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Published Sunday, December 31, 2000

Defense proves point in Alamo Bowl

Last modified at 2:02 a.m. on Sunday, December 31, 2000

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photo: HuskersHQ
Associated Press Photo
Nebraska defender Carlos Polk reached for Northwestern running back Damien Anderson during the Alamo Bowl.

By Mike Babcock
For The Independent

SAN ANTONIO -- Nebraska's defense was on a mission in the Alamo Bowl game Saturday night. Its goal was to show Northwestern "we are the Blackshirts," middle linebacker Carlos Polk said.

That was reflected in the statistics as well as the 66-17 final score.

Northwestern, ranked third in the nation in total offense, managed 383 yards, but that was nearly 100 under its season's average. And had it not been for some big plays, particularly in a 14-point second quarter, the Wildcats wouldn't have gotten even that.

"I don't think they had any room being on the same field with us," said Polk. "I think that shows you what the Big Ten is."

Northwestern shared the Big Ten title with Purdue and Michigan.

Nebraska's goal was to hold the Wildcats to 21 points or less, according to defensive coordinator Craig Bohl. And the plan was to turn rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch loose.

"We knew he would have to play well," Bohl said. "We did some things to free him up."

Vanden Bosch made the most of his freedom to make life miserable for Northwestern quarterback Zak Kustok. The senior from Larchwood, Iowa, was credited with five tackles, all unassisted, including three for losses and one sack. He also was credited with five quarterback hurries.

One of his tackles for loss nearly produced a safety as he stopped Wildcat running back Damien Anderson inside the Northwestern 1-yard line midway through the second quarter.

Big Ten rush ends probably aren't as quick as the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Vanden Bosch, Bohl said. Whatever the reason, Northwestern had difficulty containing him.

"Kyle, I thought, had maybe as good of a game as I've seen in a long time," Cornhusker coach Frank Solich said. "It seemed like he played at a level that was just outstanding.

"I think his quickness and strength caused a lot of problems for them."

Vanden Bosch was chosen as the game's outstanding defensive player for his efforts.

Polk wasn't surprised. "We knew the scheme we had, Vanden Bosch would have a good game," he said, adding that Bohl's goal of holding Northwestern to 21 points was too generous.

"We wanted the shutout," he said. "We really believed we could get it."

Former Cornhusker Mike Brown, who just finished a solid rookie season with the NFL's Chicago Bears, contributed to effort, speaking in the defensive meeting prior to the game.

"It was a motivational thing," cornerback DeJuan Groce said.

Brown told the defensive players that they needed to play for the seniors, with heart, said Groce, who also was credited with five tackles. And if they did that, "nothing could stop us.

"We were also having fun out there," Groce said.

The Wildcats took some of the fun out of it by the way they played, said Polk.

"They were playing dirty football," he said. "They were doing a lot of cheap maneuvers. You want them to play a nice, clean football game. The game doesn't have any room for that.

"They did it the whole game."

Groce tried to give Northwestern the benefit of the doubt.

"I guess they were frustrated," he said. "They tried to psych us, get us to retaliate."

The Cornhuskers retaliated with a second-half shutout and a barrage of points on offense.

The next-to-last touchdown of the game came on a 69-yard pass from wingback Bobby Newcombe to split end Matt Davison. Groce said he wasn't surprised by the play, and neither was Polk.

"Carlos called it," said Groce. "I was like, 'Right.' I guess we wanted to put the dagger in them."

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