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Inspired Crouch comes up big in Husker rout
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Inspired Crouch comes up big in Husker rout

By BLAIR KERKHOFF - The Kansas City Star
Date: 09/20/01 23:37

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Inspiration filled Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch as he stood mesmerized on the sideline during a stirring pre-game ceremony.

Then Crouch turned that inspiration loose on a 48-3 walloping of Rice.

With three touchdowns passes and two rushing touchdowns, Crouch had a direct hand in five of the Cornhuskers' first six scores. He left the game for good with 7 minutes remaining in the third quarter after posting his best numbers of the season.

Crouch completed nine of 11 passes for 165 yards.

On a night when he became the Big 12's top career rushing quarterback, Crouch gained 97 yards in 12 carries. His touchdown runs came from 6 and 25 yards.

"I don't think you can get much more done than what he got done tonight," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "Just a complete football game."

It started on the sideline as Crouch watched the video tributes to the victims of last week's terrorist attacks.

"Then I got chills just listening to the national anthem," Crouch said. "I was looking around seeing the different faces, seeing the tears. It was a pretty emotional scene. It was a motivation to play a great football game."

Crouch did, and he moved up some career charts in the process. He passed Missouri's Corby Jones on the Big 12 quarterback rushing list. Jones gained 2,533 yards during 1995-98. Crouch now has 2,564.

Crouch also joined the top-10 list for all rushing quarterbacks. Next in line is former Oklahoma wishbone specialist Jamelle Holieway (2,699 yards in the Big Eight).

Until Thursday, Nebraska's offense had been no more than ordinary. Its victories over TCU, Troy State and Notre Dame were comfortable enough, but they were defensive gems. The offense, averaging 345 yards, had been along for the ride.

"I felt like the offense got on track today," Crouch said. "The first few games, the stats weren't there. But the offense seems to be getting better each week. Tonight we made a statement."

Nebraska gained a season-best 497 yards. It got started when Crouch fired a 37-yard scoring pass to tight end Tracey Wistrom on the Huskers' third play.

On the next possession, two Crouch runs for 43 yards got Nebraska to the 3, where fullback Judd Davies pushed it over.

Wilson Thomas ended the third drive with a 42-yard scoring catch, and after a couple of Nebraska punts, Crouch raced to the right corner on an option keeper from 6 yards for a 28-0 halftime lead.

Before punching out, Crouch found Wistrom again for a score and broke a 25-yarder up the middle for his fourth rushing touchdown of the season.

Crouch entered the game with 148 yards rushing and 348 passing. He had rushed for two touchdowns and passed for one. Although he was playing behind three new starters in the offensive line and was overcoming a second surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder, Crouch offered no excuses.

"But the important thing is we hadn't lost," said Crouch, who improved to 27-5 as a starting quarterback. "That's the most important number."

Nebraska lost a chance for a shutout when Brandon Skeen kicked a 25-yard field goal with 7:49 remaining. Skeen earlier had missed an attempt, and another try was blocked.

All content © 2001 The Kansas City Star