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Published Saturday, November 25, 2000

Crouch sparks NU comeback

Last modified at 10:46 a.m. on Monday, November 27, 2000

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Colorado's Jashon Sykes fails to stop Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch from scoring a touchdown in the third quarter.

By Kevin Schuster
The Independent

LINCOLN -- This was from one No. 7 to another.

Eric Crouch's quarterback idol is former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway. The ability to pull out victories in the final 2 minutes is the reason. Crouch has always admired Elway.

Crouch hasn't had a chance to mimic Elway. Nebraska is rarely behind in the final 2 minutes, so there's no reason for Crouch to put on a red cape and lead the Huskers to a comeback victory.

He needed those Elway powers Friday against Colorado. Nebraska trailed 32-31 with 47 seconds left after freshman quarterback Craig Ochs hit John Minardi on a 15-yard pass play and Javon Green on a two-point conversion.

Crouch came over center with Nebraska at its own 41 with 44 seconds left.

When he was done, the Huskers could still think about playing on or after New Year's Day. The junior moved Nebraska 47 yards in seven plays. Josh Brown's 29-yard field goal sealed a dramatic 34-32 victory.

"It was obvious he was in command of our offense out there, from receiving the signals to signaling everybody out there what was going to be called," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "Eric is a guy who never loses his composure."

Crouch went for the home run on Nebraska's first play of drive 14. He ended up flying out as a deep pass to Matt Davison was overthrown.

Then, Crouch kept it simple. He hit John Gibson on 6- and 9-yard sideline passes. Nebraska had a first down at the Colorado 44.

Crouch went back downfield. He hit Bobby Newcombe for 13 yards and a first down at the 31.

"We were going down the field and throwing into some coverages where we knew guys were going to be open," Crouch said. "You just got to find the open area in a situation like that."

Crouch tried to add fuel to the rally with his legs. Nebraska hoped to break Crouch free on a long run to set up a Brown field goal. Instead, the quarterback counter trap netted only 2 yards and led to a timeout (and a frustrated crowd) with 10 seconds left.

"Even with the headset on, I heard a few groans on that one," Solich said. "But the groans were there not only because they (the fans) not only wanted a pass, they expected a pass. We felt Colorado expected a pass, too.

"We felt that if Eric could have broken through, he could have gotten a lot of yards."

Crouch made the signature play of his 23rd victory in 28 starts with his right arm, just like his hero used to do. Crouch hit Bobby Newcombe on a 17-yard sideline pattern with 5 seconds to go. It moved the ball to the 12, a perfect spot for Brown.

"The two plays he caught the ball were big plays," Crouch said about Newcombe, who declined to speak to the media after the game. "I expected nothing less of Bobby than to make those big catches."

Brown's field goal was down the middle from the right hashmark. Nebraska had its ninth straight victory over the Buffaloes.

"Huge sigh of relief when it went through the uprights," Crouch said. "I was very proud of Josh and proud of the rest of the team."

Crouch stole the Senior Day thunder by passing for 139 yards on 11 of 17 attempts and rushing 20 times for 125 yards and three touchdowns. Crouch's 2000 campaign (bowl game stats don't count toward season totals) featured 2,072 total offensive yards.

Crouch became the 12th Husker to pass for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons with 1,101 yards. He missed a 1,000 rushing and passing season by 29 yards on the ground. Crouch scored 20 rushing touchdowns this season, the most since Ahman Green's 22 in 1997.

Nebraska racked up 435 total offensive yards and 23 first downs. The Huskers rushed for 257 yards after the first quarter.

"Eric's proven he's the leader on offense," Solich said. "I feel good that he stepped up to win it. To me, it was not a fluke. It was a well-executed drive they put together."

Don't forget composed. Nebraska didn't panic when Colorado took the lead.

The Huskers couldn't drive for the winning score in the winter wonderland of Manhattan, Kan., two weeks ago. Of course this time, there was no snow impeding them.

"There wasn't a guy out there that lost his composure, that was rattled, that didn't believe we had a chance to win that football game," Solich said.

"Those are the kind of players you want to coach and those are the kind of players you want to be around, so I feel fortunate about that."

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