With a maligned quarterback who was all but perfect at the helm of an overpowering option attack, Nebraska brought a killing Frost to Washington’s national championship hopes Saturday at Husky Stadium.
Booed by some of Nebraska fans a week ago, Scott Frost ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 88 more yards as the No. 7 Cornhuskers ran over No. 2 Washington, 27-14, in front of 74,023 fans--a sizable contingent of them wearing red.
“The whole team feels relieved and proud,” said Frost, who went over to the Nebraska fans in the end zone at the end of the game to show his appreciation, only days after saying he had lost some of his feeling for the university because of the way the student section treated him during an uncomfortably close victory over Central Florida.
But when someone asked if he could run for governor now, Frost had no illusions.
“I couldn’t win any office in the state of Nebraska,” he said. “My focus is on this football team and the football game. What other people say doesn’t really matter.”
Washington was without quarterback Brock Huard for the final three quarters after he sprained his left ankle on a hit by Grant Wistrom, but the score was already 14-0 before he missed a play and Nebraska dominated the lines of scrimmage so convincingly the outcome probably would have been no different had he played.
“We really took the ball and crammed it down their throats the first two drives,” said Frost, who directed an offense that ran for 384 yards against the nation’s top-ranked rushing defense--a unit that gave up a net of minus-2.5 yards against Brigham Young and San Diego State.
Nebraska I-back Ahman Green and fullback Joel Makovicka each ran for 129 yards, but Washington’s Rashaan Shehee was held to 28.
Nebraska, almost an afterthought on the national scene after last year’s 19-0 loss to Arizona State derailed the Cornhuskers’ bid for a third consecutive national championship, played the role of spoiler against Washington.
“It hurts,” Washington linebacker Jason Chorak said. “Any loss hurts. The good thing about it is it wasn’t a Pac-10 loss. We can still go out and try to play in the Rose Bowl and go 10-1.”
Chorak said the Huskies knew they had to prepare for the Cornhuskers’ option attack, but knowing and doing are different things.
“The way you deal with the option is you try to have the scout team simulate it, but they can’t go as fast as these guys,” Chorak said. “These guys have been doing it for 25 years. They have become so fast. They’re a real good football team.”
And by the way, “I don’t see why there’s any controversy in Nebraska about who should be playing quarterback,” Chorak said.
Neither does Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne.
“He for some reason has undergone quite a battering the last year and a half--probably because we won 26 in a row and he happened to be the quarterback who lost one,” Osborne said. “I’ve said over and over, Scott didn’t have a good game against Arizona State, but what people forget is neither did a lot of other players. Some people have never gotten over that.
“He’s doing as many things as well right now as anybody we’ve had. Running, throwing, and I haven’t seen him make a bad pitch.
“Scott Frost played a great football game. The thing a lot of people don’t understand is he controls every play at the line of scrimmage. He has to know what to do with the ball. Days like this, crowd noise is critical. He did a nice job.
“You can’t be vindictive and come back at people, but it’s been very distressing to me.”
Washington was behind, 21-0, midway through the second quarter after Frost scored on touchdown runs of 34 and 30 yards--both on plays Nebraska had kept under wraps until Saturday--and Green scored on a four-yard run. “We held a lot of things back against our first two opponents,” Osborne said. “A week ago we weren’t sure in the fourth quarter we would be able to, but there were a few things we held back with Washington in mind. Some of them worked. We had three or four plays we hadn’t shown.”
Without Huard, Washington was forced to turn to Marques Tuiasosopo, a freshman from the Seattle area whose father, Manu, was a defensive lineman for UCLA in the 1970s and played in the NFL for Seattle and San Francisco.
Tuiasosopo played with dramatic assurance and leadership, passing for 270 yards and two touchdowns as he completed 12 of 22 passes. He got Washington on the scoreboard with 1:38 left in the first half when he zipped a 12-yard touchdown pass over the middle to tight end Cameron Cleeland, one play after a 36-yard pass to Jerome Pathon.
Pathon’s 195 yards receiving in five catches were a career high and included a 54-yard catch. It was his third consecutive 100-yard receiving performance.
Tuiasosopo got Washington back to within a touchdown, 21-14, with a two-yard pass to Mike Reed with 2:49 left in the third quarter--a touchdown set up after he sent Cleeland in motion with his left hand on third and six from the 16 and completed a pass for a first down.
“I am very pleased with Marques Tuiasosopo to be able to step in and bring us back to 21-14, and at that point we just needed to get our defense back off the field and we couldn’t do that,” Washington Coach Jim Lambright said.
With more than a quarter still to play, Washington tried an onside kick after the touchdown and gave Nebraska outstanding field position at the Washington 47-yard line.
Nebraska settled for a field goal on that possession, but the 13-play drive took five minutes.
Washington had a 47-yard pass play called back because of a penalty on its next possession, which ended with a punt. Nebraska’s Kris Brown added a final field goal with 5:52 left.
“I think Washington is an excellent football team and they’re a team that could certainly go the rest of the way,” Osborne said. “I don’t know, it’s so early in the year.”
Frost recalled how last year’s Arizona State loss “knocked us out of the goals we wanted to accomplish.”
Nobody has knocked out the Cornhuskers this year.
“We’re not saying we’re home-free yet,” Frost said. “There are still a lot of games to be played, but people better watch out for us.”