Crouch Leads Huskers to 48-3 Victory Over Rice
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- This was the Eric Crouch that Nebraska fans had been expecting.
Nebraska's Eric Crouch had three TD passes and two scoring runs.
Crouch threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more scores as No. 4 Nebraska beat Rice 48-3 on Thursday night.
Crouch, who had just two rushing touchdowns and one passing in the first three games, looked more like the player who carried the Huskers' offense the past two seasons.
"I felt very comfortable out there. I knew this was going to happen," said Crouch, who ran for 97 yards on 12 carries and passed for 165 yards -- going 9-of-11 in less than three quarters.
"The first few games were a little tough for me. Obviously the statistics weren't there but that didn't bother me. We're 4-0 and we're getting better each week and you can't ask for more than that."
The game had been scheduled for last Saturday, but was postponed because of the terrorist attacks that shut down all major sports in the country.
After an emotional pregame ceremony that included a videotaped message from former Huskers coach and current U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne, Nebraska came out with its most dominating game of the season.
"Obviously what happened in the last week and a half has affected everybody," Crouch said. "We came out and honored America in a way everybody could be proud of and the state of Nebraska could be proud."
Nebraska (4-0) nearly topped the 500-yard mark for the first time this season, finishing with 497 after losing 3 yards on the final play.
"I thought they had a lot more offense than we did. I know they rolled a lot," Rice coach Ken Hatfield said.
Nebraska's defense allowed more than 200 yards for the first time this year, but nearly got its first shutout.
Rice (2-1) didn't score until Brandon Skeen kicked a 25-yard field goal with 7:49 left in the game. Greg Henderson was 5-for-13 for 108 yards and two interceptions for the Owls, who finished with 365 yards of offense.
Henderson relieved starter Kyle Herm, who was 3-for-12 for 61 yards.
"I want full responsibility for that. I'm the quarterback. It's my job to keep everybody calm," Herm said. "We came out jittery and Nebraska's fans made us nervous."
Crouch's best game of the season had been the opener against TCU, when he ran for 69 yards and a touchdown and passed for 151. He had the flu the next week and missed a few days of practice and had mediocre totals against Troy State and Notre Dame, although against the Irish the Huskers held back on offense with the game in hand in the second half.
Crouch broke loose Thursday. He threw two touchdown passes to Tracey Wistrom, including an 11-yarder that put Nebraska up 42-0 midway through the third quarter on Crouch's last play of the game.
"Eric I thought just had a great day -- throwing and running the football and just directing the football team," coach Frank Solich said. "I don't think you can get much more done than what he got done tonight. I think he kind of wished he could play a little bit more."
Wistrom and Crouch also connected for Nebraska's first score, a 37-yard pass over the middle less than three minutes into the game.
"He's accurate. He's putting zip on the ball when he needs it. He's got touch," Wistrom said. "All we've got to do is catch it and run."
Crouch's other TD throw was to Wilson Thomas, who caught the 42-yard pass in stride as he crossed the goal line for a 21-0 lead with 2:35 still left in the first quarter.
Crouch made it 35-0 on Nebraska's opening drive of the second half with a 25-yard draw for his second rushing TD of the game. He also scored on a 6-yard run around the right end in the second quarter.
Judd Davies scored Nebraska's only other touchdown of the half on a 3-yard run. Crouch had 43 yards on two carries during the four-play, 71-yard drive.
Thunder Collins had a 17-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.
Nebraska Postgame Notes vs. Rice
The No. 4/4 Nebraska Cornhuskers jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead over the Rice Owls, scoring on its first three possessions, and never looked back. In Nebraska?s first-ever Thursday night home game, before a sold out crowd of 77,344, Nebraska defeated Rice, 48-3. The sellout crowd was Nebraska?s 243rd consecutive, although it was the smallest Husker crown since 75,958 saw the Colorado game of the 1998 season, the last season before the expansion. The Huskers expanded their lead to 48-0 after three quarters and held the shutout until Rice place-kicker Brandon Skeen?s 25-yard field goal with 7:49 remaining in the game. Nebraska?s defense has given up just one touchdown (rushing) in the last 10 quarters of play and four all season. The Huskers totaled 292 yards rushing, 205 passing and season-high 497 total, while Rice rushed for 196, passed for 169 and totaled 365, the best vs. NU this season. Nebraska Quarterback Eric Crouch was responsible for five of NU?s seven touchdowns, passing for three and running for two.
The win for the Huskers was NU?s 17th straight win at home; Nebraska's sixth straight win overall; Nebraska's first-ever win over Rice; gave NU a 7-3 record on Thursdays; and a 13-2-1 record vs. Western Athletic Conference teams.
* Senior quarterback Eric Crouch improves to 27-5 as a starter. Crouch completed 9-of-11 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Crouch was 3-for-3 on his first three attempts for an even 100 yards and two TD strikes. He accounted for 143 of Nebraska?s 184 yards in the first quarter on just five touches. He was 8-10 for 154 and two TDs in the first half. Seven of his eight completions in the first half were for first downs, including a 37-yard TD pass to Tracey Wistrom, and a 42-yard, season-best and team-long TD pass to Wilson Thomas. The 37-yard strike to Wistrom was his first pass attempt of the night. Crouch also rushed 12 times for 97 yards and two scores. Crouch?s rushing (97) and passing yards (165) and rushing (2) and passing TDs (3) were season bests. Crouch had three or more passing TDs for the third time in his career (also three vs. Kansas State in 1998 and school-record tying five vs. Iowa in 2000). His first carry was for 16 yards, while his second was a 27-yard gain that put him over the 2,500 career rushing mark. With 5:52 remaining in the second quarter, Crouch had a 12-yard gain that gave him 2,536 career rushing yards, two more than he needed to become the Big 12 all-time career rushing quarterback, passing Missouri's Corby Jones, who had 2,533 from 1995 to 1998. Crouch now has 2,564 career rushing yards and moved up to eighth on the NU career rushing chart, passing Keith Jones? 2,488 yards from 1984 to 1987 and Correll Buckhalter?s 2,522 yards from 1997 to 2000. Crouch also moved up on the NU career scoring chart, as he had a six yard TD run with 1:09 remaining in the second quarter and a 25-yard rushing touchdown with 12:08 remaining in the third quarter. His 12 points gives him 278 in his career to rank third, passing Ahman Green?s 270 from 1995 to 1997. Crouch ranks fourth all time at NU in passing with 3,484 yards and needs 37 to pass Tommie Frazier's 3,521 yards from 1992 to 1995. Crouch is second all time at NU in rushing TDs with 45 and needs five more to take the school record away from Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier (49 from 1981 to 1983). Crouch had a season-best 262 total-offense yards against Rice to give extend his school-record career total-offense mark to 6,048 yards.
* For the fourth straight game, senior tight end Tracey Wistrom caught at least three passes. He tied for the team-best with four receptions for 67 yards vs. Rice, including a season-best 37-yard TD reception from Crouch for Nebraska?s first score on NU?s opening drive, and an 11-yard TD from Crouch to put the Huskers up 42-0 with 8:43 remaining in the third quarter. Wistrom now has 51 career catches for 1,039 yards, becoming the 11th Husker all time to total 1,000 career receiving yards (ranks 11th). Wistrom has had a career-best four receptions six times in his career. Wistrom is second among Husker tight ends in receiving yards (six yards behind record-holder Junior Miller?s 1,045 from 1977 to 1979) and is third in receptions. Wistrom has caught at least one pass in each of the last eight regular-season games.
* I-back Dahrran Diedrick rushed 13 times for 74 yards. He had the most carries of any Husker, but was joined by 15 other Husker rushers. Diedrick had just 14 yards rushing on six carries at halftime. I-back Thunder Collins had six carries for 43 yards, including a 17-yard TD run, his first TD run since Troy State and his fourth of the season.
* Junior split end Wilson Thomas was shut out of receptions vs. Notre Dame, but tied for the team best with 4-76 vs. Rice to give him 12 receptions for 212 yards receiving this season (17.7 average per catch). Thomas scored NU?s third TD on a 42-yard pass from Eric Crouch, the longest reception by a Husker this season (previous long was 41 yard reception from Eric Crouch vs. TCU).
* Despite spraining his ankle in the second quarter, senior left cornerback Keyuo Craver had an excellent game. The All-America candidate, unofficially, had six tackles, two pass breakups, two tackles for loss and caused a fumble. Craver is second on the NU career pass breakups list with 34, followed by fellow corner Erwin Swiney's 27. Craver is 16 pass breakups behind All-American Ralph Brown, who had 50 from 1996 to 1999. Craver has a team-high six pass breakups this season.
* Cornerback Erwin Swiney had his first interception this season and the fourth in his career. It was Nebraska?s fifth interception this season. Swiney?s interception of quarterback Greg Henderson, set the Huskers on the Rice 40 yard line. NU scored six plays later to convert the turnover to seven points for the Huskers. He also had two tackles and one pass breakup. Swiney missed the first two games this season with a sprained ankle.
* Husker Firsts and Bests...Mike Stuntz had a career-best 25-yard run on a broken play (fumble advancement), in the first half. Fullback Judd Davis scored his first touchdown of the season on a three-yard run, which gave Nebraska a 14-0 lead with 8:34 remaining in the first quarter. It was Davies second career TD run (other was a three-yard TD run vs. Kansas in 2000). I-back Josh Davis had his first carries of the season. He had five carries for 14 yards. In his first career start, true freshman Philip Bland had two tackles. Bland is the first true freshman to start in the secondary, since current Husker senior Erwin Swiney started the last nine games of the 1997 season. Bland started at rover, as Dion Booker started at free safety in place of Willie Amos, who is sitting out with a hamstring pull. Of the 118 Huskers who suited up for the game, NU played a season-high 102 players. With 1:09 remaining in the game, senior FS Carl Scholting intercepted Henderson, Rice?s second turnover of the game. NU did not score, however, as reserves ran out the clock. Sophomore free safety Jerrell Pippens had a career-best and team leading eight tackles, including five solo stops. True freshman MLB Barrett Ruud was second on the team with seven tackles, including two for losses.
* Nebraska Team Highs and Lows...Passing, 205 yards, the first time NU totaled 200 or more yards passing since 237 at Texas on Oct 23, 1999 (previous high was 151 vs. TCU); Total Offense, 497 yards (previous 457 Troy State); Turnover Margin +2. Opponent Highs and Lows...Rice fullback Robbie Beck had a 54-yard run in the second quarter vs. the Huskers, the longest this season (previous long was a 35-yard run by Notre Dame?s Tony Fischer). Beck?s 54-yard run is just the second run of 25 yards or more vs. NU this season. The run was the longest against the Huskers since Northwestern?s Damien Anderson?s 69-yard TD run in the Alamo Bowl. Rice did not score after the long run, however, as NU corner DeJuan Groce blocked Brandon Skeen?s 41-yard field goal attempt. It was Nebraska?s first blocked kick this season and Groce?s first in his career. The last blocked field goal and last blocked kick by a Husker, was Randy Stella?s blocked field goal on Colorado?s 37-yard attempt in 2000. Groce also had four punt returns for 58 yards, one tackle and one pass breakup. Rice had 194 rushing yards, the best against the Huskers this season, in fact, in NU?s first three games, NU had given up just 74 rushing yards. Points Scored, 3 (previous low, 7 TCU).
* Defense...Sacks...Nebraska has had at least two sacks in every game this season as NU had three for 18 tonight. Jamie Burrow (1-4); Erwin Swiney/Patrick Kabongo (1-5); Casey Nelson (1-9). NU also had 11 tackles for 37 yards loss tonight and has had at least eight in all four games this season.