Wildcats Outlast Game Huskers
San Diego, Calif -- Just when
Nebraska and Arizona were settling into a defensive struggle,
the Holiday Bowl reverted to its wild past.
Keith Smith, half of Arizona's
two-quarterback system, threw for one fourth-quarter touchdown
and his scrambling set up the game-winning, 1-yard plunge by
Kelvin Eafon with 6:08 to go as the No. 5 Wildcats beat the
No. 14 Nebraska Cornhuskers 23-20 Wednesday night.
Arizona added to its school-record
victory total by finishing 12-1, while Nebraska dipped to 9-4.
Chris McAlister, Arizona's All-America
cornerback, capped a big game with a leaping interception of
Eric Crouch's pass with 3:03 left. McAlister jumped in front
of Shevin Wiggins at about the 8-yard line and returned it 22
Nebraska had one final desperation
shot, but McAlister deflected Crouch's pass as time expired.
After a scoreless third quarter,
there were three lead changes in the fourth.
Arizona went ahead 16-13 on Smith's
15-yard pass to Brad Brennan, who made a fingertip catch before
tumbling into the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats converted one fourth down and one third down on
the 66-yard drive.
McAlister had a chance to really
swing the momentum when he intercepted Crouch's pass deep in
Nebraska territory, but split end Kenny Cheatham forced and
recovered a fumble.
Nebraska went on to complete the
eight-play 88-yard drive thanks to two big catches by freshman
tight end Tracey Wistrom, including a 4-yard TD pass from Crouch
with 10:55 left for a 20-16 lead. Wistrom, who had just two
catches in the regular season, had a 33-yard catch three plays
before the score.
Smith then led the Wildcats 68
yards to the winning score. He had scrambles of 20 yards, 8
yards on a third-and-6 and then 7 yards to the Cornhuskers 1
to set up Eafon's TD.
The Cornhuskers' option game continued
to struggle, and their 87 rushing yards was their second-lowest
total of the season.
The Cornhuskers did get hot right
before halftime, scoring 13 points in the final 4:58 of the
second quarter to take a 13-9 lead. It was the first time all
year that Arizona trailed at halftime.
The defense was already well on
the way to holding Arizona to just nine yards in the second
quarter when Chad Kelsay forced Ortege Jenkins to fumble, which
Loran Kaiser recovered at the Arizona 34. That set up Kris Brown's
25-yard field goal.
Crouch threw a 45-yard touchdown
pass to Shevin Wiggins for a 10-9 lead. Nebraska got the ball
right back when Billy Legate hit kick returner Dennis Northcutt
head-on, forcing a fumble and recovering it at the Arizona 9.
Brown kicked a 23-yard field goal as time expired.
Wiggins atoned for fumbling a
punt in the game's opening minutes, which McAlister recovered
to set up the first of Mark McDonald's three field goals.
Arizona had two touchdowns called
back due to penalties and another scoring chance negated, all
in the game's first 18 minutes. The biggest one came on special
teams, when Dennis Northcutt caught Bill Lafleur's punt and
handed off to McAlister, who was sprung by Derek Hall's block
and raced 75 yards for an apparent touchdown.
But Hall's hit on Brian Shaw was
deemed an illegal block in the back and the play came back.
Nebraska Postgame Bowl Notes vs. Arizona,
Dec. 30, 1998, Holiday Bowl
Diego--In Nebraskas 30th consecutive bowl (continuing
NCAA record), No. 14/16/11 (AP/Coaches/BCS) lost to No. 5/6/7
Arizona, 23-20, in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif. The
loss improves Arizona to 12-1 and gives NU a final 9-4 record
in Head Coach Frank Solichs first season. The loss ended
Nebraskas second-longest bowl winning streak at four consecutive
(school record is six from 1969 Sun Bowl to 1974 Sugar Bowl).
This was NUs fifth ranked opponent of the year, third
top 10 opponent. NU is 2-3 vs. ranked opponents (1-2 vs. top
10) this season. NU has faced a top five team in 13 of the last
14 bowls. NU has won at least nine games in each of the last
29 years dating back to a 6-4 record in 1968 (last time NU lost
4 (2 fumbles, 2 interceptions) (UA converted to field goal;
field goal; DNC; DNC)...Arizona 3 fumbles (NU converted to field
goal; field goal; touchdown). Nebraska forced UA 3 and out on
its first possession, but Shevin Wiggins fumbled the punt. UAs
Chris McAlister recovered at the NU 14, and the Wildcats converted
to three points in a 38-yard field goal by Mark McDonald. Monte
Christo fumbled on the third play of NUs third drive,
and Sprotte recovered at the NU 15, but again the defense held
and UA only got a 48-yard field goal after losing 16 yards.
UA also blocked a Kris Brown 51-yard field goal attempt on NUs
first possession and began their third possession at their own
49, but were forced to punt after 3 and out. Nebraskas
Chad Kelsay and Mike Rucker forced Ortege Jenkins to fumble,
and DT Loran Kaiser recovered at the UA 34 yard line. Seven
plays later Kris Brown hit on a 25-yard field goal to put NU
on the board but down 6 (9-3) with 4:58 remaining in the first
half. On NUs next possession the defense held UA to 4
and out, and after a short punt, NU got the ball at the UA 49.
Two plays later, Eric Crouch connected with Wiggins for a 45-yard
TD pass to put NU up 10-9. (Wiggins scored a rushing TD in last
years bowl game victory vs. Tennessee). On the ensuing
kickoff, NU headhunter Billy Legate (NUs US Admiral Trophy
winner this week), forced Dennis Northcutt to fumble and made
the recovery himself. With no time remaining, NU converted the
turnover into a 23-yard field goal to go into the locker room
with a 13-9 halftime lead. In the fourth quarter, Crouch was
intercepted by McAlister, but intended receiver Kenny Cheatham
caught him from behind and caused and recovered the fumble at
NUs own 12 yard line. NU drove 88 yards to score and go
up 20-16 when Crouch completed a 4-yard TD pass to Tracey Wistrom.
After Arizona answered NUs scoring drive to go up 23-20,
McAlister intercepted Crouch with 3:10 at the UA 30-yard line
on NUs next drive--did not convert but used up all but
* Bowl Records...PK Kris
Brown broke the school record for most career points in a bowl
game with his first field goal in the second quarter. He now
has 36 points (eight tonight). It betters Scott Frost (1996-97)
and Johnny Rodgers (1970-72) record of 30 career bowl points.
CB Ralph Brown tied the school bowl record of pass breakups
in a game. Brown had three in the first half. Brown tied the
three PBU by NUs Michael Booker (1996 Fiesta), Barron
Miles (1995 Orange) and Tyrone Williams (1994 Orange). Three
PBU in a bowl game ties the NCAA record.
* Second Quarter...After
totaling five yards rushing and 85 total in the first quarter,
the Husker defense held UA to minus six yards rushing and nine
yards total in the second quarter.
* Fourth-Quarter Comeback
Falls Short...Trailing 13-9 entering the fourth quarter,
NU executed an eight-play, 88-yard drive to go up 20-16. On
the drive, Crouch was 4-5 for 69 yards passing completing a
10-yard pass to Kenny Cheatham, a 33-yard pass to TE Tracey
Wistrom, a 22-yard pass to FB Joel Makovicka and a 4-yard TD
pass to Wistrom. This marks the seventh game NU has trailed
this season, (3-4 record). NU overcame a fourth-quarter deficit
in its last game against Colorado (down 14-13, won 16-14). Arizona
responded with a nine-play, 68-yard, 4:37 drive (Kelvin Eafon
1-yard TD run) to go back up 23-20. With 5:57 remaining, NU
began its second-to-last drive on the NU 30, Crouch completed
a 17-yard pass on 3rd and 14 to Matt Davison; Crouch gained
12 rushing and a first down on the next play; but Crouch was
intercepted by McAlister at the UA 30-yard line (did not convert
but used up all but 34 seconds). NU got the ball on its own
27-yard line with 34 seconds remaining, but did not score on
four pass attempts (one completion).
* QB Sacks...Nebraska had
three sacks for 24 yards lost in the game. RE Aaron Wills had
1-10; RE Mike Rucker had 1-9; and DT Jason Wiltz had 1-5. Rucker
finished the game with one sack, three tackles for loss, one
fumble caused and two QB hurries. NUs other rush end,
Chad Kelsay, had a 15-yard tackle for loss, a fumble caused
and one QB hurry. The defense held Arizona to 107 rushing yards,
158 passing and 265 total. NU out-yarded UA with 280 yards (87
rushing, 193 passing). Six different Huskers had eight tackles
* Other Quickies...for
the second straight bowl game, NU did not allow a TD in the
* Injuries...In the first
half, WLB Eric Johnson re-injured his left shoulder, which he
dislocated in NUs season finale vs. Colorado on Nov. 27--did
not return. Center Josh Heskew sprained left ankle in third
* Defensive Player of the Game
-- NUs Mike Rucker. Offensive Player of the Game -- UAs