They had lost to Oklahoma and to Kansas State, so with their
season about to culminate in San Antonio three days before New
Year's, the Cornhuskers, who had been a preseason favorite to win
the national title, were ready to unleash a little frustration.
Nebraska pounded Northwestern 66-17 in the Alamo Bowl, but
afterward there was little celebration in the locker room. "We
all knew that we should have been playing in a different game,"
senior quarterback Eric Crouch says now. "Immediately talk turned
to next year."
Eight months later the Huskers are ready to forget the Alamo and
that underachieving 10-2 season. Having rallied one another
through what the seniors describe as an especially intense
winter of indoor running drills and a summer vacation filled
with 7 a.m. weight-room sessions, the Nebraska players are
prepared for a schedule that summons Notre Dame, Oklahoma and
Kansas State to Lincoln. "This team lost some exceptional
athletes, but the young players that are starting have the
ability to be tremendous," says coach Frank Solich. "Of course,
we expect Eric to have a great senior season."
Though Crouch talks about wanting to double last year's 1,101
passing yards, what he really wants to do is lead the nation in
rushing. The Cornhuskers did that as a team last year (349.9
yards per game, including 88.3 yards per outing by Crouch), but
with the departure of center Dominic Raiola and guard Russ
Hochstein, both All-Americas, duplicating that effort could be
Whenever Solich decides to let his nimble-footed quarterback air
it out, Crouch will have a reliable target in tight end Tracey
Wistrom, who led the team with five touchdown catches last year.
In preparation for his senior season Wistrom has been consulting
by phone with older brother Grant, a St. Louis Rams defensive
end who helped Nebraska win three national titles in the
mid-'90s. "This season reminds Grant of 1995, when the team went
into the fall with lots of questions and no answers," says
Tracey. "One by one guys stepped up, and by the end of the year
they were national champs."
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER To achieve his goal of leading the nation in rushing, Crouch must hand off less and run more.
2000 record: 10-2 (6-2, 2nd in Big 12 North)
Final ranking: No. 8 AP, No. 7 coaches' poll
Sacks by the Cornhuskers in 2000, the lowest total since the
school started keeping the stat in 1981.
An opposing team's coach sizes up the Cornhuskers
"They're going to struggle defensively. The safeties can't cover,
and last year the secondary had trouble matching up with Number 2
receivers. If you leave your corners out on an island, you better
be pretty good up front. Nebraska doesn't get inside pressure
from the line.... Cornerback Keyuo Craver is a good player but
not a burner.... Among the new I-backs, I don't see the
equivalent of a Correll Buckhalter or a Dan Alexander [the top
two I-backs last season]."
Strength: 53rd of 117
Aug. 25 TCU
Sept. 1 TROY STATE
8 NOTRE DAME
29 at Missouri
Oct. 6 IOWA STATE
13 at Baylor
20 TEXAS TECH
Nov. 3 at Kansas
10 KANSAS STATE
23 at Colorado