- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Rodgers took this punt on a sudden bounce 77 yards from the Alabama goal, with red jerseys engulfing him. A swerve to the right, quickly, a turn upfield, a couple of blocks, an alley, and it was burn, baby, burn, right past the Alabama bench. Following a two-point conversion it was 14-0 and get the champagne ready.
"Johnny's return and a couple of good defensive plays stunned them," said Nebraska Quarterback Jerry Tagge, who did his usual masterful job of passing and "reading." "The thing was, we never really got to see what we could do against them, but everything was working."
The Nebraska coaches knew all along that it would.
"Their Wishbone is two years behind Oklahoma's," one of them said privately. "They must not believe in it totally themselves, because they go to other things at times. We could have beat them bad but Bob isn't that kind of guy."
One thing about The Bear, though. He's always equal to a loss.
"We were beaten soundly by a far superior team," he said. "I wouldn't have minded our bunch playing lousy if we could have lucked out and won. But they toyed with us most of the time. They might have been the greatest I've ever seen."
That theme, of course, was sounded before Saturday night ever arrived. Everybody is "great" and "proud" and "happy" to be on hand at every bowl game ever played. This one was so extra special there were two press conferences daily all week long, but they were hardly revealing. Either Bryant or Devaney would enter the little room off the driveway at the Regency Spa Hotel in Miami Beach and try to kill the other with lavish praise. And a man keeping count claimed Bryant and his assistants used the expression, "We're very proud to be here," between 60 and 100 times, a phrase they didn't get to use even once after the game.
Nor was it easy to get a line on the game by observing or chatting with the players on either team. As a group, the Alabama team seemed more noncommittal, more aloof, perhaps a bit more cocky. Not so much in what few things the players said, but simply in the way they walked, sat, grinned or didn't grin, in public.