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Archive for Saturday, September 23, 2000

Hawkeyes wary of Crouch

Nebraska QB made statement in backup role last season

September 23, 2000

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— The last time he faced Iowa, Eric Crouch rushed for three touchdowns to lead the Cornhuskers in a 42-7 victory.

And that was as a backup.

Today, the winless Hawkeyes get to see what Crouch can do as the starting quarterback for the No. 1 Huskers.

"It was a game for me to go out and prove myself and I feel the same way this year," said Crouch, who has rushed for six touchdowns and thrown for another for the No. 1 Cornhuskers (2-0).

The Iowa game was a statement for Crouch, who lost out to Bobby Newcombe in a preseason battle for the starting job. As a backup QB and wingback against the Hawkeyes, Crouch rushed for 92 yards and three touchdowns. He was 3-for-5 for 68 yards passing.

It didn't win him the starting job right away, but it was the groundwork for a move two weeks later. Crouch took over as the starter in the third game when Newcombe moved to wingback.

The offense flourished, and it all started in Iowa City.

"I think it was very important for him," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "To get off to a good start like he did and just keep building was important because we all know that he was not a real experienced player at the beginning of last season."

Perhaps Iowa defensive back Mikkel Brown got the best first-hand lesson that Crouch is not a typical quarterback. With Crouch coming straight at him at the Iowa 5-yard line, Brown hit Crouch head-on, only to be leveled as Crouch completed the 21-yard run for his third touchdown.

"It's a competitive sport and that's what I like about it. I go out every week, play the same way, feel the same way and get motivated the same way," Crouch said.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said the Hawkeyes remember Crouch well.

"I don't know what he lacks," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "He's a phenomenal athlete, he's extremely talented, he can run, he's big, he's strong and physical and that's not a word you use an awful lot about a quarterback. But with him it's appropriate."

The Huskers haven't played since a 27-24 overtime win at Notre Dame on Sept. 9. In the extra week they've worked on special teams, which gave up two touchdowns on returns against the Fighting Irish, and passing.

Crouch has thrown 25 passes in the Huskers' two games, but only 11 of them have been completions. Three have been intercepted, just one fewer than Crouch's total for last season.

Nebraska called 18 passes against the Irish. Seven were completions, one was intercepted and three were sacks.

"None of that adds up to feeling real comfortable about where you're at in the passing game," Solich said.

Nebraska quarterbacks coach Turner Gill, who was the Huskers' starting QB the last time Iowa visited Lincoln a 42-7 Nebraska win in 1982 said Crouch didn't let the situation with Newcombe get to him.

"He's a good example of the kind of player you'd like any student athlete to follow," Gill said. "He just has great poise. Obviously he handles it in the media, and it carries over to the football field. Nothing really upsets him in a situation."

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