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JOHN MABRY COLUMN: Broken play leads to broken record

COLUMBIA, Mo. - OK Eric, what's the call?

<ic>"Here it is, guys. Let's look like we're going to run the A Shift 59 Horn. I'll drop back for a throw. Now, 79 might get a good run at me from the right side. Dahrran, you slow him down, and I'll pump-fake a throw. That's when I'll take off. Now if I can just get it past the 11, I'll scoot past one of their safeties. Now Gibby, that's where you're going to have to take out one of their corners. Once I get to the 20 or so, I should be able to put a move on the other corner, and then it's all green from there. All right, let's go."

So maybe it wasn't exactly how they drew it up, but it sure was something to see.

If there was ever anyone who needed a do-over, it was Missouri freshman defensive end Nick Tarpoff. Missouri's No. 79 was the player who appeared to have Eric Crouch in his grasp in the Nebraska end zone late in the third quarter Saturday at Faurot Field.

"We should have had a safety," Tarpoff said.

Instead, Tarpoff ended up on the sad side of Nebraska football history.

With the help of I-back Dahrran Diedrick, Crouch eluded Tarpoff in the end zone. Then he burned safety Gary Anthony at the NU 11. At the 22, it was cornerback Michael Harden's turn to zig while Crouch zagged.

On a pass play gone wonderfully wrong, Crouch went 95 yards for a touchdown that gave Nebraska a 21-3 lead and gave No. 7 another line in the NU record book.

Longest Nebraska run: 95 (TD); Eric Crouch vs. Missouri, Sept. 29, 2001.

Sorry, Craig Johnson (Kansas, 1979) and Roger Craig (Florida State, 1981). Ninety-four yards doesn't cut it anymore. But if it makes you guys feel any better, Crouch said he felt gassed after his record run.

"I knew that when you're making that many moves in the open field, you're going to be a little winded," he said. "It wasn't just like a 100-meter dash."

More like three plays in one.

"It was like it went from first down to fourth down all in 20 seconds, 15 seconds, whatever it was," Crouch said.

For the record, it was 18 seconds from the snap and 14 seconds from the time Crouch took off from his own end zone. That's all it took for Crouch to lock up some prime Heisman promo time on SportsCenter.

"It was just like high school," said Crouch's mom, Susan Sanchez, recalling her son's Millard North days. "That's what I was thinking. That's what I miss about his high school games. He always had one (big run)."

Crouch, whose longest previous run in college was a 62-yard touchdown against Notre Dame last season, finished Saturday's game with career highs in rushing yards (191 in 17 carries) and total yards (311).

"He's an absolutely phenomenal player," said MU Coach Gary Pinkel. "He's a playmaker."

The play that made the most trouble for Pinkel came on third-and-8. It was not supposed to be a run. Tight end Tracey Wistrom said the plan was for Wilson Thomas to run an out pattern and then take it deep.

Crouch ran into trouble when Tarpoff got past right tackle Dan Waldrop. Diedrick slowed Tarpoff a bit, allowing Crouch some time to get free. After takeoff, he made Anthony and Harden look like orange cones in a driving test while John Gibson, Wistrom, Thomas and company helped clear out oncoming traffic.

"I think I saw Wilson and John out there trying to make plays. And Tracey Wistrom was out there making blocks," Crouch said. "Everybody's still working. No matter what happens, those guys are still trying to make a big play."

Just not the biggest play.

Crouch, as humble as they come, seemed a little in awe of what he had accomplished.

"Going end zone to end zone," he said, "I kind of amazed myself even."

But nothing Crouch does amazes his teammates anymore, especially those asked to stop him on a daily basis in practice.

"It's not fun," said NU cornerback DeJuan Groce.

"I'm just glad he's on my team." Reach John Mabry at 473-7320 or jmabry@journalstar.com.

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