Cameo appearances by pro wrestlers. Samoan war drums. Las Vegas entrances. The largest crowd in Folsom Field history.
Colorado tried everything against No. 2-ranked Nebraska, but all the Buffaloes had to show for the effort was a fourth consecutive loss to the Cornhuskers, this one, 44-21, in front of a record-breaking audience of 54,063. Worse yet, the Buffaloes might have helped Nebraska nudge its way to the top of the polls and helped quarterback Tommie Frazier become the closest thing to a Heisman Trophy favorite.
"That's a great football team we played," Colorado Coach Rick Neuheisel said, as if anyone needed a reminder after Saturday's near-perfect game.
Nebraska didn't commit a turnover, didn't commit a penalty and didn't give up a sack. It didn't miss a field goal, didn't panic when Colorado, 6-2 overall and 2-2 in the Big Eight, made a second-quarter run and didn't flinch when the crowd shook the bleachers with its noise.
Meanwhile, Frazier was actually doing more than running the option. Not that there's anything wrong with the option, but Frazier was actually seen in a shotgun formation and--get this--throwing the ball. Downfield too.
Frazier completed 14 of 23 passes for 241 yards--a personal best--and two touchdowns. He added 40 yards and a score on the ground, but it was his passing that caught Colorado by surprise. In fact, look for the highlight shows to replay Frazier's amazing double-pump-while-getting-blindsided completion for days to come. Colorado defensive end Greg Jones is still shaking his head about that one.
"Right now, in my opinion, he's got to be the leading guy in the Heisman voters' minds," said Nebraska center Aaron Graham, who was wearing a Downtown Athletic Club baseball cap.
Frazier, who is 28-1 as a regular-season starter, wasn't biting on the usual collection of postgame Heisman-related questions. If he cares about the stiff-arming statuette, he isn't saying so. The Heisman? What Heisman?
"If you want to put me up there, I'm happy," said Frazier, his left wrist taped to protect a turf burn.
It isn't often you see Nebraska turn to the forward pass as the weapon of choice. Before the game, Frazier hadn't thrown more than 19 passes in a game this season. But there he was against Colorado, its defense bunched near the line of scrimmage, taking shotgun snaps, rolling out, standing picture perfect in an offensive cocoon that hasn't given up a sack all season.
"I'm just showing people, I'm known as an option quarterback, but that I can pass too," Frazier said.
As for the usual debate--Who's No. 1?--Frazier also was a man of few words. He's concentrating on Iowa State. He's not looking ahead. He still has three more games to play before anyone can start talking about a potential visit to the Fiesta Bowl, where this season's de facto national championship game could take place. Blah, blah, blah.
"Right now, we're not worried about that," he said.
The Cornhuskers (8-0, 4-0) began the day 17 total points behind unbeaten Florida State in the Associated Press poll and 11 behind the Seminoles in the USA Today/CNN coaches poll. But with Florida State off until Thursday . . . and Nebraska defeating No. 7-ranked Colorado on the road . . . and Frazier all but securing an invitation to the Downtown Athletic Club . . . and Lawrence Phillips expected back this Saturday, well, maybe the Seminoles might want to check their rear-view mirror.
The scary part about it is that Nebraska has won its last six games with a rebuilt offensive line (four new starters) and without Phillips, the preseason Heisman candidate who hasn't played since his suspension Sept. 10 for striking his former girlfriend. Phillips, who was reinstated last week, didn't make the trip to Boulder, but is expected to play against Iowa State this Saturday.
It didn't matter against Colorado. Freshman I-back Ahman Green, the fourth I-back starter this season, rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns before bruising his right knee in the fourth quarter. In all, the Cornhuskers, who lead the nation in rushing, gained 226 yards on the ground.
"They are a real machine when they get rolling," Neuheisel said.
Colorado is all too familiar with Nebraska's working parts. The Buffaloe seniors have never beaten the Cornhuskers, going 0-4-1 over the last five seasons. On Saturday, Colorado trailed, 21-7, by the end of the first quarter and were out of the game by the early part of the fourth period.
Of course, some things have changed. Neuheisel's predecessor, Bill McCartney, used to treat these games as if Osborne owed him money. While Nebraska pretended the rivalry didn't exist, McCartney would convulse at the sight of anything remotely connected to the Cornhuskers. He once relieved a local beat reporter of her pen because the ink was--gasp!--red.
Neuheisel wasn't quite that obvious. He praised the Nebraska program. He went on and on about Frazier. He bordered on the polite.
Then came Friday afternoon's practice, when a black stretch limousine arrived on the field and out popped former Colorado All-America lineman Leon White, now known on the pro wrestling circuit as "Vader" or "Baby Bull." Whatever his stage name is, the bare-chested White delivered a little fire and brimstone then retreated to the nearest armory.
The pregame session wasn't much tamer. Rather than take the same route Colorado teams have used since 1966, the Buffaloes sneaked around the stadium, entered through a spectator tunnel, got their backs slapped as they walked through the crowd, then assembled at midfield as the scoreboard flashed "Wartime" and someone in the Colorado band banged an actual Samoan war drum. The crowd went nuts, and so did Osborne, who almost was trampled by Ralphie III, the school's 1,300-pound mascot who can hoof it up to 25 m.p.h.
"This type of thing doesn't intimidate them at all," Osborne said. "In fact, it brings out the best in them."
As if Colorado needs a reminder.