Big 12: Mike Stuntz
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Every year, we talk about "Heisman moments" for the award's contenders, but Nebraska's Eric Crouch had one of the greatest of all-time, which gave him college football's greatest 63-yard touchdown ever.
Oct. 27, 2001: It's known in Huskers lore as Black 41 Flash Reverse Pass, the moment that personified Eric Crouch's Heisman campaign. The Sooners know it as the play that ended their 20-game winning streak that included the national championship in 2000. Leading 13-10 midway through the fourth quarter, Crouch pitched to Thunder Collins, who handed it off to receiver Mike Stuntz, a true freshman and a former high school quarterback. Stuntz hit Crouch 40 yards downfield, and he went untouched the rest of the way for the 63-yard touchdown that provided the 20-10 final score.
-- David Ubben
All of the Cornhuskers’ coaches experienced success in their own way over the decade. With Bill Callahan and Bo Pelini, Nebraska was the only Big 12 school to make championship game appearances in the 2000’s with different coaches. And Frank Solich, the Cornhuskers’ first coach of the decade, took them to a national championship game in 2001.
In 2001 Eric Crouch claimed the first of the Big 12’s three Heisman trophies in the decade. And Ndamukong Suh had a great case for one in 2009.
Pelini has the Cornhuskers pointed in the right direction after only two seasons. But here are my choices for the Cornhuskers' best players and brightest moments.
QB: Eric Crouch
RB: Correll Buckhalter
RB: Cory Ross
WR: Nate Swift
WR: Maurice Purify
TE: Tracey Wistrom
OL: Russ Hochstein
OL: Toniu Fonoti
OL: Richie Incognito
OL: Matt Slauson
C: Dominic Raiola
DL: Adam Carriker
DL: Ndamukong Suh
DL: Jared Crick
DL: Kyle Vanden Bosch
LB: Carlos Polk
LB: Demorrio Williams
LB: Barrett Ruud
DB: Keyuo Craver
DB: Josh Bullocks
DB: Prince Amukamara
DB: Daniel Bullocks
P: Kyle Larson
K: Alex Henery
Ret: DeJuan Groce
Offensive player of the decade: QB Eric Crouch. Received playing time early in his career as a receiver, but eventually became the most athletic quarterback to win the Heisman this decade. He finished as Nebraska’s career leader in total offense and total offense touchdowns.
Defensive player of the decade: DT Ndamukong Suh. His unique blend of athleticism gave him a skill set unlike those for many defensive tackles. Before his career was finished, Suh left with a legitimate claim as the greatest Blackshirt in history.
Coach of the decade: Bo Pelini. All three Nebraska coaches experienced success in different ways. Pelini gets the nod for his 20-8 record as a head coach and three bowl victories, including one as interim coach in 2003.
Moment of the decade: Eric Crouch’s throwback pass reception in 2001. Not only did Mike Stuntz’ 63-yard touchdown pass to Crouch wrap up a huge 20-10 victory over No. 2 Oklahoma, but it also provided a highlight that helped catapult Crouch to the Heisman Trophy.
- 1. Vince Young's game-winning touchdown in the 2006 Rose Bowl: Anyone who was there or saw it will never forget Young's 8-yard touchdown run with 19 seconds left that led Texas to a 41-38 triumph over USC and the 2005 national championship.
- 2. Michael Crabtree's last-second grab stuns Texas: Crabtree's game-winning 28-yard catch with one second left did more than merely wrap up the biggest victory in Texas Tech history, a 39-33 win over Texas. It heralded a national coming-out party for Crabtree and the rest of the Tech program, setting the stage for the wild three-way South Division tie in 2008.
- 3. Superman's leap: Roy Williams' dramatic blitz forced Chris Simms to throw an interception to Teddy Lehman, who returned it for the game-winning touchdown in Oklahoma's 14-3 triumph over Texas in 2001.
- 4. Torrance Marshall's theft saves the season: Texas A&M was driving, but Marshall's 41-yard fourth-quarter interception return provided a game-winning touchdown and a 35-31 triumph over the Aggies at Kyle Field. The big play preserved Oklahoma's victory in the Sooners' toughest challenge en route to the 2000 national championship.
- 5. Eric Crouch's catch cements Heisman bid, beats Oklahoma: Crouch's 63-yard TD reception on a throwback pass from freshman receiver Mike Stuntz was Crouch's signature moment on his path to the 2001 Heisman Trophy and sparked a 20-10 triumph over Oklahoma.
- 6. Darren Sproles sparks Kansas State's stunning 2003 Big 12 title game upset: Darren Sproles rushed for 235 yards -- the most gained against an Oklahoma defense ever to that point -- and Ell Roberson added four touchdown passes to help Kansas State claim its first Big 12 title in a 35-7 upset over No. 1 Oklahoma.
- 7. Hunter Lawrence's kick pushes Texas into national title game: Despite a sputtering performance by Colt McCoy that included nine sacks and three interceptions, Texas held on for a 13-12 victory over Nebraska in the 2009 title game on a 46-yard field goal by Hunter Lawrence on the final play of the game. Lawrence's game-winning kick came only after McCoy nearly squandered the opportunity by throwing the ball out of bounds on the previous play as the clock originally appeared to have expired. Officials put time back on the clock, setting the stage for Lawrence's heroics.
- 8. Chris Brown gashes the Cornhuskers: Colorado running back Chris Brown ripped Nebraska for 198 yards and six touchdowns, boosting the Buffaloes to a wild 62-36 victory over Nebraska that snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Cornhuskers. Brown's big game sent the Buffaloes to the 2001 Big 12 title game, which they won the following week against Texas.
- 9. Postgame clash of the titans: Oklahoma State's 49-45 victory over Texas Tech in 2007 produced one of the most memorable games in Big 12 history. The teams compiled 94 points, 62 first downs and 1,328 yards. But all of the action on the field was upstaged in a wild postgame battle of soundbites when Mike Leach questioned the toughness of his defense and Mike Gundy berated an Oklahoma City columnist who he felt had unfairly portrayed quarterback Bobby Reid.
- 10. Kyle Field's nod to patriotism: Texas A&M's 21-7 victory over Oklahoma State wasn't what was so memorable. It was that the Aggies fans decked out Kyle Field in red, white and blue in the first game after the 9/11 attacks on the country in 2001. Thousands of fans transformed the old stadium into a patriotic rainbow in a memory that endures to this day.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Crouch overcomes struggling effort for Heisman-defining moment vs. Oklahoma
Date: Oct. 27, 2001
Place: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
Score: Nebraska 20, Oklahoma 10
To all Nebraska fans, it's become a larger-than-life memory known simply as "Black 41 Flash Reverse Pass" -- one of the most unforgettable plays in school history.
But Crouch's heroic touchdown reception that helped beat Oklahoma in 2001 was more than just a great play.
It pushed the Cornhuskers into the No. 1 position in the BCS poll after the victory.
It also helped boost Crouch into the lead for the Heisman Trophy, an honor he claimed later in the season. His dramatic catch came in one of Crouch's worst statistical games ever.
The victory turned out to be the biggest in Frank Solich's coaching tenure with the Cornhuskers.
The Sooners carried a 20-game winning streak to the game and hadn't lost since Bob Stoops' first season when they brought their No. 1 team in the BCS poll into Memorial Stadium.
Oklahoma had built that streak on its defense and appeared ready to continue that during the game.
The game turned early when Oklahoma quarterback Jason White sustained a knee injury that would sideline him for the rest of the season -- save for a couple of plays later in the game.
Backup Nate Hybl then entered the game and engineered the game's first scoring drive. His 4-yard strike to tight end Trent Smith gave the Sooners an early 7-0 lead.
Nebraska matched that less than five minutes later on a 2-yard touchdown run by Dahrran Diedrick. Both teams traded field goals -- a 27-yarder by Nebraska's Josh Brown and a 20-yarder by Oklahoma's Tim Duncan with 15 seconds left in the half -- for a 10-10 halftime deadlock.
The Cornhuskers went ahead early in the third quarter after Erwin Swiney picked off Hybl on a pass that bounced off the facemask of receiver Antwone Savage. Thunder Collins scooted 39 yards on an end-around to the Oklahoma 25 on the next play, setting up a 26-yard field goal by Brown.
Hybl injured his left shoulder on the next Oklahoma possession when he was slammed to the turf by Nebraska linebacker Chris Kelsay, but returned after missing two plays. Amazingly, White returned to action for those plays despite his earlier injury.
After recovering from his injury, Hybl rallied the Sooners in the fourth quarter. But the drive stalled at the Nebraska 36. Stoops then decided against a long field goal in favor of a pooch punt that pinned the Cornhuskers at their own 5. Similar strategy had boosted Oklahoma to a victory over Texas earlier that season.
Crouch gained 19 yards to get the Cornhuskers out of the shadow of their end zone. But Oklahoma appeared to have gotten a defensive stop after Tommie Harris and Cory Heinecke produced a seven-yard loss on third down. Officials ruled Heinecke had grabbed Crouch's face mask on the play, giving the Cornhuskers a first down at the Nebraska 37.
On the next play, the Cornhuskers struck. Crouch handed the ball to Collins, who then pitched it to freshman Mike Stuntz, a backup quarterback on what appeared to be a reverse.
Stuntz instead fired a perfect spiral to a wide-open Crouch, who caught the ball at the Oklahoma 38 and easily jetted past Oklahoma 6-foot-2, 275-pound defensive tackle Kory Klein and defensive back Derrick Strait to the end zone. The play covered 63 yards.
Interestingly, Oklahoma had tried almost the exact play earlier in the game. The Sooners' play failed when Hybl fell down.
It wasn't the longest play for Crouch, who earlier in the season had run 95 yards for a touchdown against Missouri. It wasn't even his first touchdown reception.
But it was the kind of play that resonated with Heisman voters and helped him become the first Nebraska quarterback to win the award.
They said it, part I: "This was one of those games where you want some excitement, so we thought we'd come out and try it. It worked," Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch on his game-clinching touchdown reception.
They said it, part II: "In the end, losing is a strange feeling in our locker room (as far as) what to feel. We haven't experienced this in quite a while," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops on the end of his team's 20-game winning streak.
They said it, part III: "No matter what happened, I knew we were going to get the job done. It wasn't finesse. It wasn't gaining 500 or 600 yards, but we got it done when we needed to," Crouch on Nebraska's big-play effort against the Sooners.
They said it, part IV: "I won't lie. I was a little bit nervous. I was just thrilled to death,'' Nebraska wide receiver Mike Stuntz, on his game-clinching TD pass to Crouch.
Factoids: The loss was the first time that Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops ever lost against a top-10 opponent, snapping a winning streak of eight games ... The Sooners came into the game as the nation's No. 1 ranked team in the BCS standings and Nebraska was No. 2 ... The Nebraska upset ended a 20-game winning streak for the Sooners that dated to their 1999 Independence Bowl loss to Mississippi. It was the nation's longest winning streak at the time of the game ... Crouch rushed for 21 yards on 13 carries and completed 10-of-18 passes for 102 yards. His rushing total was a career low in a game where he started at quarterback ... On the three possessions before Crouch's game-clinching TD reception, the Cornhuskers had produced three, eight and nine yards ... Hybl completed 17-of-36 passes for 184 yards and an interception ... The victory extended Nebraska's home winning streak to 20 games, a streak that would eventually stretch to 26 games before the Cornhuskers lost in 2002 to Texas ...
The upshot: Nebraska and Oklahoma switched spots in the BCS poll the following week, with Nebraska at No. 1 and Oklahoma at No. 2.
The potential for a rematch in the Big 12 title game never materialized as both teams lost the final game of the regular season to cost them a chance at their respective division titles. The Cornhuskers were blown out in a 62-36 loss at Colorado that snapped their 11-game winning streak to the start the season. And Oklahoma dropped a 16-13 home loss to Oklahoma State.
Even with the loss, Nebraska still qualified to play for the national championship in the Rose Bowl. But mistakes cost them three quick touchdowns as Miami cruised to an easy 37-14 victory. The two losses at the end of the season dropped the Cornhuskers (11-2) to No. 8 in the final Associated Press poll. The Cornhuskers haven't finished the season ranked as highly since then.
Despite the late struggles, Crouch still claimed the Heisman Trophy, winning the award by 62 points over Florida quarterback Rex Grossman. His touchdown reception against Oklahoma no doubt helped catapult him to the honor, becoming the first Big 12 quarterback to win the honor.
Stuntz never threw another touchdown pass for the Cornhuskers. He ended his career in 2005 as a defensive back.
Oklahoma finished the season with a gritty 10-3 victory over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl, limiting the Razorbacks to six first downs and 50 net yards as the Sooners wrapped up an 11-2 season. The Sooners ended the season ranked sixth in the final AP poll.
8. Sproles and Roberson stun top-ranked OU, leading KSU to its first Big 12 title.
9. Emotional A&M victory brings closure after Bonfire tragedy.
10. Roll left: James Brown guarantees victory and then backs it up.
11. When BCS meant "Boo Chris Simms" in Colorado's first Big 12 title.
12. A Buffalo stampede: Six Chris Brown TDs lead CU to first Big 12 title game.
13. Run, Ricky, run. Ricky Williams breaks NCAA career rushing record.
14. Wild game, wilder post-game rants when Gundy and Leach meet in 2007.
15. Rout 66: No, that score wasn't a typo.
16. KSU finally slays the Cornhuskers.
17. Kingsbury and Long hook up in a passing duel for the ages.
18. Henery and Suh make Colorado blue.
19. Stunning OSU rally leads to Stoops' first home loss.
20. It's never over for Texas Tech until it's over.
21. Reesing to Meier. Again and again.
22. A Texas-sized comeback -- Texas over Oklahoma State in 2004.
23. A Border War unlike any of the rest -- Missouri over Kansas in 2007.
24. Seneca Wallace's wild TD run vs. Texas Tech in 2001.
25. Baylor's "So Much for Taking a Knee" against UNLV in 1999.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
It used to be a rivalry that the rest of the college football world noticed.
In the glory days of the Big Eight, Nebraska-Oklahoma was as big as it got. Barry Switzer and Tom Osborne. "Sooner Magic." Keith Jackson's catch. Johnny Rodgers return.
But those days have never seemed further away as the Cornhuskers and Sooners prepare for Saturday's game in Norman.
Now, the Cornhuskers and Sooners appear to be just another cross-divisional rivalry in the Big 12, where much of the mystique of the game has been stripped away because the two teams meet only twice during a four-year period.
Here's a factoid that is rather telling. The Grand Island (Neb.) Independent reported earlier this week that 87 percent of respondents in an unscientific poll conducted by a Nebraska television station voted that the Nebraska-Oklahoma game didn't have as much meaning as before.
The Sporting News came out with a special magazine back in 2001 that commemorated the the rivalry before the matchup between then-No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 3 Nebraska. It's hard to believe something like that would happen today.
And in a sense, that's kind of sad.
Here's an example of how quickly those glory days have been forgotten. Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles said he had never even heard of Rodgers, a transcendent figure who helped the Cornhuskers win the national championship in 1971 with a key punt return against the Sooners in a 35-31 victory that many still call "The Game of the Century."
"No, I'm not familiar," Broyles told the Oklahoman. "That's my bad."
Some of those feelings are understandable, considering the attention span of young players, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.
"It's funny how they are," Stoops said. "History is the last two years to them."
The rivalry has had its moments since the Big 12 was formed. Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch wrapped up the 2001 Heisman Trophy by catching a throwback from Mike Stuntz that sealed the Cornhuskers' 20-10 victory that year. Oklahoma claimed the 2006 Big 12 title by beating Nebraska in Kansas City.
Former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan touched off a fervor when he referred to Oklahoma fans as "expletive Hillbillies" after Oklahoma's 30-3 victory over the Cornhuskers in Nebraska's last trip to Norman in 2004.
Oklahoma officials are hoping to defuse some of those bad memories by hosting a dinner Friday night where key players from the 1971 game meet again to retell their old war stories. Among those expected to attend are Switzer and Osborne, who still are close today.
In a sense, that relationship matches those of the current head coaches. Stoops and Pelini have been friends since childhood after growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, and attending the same high school, Cardinal Mooney. Pelini served as a member of Stoops' coaching staff in 2004 and the two coaching rivals remain good friends today.
"We've joked that two guys from the south side of Youngstown have ended up coaching in Oklahoma and Nebraska with what the rivalry being what it is," Stoops said. "But this game this week is about a lot more than Bo and I.
"And we're not going to be out there wrestling in the middle of the field. Bo is too young for me."
Oklahoma desperately needs a victory to keep pace with Texas in the South Division. If the Sooners are going to have a chance to defend their conference championship Dec. 6 in Kansas City, they need Texas to lose twice. The Sooners can't afford to drop another game behind the Longhorns with only four games left.
And despite a two-game losing streak to start Big 12 play, the Cornhuskers have played much better in a close loss at Texas Tech and recent victories over Iowa State and Baylor. A ball-control offense has enabled the Cornhuskers average nearly 39 minutes of time of possession during their last three games.
"That's something we've always worked on and will always work on," Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz said. "It doesn't change just because we're facing a big opponent like Oklahoma. We're going to stick to our game plan and what we do best. The time of possession is going to be big, especially to keep that (Oklahoma's) offense off the field."
That strategy has enabled the Cornhuskers to play their way into a tie for the North Division lead, resuscitating bowl hopes and giving some dreamy Nebraska fans hopes of sneaking their way into the title game if Missouri would lose again this season.
"I don't really change who I play or what I do or how I approach it," Pelini said. "I understand we're playing against a heck of a football team. And we need to play our best football, which we still haven't done yet."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I remember first meeting Thunder Collins shortly after his arrival to Nebraska. He had the most descriptive name for a college running back I had ever heard -- before or since.
Today, Collins is in the Omaha City Jail after being arrested on charges of first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and two felony weapons charges. He and another man were arrested by Omaha police Wednesday in connection with the alleged slaying Tuesday of a Los Angeles man and the wounding of another in a home in Omaha.
Collins was involved in one of the most memorable plays in Nebraska history in 2001. He originally took a handoff from quarterback Eric Crouch that ended up in wide receiver Mike Stuntz's hands. Stuntz then hit Crouch with a 63-yard touchdown pass, sealing a 20-10 victory for Nebraska over Oklahoma.
That big play likely did more for earning Crouch his Heisman Trophy than any single play. It also helped catapult the Cornhuskers into the national championship game, where they lost to Miami, 37-14.
Collins remained with the Cornhuskers through the 2002 season. His best season was in 2001, when he rushed for 647 yards, but never received much playing time after that.
His life after football had been marked with legal problems. And he's facing his biggest one today.
Here are some other stories from across the Big 12 this afternoon.
- Bring on the Cats pens an open letter to Ron Prince about some of his recent coaching decisions.
- Oklahoma WR Ryan Broyles has made a big transformation after his season-long suspension last year.
- Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler sees some bright spots for Iowa State after the first four games of the season.
- Baylor QB Robert Griffin can detect a change in the culture around his program since arriving at school in January.
- The Lawrence Journal-World's Eric Sorrentino lists the most unbreakable records in Big 12 history.
- In order for Colorado coach Dan Hawkins to match Bobby Bowden's longevity as a coach, he would have to coach for 29 more seasons.