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MATT DAVISON celebrates after winning the ball from Iowa's Matt Bowen on a 38-yard completion in the fourth quarter. Davison led the Huskers with four catches for 69 yards.
MATT MILLER/DN

Newcombe, Crouch lead Huskers to victory against Iowa

By Darren Ivy
Senior staff writer
September 07, 1999

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Eric Crouch went silent to the media for the week leading up to the Iowa football game, but on Saturday, he spoke volumes with his play off the bench.

Crouch scored three touchdowns, including Nebraska's first and only score in the first half, as the Huskers rolled to a 42-7 victory.

But after the game, the sophomore from Millard North continued his silence with the media - which began after Bobby Newcombe was named the starting quarterback last week.

Crouch uttered a few words to a handful of TV cameras following Saturday's game and then trotted off the Kinnick Stadium field to a loud round of applause from the large contingency of NU fans in attendance.

The way Crouch played and handled himself on the field drew praise from I-back DeAngelo Evans, another Husker player who has had to deal with adversity.

"To be honest, I was so happy to see (Eric) play the way he did," said the junior I-back, who rushed for 69 yards on 13 carries. "He's had a really tough week. Nothing against Bobby, Bobby is our guy, but I was really happy for Eric on a personal level. I am a spiritual person and I think the Lord was looking out for Eric.

"If you look at his heart, it is big. He very well could have been the starter, but he took a back-seat role. I am very proud of the way he played."

After the game, Coach Frank Solich said his quarterback-rotating scheme went as he had hoped it would - and said he planned to continue the system Saturday against California. Crouch finished with 160 yards of total offense, (92 on the ground and 68 in the air) and Newcombe had 163 yards (35 rushing and 128 passing).

"Both played really well," Solich said. "I expected that would be the case. We have two outstanding quarterbacks. They both will be used."

Along with Newcombe's offensive statistics, he also was credited with two fumbles and one interception. But Solich said the turnovers weren't the only things to consider when selecting a starter.

"We will take a look at the film," Solich said. "No one lost their starting job from what I saw on the sideline. Certainly Eric played tremendous, but that is what we expect from Eric - or if Bobby would come in second. We will let you know when we make a quarterback or I-back or, for that matter, any position change."

 
For now, Newcombe has retained his starting job, but he did leave the door open for criticism with his play early on.

Newcombe failed to convert on fourth-and-one, fumbled once and threw one interception in the first half. He entered the locker room at halftime with 15 yards rushing on nine carries and 44 yards through the air.

"We made too many mental mistakes, errors here and there," Newcombe said. "Myself, Willie (Miller) and DeAngelo (Evans) all had been injured for a while and expected to come out here and play really, really well. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to come out today and set the world on fire."

Newcombe said having Crouch come into the game and score a touchdown actually relaxed him.

Crouch first entered the game as a quarterback with nine minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the second quarter and the score tied 0-0. The 6-1, 195-pound Crouch made his first appearance as a blocking split end in the first quarter.

Once he did get under center, it took Crouch just four plays - two Dan Alexander runs and two by himself - to get NU into the end zone. Crouch scored the touchdown on a 28-yard option run in which he faked out an Iowa defender.

Senior tackle Adam Julch said the touchdown was the jump-start NU was looking for. "It was nice," said Julch, one of four Husker captains. "I was waiting for that to happen. That first touchdown mentally helps you out a lot. Mentally, I think that discouraged (Iowa). For me, I was like, 'OK, here we go. Start it up.'"

Julch said Crouch was "very intense" when he first came in, like "he wanted to show people what he could do."

Crouch didn't play at all the third quarter, but he came in to lead two fourth-quarter scoring drives. On his first series in the fourth quarter, he hit Matt Davison with a 38-yard pass and then the next play he found tight end Aaron Golliday for 24 more yards to put NU on the 6-yard line. Crouch scored on the next play.

The most impressive run of the day, though, came in the next series. Crouch did his best Scott Frost impersonation by running over an Iowa defensive back on the 7-yard line en route to a 21-yard touchdown.

While Crouch seemed solid the entire game, Newcombe was just as solid in the second half.

 
HUSKER QUARTBACK Bobby Newcombe completed 7 of 10 passes, while splitting time with Eric Crouch.
MATT MILLER/DN
Newcombe settled down and led NU to touchdowns on its first three series to start the third quarter. He hit Sean Applegate on a 47-yard pass for the first touchdown. After an Iowa State fumble, Newcombe capped off a three-play 29-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown.

Then NU put together one of its traditional long, drawn-out drives to make it 28-0. Newcombe capped off the 12-play 68-yard drive with a five-yard TD run.

While the offense took some time to get rolling, the defense seemed ready from the start.

It wasn't until the sixth Hawkeye drive of the first half that NU's defense surrendered a first down. For the first half, Iowa's offensive totals numbered 65 yards and four first downs, one by way of a face-mask penalty.

But the Blackshirts responded to those first downs several times by creating turnovers. After NU gave up its first first down with 3:36 remaining in the second quarter, senior rush end Aaron Wills forced, recovered and returned a fumble to the Iowa 10-yard line.

In the second series of the second half, the Hawkeyes faced a third-and-one, but again Nebraska forced a turnover. Senior Julius Jackson hit Iowa running back Ladell Betts, causing him to fumble the ball, and Kyle Vanden Bosch fell on it at the Iowa 29-yard line.

"You just have to step up and be ready to (play tough) in those situations," said Jackson, who also had an interception. "Whenever it is close, and we know we have to buckle down, it gets our defense pumped up and ready to play."

For the game, NU held the Hawkeyes to 169 yards of total offense and eight first downs. The deepest penetration the Iowa offense made was to the Husker 33-yard line. The NU defense wasn't on the field for the lone Hawkeye touchdown, and it frustrated Solich to lose the shutout on a blocked punt return by Tim Dodge - especially after the way his defense had dominated.

"I thought defensively, we played good ball," Solich said. "I feel a little badly for them because they played shutout defense."

Cornerback Ralph Brown said the defense was motivated by a bowl loss to Arizona, and a disappointing 1998 season. He said it had been a long nine months - for him especially.

"The emotion has been high since the off-season," said Brown, a pre-season All-American. "We have been so hungry to play this year. The nerves were kind of high, but I think we just played as hard as we could.

"I have a lot of confidence in our defense, and I think we will get a lot of shutouts. We have a lot of people back, we have a lot of confidence, and we feel we can play with anyone in the country."  

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