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Published Monday, January 3, 2000

Tight ends come up big for Huskers

Last modified at 1:28 a.m. on Monday, January 3, 2000

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   By Darren Ivy
For the Independent

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Just when it looked like Nos. 5 and 6 Tennessee was starting to establish the momentum midway through the third quarter, No. 3 Nebraska got a key catch out of an unheralded freshman.

Despite tight coverage on third down and 14, Jon Bowling made the 17-yard grab at the UT 40-yard line, allowing No. 3 Nebraska to continue on its 96-yard drive and score a touchdown to go ahead 24-14.

photo: HuskersHQ
Associated Press Photo
Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch holds up the offensive MVP trophy after Nebraska defeated Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl.
"That was a big play," senior captain T.J. DeBates said. "Jon did it. He came up big."

Bowling and sophomore tight end Aaron Golliday both came up big in the absence of All-Big 12 tight end Tracey Wistrom, who missed his second-straight game with a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

Golliday had two catches for 25 yards including a 13-yard touchdown to put NU up 24-14. Meanwhile, Bowling had two catches for 45 yards. It was the second-straight game the roommates came through for Nebraska coach Frank Solich.

Prior to the Big 12 Championship game, Bowling had only seen mop up duties in six games. But in the last two games, the former Lincoln Southeast standout has made a name for himself.

"I had the opportunity to step in and play an important role in the game," said Bowling, who started the season No. 5 on the depth chart. "I wanted to take advantage of that opportunity and I felt I did."

When the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Bowling and 6-foot-4, 270-pound Golliday weren't catching passes, they were blocking for NU rushers.

Said Wistrom: "They played great. It was obvious Aaron was manhandling the defensive ends all day. He was knocking them probably five to 10 yards off the ball every time it seemed. Jon was running great routes. All around it was a big day for the tight ends."

Other than Bowling's catch, Golliday's 13-yard touchdown grab to put NU up 24-14 was probably the next biggest play. It was the York native's first career touchdown and it also broke a string of 19-consecutive quarters in which NU didn't have a touchdown pass.

"It seemed like it took forever for the ball to get there," said Golliday about his grab. "I don't catch many passes, especially in the end zone."

Prior to the game, it had been somewhat of a mystery who would actually start at tight end. Wistrom had hoped to play after having a good practice Dec. 27.

But the next day he didn't finish the practice. He was officially ruled out on the 30th.

That left the duties up to Golliday and Bowling.

Golliday said without Wistrom in the lineup, UT relaxed their coverage on the tight ends.

"I think we sneaked up on them," Golliday said.

DeBates said he was a little worried about how the young tight ends would handle the pressure of a bowl game. But his fears were not realized.

"With Tracey hurt, every guy stepped up," said DeBates, who was played in his final game as a Husker. "I couldn't think of a better way to go out."

The play of both tight ends had Wistrom looking forward to the future.

"It could be exciting watching the tight ends next year," Wistrom said. "Aaron and Jon both really stepped up this year and are playing some great football. It's going to be fun watching how things develop throughout spring ball."

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