Tuesday, September 4, 2001
Huskers welcome the Irish
By Brent Musburger
Special to ABC Sports Online
There's no better place to go to for a college football game than Lincoln, Neb. Gary Danielson and I will be camped out there for Saturday night's showdown between No. 17 Notre Dame and the fourth-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).
The last non-sellout for a Nebraska home game came in 1962. That's 242 consecutive sellouts. More than 20,000 Nebraska faithful somehow got tickets a year ago when these teams played in South Bend, Ind. It will take a miracle for 20-some thousand Irish fans to find tickets for Saturday night's rematch.
I have found the Big Red contingent to be the most reasonable fanatics in the world. I was there the last time they lost in Lincoln -- in 1998 when Major Applewhite and Texas rallied to beat the Huskers. Afterwards, the Nebraska fans I spoke with went out of their way to praise the Longhorns, which is what being a Husker fan is all about. They didn't immediately start yelling for Frank Solich's head or blame the network for being pro-Texas.
These are great, great fans.
As for the game, this is the first time Notre Dame has played in Lincoln since 1948. That was during Frank Leahy's great post-war run with the Irish. The star of Notre Dame's victory that year was a tough fullback named Emil Sitko. Leahy's team also included future Hall of Famer Leon Hart, future Notre Dame coach Terry Brennan and a great offensive lineman by the name of Bill Fischer.
Nebraska's star was a legendary two-way player by the name of Tom "Train Wreck" Novak. Novak played center and linebacker that day against the Irish. You can still find his name in the Nebraska record book for 11 career interceptions, which ranks him third all-time.
These two schools will be waking up the echoes Saturday night. Here are a few things to keep an eye on:
Irish jitters. Unlike Nebraska, which has a couple of games under its belt, this is the opener for ND. Quarterback Matt LoVecchio did a superb job last year filling in for the injured Arnaz Battle to lead the Irish to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, but it has been months since he has taken a snap under pressure.
Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch running the option, and we do mean running. Crouch is as good a running quarterback as I have ever seen. And the senior from Omaha can cause nightmares for a defense. He holds the school's career rushing mark by a quarterback.
He's backed up by two I-backs who seem ready for the season ahead. No. 30 Dahrran Diedrick and No. 1 Thunder Collins have both played well in the Huskers' first two wins.
|Memorial Stadium will be full of red on Saturday.|
Two of the more impressive quarterback performances have come from precincts where they are not buying billboards or raving about Heisman Trophy chances.
First, David Carr and Fresno State. Who could have expected Carr to beat Colorado in Boulder and then go home and pick off highly-rated Oregon State? Fresno State's win over the Beavers on Sunday night came too late for the Bulldogs to be included for the Coaches Poll, but the Bulldogs are certainly worthy of a top 20 ranking.
The other impressive QB performance came from a familiar name -- Manning. But this came from Eli Manning. You may have missed it, but Peyton's younger brother completed 20-of-23 passes and tossed five TDs against Murray State. Young Manning completed 18 straight passes at one point.
The most impressive player I watched Saturday in Oklahoma's 44-3 defeat of the Air Force was punter Jeff Ferguson. You may recall Ferguson in last year's national championship game, running out of the end zone to take a safety rather than give up a possible touchdown to the Florida State rush. He also buried the 'Noles inside the 10-yard line three times. Many of us believed he was the MVP of the Orange Bowl.
On Saturday, he was at it again. From his own end zone, the Air Force had him smothered for a certain punt block early in the game. He avoided the rush and then nailed a 46-yard punt. With a kicking game as good as Oklahoma's and a defense loaded with All-American studs, this team is going to be hard to beat in the Big 12 this year.
Musburger's Top 3
|Eli Manning torched Murray State with precision.|
1. Oklahoma: You're still the champ until somebody knocks you off.
2. Miami: A very impressive road win in Happy Valley.
3. Georgia Tech: 2-0 is 2-0.
Musburger's Heisman ballot
1. Oklahoma LB Rocky Calmus. It's time for a linebacker to pick up the biggest piece of hardware.
2. Miami QB Ken Dorsey: Superb signal-caller. Did a great job in the 'Canes opener.
3. Fresno State QB David Carr: Great job in the Bulldogs' first two games.
And finally, the best look in a uniform goes to the Miami Hurricanes. It was a nifty set of road unis that they broke out against Penn State Saturday night. But someone should tell the Oregon Ducks that they have to change that uniform of theirs. They can't win a national championship wearing duds like that.
Love the helmet, but change the unis.
Brent Musburger is a play-by-play announcer for ABC's coverage of college football. He writes a column every Tuesday for ABC Sports Online.