Tuesday, September 5
Updated: September 6, 5:25 PM ET
Huskers anxious to play Notre Dame

All sorts of mantras are being tossed around for this week's matchup of the meccas of college football.

The Golden Dome vs. the golden corn. Catholics vs. Cornvicts. The four horsemen vs. the five horses. No. 1 in history vs. No. 1 in the country.

But suffice it simply to say -- Notre Dame vs. Nebraska.

The collision of tradition this week in South Bend, Ind., is the same by any other name.

"It doesn't get any better than this," Husker junior quarterback Eric Crouch said. "This is the match-up everyone has been waiting for. They've carried such a long tradition of excellence and we have, too.

"The excitement and the anticipation of such a huge game, man, it blows your mind. It'll be just an awesome atmosphere."

The question is whether it will be an awesome game or an awful mismatch.

No. 1 Nebraska is coming off a 505-yard rushing performance Saturday that seemed to pick up where the Huskers left off in their 31-21 manhandling of Tennessee in the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl.

No. 25 Notre Dame is coming off an emotional 24-10 victory over Texas A&M that at least momentarily made Irish fans forget last year's 5-7 record and four-game losing skid that included a 38-14 pounding by Tennessee.

Texas A&M Coach R.C. Slocum said Nebraska shouldn't underestimate the Irish, whose confidence is bound to be buoyed by Saturday's win.

"I don't know at this point how good Notre Dame is," Slocum said. "I haven't seen Nebraska. But having played Nebraska in the last couple years, they're a very strong football team and I'd say they'd do well in this ballgame.

"This will be a good ballgame -- Nebraska with their history and Notre Dame has a lot of pride."

The Huskers say they are unfazed by the pride and passion of Notre Dame past.

Crouch, who was recruited by the Irish, said he thoroughly was impressed with Notre Dame's "traditional old campus" and its "classic architecture and perfectly trimmed trees." But he didn't want any part of the coaching staff's suggestion that he should play wide receiver because of his blazing speed.

"A lot of people say, Notre Dame -- why didn't you go to Notre Dame?," Crouch said. "And I'm thinking well, I'd win more games here at Nebraska. That's the type of offense I run. I'm an option guy. It seemed like it was more fitting for me to come to Nebraska and use my abilities at a position I've always played."

Carlos Polk
Nebraska linebacker Carlos Polk hates the Irish and can't wait to play Notre Dame.
Nebraska middle linebacker Carlos Polk, who grew up not far from Notre Dame country, said he's glad the Irish didn't recruit him.

Polk said he has a "deep-rooted hatred" for Notre Dame that was hatched as he grew up in Rockford, Ill.

"Nebraska has a great history, but you never heard about that," Polk said. "All it was was Notre Dame this and Notre Dame that. It still is. Every time you turn on the TV, it's Notre Dame.

"To me, it's just a sign of disrespect. They can have a losing season and still be ranked in the preseason. It's just something we're going to take into battle with us."

Of course, Nebraska's battle plans center largely on containing Arnaz Battle, the type of dash-and-pass quarterback who has given the Huskers fits in the past. And in the running game, the Blackshirts must try to stymie Julius Jones after giving up 147 yards to San Jose State's shifty 5-6, 180-pound Deonce Whitaker.

But Polk attributed Whitaker's success to the Spartans' misdirection plays and the Huskers' misguided tackling. Polk said the defense welcomes a chance to try to corral Notre Dame's power option game.

The Domers' defense likely will have a much bigger task in handling Nebraska's option and its five horses up front, led by center Dominic Raiola. The 505-yards rushing was the Huskers' biggest ground output in five years -- even if it was against the undersized Spartans.

After that performance, Raiola sat in the back of Nebraska's press room, biting his nails as he watched the waning moments of the Notre Dame-Texas A&M game on TV. The junior center said he's been thinking about the Irish since he arrived at Nebraska in 1997.

"This is a big game right here," he said. "We know they're a big-time powerhouse in college football. We understand what we're getting into here."

Around the Big 12

If ever there were a time to try to make a statement touchdown, this was it. Baylor was at the North Texas 4-yard-line on Thursday, leading 20-7 with time running out. But Coach Kevin Steele decided to have quarterback Greg Cicero take a knee -- twice -- to ensure that North Texas had no opportunity to take the ball 100 yards the other way, as UNLV did last year to spoil a Baylor win. "The biggest thing is a win is a win," Steele said. ... Steele, the fiery defensive-minded disciplinarian, wants to see more fire -- or "personality", as he calls it -- from his defense. Ironically, he said, that kind of leadership could come from four redshirt freshmen -- defensive end Aaron Lard, linebackers Derrick Cash and Anthony Simmons and safety Matt Amendola -- "It's kind of a scary proposition," he said of their youthful leadership. "But they kind of inject an enthusiasm, a confidence, a reckless abandon in this defense." ... In his first major college start, quarterback Greg Cicero was 16 of 27 for 207 yards but was still unsatisfied. "He's as hard on himself as any coach would be," Steele said.

There's no rest for the Buffaloes after getting rammed 28-24 by intrastate rival Colorado State. CU travels to USC for a big non-conference matchup. "We won't have any trouble getting up for this one," Barnett said. "Their athleticism and their speed on defense impresses you." ... Barnett said Zac Colvin, who left the game in the first half with a bruised elbow, could have played in the second half and will start Saturday's game, despite a solid performance from Bobby Pesavento. ... The Buffs also have two solid I-backs to pick from in Cortlen Johnson, who had 121 yards, and Marcus Houston who set a CU freshman-record by rushing for 98 yards on 18 carries. Houston could get the nod if Johnson's turf-toe doesn't heal by Saturday. ... After looking over a stat sheet showing 530 yards of total offense, no turnovers and one penalty, coach Gary Barnett had a hard time seeing why Colorado lost to the Rams. "We had one of those games where you look on paper afterwards and go, 'How'd you lose that game?' We played really well except for four (passing) plays." ... Speaking of those plays, Barnett blasted a local media report that said Colorado cornerback Nate Wright was "burned" for three touchdowns. "Nate Wright only got beat on one play. He got blamed in the paper for being in on three of those. Two of those were not his fault. The kid took a drubbing. I'm always concerned about a guy who gets drubbed up like that." According to the Denver Post, Barnett had said immediately after the game, "Everybody in the world knows he gave up three touchdowns. Now he's got to look at that and decide what he's made of and work hard."

Iowa State
In the how-hot-was-it department, Cyclone coach Dan McCarney said it was so hot during Iowa State's 25-15 win over Ohio Saturday that even the coaches were cramping on the sidelines. ... Running back Ennis Haywood picked up where the Davis brothers left off with an outstanding day for the Cyclones. His 207 total yards included a 73-yard touchdown run. ... McCarney said there's no secret about his offensive game plan as the Cyclones play host to UNLV Saturday. He said the Cyclones are still operating under the same basic power running offense that produced the back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons for Troy Davis.

Coach Terry Allen ranked his disappointment with the Jayhawks' season-opening loss to SMU in Dallas as a "9.9" on a 10.0 scale. ... His disappointment with the Jayhawks' punt team was off the charts, though. Kansas punter Joey Pelfanio bobbled a punt snap, had another one sail over his head and then had a punt blocked -- all in the first quarter. By the time the first-quarter bloodshed was done, the Jayhawks trailed 24-0. Allen said he estimated that Pelfanio had taken 500 snaps during preseason practice and hadn't bobbled one. ... All of that from a team that sports shirts that say "Discipline -- make it a part of your life." ... As he kicks off his fourth season, Allen's teams have won only one road game. ... Kansas safety Carl Nesmith will return when the Jayhawks play host to Alabama-Birmingham Sept. 16. Nesmith served a one-game suspension for violating team rules.

Kansas State
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder saw two players earn Big 12 player-of-the-week honors in the first two weeks. Aaron Lockett was named Special Teams Player of the Week for his play in place of the injured David Allen. Lockett had a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown. Defensive end Monty Beisel won the conference's defensive award after netting 13 tackles and two sacks against Iowa, although Snyder said defensive back DeRon Tyler was his pick as star this week with an interception and three pass deflections in the Wildcats' 54-10 win over Louisiana Tech. ... Snyder said he doesn't know when Allen (ankle sprain) will be available but it might not be until the Wildcats open conference play against Colorado.

As the Tigers prepare to play at Clemson Saturday, coach Larry Smith is concerned about their running ability. The Tigers showcased their new passing attack nicely in their 50-20 victory Saturday over Western Illinois but they finished with just 137 net yards rushing -- 101 of those in the second half of the blowout. Smith noted that the Citadel managed just a mere 57 yards in 42 attempts. ... After horrendous performances the past two years, Missouri's special teams played well in the Tigers' 50-20 victory over Western Illinois. Punter Jared Gilpin averaged more than 39 yards a kick, including a 47-yarder, and he pinned the Leathernecks at their 1-yard-line. ... Travis Garvin is expected to return for this week's game after serving a one-game suspension for violating team rules.

Coach Bob Stoops promised to get true freshman Renaldo Works some work in the opener. He probably didn't realize it would work out this well. Works carried 19 times for 98 yards (5.2 average) in OU's 55-14 victory over UTEP. That was a record for a true freshman. Not bad for a "passing" school with names like Billy Sims in its past. ... Stoops, whose team plays host to a, ahem, "tough" Arkansas State team Saturday, said his top priority in scheduling is getting home games. Last year, OU had just five home games. This year, the Sooners quickly sold out all six home games, even those against the likes of UTEP, Arkansas State and Rice. ... Stoops had to shuffle the lineup after middle linebacker Torrance Marshall and backup free safety Brandon Everage were suspended for the home opener for breaking undisclosed team rules. Rocky Calmus moved over into Marshall's spot and had 10 tackles, two for losses, forced one fumble and recovered two others.

Oklahoma State
As his team prepares to play at Tulsa Saturday, Cowboys coach Bob Simmons again declined to comment about Tulsa coach Keith Burns' comments at a luncheon at the Tulsa Press Club in July. "I think we are going to pass up Oklahoma State," Burns said at the time. "I think we're two programs going in different directions." While Simmons won't comment, you can bet those comments are ringing in players' ears. ... Quarterback Tony Lindsay's shoulder has kept him out of practice recently but won't keep him out of Saturday's game, Simmons said. ... Simmons will count on three relative newcomers on the offensive line, including redshirt freshman tackle Jon Hayhurst, junior center D.J. Grissom and junior guard Jason Johnson, for protection for Lindsay.

Coach Mack Brown said he won't decide until game time who his starting quarterback will be when the Longhorns plat their season opener Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette. One of the major factors, Brown said, will be evaluating who might be better at coming off the bench. If that's the deciding measure, fans might look for the consummate team player, Major Applewhite to sit initially as Chris Simms starts "The two young men are handling it really well," Brown said, "so there's no reason for us to make it now except so you all quit asking questions about it. But if I did you'd ask different questions." ... Starting seemingly later than any other team, Brown said he's tired of watching his team beat up each other. "Playing yourself is a horrible thing," he said. "We're really excited to get to Saturday's game to find out who we are as a team."

Texas A&M
After a 24-10 loss to Notre Dame Saturday, coach R.C. Slocum said his players, though disappointed, had a spirited workout Sunday as they get ready to play Wyoming in College Station this week. Slocum said his players were understandably disappointed by the loss, which hinged on three or four big plays. "You've only got one of two ways you can go. You can wallow around and feel sorry for yourself and dwell on 'this could have been' or 'that could have been.' The reality is it wasn't." ... Senior free safety Michael Jameson, A&M's only returning starter, suffered a high ankle sprain but should be back by Sept. 16, if not this week. At least Slocum hopes so -- "We've got the blind leading the blind back there so that's going to be a problem for us if Michael can't play. ... Slocum said he took a look at the Top 25 slate Saturday and momentarily reconsidered his philosophy of scheduling big names in the non-conference season. But then he said "I do think it's good for our team to go and play in that kind of environment."

Texas Tech
Tech receiver Carlos Francis was selected as the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week for his 234 yards on seven catches, although coach Mike Leach sang praises for the other Williams, Shaud, during the Red Raiders' 38-16 victory over Utah State Saturday. "Carlos is certainly deserving of that (conference) award but Shaud had such a complete performance as far as blocking, catching and rushing the ball." ... After an opening week in which he gave himself a failing grade, Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury threw for a school-record 450 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score. ... More huge numbers should be on the way when the Red Raiders play North Texas, even though Tech has had problems in the past with the Mean Green.

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