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Published Thursday, September 23, 1999

NU's Jackson sharing the credit


Last modified at 7:03 a.m. on Thursday, September 23, 1999
 

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Terry Douglass
It may have appeared that Nebraska's Julius Jackson single-handedly helped the Cornhuskers avoid defeat last Saturday, but the senior linebacker said he couldn't have done it without a little help from his friends.

Jackson, a 6-foot-1, 240-pounder from Gainesville, Texas, earned Big 12 defensive player of the week honors for his efforts in the 20-13 win over Southern Mississippi. He returned a fumble 16 yards for a touchdown in the first half and added a fourth-quarter 28-yard interception return to help Nebraska overcome a 13-12 deficit.

Rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch caused the fumble Jackson scored on, jarring the ball out of quarterback Jeff Kelly's hands with a blind-side hit. On Jackson's interception return, cornerback Keyuo Craver batted the ball high into the air, allowing Jackson to pick it off on his way to the end zone.

"I was happy to get the award, but I think we should give all the credit to the whole defensive unit," Jackson said. "If it wasn't for Keyou swatting the pass down or Kyle Vanden Bosch causing the fumble, we wouldn't have had any (defensive) touchdowns, so it should really be an award for the whole defensive unit."

Jackson became the first Husker defender to score twice in one game since at least 1964. He also had five tackles in the game, while playing for the injured Eric Johnson at the weakside linebacker position.

Nebraska head coach Frank Solich said Jackson had been showing signs that he could be a standout performer for the Blackshirts.

"This last game was something special for him in a lot of ways, but he's also played excellent ball in the past," Solich said. "Julius really started to show us something back in the bowl game. So it was not a surprise that he was going to be an excellent player for us this year."

Jackson said the reason for his improvement is simple.

"I've gotten more intense, more in focus to the game," Jackson said. "It's my last year and I know I've got to lay it all on the line. This is where history is made and this is what you tell your kids about."

With Johnson out of action 4-6 weeks with a knee injury, Jackson will be in the starting lineup Saturday when Nebraska plays at Missouri. The 6 p.m. game will be televised by the Fox Sports Network.

"It's something I'm really looking forward to," Jackson said. "I feel like it's something I've definitely earned."

After Nebraska's lackluster offensive performance that saw it score just one touchdown and produce less than 200 yards of total offense, Jackson was asked if he'd ever considered moving to offense.

Even though he was a fullback in high school, Jackson said he'd probably be best served staying on the other side of the ball.

"Nah, I'll just let the offense do the things that they need to do and we'll take care of our end of it," Jackson said.

MISSING EJ: While Jackson has shown he can be a productive defensive player, Solich said Nebraska will miss the services of Johnson, who left in the first quarter of the Southern Miss game with a sprained knee.

"You don't have a player with Eric's ability, his experience, his great quickness and speed out of the lineup without missing him," Solich said. "He's a leader for us, not only in terms of how he plays, but his actions, verbally and getting people going."

Johnson, a 6-1, 205-pound senior who had started all three games for Nebraska this year and didn't miss a start last season, will be out 4-6 weeks with his injury. Johnson and Jackson are tied for sixth on the team with 10 total tackles. Johnson also had two sacks and three tackles for loss.

"We're fortunate in that we have depth at the linebacker spot," Solich said. "Julius has played very, very well for us."

SEEING DOUBLE: While the two-quarterback system at Nebraska has apparently been scrapped, the Huskers will meet a Missouri team this weekend that still believes in sharing the spot.

Tiger quarterbacks Jim Dougherty and Kirk Farmer have split time this season and both have played extremely well. Farmer has completed 15 of 27 pass attempts for 177 yards and five touchdowns, while Dougherty has completed 15 of 26 attempts for 142 yards and one score. Both have been intercepted twice.

With Dougherty at 6-4 and Farmer at 6-5, Missouri's quarterbacks look nothing like Corby Jones, who completed his eligibility last season. Jones, who was a four-year starter for Mizzou, was a threat both passing and running the ball.

But that doesn't mean the Tiger signal-callers are solely drop-back passers, Solich said.

"They're not your typical 6-4 quarterbacks that don't get around very well in the pocket and can't run the option," Solich said. "This will be a little bit of a different test for our defense. I'll be anxious to see how they hold up on that end of it."

CROUCH COMFORTABLE: After struggling in his first start of the season, Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch said he's much more comfortable this week.

After easily being the Huskers' star offensive performer in the team's first two games, Crouch was moved to quarterback and former starter Bobby Newcombe switched to wingback. But last Saturday against Southern Miss, Crouch ran for just 26 yards on 16 carries and was 6 of 10 passing for 66 yards and was intercepted twice.

"I definitely feel better and I feel more comfortable," Crouch said. "That first game kind of allowed me to get the butterflies out of my stomach because it was my first time starting and playing the whole game this year."

Going back to last season, Nebraska has now scored on just 3 of 38 drives in Crouch's last three starts. Despite that, Crouch said that after looking at game film, he feels like he's made major improvements since his redshirt freshman season.

"I think there's a big difference from last year to this year," Crouch said. "I'm more calm and more relaxed. I'm definitely more comfortable with this offense just because of time going by and being in big-game situations and playing in bowl games."

ENOUGH NEWCOMBE?: The reason for moving Newcombe from quarterback to wingback was supposedly to get Nebraska's two best big-play threats on the field at the same time in Newcombe and Crouch.

However, Newcombe was virtually invisible -- except for two costly mistakes -- last Saturday against Southern Miss. Newcombe mishandled his only punt return attempt as Nebraska lost possession of the ball. He also dropped what looked to be a sure touchdown pass from Crouch in the end zone.

Otherwise, Newcombe played just 13 offensive plays at wingback. Solich asked if that would be about the size of Newcombe's role this season.

"Not necessarily ... we only had 51 snaps in the game and he played a portion of it," Solich said. "But that was pretty much understood going in. Bobby had not been operating out of that position. We felt that he was picking things up very well, but there were things he still needs to brush up on.

"Certainly, with his ability, you expect that he'll be on the field more."

EXTRA POINTS: Solich said he was disturbed by Nebraska's season-high nine penalties against USM. "This last week, it seemed like the flag was on the ground almost every time you turned around," Solich said. ... Solich said rumors that Joe Walker will see action at I-back are untrue. Walker may play on both sides of the ball, but will most likely appear as a defensive back and as a receiver. ...Split end Matt Davison, who made the miracle touchdown catch to help Nebraska win at Missouri in 1997, knew exactly why he was requested to speak at Nebraska's weekly press conference Tuesday. "I don't know what you guys want to talk to me about," Davison said, grinning from ear to ear. ... Maybe it's a Wichita, Kan., running backs thing? DeAngelo Evans, who quit Nebraska last week, and Barry Sanders, who quit the NFL's Detroit Lions before the season started, both hail from the same home town.

Terry Douglass covers Nebraska football for The Independent. Contact him at (308) 381-9414.



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