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Web posted Saturday, November 25, 2000

Barnett: Defensive set late is ill-advised
Story from The Rocky Mountain News

By B.G. Brooks
Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska's Eric Crouch, a quarterback with a questionable right shoulder, came up strong and healthy when called on.

The University of Colorado defense, habitually a play or two away from success all season, came up lame -- and coach Gary Barnett took responsibility for the Buffs' final failure.

In the Cornhuskers' 47-yard drive that set up Josh Brown's winning field goal Friday, Crouch completed four of five passes for 45 yards. For the entire fourth quarter, when the Huskers rallied to tie and twice overtake the Buffs, Crouch completed seven of his nine throws for 97 yards -- accounting for most of his passing yardage (139).

Two of his throws in the winning drive went to wingback Bobby Newcombe, including a 17-yarder that gave the Huskers a first down at the Buffs 12-yard line and brought on Brown for his winning field goal on the final play. Two plays earlier, Newcombe caught a 13-yard pass that took Nebraska to the Buffs 31-yard line.

In the decisive drive, Barnett believed his team's defensive set allowed the Huskers too much yardage too easily.

"We played a base defense instead of a dime defense, on the last play especially," he said. "We were so worried about the quarterback draw, but with 10 seconds left and no timeouts (for Nebraska), they weren't going to run a quarterback draw.

"They'd just thrown the ball to Newcombe to get it down there, and I knew that's where they were going to throw (again). I should have insisted on us being in a dime. That would have at least given us our best opportunity for coverage."

Running wild: Two of CU junior tailback Cortlen Johnson's top four career games have been against Nebraska. In CU's 33-30 overtime loss to the Huskers last season, Johnson rushed 25 times for 135 yards. Friday, he ran 26 times for 155 yards and three touchdowns -- the second consecutive game he has run for three.

Johnson, who reinjured a sprained big toe on his second scoring run, said CU believed its ground game could be as effective as it was. "That was our game plan -- to run the ball right at them," Johnson said. "The offensive line did a great job of opening holes."

Huskers defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said no other opponent "has been able to power the ball on us all year. It seemed like (CU) was powering the ball at us all game. That's real frustrating."

CU finished with 451 yards in total offense (197 rushing) to Nebraska's 435. The Buffs' offensive output was their third-highest of the season, trailing totals against Colorado State (532) and Oklahoma State (524).

Sykes watch: CU junior linebacker Jashon Sykes and junior safety Michael Lewis were credited with a team-best 11 tackles each.

Lewis finished the season with 117 tackles, Sykes with 108 -- although those totals could change when CU's defensive staff reviews the game tape and figures its own numbers.

Before the season started, Sykes said he could declare himself eligible for the NFL draft if he were assured of being a first-round selection. But his play this season probably won't make him that high a pick.

Nonetheless, Sykes said he hasn't thought "recently" about his future but will during the next month. "I guess during the time off I'll do my research and see where I fit, and I'll do what's best for me," he said.

Surgery update: CU players scheduled for surgery include: linebacker Andy Peeke (finger), today; defensive end Rudy Hage (shoulder), fullback Dave Andrews (shoulder), linebacker Lindsey Conley (ankle), Tuesday; guard Gabe Oderberg (shoulder), center Ryan Gray (shoulder), guard Karl Allis (shoulder), Thursday; tailback Johnson (ankle scope), to be determined.

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