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Cornhuskers Bristle at Their Doubters : College football: Quarterback Brook Berringer boldly states case while wondering why anyone would pick Colorado to win.


LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska quarterback Brook Berringer, treated more carefully than Waterford crystal this week, has just about had it with anyone who thinks second-ranked Colorado will beat the third-ranked Cornhuskers today.

The way Berringer figures it, the edge should go to Nebraska. After all, the game is at Memorial Stadium, site of 200 consecutive sellouts and home of 21 consecutive Nebraska victories. And in case nobody noticed, the Cornhuskers (8-0) own the nation's longest regular-season Division I-A winning streak (21), haven't lost to Colorado since 1990 and are ranked third in total offense and third in total defense.

"With our offensive line and our backfield, we don't need to be scared about anything or anybody," Berringer said.

It sounds nice, but Berringer forgot to mention that Colorado (7-0) is ranked second in total offense, 12th in rushing defense and is being compared to the 1990 Buffalo team that shared a national championship.

Oh, and one other thing: If Berringer, who is making only his fourth start, gets hurt, the Cornhuskers are reduced to playing Monte Christo, a true freshman who can't be found in the Nebraska media guide and who shares a jersey number with another player.

It could happen, too, especially with the string of injuries suffered by Nebraska quarterbacks this season. Former Heisman Trophy candidate Tommie Frazier is sidelined for the season because of a blood clot. Berringer has to wear a hard-shell flak jacket to protect a lung that was partially collapsed Oct. 1. Third-stringer Matt Turman, a walk-on, is sidelined because of a shoulder injury.

"It's probably the worst (situation) I've ever seen or heard about," Berringer said. "When you're down to your last scholarship quarterback, you've got some trouble."

Trouble, but not turmoil. If anything, the loss of Frazier and the delicate health of Berringer has brought the Cornhuskers closer together.

The running game, sparked by sophomore I-back Lawrence Phillips and one of the best offensive lines in recent Nebraska history, leads the nation (390 yards per game). The defense is giving up an average of only 13.3 points. And then there is Coach Tom Osborne, who wouldn't know the word flustered if it came up and pulled down his pants.

Meanwhile, Berringer gets mildly insulted at certain national broadcasters and sportswriters who have questioned his ability to lead the Cornhuskers past Colorado. OK, he said, he's not Tommie Frazier, but who is? Anyway, he can run the option well enough, complete his share of passes and play with pain.

The winner of today's game, which starts at 11 a.m. CDT, two hours earlier than the usual Cornhusker kickoffs, will challenge No. 1 Penn State for the top spot in Sunday's Associated Press and USA Today/CNN polls. The Nittany Lions face No. 21 Ohio State today.

More important, today's winner becomes the logical favorite to win the Big Eight Conference championship, finish the regular season undefeated and receive an automatic bid to the Orange Bowl, where the Buffaloes or Cornhuskers would play, say, Miami, for a chance at the national title.

"I think we've got enough weapons," Nebraska offensive tackle Rob Zatechka said. "I think we've done OK compensating."

The Cornhuskers will need to do more than that against Colorado, which features quarterback Kordell Stewart and a Heisman Trophy candidate in Rashaan Salaam. For starters, they'll need to keep Berringer free of injury.

"It kind of depends how you look at it," Zatechka said of the quarterback injuries. "You could look at it as a curse."

Or you could look at it the way Berringer is--as an opportunity.

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