Fiesta Bowl / Nebraska 62, Florida 24 -- Rout Leaves No Doubt -- Nebraska Challenges History's Best Teams

TEMPE, Ariz. - This was like watching perfection. Like watching the Blue Angels over Lake Washington, or sunset over the Olympics.

Nebraska played the kind of football game last night that coaches script in their endless pregame meetings.

This wasn't just football. It was choreography. It was Tom Osborne meets George Balanchine. It was X's and O's coming to life.

By the second half of their 62-24 Fiesta Bowl win, the Huskers weren't playing against Florida anymore. They were playing against history.

They were challenging the Notre Dame teams of the 1940s and the Oklahomas of '50s, the Alabamas of the '70s and Miamis of the '80s.

Nebraska isn't merely the repeat national champion. It is one of the greatest teams of all time. It has won 25 games in a row. It has won 36 of its past 37, the only loss coming after a missed field goal cost it the national championship in the 1994 Orange Bowl against Florida State.

"Right now we're not good enough to play with them," said Florida Coach Steve Spurrier. "They're a much better team, with much better coaches, everything. They're just clearly better."

Nebraska made the national championship game feel like just another Saturday in Ames, Iowa, in October, or in Stillwater, Okla., in November. It made Florida look like Minnesota or Oregon State.

The Gators didn't belong on the field with Nebraska. No college team does.

"What you saw tonight is exactly what we saw on tape all month," Florida linebacker James Bates said. "We'd think we had them tackled and they would just keep driving and break away and we were left thinking, `How could we not tackle them?' "

Lawrence Phillips, a combination of patience and power, broke three tackles on his 42-yard touchdown run that gave Nebraska a 13-10 lead.

Tommie Frazier was stopped dead at his 40, but kept churning his legs, refusing to fall. Gradually six Florida defenders slipped off him and he ran 75 yards for a third-quarter score.

Quarterback Frazier ran for 199 yards and two touchdowns in 16 carries. He threw for 105 yards and another touchdown.

Could we have that Heisman Trophy vote again? Frazier finished second to Ohio State's Eddie George. He will have to settle for his third-straight MVP award in a national championship game.

"I think this does point up the fact that there still is a place in college football for a running quarterback," Nebraska Coach Osborne said. "We think the option offense still has a place in the game."

Nebraska's offense was unstoppable. It scored points on all four second-quarter possessions. It outgained Florida in that quarter 180 yards to zip.

You might have thought Nebraska was trying to score as many points as there were Tostitos logos inside Sun Devil Stadium for this Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. (There were almost 70).

If the two teams played next week, Osborne said the score might be a lot closer.

"Closer?" Nebraska defensive tackle Christian Peter asked. "I think it would probably be worse. Yeah, it would be worse."

Nebraska finished with 629 total yards. Florida had 269. The Gators usually get that in a quarter. The Huskers could have scored 70, but on the final play, backup quarterback Matt Thurman took a knee on the Florida 1-yard line.

"This is football," Peter said. "We physically overpower that Florida stuff."

Nebraska was bigger and smarter. The offense confused Florida with five-receiver sets and quarterback draws. Frazier threw a touchdown pass to Phillips early, which meant the Gators had to respect Frazier's arm.

And the defense flustered Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel with its blitzes and fake blitzes. Wuerffel never knew how many Huskers were coming at him, or from what direction they were coming.

Right now Nebraska is college football. It is frighteningly good. Any chance Nebraska could represent the AFC in this year's Super Bowl?

"We knew we were going to hammer these guys and keep hammering them until we had the game won," center Aaron Graham said. "We could feel the defensive players for Florida wearing down even in the first half."

Nebraska didn't just beat Florida. It beat up Florida. It sacked Wuerffel seven times. It erased the running game. Florida finished with minus-28 yards rushing.

Nebraska is a complete football team, as close to perfection as the game can get.

"I could sense in the first quarter that we were getting to Wuerffel," said Nebraska linebacker Phil Ellis. "He was looking around. He didn't know where we were coming from. By the second half, he was done."

By the second half there were no questions remaining for the winners and still champions of college football.

Want to comment or pass on an idea? You can contact Steve Kelley by voice mail at 464-2176.