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Huskers backup QBs bear down on Cal
Crouch, Christo lead way for No. 4 Nebraska
Posted: Sunday September 13, 1998 12:17 AM
BERKELEY, California (AP) - Nebraska's reserve quarterbacks did it again.
With starter Bobby Newcombe sidelined a second straight week by a knee injury, Eric Crouch ran for two touchdowns before aggravating a hamstring strain and Monte Christo threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Shevin Wiggins in the late going as No. 4 Nebraska beat California 24-3 Saturday.
It was the 17th straight victory for Nebraska (3-0), including three this season under first-year coach Frank Solich.
The strong start has come even though Nebraska was without five starters for the second time in as many weeks. The Cornhuskers found out Saturday that Newcombe wouldn't be able to go because of lingering soreness in his knee. Nebraska is idle next week and hopes to have Newcombe back in two weeks against Washington.
"We are banged up, I don't think there is any question about it," Solich said. "I thought the guys that did play, our backup players, did well. We have some depth on our team and it can certainly make us a stronger team as the season goes on. Hopefully now we'll be able to get better and get some guys healed up."
The Cornhuskers' defense also came around, producing six sacks and interceptions by Mike Brown and Carlos Polk in the final three minutes while holding Cal (1-1) without a touchdown. Polk's interception led to a 41-yard field goal by Kris Brown with 19 seconds remaining.
"I think they really stepped it up this week and made the plays," Solich said. "I'm pleased with their effort today and I think we needed it."
Nebraska finished with 254 yards rushing, led by Joel Mackovicka's 83 on 14 carries.
Crouch completed 6 of 16 passes for 74 yards and had one intercepted before his hamstring acted up. He was replaced midway through the third quarter by Christo, who was 9-of-12 for 106 yards. Christo capped a 70-yard drive with the TD toss to Wiggins with 3:54 remaining.
"We had a gut check, coming 14-3 in the fourth quarter, and I think we responded well coming down the field and putting the ball in the end zone," Nebraska center Josh Heskew said.
Christo, a senior walk-on, said it helped seeing duty in the game last week.
"I think I was more prepared this time," he said. "Last week, there was a few nerves involved and I think having those plays under my belt definitely helped out."
The game was played before 67,000, the largest Memorial Stadium crowd for a non-conference contest since Notre Dame and Cal drew 68,500 on October 10, 1959.
"I thought we played hard but I can't be satisfied. We can't get complacent," Cal coach Tom Holmoe said.
Struggling to move the ball most of the day, Cal went on the move in the third quarter.
Vedder hooked up with Dameane Douglas on a 40-yard pass, setting up a 38-yard field goal by Tim Wolleck with 6:42 remaining in the third to get the Bears on the board.
Cal broke another big play when Vedder completed a 44-yard pass to A.J. Kunkle, advancing the ball to the Cornhuskers 31. But Nebraska turned the Golden Bears back from there, with Eric Johnson sacking Vedder on a third-down blitz to force a punt.
Nebraska led 14-0 at halftime on touchdown runs of 1 and 3 yards by Crouch.
Cal failed to get a first down on its opening possession and punted and the Cornhuskers quickly put together a 67-yard touchdown drive.
Macovicka bolted up the middle for an 18-yard gain to get it going and Correll Buckhalter's 29-yard run put the ball at the Cal 1, from where Crouch sneaked it over for the score.
Nebraska scored its second touchdown with 9:55 remaining in the second. Again, Mackovicka had a big run to ignite the drive, gaining 23 yards. Later, Crouch kept the ball on an option play and broke free for 30 yards to the Cal 6. One play later, Crouch scored from the 3.
Cal missed a scoring chance on their best drive of the first half, when Vedder and Douglas teamed up on a 31-yard pass to the Nebraska 11. But the Bears failed to get a first down and Ignacio Brache was wide right with a 36-yard field goal attempt.
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