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FORUMS | CHAT | PRINT THIS STORY

'Most physical' team in charge

By Mike Strange
News-Sentinel sports writer
Jan. 3, 2000

TEMPE, Ariz. - There's physical football. Then there's Nebraska.

When it was time to flex the muscle Sunday night, No. 3 Nebraska shoved No. 6 Tennessee right out of the Fiesta Bowl.

The score, 31-21, was more respectable than the 42-17 Orange Bowl hammering two years ago. And perhaps that was because the Vols had gained physical ground in the interim which included a national championship.

"They're a great team with a lot of athletic ability," said Nebraska I-back Dan Alexander, "and they're physical.

"But we've always prided ourselves on being the most physical team in the country.

"Tennessee was strong, but we're stronger."

The Huskers showed as much after the Vols had fought back into the game, trailing 17-14 early in the third quarter.

Nebraska put the game out of reach with a 96-yard drive, followed by a 99-yard drive. After Tennessee scored again, the Huskers ran out the final 7:23 without allowing the Vols to touch the ball.

Alexander, who became only the second back this season to rush for 100 yards against UT - he had 108 on 21 carries - said the game was won before kickoff.

"Ever since the Texas game (on Dec. 4) we've had great practices," Alexander said. "When it comes to bowl games, a lot of teams give the guys time off to go home.

"We're right back at work on our conditioning and it showed in the second half."

Quarterback Eric Crouch, the game's MVP, commented on how various Vols went down with injuries or were slow getting off the ground.

"I don't know if they weren't in good enough shape or what the case was," Crouch said, "but we were the most physical team tonight."

Nebraska's 321 rushing yards were more than double the most allowed in any game by UT's defense this year.

The Huskers established the running game early and then mixed in 148 yards worth of passing yards, mostly on play-action.

After UT closed to 17-14 following Alexander's fumble, the Huskers said the turning point came when they started their third-quarter drive backed up at their 4.

From there, the 96-yard drive was launched. The dam broke when Crouch hit tight end Jon Bowling for 17 yards to convert third-and-long to the Nebraska 40. After that, fullback Willie Miller broke a 47-yard run to the UT 13.

"It was just basic stuff," Alexander said. "After Willie broke that long one, we said we were going to score on that drive, no buts about it."

The score came on a play-action pass to tight end Aaron Golliday. The next time Nebraska touched the ball it was after a UT punt to the 1.

"When we were at the 1," Alexander said, "we said let's get it in our minds right now, we're going to score on these people."

Nebraksa had five runs of at least 11 yards in the 99-yard drive and didn't throw a pass in the 10 plays that culminated with Correll Buckhalter's 2-yard TD run.

"That was a good feeling," said Crouch of the back-to-back marches. "You don't see that a lot. That says a lot about the physical play we brought to the table tonight."

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