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January 03, 2000
Vols' Quarterback Admires NU's Play
BY LEE BARFKNECHT
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

Tempe, Ariz. - The next time the Southeastern Conference finds itself matched against Nebraska in a bowl game, it might want to ask for a reshuffle of the pairings.

The Huskers ran their bowl winning streak to 11 straight games over SEC competition with Sunday night's 31-21 victory over Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl.

The current run began with a Sun Bowl win over Georgia in the 1969 season, and has carried on through the 1970 Orange (LSU), 1971 Orange (Alabama), 1974 Sugar (Florida), 1980 Sun (Mississippi State), 1982 Orange (LSU), 1984 Sugar (LSU), 1986 Sugar (LSU), 1995 Fiesta (Florida), 1997 Orange (Tennessee) and 1999 Fiesta (Tennessee).

Volunteers quarterback Tee Martin, who was recruited heavily by Nebraska, said he watched the Huskers Sunday night with admiration.

"I watch a lot of college football," he said. "I'm a football fan. And I've been a Nebraska fan for a while.

"Obviously, I wanted to win the game tonight. But they did a good job and it was good to see other guys play well. They have some good running backs, and Eric Crouch made the big plays for them when he had to."

Crouch, NU's quarterback, accounted for 212 total yards (148 passing, 64 rushing) and threw one touchdown pass with no interceptions. Martin had 217 total yards (223 passing, minus-6 rushing) and threw one touchdown pass with two interceptions.

Martin said he wishes Tennessee could have reconstructed its game plan after going scoreless through its first eight possessions.

"I won't be critical of anybody," he said. "But I think we should have realized earlier that the passing game would win the ballgame. We got things done in the two-minute drill at the end of the half when we needed to.

"But it could have been a different outcome if we had thrown more earlier."

Martin attempted only 11 passes in Tennessee's first eight possessions. In the final drive of the half, he completed 6 of 6 throws in an eight-play, 65-yard touchdown drive that cut NU's lead to 17-7 with 18 seconds left.

To open the second half, Martin passed on the first three plays of a four-play, 25-yard touchdown drive after a Nebraska fumble that cut the gap to 17-14.

But after an exchange of punts, Nebraska followed with touchdown drives of 96 and 99 yards to take a 31-14 lead.

Was Martin surprised that NU could score 31 points on the Tennessee defense?

"We knew at any given time that they could score with that type of offense," he said. "With the option, you have a lot to worry about.

"Nebraska did a really good job of coming out and pounding, pounding, pounding, and then hit us with some misdirection and counters. With all that to think about, toward the end they got us with some simple stuff.

"It became a mind game. But the offense didn't do a good enough job of keeping the defense off the field."

The Tennessee defense eventually wore down enough for Nebraska I-back Dan Alexander to gain 108 yards in 21 carries. Only one player this season had gained 100 yards against the Volunteers (Arkansas' Cedric Cobb had 107). And only one player in 1998 (Alabama's Shaun Alexander) had topped 100 yards.

"You can't say much more than Nebraska executed better than we did," defensive end Will Overstreet said. "After they got that one long drive against us in the second half, no way did I expect them to get another one.

"But they got some 5-yarders and then snuck a 40-yarder in there, and we couldn't get it stopped."


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