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Nebraska rolls to record total in Alamo Bowl
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Nebraska rolls to record total in Alamo Bowl

By BLAIR KERKHOFF - The Kansas City Star
Date: 12/31/00 00:07

SAN ANTONIO -- If Nebraska had played this way against the other purple Wildcats this season, who knows where the Cornhuskers might have found themselves bowling.

As it is, Nebraska's 66-17 shellacking of Northwestern in Saturday's Alamo Bowl will have to satisfy the off-season what-ifs and soothe the disappointment of not living up its preseason No. 1 ranking.

Those other purple cats, at Kansas State, ended the Cornhuskers' Big 12 title hopes and knocked them out of a Bowl Championship Series game. Some association anger on Saturday, perhaps?

Whatever the source of inspiration, ninth-ranked Nebraska, 10-2, destroyed No. 18 Northwestern, 8-4. The Cornhuskers rolled to season-high totals in points and yards and basically treated the Big Ten champion Wildcats like the old Big Ten cellar-dweller Wildcats.

"That wasn't the team that won the Big Ten," Wildcats linebacker Billy Silva said. "They came out ready to play and we didn't."

Nebraska's point total set a bowl record, breaking the mark of 65 points scored by Texas A&M in the 1990 Holiday Bowl. The Huskers' nine touchdowns tied a record.

"It all came together tonight," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "Coming in we believed we'd play an excellent football game and we did."

About all that separated Northwestern from an also-ran on Nebraska's schedule was running back Damien Anderson, who after a slow start, raced for 148 yards.

However, Nebraska saw Anderson's century total and raised it with I-back Dan Alexander, who rushed for a career-best 240 yards. The Huskers rolled up 517 total yards and 384 on the ground.

The Cornhuskers' touchdowns came in pairs, two each by Alexander, Crouch and split end Matt Davison. The second one by Davison unleashed several emotions in the Alamodome. He was on the receiving end of a 69-yard pass from wingback Bobby Newcombe, once the Nebraska quarterback of the future.

Teammates mobbed Newcombe, playing in his final college game while Northwestern fans hissed. The touchdown made it 59-17 late in the third quarter. The fans booed when Nebraska kept its starters on the field starting the fourth quarter.

During a 45-point second quarter that ended with the Cornhuskers leading 38-17, fans on the 50-yard-line shook their heads like they were watching a tennis match.

Northwestern got things started with a 10-yard scoring pass from Zak Kustok to Teddy Johnson. The drive was kept alive by an alert Wildcats play from punt formation that took advantage of Nebraska's aggressive style.

Instead of punting, J.J. Strandring lofted a pass toward Jason Wright racing down the sideline. Nebraska defender Keyuo Craver, unaware of the pass, had no reason to believe Wright wasn't in punt coverage. He pushed Wright. Pass interference. First down.

The Cornhuskers didn't get mad. They got even, and then some. Nebraska scored the next 24 points, starting 20 seconds after the Wildcats' touchdown when Crouch raced 50 yards on an option keeper.

Nebraska continued to pour it on. The defense dominated, especially end Kyle Vanden Bosch, keeping pressure on Kustok and forcing three-and-outs on Northwestern's next four possessions.

The Huskers kept the Wildcats pinned, took advantage of mediocre punts and consistently set up shop near midfield. Alexander scored his second. Backup back Correll Buckhalter dove over from the 2. Kicker Josh Brown booted a career-long 51 yard field goal for a 31-10 margin.

Shell-shocked Northwestern finally caught a break. Anderson, held to 14 yards on his first 11 carries, broke a couple of tackles and rumbled 69 yards for what should have been a momentum changing touchdown.

Considering the Nebraska dominance, the Wildcats would have been tickled to trudge off at halftime with a two-touchdown deficit. But the Huskers, looking to tack on a final score -- presumably a Brown field goal now that his range had been stretched -- got the edge right back.

Crouch floated a jailbreak screen pass to Newcombe, who did the rest, sprinting 58 yards for Nebraska's fourth touchdown of the quarter.

Vanden Bosch was a menace all night, earning game defensive MVP honors. Alexander was the offensive MVP. A nice ending -- but maybe an empty feeling for two seniors who didn't reach their goal of a national championship this season.


All content © 2001 The Kansas City Star