Nebraska powers past the ’Canes

December 31, 2001 10:55 PM
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It would seem Nebraska is up against it. They’re nearly a 10-point underdog to an awesome Miami squad that is being unabashedly compared to the ”˜72 Miami Dolphins! Even though the Cornhuskers finished second in the BCS polling, many pundits say Oregon and Colorado are more deserving of playing No. 1-ranked Miami.

Hold on! Nebraska will account for itself well in the Rose Bowl on Thursday; they may even snatch away a closely-contested game and claim a share of the national championship. Here are a few points worth considering:

Miami has been lackluster outside of the Orange Bowl this season. While Miami backers point to their cake walks over Syracuse and Washington late in the season, it’s more instructive to look at their efforts at Boston College and Virginia Tech.

At Boston College, the Canes needed a bizarre (and disputed) interception return to escape with a win over the Eagles, who were driving for a go-ahead touchdown. In the game, Miami had no offensive touchdowns and BC was without star running back William Green.

And at Virginia Tech, the Hokies dropped a pass that would have tied the game with a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. Moreover, Tech completed only four passes that day, while throwing four interceptions.

In addition, Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey looked mediocre at best playing on the road. He was only 41 of 85 with four intercepts at BC and Virginia Tech, and the Miami defense gave up 332 yards on the ground to the Eagles and Hokies.

The ability to run the ball will be crucial for the Cornhuskers, and it will be crucial for Miami to stop the run. Nebraska led the nation in rushing with an average of 315 yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry. Conversely, Miami’s run defense was ranked a lackluster 40th  in the nation, allowing an average of 132 yards per game. Moreover, Miami hasn’t faced Nebraska’s style of option running attack and the Cornhuskers should find success moving the ball.

Of course, the key to Nebraska’s attack is Eric Crouch, who rushed for more than 1,115 yards and 18 touchdowns in the aforementioned option attack, which will be tough to stop if Dahrran Diedrick (1,299 yards rushing) is actively involved.

Granted, Crouch will never be confused with Rex Grossman or David Humm (he threw more INT’s than TD’s), but he did complete 55 percent of his passes and threw for 1,500 yards. If Crouch can get the ball downfield, he has capable receivers in Wilson Âí­Thomas, and Tracey Wistrom, one of the nation’s best tight ends.

Several intangibles are also in the Cornhuskers’ favor. The Rose Bowl will be packed with between 70,000 and 80,000 diehard Nebraska fans, who will have Big Red more jazzed than ever. The Huskers have won seven straight bowl games, and they’ve lost only four games in the last 113 by double digits.

Finally, the Cornhuskers have nothing to lose. They’ve already lost a game, and their presence in the Rose Bowl is seen by many as a fluke. That could work to their advantage. In the end, it’s the Miami Hurricanes who must win to complete a perfect a season. While they may prove to the be the nation’s best team, the Rose Bowl game will be a low scoring affair with Nebraska staying close enough to cover, if not grab the outright win.