Husker Defense Shuts Down Texas A&M
Lincoln - Its offensive sputtered at the starting line Saturday night, but the Nebraska football team's defense shifted into high gear and drove the Huskers to a 37-0 drubbing of No. 18 Texas A&M before a sellout crowd of 77,705 at Memorial Stadium.
The Blackshirts dominated the game for four quarters, holding the Aggies (6-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big 12 Conference) to just two yards rushing and 118 yards total offense. The Huskers held A&M quarterback Randy McCown to 116 yards on 11 of 30 attempts and four interceptions.
Mike Brown led the Huskers' defensive efforts with his best game of the season. The senior rover led Nebraska (8-1, 5-1) with nine tackles, including one sack for a 10-yard loss and one tackle for a three-yard loss.
Brown caused two fumbles and picked off two McCown passes, returning one for 20 yards and the other for 17 yards.
Offensively, NU quarterback Eric Crouch and I-back Dan Alexander led the way. Crouch completed nine of 20 passing attempts for 95 yards. The Omaha, Neb., native led Nebraska in rushing with a career-best 137 yards on 15 attempts and one touchdown.
Alexander finished with 135 yards on 20 attempts and one score.
"Right off the top of my head, I can't think of any other defense that played dominating football for four quarters against a good offense like that," NU Coach Frank Solich said. "Without question, our defense controlled the football game.
"Offensively, we did some good things. But we have been our own worst enemy throughout the course of the season. I think we were again hurting ourselves today in the first half with the turnovers. When we've been stopped, we've contributed to being stopped with turnovers and penalties. But we did some good things, and the effort by our football team on both sides of the ball was tremendous."
Solich said the Huskers stopped themselves early. On the first play of Nebraska's opening offensive series, junior wingback Bobby Newcombe fumbled, and Texas A&M linebacker Harold Robertson recovered.
The Aggies, however, failed to take advantage of the turnover. The Blackshirts forced A&M to attempt a field goal, which NU right rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch blocked. It marked the first blocked field goal of the year for the Husker special teams.
Seven series later, Vanden Bosch blocked another field goal attempt by Shane Lechler with 9 minutes, 28 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Dion Booker fell on the errant kick, returning possession to the Huskers on their own 10-yard line.
Nebraska scored two series later and took a 3-0 when freshman kicker Josh Brown connected on a 20-yard field goal attempt with 5:29 remaining in the first half, capping a four-play, eight-yard scoring drive.
Brown scored again for the Huskers on their final drive of the first half, drilling a 31-yard field goal after a Mike Brown intercepted a McCown pass and returned it 20 yards to the A&M 18-yard line.
Nebraska carried a 6-0 lead into the locker room at the half, but Solich wasn't entirely happy with the offensive production. The Huskers fumbled twice and lost both, missed a field goal and failed to score a touchdown each of the six times they entered Texas A&M territory.
"I had to slap myself when we were fumbling and blowing some scoring opportunities in the first half. Early on, it was a struggle. It was anybody's ball game.
"But we kept pressing forward with it, and things started to work themselves out. Then, we took control of the game."
The Nebraska offense came alive in the second half. The Huskers scored on their first possession of the third quarter when a third Josh Brown field goal capped a nine-play, 36-yard scoring drive which included rushes of three, 13 and 16 yards by Alexander.
After Steve Warren sacked McCown for a nine-yard loss on A&M's first drive of the half, the Aggies were forced to punt. Alexander scored Nebraska's first touchdown of the game on the ensuing drive with 5:50 remaining in the third quarter. The three-play 45-yard drive was highlighted by a 20-yard run by Alexander and a 13-yard run by Crouch.
The Huskers forced A&M to punt once again on the following offensive series. On Nebraska's next possession, Alexander fumbled on the NU 2-yard line. A&M took over, but Mike Brown picked up his second interception of the game two series later, returning it 31 yards to the Texas A&M 2-yard line.
Brown's interception sparked the NU offense. Crouch rushed over the left end for a 2-yard score. Josh Brown's PAT was good, and the Huskers took a 23-0 lead with 1:13 remaining in the third quarter.
No. 2 I-back Correll Buckhalter and No. 3 I-back Dahrran Diedrick provided NU with its final to scores of the game. Buckhalter scored on a 2-yard run up the middle with 11:06 left in the fourth quarter, capping a seven-play, 98-yard drive - Nebraska's longest drive this year.
Diedrick accounted for NU's final score with a 3-yard rush up the middle after an eight-play, 36-yard drive to make a 37-0 with 3:02 left in the game.
Nebraska Postgame Notes vs. Texas A&M, Nov. 6, 1999
* The No. 9/9 Nebraska Cornhuskers defeated No. 18/21 (AP/Coaches) Texas A&M, 37-0, in Lincoln. It marked Nebraska?s first win over a ranked opponent this season and improves the Huskers to 8-1 on the season and 5-1 in the Big 12 Conference. A&M drops to 6-3 on the season and 3-3 in Big 12 Conference action. The win is Nebraska?s seventh straight at home and first over A&M since the 1997 Big 12 Championship game.
The Huskers took a 6-0 first-half lead. In the first half, Nebraska had two fumbles lost, but neither were converted to TDs. Texas A&M had one fumble lost and two interceptions, both were pickoffs by NU rover Mike Brown. Nebraska converted A&M?s fumble (caused by Mike Brown) to a 20-yard Josh Brown field goal with 5:29 remaining in the first half and the second interception to a 31-yard Josh Brown field goal. There were five turnovers and three missed field goals (two by A&M, and one by NU?s Josh Brown) in the first half. Kyle Vanden Bosch, blocked both of Terence Kitchens? field goal attempts.
In the second half, NU put another 28 points on the board, scoring two touchdowns on A&M interceptions, and kept the Aggies from scoring. It marked Nebraska?s second shutout this season (also shut out California 45-0) and the first time NU has shut out a ranked opponent sice a 31-0 shut out of No. 24 West Virginia on Aug. 28, 1994 in the Kickoff Classic. It is the first time A&M has been shut out since a 27-0 to LSU in 1988. NU was led by a pair of 100-yard rushers in Dan Alexander (135) and Eric Crouch (137) and an award-winning performance by the Husker defense, which included two interceptions by All-America candidate Mike Brown, one by All-America candidate Ralph Brown and two blocked field goals by Kyle Vanden Bosch. The Huskers rushed for 335 and totaled 430 yards in the game, while A&M had two yards rushing and 118 total yards.
* All-America Candidate Mike Brown...Brown had yet another standout game for the Husker defense. In the first half alone, Mike Brown had two interceptions (1-17, 1-20), two fumbled caused, one sack, one fumble caused and five tackles. Brown now has four interceptions this season and eight in his career. Mike also had a breakup in the second half and four more tackles to give him nine in the game (six solo). His totals included nine tackles, two tackles for 13 yards lost, two interceptions for 37 yards, one sack for 10 yards lost, one breakup and two forced fumbles. With the nine tackles, Brown now has 68 on the season and 259 in his career to move up from eighth to fifth on the NU career tackle chart. Brown was named the ABC/Chevrolet player-of-the-game and $1,000 will be donated in his name to the UNL general scholarship fund.
* All-America Candidate Ralph Brown...Brown increased his school-record career pass breakup total to 45 with three pass breakups in today?s game. Brown also picked off QB Randy McCown (Jeremy Slechta hurry) with about a minute and a half remaining in the third quarter. He returned it 31 yards to the A&M 2-yard line, and NU quarterback Eric Crouch punched it in on the next play to give the Huskers a 23-0 lead with 1:13 remaining in the third quarter. Ralph now has 10 career interceptions (second this season) to move up to a tie for sixth all-time at NU. He also had one tackle in the game. Left cornerback Keyuo Craver also had a pickoff (no return) to give the Huskers four in the game. NU also picked off four earlier this season against USM.
* I-back Dan Alexander...recorded his third 100-yard rushing game of the season with 135 yards on 20 carries. Alexander had eight carries for 27 yards in the first half. Alexander has had three 100-yard rushing games this season (also 135 vs. ISU and career-best 136 vs. Texas) and has had four in his career.
* Quarterback Eric Crouch...rushed 15 times for a career-high 137 yards. Crouch rushed three times for 89 yards on NU?s 98-yard drive in the fourth quarter (longest drive by yards of the season) to put the Huskers up 30-0 with 11:06 remaining in the game. On that drive, Crouch had a career-best 62-yard run. Crouch and Alexander combined to give the Huskers two 100-yard rushers in a game for the second time this season (also Alexander?s 135 and Correll Buckhalter?s 127 vs. Iowa State) and 39th time since 1973. For Crouch, it was his first 100-yard rushing game this season (had 92 vs. Iowa and Missouri) and third of his career (108 vs. Texas and 108 vs. Kansas State in 1998). Crouch also completed nine of 20 passes for another 95 yards. The Huskers totaled 335 yards rushing and have now won 94 straight games when rushing for 300 or more yards.
* Junior rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch blocked two Terence Kitchen field goal attempts in the first half. Kitchen?s first attempt came after Nebraska?s Bobby Newcombe fumbled the first offensive play of the game (recovered by Harold Robertson) at the NU 11. After three plays and one yard lost, Kitchens attempted a 28-yard field goal, which Vanden Bosch blocked. Vanden Bosch blocked Kitchens on a 31-yard field goal with 9:28 remaining in the second quarter. Vanden Bosch?s two blocked field goals were the first blocked field goals for the Huskers this year, but give NU seven blocked kicks this year (first five were all blocked punts).
* Freshman Place-Kicker Josh Brown...Brown kicked a career-high three field goals today. After missing a 21-yard attempt with 6:13 remaining in the first quarter, at the end of an 80-yard drive, Brown hit his next three, hitting a 20-yarder with 5:29 in the second quarter and a 31-yarder with :46 remaining in the first half to give NU a 6-0 halftime lead. His third field goal was a 36-yarder with 8:06 in the third quarter to give NU a 9-0 lead. The four attempts is also a career best. Counting two misses to end the KU game last week, and his first miss in the first quarter, Brown had missed three consecutive field goals, before making three straight today. Josh Brown is now 9-14 on the season.
* Punter Dan Hadenfeldt averaged 43.8 yards per punt (4-175) and stuck two inside the A&M 5-yard line (5-yard line and 1-yard line), both were downed by linebacker Randy Stella.
* Sacking the quarterback...All-America candidate Steve Warren had a career-best three sacks for 23-yards lost against A&M. Nebraska had a season-best eight sacks for 64 yards lost (previous best was five, three times this season, vs. Cal, USM and KU). Huskers with sacks in the game included 3-23 by Warren, 1-10 by Mike Brown 1-10), Eric Johnson (1-2), Aaron Wills (1-5), Brian Shaw (1-13), Justin Smith (1-11).
* Rushing yards....The Blackshirts held A&M for -3 yards rushing in the first half. The Huskers have allowed a total of 273 first-half rushing yards this season. A&M had the least yards at half this year (-3), while Kansas had the most (64). Nebraska had 61 first-half rushing yards. In the game, NU totaled 335 yards rushing while A&M had a net of two. QB McCowan had -67 as he was sacked eight times. The two rushing yards is the lowest for a Husker opponent this season (previous low was 25 by USM and Missouri). The Huskers rank in the top eight natoinally in every defensive category.
* Firsts and Bests...Redshirt freshman tight end Aaron Golliday had a career-best two catches for 29 yards. He had a 24-yard snag in the first quarter, his first catch since catching 1-24 in the first game vs. Iowa. Free safety Dion Booker earned his first career start in place of Clint Finley. Redshirt freshman Dahrran Diedrick rushed for his first career TD with 3:02 remaining in the game to give the Huskers a 37-0 lead. In the game, Diedrick rushed six times for 27 yards. Nebraska had a season low one penalty for just 10 yards. SE Matt Davison had one catch for six yards. With the catch, Davison now has 68 receptions for 1,020 yards in his career and ranks fifth in NU career receptions, passing Irving Fryar?s 67 receptions.
* Turnovers...A&M had one fumble lost and four interceptions for five turnovers lost...Nebraska converted four, two to field goals and two to TDs for a total of 20 points. On the season, the Husker defense has forced 24 turnovers and has converted 12 to TDs and two to field goals for a total of 90 points. The Huskers had three fumbles lost and no interceptions thrown, but A&M did not convert on any, even though A&M got the ball on the NU 11 on the first drive of the game.
* In five home games this season, Nebraska has allowed a total of seven points in the first half (TD by Southern Miss). In all games, NU has given up just 22 first-half points in nine games and just 99 total on the season.
* Food Bank Drive...The Lincoln and Omaha Food Banks collected 2,610 pounds of food before today?s game.