Nebraska’s Win over Virginia Tech Historic for the Orange Bowl
Big East champion Virginia Tech came into the game with a 10-1 record and a No. 10 national rating while Nebraska came into the game with a 10-2 record and No. 6 ranking. The Huskers were an at-large selection and due to Bowl Alliance (the predecessor to the Bowl Championship Series) rules, the Orange Bowl was played on Dec. 31 instead of Jan. 1 or later.
It marked the first and only time that an Orange Bowl was played prior to the start of the New Year and created the unique circumstance of having two Orange Bowls in the same year - one in January following the 1995 season and the other in December following the 1996 season.
The game was played at Miami's professional football arena, Pro Player Stadium, instead of the Orange Bowl facility. The move was made to secure the Orange Bowl's place in the Bowl Alliance because Pro Player Stadium was a more modern facility with a larger seating capacity.
Virginia Tech scored first, taking a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter - its only advantage of the game. Nebraska scored 17 straight points in the second quarter before the Hokies scored with 19 seconds left in the first half to trail only 17-14 at halftime. The Huskers led, 31-21, at the end of the third quarter and then scored 10 unanswered fourth-quarter points to finish the season 11-2. Their only losses were at Arizona State and then to Texas in the Big 12 championship game when flu struck the Husker team the same week they traveled to St. Louis.
Damon Benning and Scott Frost both had big games. Benning, the Orange Bowl's Most Valuable Player that season, produced two touchdowns in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. The biggest was a 33-yard scoring run five minutes into the second half. He finished with 95 yards rushing. Frost also had two scoring runs and 136 yards passing.
The Huskers held only an eight-yard advantage in total offense over the Hokies - 415 to 407.
All-America defensive lineman Jason Peter delivered the Blackshirts' biggest play, returning a fumble 31 yards for a second-quarter touchdown.
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