Cornhuskers Work Overtime against Irish
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) ? Not yet, Notre Dame.
Eric Crouch ran 7 yards for a touchdown in overtime as No. 1 Nebraska fought off No. 25 Notre Dame 27-24 on Saturday in a game matching two of college football's most storied programs.
The Irish, who rallied from a two-touchdown deficit with long kickoff and punt returns for scores, took their first lead at 24-21 when Nick Setta kicked a 29-yard field goal on the opening OT possession. The Huskers' Jeremy Slechta sacked Arnaz Battle for a 6-yard loss on a third-and-goal from the 4 before the kick.
But the Huskers would not be denied against a team trying to return to national prominence after four years of mediocrity under coach Bob Davie.
Starting at the Notre Dame 25-yard line on the second OT possession, the Cornhuskers faced a third-and-9 from the 24. But Crouch hit Tracey Wistrom with a 9-yard pass to keep the drive alive. Dan Alexander burst up the middle for 8 yards, and then Crouch took the next snap, rolled left and ran into the end zone untouched for the winning score.
Nebraska players ran onto the field to celebrate in front of a sellout crowd of 80,232 at Notre Dame Stadium, many of whom traveled 500 miles from Nebraska to root on the Huskers.
Nebraska was involved in the last OT game played by a No. 1 team. The Cornhuskers beat Missouri 45-38 on Nov. 1997.
Notre Dame, which had beaten the last two No. 1's to show up in South Bend - Florida State in 1993 and Miami in 1988 ? dropped to 8-14-1 against top-ranked teams.
Even in defeat, the Irish certainly gained a great deal of respect by playing toe-to-toe with the nation's best team.
Crouch had three TDs on runs of 62, 1 and 7 yards, and finished with 16 carries for 80 yards. The quarterback was 7-of-15 for 103 yards and an interception. Alexander carried 24 times for 112 yards and a TD.
For Notre Dame, Battle carried 14 times for 107 yards and completed just 3 of 15 passes for 40 yards.
While Nebraska (2-0) improved to 3-0 in OT games since they were reinstated in 1996, Notre Dame (1-1) fell to 0-3 in overtime.
The Irish entered the game as two-touchdown underdogs and given little chance to upset the powerful Cornhuskers, college football's winningest team the past two decades with 211 victories.
But even though Notre Dame appeared to be outmuscled, they were not outplayed.
Trailing 21-7 with 8:47 left in the third quarter, the Irish came up with two electrifying plays to wake up the crowd and tie the game at 21.
First, Julius Jones returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown with 8:30 left. The run occurred just after the Huskers scored on Alexander's 28-yard run. Jones broke to his left and just outraced the Nebraska defense.
It was the second 100-yard kick return in Irish history ? the other came in 1993, by Clint Johnson against Stanford.
Early in the fourth quarter, Joey Getherall fielded a punt at the 17, then took off up the middle, faked out punter Dan Hadenfeldt and finished off an 83-yard punt return with 12:48 left in the games.
Neither team was able to muster a scoring chance in the final 12 minutes, although the Irish moved to the Huskers' 32 but Battle threw incomplete to tight end Dan O'Leary on fourth down.
Nebraska opened the scoring in dramatic style on Crouch's 62-yard run ? the longest TD run against the Irish since 1984, when LSU's Dalton Hilliard went 66 yards.
Crouch, who ran for three TDs and threw for another in last week's rout of San Jose State, went right on the option, weaved his way through the defense and then outraced the secondary into the end zone with 1:10 left in the first quarter,
But the Irish came back on their next possession and Tony Fisher capped an 82-yard drive with a 2-yard TD run 4:16 into the second period. Battle had runs of 14 and 19 yards, the 19-yarder going down to the Nebraska 5.
Then Nebraska went on one of its patented drives - 14 running plays, one pass - that resulted in Crouch's 1-yard TD run on a fourth down play with 2:24 left in the half. Crouch ran seven times for 26 yards and had an 11-yard completion to Matt Davison.
As the stadium filled before the game, it was clear this would be a day to remember. For the first time in as long as any longtime Irish fans could remember, about a third of the seats were filled with people wearing Huskers red.
Between 20,000 and 30,000 fans were expected to make the 500-mile trip from Nebraska to Notre Dame although the Huskers were allotted just 4,000 tickets. Clearly, most of those who showed up, got into the stadium by purchasing tickets from Notre Dame ticket holders, a development Irish athletic director Kevin White was not happy with.
''When I was on the field before the game I wish I was color blind,'' White said. ''Disappointing, very disappointing.''
Nebraska Postgame Notes vs. Notre Dame...Sept. 9, 2000
The No. 1 Nebraska Cornhuskers played in front of a sold out crowd in Notre Dame (80,232, 151st consecutive sellout), and at least 25,000 fans were red-clad. Nebraska scored first on Nebraska's fourth drive on an Eric Crouch 62-yard run. Notre Dame tied it up early in the second quarter, then the Huskers took a 14-7 lead into the locker room at halftime after Crouch scored on a one-yard run with 2:24 remaining. Nebraska expanded the lead to 21-7 after NU scored in four plays on its second drive of the half, but Notre Dame answered with a 100-yard kickoff return and tied the game on an 83 yard punt return TD with 12:48 remaining in the game. Neither team was able to score in the remaining regulation time. In Nebraska's third overtime game (all on the road), Nebraska won the toss and deferred to Notre Dame. Carlos Polk and Loran Kaiser made two tackles each and Jeremy Slechta sacked Battle on third and goal to force a 29-yard field goal attempt by Nick Setta. It was good to give Notre Dame 24-21 lead. On NU's overtime drive, a Crouch to Alexander pitch gains one, Crouch is incomplete to Wilson Thomas, then completes a first-down pass to Tracey Wistrom for a gain of nine to the 15. Alexander pushes his way up the middle for a gain of eight yards to the 7-yard line, and Crouch keeps on a fake around the left for his third touchdown of the day, keyed by a great block by Alexander.
In Overtime...Nebraska is now 3-0 in overtime, defeating Missouri 45-38 in Columbia, on Nov. 8, 1997, when NU was ranked No. 1 by AP and Missouri was unranked. Nebraska last defeated unranked Colorado in Boulder on Nov. 26, 1999 when NU was ranked third; and defeating No. 25 Notre Dame 27-24, its first overtime win over a ranked team.
The Win for the Huskers Was...Nebraska's 8th straight win overall; gave NU a 42-6-1 record when playing as AP's No. 1 team; evened the Nebraska vs. Notre Dame Series record at 7-7-1; was Nebraska's first ever win in South Bend; gave Solich a 23-5 three-year record; was Coach Solich's fifth in a row against a ranked team, seventh win over a ranked team in 11 games, first in a true "road" setting; was Solich's second win in an overtime game; NU's fourth straight as AP's No. 1 team.
* Senior split end Matt Davison...has caught at least one pass in 29 of the last 31 games and in each of last five...Davison had an 11 yard catch and an 18-yard catch in the third quarter for 2-29 yards. He now has 75 receptions for 1,127 yards to pass Guy Ingles (74-1,157, 1968-70) on NU career receptions list to rank third. He passed Tim Smith's career 1,089 receiving yards (1977-79) and take over sixth on the NU career receiving yards list.
* Quarterback Eric Crouch...rushed 16 times for 80 yards and three TDs including the game-winning 7-yard TD run in overtime. Crouch has rushed for at least 50 yards in each of his last seven games. Crouch also completed seven of 15 passes for 103 yards with no TDs and one interception. Crouch scored both of Nebraska's first-half touchdowns on a 62-yard run with 1:10 remaining in the first quarter and on a 1-yard run with 2:24 remaining in the second quarter. Crouch has scored six touchdowns this season with three vs. the Irish and three last week vs. San Jose State. He has scored a rushing touchdown in 13 of the last 15 games. Crouch had 11 carries for 89 yards and two TDs at halftime, but was sacked three times in the game. Crouch's 62-yard TD run, tied his longest run of his career (also 62 vs. Texas A&M, 1999) and bettered his long career TD run of 59 yards vs. UAB in 1998. The run was the longest by a Notre Dame opponent since 1997 and the longest TD run by a Notre Dame opponent since 1984. Crouch also scored the game-winning TD in overtime vs. Colorado last year on a 1-yard run.
* I-back Dan Alexander...rushed 24 times and gave the Huskers a 21-7 lead with a 28-yard TD run on Nebraska's second drive of the third quarter. Alexander rushed 24 times for 112 yards and one TD in the game, recording his third straight 100-yard rushing game with 108 vs. Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl last season and 208 vs. San Jose State last week. It was his eight career 100-yard rushing day. Alexander has scored at least one rushing touchdown in three straight games. Eighty seven of Alexander's 112 yards came in the second half.
* Wingback Bobby Newcombe...has caught at least one pass in 10 straight games and a 36-yard catch from Eric Crouch on NU's first play from scrimmage. That was a season long for Crouch, Newcombe and the team. Newcombe also had two punt returns for 16 yards.
* Place-Kicker Josh Brown...has made 48 consecutive PATs and his last field goal (31 yards vs. Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl) and has made nine of his last 10 field goal attempts. He has not had any field goal attempts this season.
* Tight End Tracey Wistrom...has caught at least one pass in each of the last five games he has played. He had a 17-yard catch on Nebraska's TD drive in the third quarter which gave Nebraska a 21-7 lead and a 9-yard catch in overtime for a first down for 2-26 total.
* Scoring on Returns...Notre Dame's 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Julius Jones was the first by a Husker opponent since Florida's Reidel Anthony had a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl. The touchdown followed Dan Alexander's TD run and brought Notre Dame to within seven (21-14). It tied the record for the longest kickoff return for a TD since Howard Ballage had a 100-yard return in Boulder on Oct. 21, in 1978. Notre Dame tied the game up with 12:48 remaining on an 83-punt return by Joey Getherall. The last punt return for a TD vs. Nebraska was UCLA's Darryl Henley on Sept. 10, 1988. In the game, Notre Dame had 224 yards of total offense, but 317 yards on returns (113 on punt returns and 204 on kickoff returns).
* It's a Rush...Nebraska went ahead 14-7 with 2:24 remaining in the first half with a 1-yard rushing TD by Crouch. That drive was Nebraska's longest of the year by play and time, covering 65 yards on 15 plays. Fourteen of the plays were rushing, covering 54 yards. In the game the Huskers rushed for 274 yards on 59 carries and allowed 184 yards, including 107 by Notre Dame QB Arnaz Battle. Last week Deonce Whitaker of San Jose State also rushed for more than 100 yards with 147.
* Turnovers...Notre Dame 1...Notre Dame turned the ball over on its second drive of the game when senior linebacker Carlos Polk tipped a pass, which senior rover Joe Walker intercepted. NU did not convert it into a score however, falling short on a 4th-and-4 play at the ND 26-yard line. The interception is Walker's sixth of his career. Nebraska 1...With 4:04 in the third and Nebraska driving, Eric Crouch was intercepted by Shane Walton at the ND 26 when fullback Judd Davies tipped up the missed pass. Notre Dame did not convert.
* On Defense...Linebacker Carlos Polk stopped Jones twice in overtime and had six tackles in the game, two pass breakups, plus a quarterback hurry and an interception caused. DT Loran Kaiser had two stops on Jones in overtime as well and had six tackles in the game and two hurries. Rover Joe Walker had an interception (five yard return), two breakups and four tackles. Dt Jeremy Slechta had a seven-yard sack in overtime and three tackles. Linebacker Randy Stella had six tackles including a six-yard sack and LB Scott Shanle had seven with a tackle for loss.