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Crouch crushes UAB
Freshman QB scores 3 TDs in Huskers' win over UAB
Posted: Saturday September 05, 1998 06:18 PM
LINCOLN, Nebraska (AP) -- Aside from a few cramps on a hot day and the occasional punt by his offense, it was almost a dreamy debut for Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch.
Making his first college start, Crouch ran for two touchdowns and passed for one to lead Nebraska to a 38-7 victory over Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday. He said he prepared by imagining a solid performance.
"All week, I would lay in bed before going to sleep and think about what it would be like," Crouch said. "I tried to visualize big plays and visualize the idea of getting it done."
Crouch broke free for a 59-yard TD in the fourth quarter, but the redshirt freshman did most of his damage in the first half.
Playing for injured Bobby Newcombe, Crouch threw a 15-yard TD strike to Sheldon Jackson and scored on an 11-yard run to help the No. 4 Cornhuskers (2-0) to a 21-7 halftime lead.
Now coach Frank Solich has two experienced quarterbacks. Newcombe was effective in Nebraska's victory last week over Louisiana Tech but didn't play Saturday because of a slight knee ligament tear.
"We have used two quarterbacks in our first two games, and I think that experience will make us a dangerous team at the quarterback position," Solich said.
There were times when Nebraska looked punchless on offense and porous on defense. Before scoring 17 unanswered fourth-quarter points, the Huskers allowed Alabama-Birmingham (0-1) to put up a good fight.
"We tried to execute the game plan that we had but we ran out of gas," Blazers coach Watson Brown said.
With Nebraska leading 21-7 late in the third quarter, the Blazers, aided by penalties against the Huskers, drove to the 11 and appeared ready to make it a game.
But the crowd of 75,921 got noisy for the first time all day, and UAB stumbled back to the 40 after procedure and pass interference penalties on four of the next five plays. The series ended with a punt.
"That was really a big deal," defensive end Chad Kelsay said. "You go from giving up a field goal, maybe even a touchdown, and we pushed them all the way back and made them punt. It really lifted our defense."
The Huskers outlasted the Blazers on a hot and humid day, scoring in the fourth quarter on a 27-yard field goal by Kris Brown, Crouch's 59-yard TD and a 63-yard pass from reserve quarterback Monte Christo to Tracey Wistrom.
Brown became Nebraska's career scoring leader, kicking five PATs and the field goal to surpass Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier's school record of 312 points from 1981-83. Brown has scored 315.
"It's nice to have the record, but I'm out there for the team," Brown said. "When I'm out there, it's not for me."
Crouch was 11-of-17 for 127 yards and ran seven times for 69 yards. He left briefly in the third quarter after gripping his knee on a broken play but returned in the fourth period.
"I had a cramp in my leg, a cramp in my hip and a cramp in my shoulder," Crouch said.
Crouch seemed tense on Nebraska's early possessions but didn't take long to loosen up.
After Shevin Wiggins returned a first-quarter punt 35 yards to the Blazers 33, Crouch directed a six-play drive, capped by Joel Makovicka's 3-yard TD.
On Nebraska's next two possessions, Crouch got his first passing and rushing scores as a college quarterback.
His 15-yard throw to Jackson gave Nebraska a 14-0 lead with 11:27 left in the second quarter. Crouch showed his delight by pumping his fist and running into the end zone to hug the big tight end.
The Blazers answered with a 16-play, 80-yard drive, pulling to 14-7 after a 2-yard run by Ortavious Miles. UAB, beginning its third season as a Division I-A program, also puzzled the Huskers early in the game with a wishbone offense.
"We came out that first half and didn't play great," Kelsay said. "They showed us some things we hadn't seen them do on tape. It took us a little while to adjust."
On the next drive, Crouch showed he could effectively manage the clock. Taking possession with 3:34 left, Crouch led the Huskers 70 yards in 12 plays, finishing it with a 11-yard TD run that made it 21-7 at halftime.
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