HUSKERS: Newcombe comes up big ... again
BY STEVEN M. SIPPLE Lincoln Journal Star
Nebraska wingback Bobby Newcombe, a virtual non-entity for 59 minutes Friday, materialized in a big way during the final moments of the Huskers' heart-stopping win against Colorado.
But he failed to materialize for the post-game press conference that follows every game.
A Nebraska sports-information department official, following standard procedure, went to the locker room and asked Newcombe for his presence. But the 6-foot, 195-pound senior was firm in his refusal.
Ron Brown understood.
"You have to understand, you can create a monster sometimes," said Brown, the Huskers' receivers coach. "So much attention and so many expectations were placed on Bobby. He may feel like, 'You know what, I've already had a lot of attention.'"
Newcombe, particularly during the last half of the season, has kept his distance from the media. He's become a decidedly low-profile figure, and Brown said it's by design.
The coach said Newcombe grew tired of media speculating about his role on the team, specifically on whether he was being used too much - or not enough - in the offense.
"After awhile, it runs its course," Brown said. "For Bobby, I think it's run its course. It could be he just wants to savor this moment alone, with his family. I understand that."
What a moment to savor.
Senior day. A louder-than-usual Memorial Stadium crowd of 77,672. A sun-splashed field and a nip-and-tuck battle between Big 12 rivals.
Nebraska, trailing 32-31, took over at its own 41-yard line with 44 seconds left. Junior quarterback Eric Crouch, appearing calm and in control, completed passes of 6 and 9 yards to senior receiver John Gibson.
With 22 seconds showing, Crouch found Newcombe for 13 yards to Colorado's 31.
Crouch carried for 2 yards then, after a Husker time out, zipped a 17-yard strike to Newcombe, who was tackled out of bounds at the Buffaloes' 12 with 5 seconds left.
"I expect nothing less from Bobby than to make plays like that," Crouch said.
After Josh Brown kicked the game-winning field goal, Newcombe quickly left the field.
Fans in South Stadium chanted "Bobby, Bobby, Bobby."
"I think he's a very sensitive, sweet kid," Brown said. "The hardening process has come from his fame. It's been difficult."
Newcombe finishes the regular season with 19 catches for 249 yards and no touchdowns. He has returned 20 punts for an average of 14.6 yards, including a 94-yard TD return Sept. 30 against Missouri.
"He's been a very unselfish player throughout his career," said Nebraska Coach Frank Solich, who named Crouch his starting QB over Newcombe before the start of the third game last season. "Bobby's got excellent talent. We've tried as much as possible to utilize that."
Sometimes, however, receivers in Nebraska's system get lost in the onslaught of rushing yardage. What's more, it's a challenge for Solich to use all of the weapons at his disposal.
"We had a number of playmakers on our football team this year, and really the great thing about it is not one of them cried for the ball," Solich said.
Brown said Newcombe has demonstrated a good attitude throughout the season. Newcombe gets along with teammates but doesn't hang out in large crowds, the coach said.
"He keeps a low-profile - he's not going to be the program's poster boy anymore," Brown said. "I think he's just working on what he needs to do to help this team.
"I'm really going to miss him."
Reach Steven M. Sipple at 473-7440 or email@example.com.