All Steve Spurrier could do was skake his head.
He didn't yell. He had no visor to hurl in disgust. He launched into no characteristic histrionics.
He just stood stone-faced with his arms folded and shook his head, realizing that, even though it wasn't yet halftime in Tuesday night's Fiesta Bowl, his dream of winning the school's first national title was essentially gone.
The No. 1-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers, led by senior quarterback Tommie Frazier and junior I-back Lawrence Phillips, were not only well on their way to routing the No. 2 Gators 62-24 before a record crowd of 79,864 at Sun Devil Stadium, they also were securing a spot in college football history.
Nebraska (12-0), which beat Miami in the Orange Bowl last Jan. 2 to snap a seven-bowl losing streak and give coach Tom Osborne his first championship after three near-misses, is now the first repeat champion since Alabama was voted No. 1 in the Associated Press poll in 1978 and 1979.
The Cornhuskers have compiled a 36-1 record in the past three years, an NCAA record. Their only loss was in the 1993 Orange Bowl, 18-16 to Florida State.
This also was the most one-sided No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown in 11 such bowl games. The previous worst blowout was No. 1 Nebraska's 38-6 win against Alabama in 1972.
Frazier, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, was named the MVP after rushing for 199 yards and two scores and throwing for 105 yards and one score. Phillips, who was a Heisman Trophy front-runner before his six-week suspension for assaulting a former girlfriend, had 165 yards and three touchdowns: two rushing, once receiving.
Many expected this one to be close, but not nearly as low-scoring.
Nebraska entered the game averaging 556 yards and 52 points, both tops in the country. The Gators were averaging 534 yards and almost 45 points, fourth and third, respectively.
But the Gators (12-1), who historically had seen their championship hopes end all too abruptly in early November to Georgia or, more recently, at the end of the month to Florida State, were out of it before intermission.
The signs they might be in for a long night started on the game's second play.
Linebacker Terrell Farley leapt to deflect a Danny Wuerffel pass at the line and nearly grabbed the ball in midair. Given a reprieve, Wuerffel hit senior wide receiver Chris Doering three straight times for 47 yards to set up a first and goal at the 5 yard line.
But the Gators had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from junior Bart Edmiston with 11:06 left in the quarter. It was just his 13th attempt of the year.
Nebraska, aided by a personal foul after the return, started at its own 48 and Phillips proved too much to handle. He rushed three times for 26 yards and then Frazier rolled to his right, pivoted to his left and hit Phillips wide open across the field. Phillips rolled in for a 16-yard touchdown, hurtling over Anthone Lott at the goal line.
Defensive lineman Keith Council blocked the extra point to keep the Gators within a field goal. On their next play, the Gators actually tried to run the option. They're no Nebraska in that regard. They were called for an illegal block, pinning them at the 11 and all but killing the possession.
But on a third and 7, Nebraska, unveiling a Florida-like five receiver formation, was called for motion before the snap. Facing a longer situation, Frazier rolled to his right and threw the ball right to UF freshman safety Teako Brown, who returned the interception 5 yards to his own 46.
Wuerffel, who kept the drive alive with a 2-yard gain on fourth and 1, gave the Gators the lead again on a 1-yard keeper with 1:17 left in the quarter.
Their 10-6 lead didn't last long.
Phillips, just moments into the second quarter, started up the middled, cut quickly to his right to evade junior safety Lawrence Wright and then outran Lott and fellow cornerback Fred Weary to the sideline for a 42-yard touchdown and a 13-10 lead.
Wuerffel, under pressure on first down, scrambled for a 20-yard gain, but it was nullified by a holding call. A false start moved the ball back to the 4 and Florida, going with five receivers and no backs, gave Wuerffel no time.
He was sacked by Farley on a blitz, just managing to dive out of the end zone. On third down, junior linebacker Jamel Williams came through untouched on a blitz and sacked Wuerffel for a safety and a 15-10 lead.
Taking the free kick, Nebraska faced a crucial third and 7 at the Florida 48 and seemingly would have to punt when sophomore left guard Aaron Taylor, pulling to his right, bumped Frazier right into the arms of senior defensive end Mark Campbell.
Campbell, however, didn't wrap his arms around Frazier, who escaped and raced for a 32-yard gain. Freshman I-back Ahman Green, who earned the starting job during Phillips' suspension, scored on a 1-yard run and Nebraska led 22-10 with 9:13 left.
On the kickoff, electrifying freshman receiver Jacquez Green, his left leg seemingly stuck in the sod, was hit by two Cornhuskers and suffered a dislocated hip. He was taken off the field on a cart.
The offense had to punt after three plays and Nebraska took a 25-10 lead on a 26-yard Kris Brown field goal with 3:46 left. The Gators hadn't trailed by so many since Tennessee jumped out to a 30-14 lead with 3:13 left in the half way back on Sept. 16 in Gainesville.
In that season-making game, the Gators stunned the Volunteers with 48 unanswered points, beginning with a touchdown just before intermission.
Not this time.
Junior cornerback Michael Booker intercepted a fluttering Wuerffel pass and easily returned it 42 yards for a 32-10 lead.