Nebraska steams past Rice

2001-09-21T00:00:00Z Nebraska steams past Rice Fremont Tribune
September 21, 2001 12:00 am

LINCOLN (AP) -- Nebraska coach Frank Solich wasn't quite sure what to expect from the fourth-ranked Cornhuskers.

A 12-day layoff and the terrorism that overwhelmed the country last week apparently didn't keep their minds off football.

The Huskers (4-0) scored on their first three possessions and turned in their most dominating performance of the season, beating Rice 48-3 Thursday in a game rescheduled because of the terrorist attacks.

"We haven't been in this situation before, and we just didn't know," Solich said. "When it was time to play football, they played with great effort and great intensity."

Nobody played better than quarterback Eric Crouch, who snapped out of a three-game funk with three touchdown passes and two more scores on the ground.

Crouch, who had just two rushing touchdowns and one passing TD in the first three games, looked more like the player who carried the Huskers' offense the past two seasons.

"I felt very comfortable out there. I knew this was going to happen," said Crouch, who ran for 97 yards on 12 carries and passed for 165 yards -- going 9-of-11 in less than three quarters.

"The first few games were a little tough for me. Obviously, the statistics weren't there, but that didn't bother me. We're 4-0, and we're getting better each week. You can't ask for more than that."

The game had been scheduled for last Saturday, but was postponed along with most other sporting events last weekend.

After an emotional pregame ceremony that included a videotaped message from former Huskers coach and current U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne, Nebraska came out with its most dominating game of the season.

"Obviously, what happened in the last week and a half has affected everybody," Crouch said. "We came out and honored American in a way everybody could be proud of and the state of Nebraska could be proud."

Nebraska nearly topped the 500-yard mark for the first time this season, finishing with 497 after losing 3 yards on the final play.

"They deserve their ranking. It was very, very hard getting off their blocks," Rice linebacker Rashard Pittman said. "We were expecting them to run, and they did."

Rice (2-1) didn't score until Brandon Skeen kicked a 25-yard field goal with 7:49 left. Greg Henderson was 5-for-13 for 108 yards and two interceptions for the Owls, who finished with 365 yards of offense.

Crouch's best game of the season had been the opener against TCU, when he ran for 69 yards and a touchdown and passed for 151. He had the flu the next week and missed a few days of practice, then had mediocre totals against Troy State and Notre Dame.

Crouch broke loose Thursday. He threw two touchdown passes to Tracey Wistrom, including an 11-yarder that put Nebraska up 42-0 midway through the third quarter on Crouch's last play of the game.

Wistrom and Crouch also connected for Nebraska's first score, a 37-yard pass over the middle less than three minutes into the game.

"He's accurate. He's putting zip on the ball when he needs it. He's got touch," Wistrom said. "All we've got to do is catch it and run."

Crouch's other TD throw was to Wilson Thomas, who caught the 42-yard pass in stride as he crossed the goal line for a 21-0 lead with 2:35 still left in the first quarter.

Crouch made it 35-0 on Nebraska's opening drive of the second half with a 25-yard draw. He also scored on a 6-yard run. Judd Davies added a 3-yard TD run and Thunder Collins also broke free for a 17-yard rushing score.

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