1995 Huskers also averaged a victory margin of more than 38 points, the largest of any Division 1-A team since World War II, despite regularly resting their starters in the second halves of games. Averaging more than 53 points per game (including the bowl win), the team averaged 29.8 points per first half – a higher number than the per-game scoring average of many national champions, even including such modern champions as the 2006 Florida Gators, the 2002 Ohio State Buckeyes, and the 1992 Alabama Crimson Tide. Analysts often make comparisons to other recent highly regarded champions, such as the 2001 Miami Hurricanes and the 2004 USC Trojans. Such comparisons, as noted by the experts themselves, are nearly impossible to make, as rankings vary from evaluation to evaluation. The 1994 and 1995 Nebraska teams, which went a combined 25–0, remain the only undefeated and untied back-to-back national champions since Oklahoma in 1955 and 1956. In 2011, the 1995 Cornhuskers were named by Playboy Magazine as the greatest college football team of the Playboy era (since 1957).