LINCOLN, Neb. -- Since Nebraska watched its 1993 national title hopes sail wide left in the Orange Bowl, the Cornhuskers have been a different team.
Now, not only is Nebraska invincible against unranked teams, the Huskers are just as formidable against the Top 10.
"They epitomize college football in a lot of ways," Washington quarterback Brock Huard said as his No. 9 Huskies (2-0) prepare to play No. 2 Nebraska (3-0). "I've heard the term `dynasty' used about them. You hear so much about their work ethic and tradition."
And their winning.
Since the 1994 Orange Bowl, when Florida State prevailed 18-16 after Byron Bennett missed a 45-yard field goal attempt on the game's final play, the Huskers have turned around a trend of losing the big ones.
In fact, they've won nearly every game, including a 10-0 mark against Top 10 teams. Beginning with the 1994 season, Nebraska has a remarkable 52-2 record, with both losses coming in 1996. Arizona State won 19-0 at Tempe, Ariz., and Texas beat the Huskers 37-27 in the Big 12 title game in St. Louis. Other than that, Nebraska has been perfect.
As in three perfect seasons in the last four years, two outright national titles and a co-national title last season. No longer do folks point to the Huskers' bowl failures -- after the '94 Orange Bowl, former coach Tom Osborne was riding a seven-game postseason losing streak.
Now, the biggest question is whether the Huskies can come into Memorial Stadium and end the Huskers' 44-game winning streak in Lincoln. After all, Washington was the last team to beat Nebraska at home -- back in 1991.
"You try to get those things out of your mind and move forward," said Nebraska coach Frank Solich, a 19-year Huskers' assistant who moved in when Osborne retired after last season. "In this program over the years, we've been able to do that. We've not really dwelled on losses very long."
Nebraska is 90-11-1 in the 1990s, 63-3 since '93 and enters the game with a 17-game winning streak, the longest among major colleges.
Even a coaching change couldn't disrupt the flow, and that's because Solich knows the system so well. He has taken each game as if it might be the last he coaches, preparing for Alabama-Birmingham with the same intensity he plans for Washington.
The players notice, too.
"If you've got to prepare differently from one opponent to another, I think you're going to see a lot of variation in the way you're playing," center Josh Heskew said.
This week, the Huskers welcome back two starters from knee injuries -- quarterback Bobby Newcombe and I-back DeAngelo Evans. The Huskies said those players make a strong team even stronger.
"At Nebraska, the faces change but it's a different cast, same story," Washington safety Nigel Burton said. "It's the same system coach Osborne ran. I think you prepare for the system."
And even though Nebraska has sputtered at times in its first three games, Solich pointed to the bottom line -- winning.
"There are a lot of teams in the country that are great football teams from great programs that couldn't get it done in games that, when you look at them on paper, they should have gotten it done," Solich said, referring to recent losses by Florida State, Michigan and Arizona State.
"It comes down to stepping on the field and getting it done on game day and preparing each week like you're playing for the national championship."
The Huskers also are careful about what they say publicly. There's always praise for the weaker opponents, because the players send their strongest messages on the field.
"We're not looking at it like we need to make a statement," defensive end Chad Kelsay said of the Washington game. "We just want to get better every week. If we play to our potential, I think that's going to make a point."
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