'Huskers keep winning without fancy tricks

Posted: Monday, October 29, 2001

LINCOLN, Neb. -- The last time Nebraska started a season 9-0, the Cornhuskers needed a miracle catch to get there.

No miracle necessary this time. Just a little trickery.

''I think you've got to be willing to run them,'' coach Frank Solich said of his decision to call ''Black 41 Flash Reverse.''

The play was a reverse/pitch pass that Eric Crouch took for a touchdown late in the Cornhuskers' 20-10 win over Oklahoma on Saturday.

''Some times they make you look pretty good, sometimes they make you look pretty bad,'' Solich said.

It made Solich look better than pretty good Saturday. Nobody in Memorial Stadium, including the Sooners, expected to see any razzle-dazzle from the Huskers' conventional offense.

The play started with a handoff to wingback Thunder Collins, then turned into a reverse to wideout Mike Stuntz and ended as a short pass Crouch took for a 63-yard touchdown.

''We figured it was a good time to all the play. I snuck behind the defense and Mike delivered a great pass,'' Crouch said. ''It went for a touchdown and pretty much put the game away.''

Crouch's second career touchdown reception likely will rank in Nebraska football lore up there with Matt Davison's diving catch that forced overtime in a win at Missouri in 1997.

That put Nebraska at 9-0 and preserved an unbeaten season, which the Huskers ended by sharing the national title with Michigan. Nebraska (9-0 overall, 5-0 Big 12) could be in for its first championship since.

By beating the Sooners, who were ranked first in the Bowl Championship Series, the Huskers moved from third to No. 2 in the polls and could be on top of the BCS when Monday's ratings are released.

''It's something that we take great pride in. This program has been focused around wanting to win a national championship and wanting to be in that position year after year,'' Crouch said.

Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1), the defending national champion, lost for the first time since the end of the 1999 season, a 20-game winning streak.

''It's not fun,'' said tight end Trent Smith, who caught a scoring pass from Nate Hybl two plays after Hybl replaced injured starter Jason White in the second quarter. ''We were somber after the game, then we did what we always do. We've still got a ton to play for.''

The Sooners could force a rematch with the Huskers in the Big 12 championship if both teams win their remaining games. Nebraska faces Kansas, Kansas State and Colorado, while Oklahoma still has Tulsa, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The Big 12 title game is Dec. 1 in Dallas.

''It's tough to beat a team twice, but if that's what we're going to have to do to get to the Rose Bowl, that's what we're going to have to do,'' Nebraska linebacker Jamie Burrow said.

In the first half, the Sooners tried a nearly identical trick play to Nebraska's and could have led at halftime instead of being tied at 10-all, but Hybl, who was all alone, tripped and fell before he could get to receiver Mark Clayton's pass.

The Sooners had to settle for Tim Duncan's 20-yard field goal, which turned out to be their final points of the day. Nebraska got a field goal from Josh Brown to regain the lead in the third quarter, then put the game away with Crouch's catch and dash down the left sideline.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said it was a little painful to watch Nebraska pull off what the Sooners couldn't.

''I saw him (Crouch) run down the sideline and I kind of half chuckled to myself and I thought 'Son of a gun, theirs worked and ours didn't.' You have to give them credit,'' Stoops said.

The win and losses Saturday by UCLA, Maryland, Virginia Tech and Washington State left the Huskers as one of three unbeaten Division I-A teams. Top-ranked Miami and No. 13 Brigham Young are the others.

But with another month left in the season, nobody in Lincoln -- at least nobody on the football team -- is ready to talk about playing Miami for the national championship, as the Huskers did in 1994.

''I couldn't be happier right now. I feel like this is perfect timing,'' Crouch said. ''It really puts us in the driver's seat for the Rose Bowl. ''We've just got to make sure we win the rest of our football games.''

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