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Published Saturday, October 30, 1999

Nebraska looking to bounce back


Last modified at 11:43 p.m. on Friday, October 29, 1999
 

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   By Terry Douglass
The Independent

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Teams on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum will meet today when Nebraska plays at Kansas.

The Nos. 8- and 9-ranked Cornhuskers (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) are coming off a 24-20 loss last Saturday at Texas that shot a major hole in NU's national championship hopes. Meanwhile, Kansas (3-5, 1-3) is sky-high after a 21-0 victory in its annual border war against Missouri.

Although Nebraska's top goal has now been scaled back from winning college football's top prize to capturing a Big 12 Conference championship, Husker senior rover Mike Brown said he thinks the Huskers can still have a good season.

"We'll bounce back," Brown said. "There's no doubt that we have a lot of character on this team.

"We're disappointed, but there's some other games we've got to play and win to reach some of the goals we've set before."

Nebraska will attempt to get back on the winning track in a 6:08 p.m. game against Kansas at KU's Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised by the Fox Sports Network (Grand Island cable channel 26).

As one of the Huskers' four co-captains, Brown said he will take it upon himself to make sure the team is fired up to play. However, Brown said he won't be alone.

"We have so many leaders that being captain is just because of a vote," Brown said. "We have a lot of leaders on this team that aren't going to let this team slack off. We have a lot of great senior leadership and that's a strong part of this team."

Nevertheless, Nebraska's Steve Warren said it's been difficult putting the loss to Texas behind him. The Huskers dominated statistically, but lost three fumbles as the Longhorns rallied to win in the fourth quarter.

"It's hard taking a loss," Warren said. "But if you're a good team, you've got to take the loss and use it to motivate you.

"Everybody's getting over it. There's nothing we can do about it now."

Although Nebraska is more than a four-touchdown favorite over the Jayhawks, Husker coach Frank Solich said his team must perform well.

"The game against Kansas will be interesting in that when I saw them earlier this year against Notre Dame, I thought they looked pretty good," Solich said. "Of course, the had a few injuries, had a few things that didn't go their way and pretty soon, things weren't going well for them. But I think they've played through that.

"Right now, they appear to be playing their best football."

Kansas was led by fullback Moran Norris, who had 106 yards, against Missouri. Quarterback Dylen Smith has thrown nine touchdowns in four games since taking over as the Jayhawk starter for Zac Wegner.

Meanwhile, the KU defense yielded just 44 yards rushing to Missouri. The shutout was the first for the Jayhawks, who are ranked last in the Big 12 in total defense, over a conference opponent since a 41-0 victory over Iowa State in 1991.

"I really felt that our guys played very well up front defensively," Kansas coach Terry Allen said. "We got the pressure on the quarterback and when they did run the option, we defended it very well.

"We played very physically up front defensively."

The emergence of the 6-foot-2, 245-pound Norris as a running threat has given the Kansas offense a boost, Allen said. Norris' bruising style complements running back David Winbush, who is 12th on the all-time KU rushing list with 1,162 career yards.

"He's really doing a spectacular job for us," Allen said. "He's one of those guys who's 250 pounds and one guy really has a difficult job taking him down and that really helps in this league and in the type of weather we're going to start facing."

Prior to its win over Missouri, Kansas played Texas A&M; tough. The Jayhawks were smelling upset in the first half before the Aggies came back for a 34-17 win on Oct. 16.

Last week's victory over Missouri was big for the team as well as KU fans. The goal posts came down at Memorial Stadium after the Jayhawks secured the victory.

"The Missouri-Kansas thing is something kind of special," Allen said. "Obviously the goal posts coming down were a reflection upon that. It's just kind of nice to have those type of things for players who have struggled through a rough year."

Solich said he sees a Jayhawk team starting to find itself.

"There is some confidence that's starting to come together for their football team," Solich said. "I believe they feel they've gone through the worst of times."

The trick for Kansas will be to retain its emotional high. Allen brought in former Jayhawk greats Gale Sayers and John Hadl to speak to the team as a motivational ploy.

Allen said he thinks playing Nebraska is all his team needs to motivate itself this week.

"I've always been kind of leery of getting too much of an emotional pump from outside entities," Allen said. "Sometimes I do think that leads to a teeter-totter effect, but I think bringing a team in here such as Nebraska and being on television will take care of itself."

While Kansas' confidence is on the rise, Nebraska will have to rebuild its faith in itself.

The Husker offense, which had been nearly unstoppable in three straight conference wins over Missouri, Oklahoma State and Iowa State, committed three crucial turnovers against Texas. That allowed the Huskers to score just two touchdowns despite piling up 429 yards of total offense.

The NU defense is also licking its wounds. After holding its first six opponents to 14 points or less, the Blackshirts surrendered 24 to Texas. That included a fourth-quarter drive directed by Longhorn quarterback Major Applewhite that proved to be the game-winner with 5:51 to play.

"That was the first time this year that we showed some vulnerability in all three areas -- offense, defense and special teams," Solich said. "That wasn't a very good team (Texas) to show vulnerability in all three areas to. But above and beyond that, you cannot turn the ball over three times and get no turnovers from an opponent, if you're talking about two excellent football teams playing, and expect that you're just going to magically win the football game."



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