TEMPE, Ariz. -- This could have been some midseason blowout against Iowa State or Kansas or some other Big Eight wannabe rather than college football's national championship game. This could have been a home game in Lincoln, what with Nebraska's ravenous fans taking over Sun Devil Stadium.
The top-ranked Cornhuskers might have had some tougher intrasquad scrimmages in the month leading up to last night's Fiesta Bowl than the workout they got from second-ranked Florida in a 62-24 demolition before a pro-Nebraska crowd of 79,864.
Behind a strong first-half performance by Lawrence Phillips, a record-setting second half by Tommie Frazier, as well as a dominant defense throughout, Nebraska became only the second team in the past 39 years to win undisputed back-to-back national championships.
"I'm very pleased with our football team, not just tonight, but the whole season -- they really pulled together," said Nebraska coach Tom Osborne. "I was really surprised at how it went. I thought it would be a close game. We got a little momentum, got a few breaks and it just snowballed."
An avalanche is more like it. The victory, the 25th straight for the Cornhuskers, was carved out during the first half. Trailing the Gators 10-6 after the opening quarter, Nebraska scored 29 points before halftime and the next 35 overall before Florida finally put some moot points on the board.
Phillips, the running back who was suspended for six games this season after assaulting a former girlfriend in September, rushed for 105 of his 165 yards and two of his three touchdowns in the first half. Phillips became the first Cornhusker in 11 years to rush for more than 100 yards in a bowl game.
But he wasn't the only Nebraska player to do it. Frazier, quarterbacking his last game for the Cornhuskers, rushed for 199 yards on 16 carries, including touchdown runs of 35 and 75 yards in the third quarter that helped build the lead to 49-18.
Frazier also threw for 105 yards, including a touchdown pass to Phillips, and, despite two interceptions, was named the offensive MVP.
"We had trouble tackling anybody carrying the ball," said Florida coach Steve Spurrier. "We didn't come to the ballpark to play the best we could. As coaches we're embarrassed about that. We were outmatched. We got clobbered."
Said Frazier, who set a Fiesta Bowl record for most yards rushing: "Once the offense gets rolling, it's pretty hard to stop."
The Gators, who talked all season about their much-improved defense, stopped the Cornhuskers only briefly. Trailing 6-3 in the first quarter, safety Teako Brown intercepted Frazier on Nebraska's second possession at the Cornhuskers' 46 and Florida converted it into a 1-yard touchdown plunge by quarterback Danny Wuerffel.
It was then that Nebraska's defense took over, and things went from good to bad to ugly for the Gators.
A scintillating 42-yard touchdown run by Phillips gave the Cornhuskers the lead. Wuerffel then was sacked in the end zone for a safety. A 1-yard run by reserve I-back Ahman Green helped build the lead to 22-10. Two field goals by Kris Brown were sandwiched around a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Michael Booker.
"We knew it was going to be hard to come back, and we never gave up hope," said Wuerffel, who was sacked seven times and intercepted three times.
But it got worse for the Gators, and never got better. Frazier's HTC first long touchdown run came after he bumped into his own blocker, then outran the Florida defense down the sideline.
Though the Gators finally scored with 52 seconds left in the third quarter, on a 35-yard pass from Wuerffel to Ike Hilliard, the Cornhuskers came right back on Frazier's 75-yard jaunt that ended with a second left in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter -- which included defensive tackle Christian Peter's 90-yard touchdown run on a botched extra point being waved off by a penalty -- was merely a prelude to the celebration.
It began in earnest as third-string quarterback Matt Turman took a knee at the Florida 1-yard line with 31 seconds to go, and culminated with Osborne getting an icy shower on the sideline in the cool Arizona air.
"I don't think they played a team with a running game as good as ours or a defense as good as ours," said Osborne, whose Cornhuskers rushed for 524 yards and held the Gators to 269 yards of offense.
The second straight bowl victory for Nebraska (12-0) helped further erase Osborne's reputation for not being able to win big games. It helped Osborne match the accomplishment of his legendary predecessor, Bob Devaney, who led the Cornhuskers to back-to-back national titles in 1970 and 1971.
"This really started three years ago," said Osborne, whose team's 18-16 loss to Florida State in the 1994 Orange Bowl remains its only defeat in that stretch. "This has been a tough year and I'm ready for a vacation."
So is Spurrier. The one-sided defeat for Florida (12-1) ruined the dream of a perfect season and the school's first national championship. It also showed that enough pressure on Wuerffel could cause more than a few glitches in Spurrier's high-scoring offense.
Not only was it was the most points ever scored in 34 bowl games by Nebraska, and the most ever scored in a Fiesta Bowl, it also was the most points surrendered by any of Spurrier's teams in six years at Florida and the most by any Gators team since a 63-14 loss to Auburn in 1970.
"We've been on the good end of a game like this, and tonight we were on the bad end," said Spurrier, who has been criticized for running up the score.
"We deserved it. They were much better than we were."
Florida ... 10 ... 0 ... 8 ... 6 .. -- .. 24
Nebraska ... 6 .. 29 .. 14 .. 13 .. -- .. 62