BERKELEY, Calif. — The Husker buses were loaded and ready to leave Cal's Memorial Stadium. But there was someone missing. Someone the Huskers wouldn't dare leave behind.
Not this season. Not with Bobby Newcombe and Eric Crouch racking up more sideline time than cheerleaders.
Monte Christo was still in the parking lot, talking to family and friends. You see, it took Christo a little while to get out of the stadium. A lot of people wanted to talk to him after NU's 24-3 victory.
Christo clutched a bag of ice against his right arm, but he was feeling no pain. On a Northern California day almost too beautiful for football, the sun had finally shined on the kid from Kearney.
There were no injuries to keep him on the bench. The senior walk-on who has had knee surgery, back surgery and thumb surgery was fine. It was the players ahead of him on the depth chart — Newcombe and Crouch — who couldn't go.
Yes, Christo played and played well last week against Alabama-Birmingham. But I don't think too many folks thought that game was in doubt when he replaced Crouch. On Saturday, there was still some serious football to be played when Christo came on midway through the third quarter. The score was 14-3, and there was an uncomfortable feeling floating around the Berkeley hills.
There was nothing uncomfortable about Christo's performance. He completed nine of 12 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown, and he ran 13 times for 43 yards.
"I thought Monte showed tremendous courage," NU receivers coach Ron Brown said. "He had to come in in a very difficult situation and he really played his heart out. He had a couple of great runs where he carried people on his back.
"He came in when the game was not out of reach. That's putting a lot of pressure on a third-string quarterback."
The game was still in doubt midway through the fourth quarter when Nebraska took over at its own 30.
Coach Frank Solich knew it was a key drive. A touchdown would wrap it up. He spent a little extra time talking to his quarterback as Christo headed for the huddle.
"I just patted him on the back and indicated to him that he's played really well in this program and practiced well, and he would do fine," Solich said.
"His only problem has been trying to stay healthy here at Nebraska."
So with no surgery scheduled for Saturday, Christo decided to play some football. He marched the team down the field in fine fashion, putting a period on the game with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Shevin Wiggins with 3:54 left.
Christo celebrated like it was the biggest thrill of his football career, and that's what it was.
"Last week was a big thrill for me, but this week (the game) was even more tight," Christo said. "The game was on the line, and I had to go in there and move the ball.
"It seems like it's been such a long time coming with all the things I've been through, but it's definitely paying off now."
And with that, the star of the game headed for the bus.
Web posted September 13, 1998
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