TEMPE, Ariz. - After the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Nebraska defensive coordinator Charlie McBride retired. McBride, holding back tears, had been with the Huskers since 1977 and served as the defensive coordinator since '82. His college coaching career started in 1965 as a graduate assistant with Colorado.
McBride has annually cultivated some of the nation's best defenses.
"Over the years, I've contemplated retirement. I didn't want to take anything away from this football team with that kind of thing. I have so many people to thank, especially this one right here (wife Debbie). She's a legitimate coach's wife."
As a full-time assistant coach, McBride celebrated his first win as a member of the Arizona State coaching staff with Frank Kush at the same stadium he won his final game.
"It means so much to me," McBride said. "I want to thank (head coach) Frank Solich. Frankie was great to me. He was my son's coach in high school. He came with us. As you know, he is going to turn into one of the best there is."
"It's really in a lot of ways a sad moment for Nebraska football," Solich commented. "There's a reason why Nebraska has had great defensive football teams over the years. Coach McBride is the reason. His players love him, and they play for him."
Mike Brown, the Defensive Player of the Game, was quick to acknowledge McBride's impact.
"You guys all know what he's meant to this program, to this defense," Brown said. "He's a tremendous coach. He's just someone that puts his heart into what he does. His players try to give their heart right back to him. He's going to be missed. We love him dearly."
During McBride's tenure as the team's defensive line coach, he tutored five All-Americans and 17 pro players.
"I don't want to take anything away from this team. They deserve this big win. And as far as I am concerned, they are No. 1."
Newcombe shines in extra role:
Bobby Newcombe started the season as Nebraska's quarterback, winning a highly publicized and competitive battle for the job over Eric Crouch. After two games in which both saw extensive action, head coach Frank Solich named Crouch his starting quarterback and moved Newcombe to wingback.
While Crouch became one of the most dangerous players in the country, Newcombe became a relative nobody in the Husker scheme.
A dangerous return man, Newcombe averaged 18.4 yards per punt return. But he did not add much more to the offense, scoring just four touchdowns after week two, one on a punt against Kansas.
But while Newcombe did not produce much from the line of scrimmage, he nearly broke open the game in the first quarter with a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown that gave the Big Red a 14-0 lead.
"I saw a little crease, tried to accelerate through that," Newcombe said. "Next thing I know, Ralph Brown is making an excellent block on the punt, I have to run around him. I ran in the end zone, I'm knocked down, everybody is on top of me."
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The Volunteers continued to force Nebraska to beat them in the air. Throughout the game, Nebraska routinely faced third-and-long situations. But Crouch directed the Huskers passing attack effectively, completing 9-of-15 for 148 yards.
In the third quarter, the sophomore quarterback tossed a beautiful ball to tight end Aaron Golliday which gave Nebraska a 24-14 lead and allowed the Huskers to regain the momentum they had lost. It was the first Husker TD pass in 19 quarters, dating back to Oct. 30 against Kansas.
"We knew coming out we needed to mix it up a little bit, kind of catch them off guard," Crouch said. "There were some play-action passes that we really connected on. I think those were big parts of our success today. That play-action pass for a touchdown was very good for us."
Alexander runs on:
Nebraska I-back Dan Alexander was disappointed when he could not finish the Big XII Championship Game against Texas when a lacerated hand forced him to the sideline. He thus finished 135 yards short of his goal of 1,000.
On Sunday night, he became just the second player all season to rush for 100 yards against the Tennessee defense when he finished with 108 yards on the ground and a touchdown.
"It shows a lot of character," Alexander said. "We wanted to follow the Nebraska tradition. We couldn't let last season bring us down or the beginning of this year bother us. We wanted to make something out of this season."
Fullback Willie Miller also added a career-high 87 yards on the ground as Nebraska rushed for 321 yards on 56 carries.
Husker mistakes costly again:
Nebraska struggled in the middle of the season with turnovers and penalties. Three lost fumbles against Texas possibly cost the Huskers a chance to play for the national championship.
On Sunday night, an unnecessary block by wingback Sean Applegate negated a Correll Buckhalter 52-yard touchdown when Applegate was called for an illegal block, even though Buckhalter had already beaten the Tennessee defender.
Nebraska then hurt itself on the first play of the second half when Dan Alexander fumbled, helping Tennessee to pull within three points in the first minutes of the third quarter.
While Tennessee was returning to Tempe where it won its second-ever national championship a year ago, Nebraska fans remember vividly their trip to Sun Devil Stadium in January, 1996 when one of the best college teams ever walloped Florida 62-24 to win their second consecutive national championship. Tommie Frazier led the Huskers that night with 304 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.
Smokey was there and Nebraska brought its Big Red mascot, but the "creature" that stuck out the most on Sunday night was the bowl game's own mascot, who looked more like a sunflower seed than anything else.