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Crouch stands tall as Nebraska exacts revenge

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Nebraska's Texas hex is over.

Frank Solich
Frank Solich takes part in the traditional victory shower after Nebraska beat Texas 22-6.

Eric Crouch ran for two touchdowns as the No. 3 Cornhuskers took out three losses worth of frustration against the No. 12 Longhorns for a 22-6 victory in the Big 12 championship Saturday.

"I didn't want to leave here without beating Texas," said senior defensive back Mike Brown, who endured losses to the Longhorns in October, last fall and in the 1996 Big 12 championship. "We showed them what Nebraska football is all about. Now we can go back to Lincoln and have some fun."

The Cornhuskers (11-1) have their fingers crossed that this victory will convince the BCS computer to send them instead of No. 2 Virginia Tech to the Sugar Bowl against No. 1 Florida State. Realistically, the Cornhuskers will play No. 6 Tennessee (9-2) in the Fiesta Bowl. Those matchups will be announced Sunday.

"We know as much as anyone how difficult it is to go undefeated," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "To Florida State and Virginia Tech's credit, they've done that. But I know we've got a great team that can play in that game and can play well."

Said Texas coach Mack Brown: "Any BCS people watching tonight better be concerned about their ratings. Because they look awfully good to me."

The Longhorns (9-4) are headed to a second straight Cotton Bowl, where they're expected to renew a once-intense rivalry against 7-4 Arkansas (unranked ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 Associated Press).

Despite a three-game winning streak against Nebraska, Texas hardly put up a fight. The Cornhuskers had a 10-0 lead after three drives, were up 15-0 at halftime and made it 22-0 on their first possession of the third quarter.

The Cornhuskers avoided a second-half collapse like the one last week against Colorado that all but ended their national title hopes. The Longhorns avoided their first shutout since 1980 when defensive back Ahmad Brooks returned a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Nebraska's dominance was anchored by its "blackshirt" defense.

The Cornhuskers sacked Texas quarterback Major Applewhite seven times, intercepted him three times -- including his final pass, in the Nebraska end zone -- and recovered a fumble. They were even credited with a safety when a shotgun snap flew past Applewhite and bounced out of the end zone.

Nebraska's relentless pass rush, which occasionally featured 10 men, prevented Applewhite from repeating his October comeback, when he rallied Texas from a 13-3 halftime deficit to a 24-20 victory.

Applewhite finished 15-of-42 for 164 yards. It was the first time in 22 starts that he's been held below 200 yards. It also was the fourth time this season Nebraska has not allowed an offensive touchdown.

"They changed their pass rush -- they were faster," Mack Brown said. "It was the same guys, but they came harder. "I think beating them three in a row made them mad."

Nebraska had won 68 of its previous 75 games and Texas had accounted for three of the seven losses. The Longhorns were trying to become the first team since Florida State (1987, '89, '92, '93) to beat the Cornhuskers four straight times.

Instead, Nebraska avenged its only defeat this season to win a second Big 12 title, the first under Solich. This also was the 20th win in his two years in charge, something no other Cornhuskers coach has ever done.

Nebraska took an early lead on a career-long 42-yard field goal from Josh Brown, then went up 10-0 on its next drive when a great fake handoff by Crouch turned into a 31-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1.

Another field goal by Brown and the safety gave the Cornhuskers a 15-0 halftime lead. Crouch struck again on his first drive of the third quarter, plunging in for a 4-yard touchdown two plays after a 55-yard run by Correll Buckhalter.

"We knew we had to make some big plays on offense to be successful," said Crouch, who had 72 yards rushing and 55 passing. He had a career-high 202 yards passing in the previous Texas game, but just 35 rushing.

Buckhalter, who was slowed by a toe injury, ran for 136 yards on 20 carries. He became the Cornhuskers' primary running back after leading rusher Dan Alexander split open his right hand in the first half and needed more than a dozen stitches to close the wound.

Nebraska also played without tight end Tracey Wistrom, who injured his right knee against Colorado.

Texas running back Hodges Mitchell, who entered the game with a team-leading 1,329 yards, had just 17 yards on seven carries. He had just one run for minus-3 yards after injuring his right ankle while returning the opening kickoff of the second half.

The Cornhuskers would have had a bigger blowout if their season-long fumble problem hadn't returned in the fourth quarter. Dahrann Diedrick's miscue led to the Longhorns' only points and Crouch lost a snap at the Texas 6 with 5:27 left.

Although the Huskers were considered the home team, only about 25 percent of the fans wore red. The rest of the Alamodome-record crowd of 65,035 was pro-Texas.


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 On fourth down, Eric Crouch runs in the 31-yard TD. (courtesy ABC Sports)
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 Eric Crouch rushes into the end zone on the option. (courtesy ABC Sports)
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