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The Best Team To Never Win A Championship- The 1999 Huskers

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This team deserved a shot at the title.

Eric Crouch #7...

After a dismal 9-4 season (Ha! That sounds like heaven right now.) in 1998. The 1999 Huskers were looking to prove that Nebraska was still on top.

The year started with some quarterback controversy as Junior Bobby Newcombe was selected as the starter over Sophomore Eric Crouch.

The 1999 team also had a tough, playmaking defense.

Although this team never ranked higher than #3 throughout the year, many argue that they should’ve been given a shot at the title. They defeated five ranked opponents, three of which were in the top ten. Their one loss to Texas mid season ruined their chances of proving themselves in the BCS Sugar Bowl vs Florida State.

1999 Season Highlights

Season record: 12-1

Offense: 34.2 points/game

Defense: 12.5 ppg

Average yards of offense: 392 yards per game

Leading Rusher: Eric Crouch 889 yards, 74.1 yards per game

Leading Passer: Eric Crouch 1269 yards, 105.8 yards per game

Leading Receiver: Matt Davidson 441 yards, 36.8 yards per game

The Awards

  • 1st Team All American: Ralph Brown, Mike Brown Dominic Raiola, Dan Hadenfeldt, Brian Shaw
  • 2nd Team All American: Steve Warren
  • Big 12 Offensive Player of The Year: Eric Crouch
  • All Big 12 First Team: Mike Brown, Ralph Brown, Eric Crouch, Russ Hochstein, Bobby Newcombe, Carlos Polk, Dominic Raiola, Steve Warren, Tracey Wistrom
  • All Big 12 Second Team: Dan Hadenfeldt, Julius Jackson, Kyle Vanden Bosch
  • All Big 12 Honorable Mention: Keyuo Craver, Matt Davison, Dave Volk
  • Big 12 Coach of The Year: Frank Solich

Other Crazy Stats

  • Bobby Newcombe had 294 yards of punt returns for the year, that is more than all of Nebraska’s opponents combined as they had just 281.
  • The defense collected 18 interceptions, 6 fumble recoveries and 53 sacks.

Season Recap:

Game 1- #5 Nebraska vs. Iowa, 42-7: The season opened in Iowa City as the Huskers took on the Hawkeyes. This was Kirk Ferentz’s first game as a head coach. Nebraska started out slow, going into half-time only up 7-0. The offense was struggling with scoring and turnovers.

In the second half the Huskers started clicking and led by Newcombe, scored on it’s first three possessions of the half. The game took off from there. The defense allowed no points and Iowa’s only points came from a blocked punt with 2:43 left in the game. Both Newcombe and Crouch played and both ended with impressive stats. Newcombe had 163 yards and 3 touchdowns while Crouch had 160 yards and three touchdowns of his own. He also had this great hit:

Game 2- #5 Nebraska vs. California, 44-0: The season opener at Memorial Stadium once again featured two quarterbacks and a stout defense. Nebraska was unable to get much going rushing, but were able to capitalize on good field position due to the defense and a solid passing game. During this game Eric Crouch became the first Husker to catch, run, and throw for a touchdown since Johnny Rogers in 1973.

Game 3- #4 Nebraska vs. Southern Miss, 20-13: Eric Crouch was named the starter at quarterback and Bobby Newcombe was moved to wingback. The defense won this game for the Huskers as the offense had little production and five, almost six turnovers. Julius Jackson scored twice for the defense, once on a fumble recovery and once on a pick six. The defense had four more turnovers including two key interceptions by Keyuo Craver.

Game 4- #6 Nebraska vs. Missouri, 40-10: The Husker offense bounced back in this game. The offense, led by Crouch totaled up 476 yards and was able to rush for 333 of those. The defense once again put up a stout performance allowing Missouri’s No.4 rushing offense just 25 yards.

Game 5- #6 Nebraska vs. Oklahoma St., 38-14: This game was a tale of two halves for Nebraska. Going into halftime the Huskers were up 31-0. The defense had allowed the Cowboys only 45 yards. They ended up giving up 273 yards, 188 of them rushing yards. The Husker defense had only given up 147 total rushing yards in their first four games.

Game 6- #4 Nebraska vs. Iowa St., 49-14: Coming into this game Iowa state was the nations top rushing team and had the No. 5 defense in the country. Nebraska amassed 524 yards and held the nation’s number one rusher to just 107 yards, 67 of which came in the fourth quarter against the Huskers 3rd and 4th string defenders. Two Nebraska rushers, Dan Alexander and Correll Buckhalter rushed for more than 100 yards and the offense seemed to show that the early season offensive struggles were behind them.

Here’s just a glimpse of what the Nebraska defense was doing to the Cyclones:

Game 7- #3 Nebraska vs. #18 Texas, 20-24: Fumbles cost the Huskers their only loss of the season. Nebraska fumbled on both Texas’ 1 yard line and their 20. Both fumbles resulted in points for the Longhorns. Nebraska out gained Texas 429 yards to 275. The Huskers were up 20-17 with 8 minutes to play when Major Applewhite led his team on a 60 yard game winning drive.

Nebraska had a chance to score to win the game when a 30 yard Eric Crouch pass to Matt Davidson was ruled incomplete. The television replay later showed that the pass was caught. (Seems to be something about these close Texas games) Nebraska did end up with the first down due to a pass interference call, but were unable to capitalize and could not stop the clock.

Game 8- #8 Nebraska vs. Kansas, 24-17: Bobby Newcombe was the hero of this game helping to thwart an upset by Kansas with an 86 yard punt return for a touchdown to give Nebraska it’s first lead of the night and a 46 yard catch from Eric Crouch to seal the win. Nebraska trailed 0-9 going into half time and needed a good second half to complete this win.

Game 9- #9 Nebraska vs. #21 Texas A&M, 37-0: The defense handed Texas A&M their first shutout since 1988. They only allowed the Aggies 118 yards, forced 5 turnovers and had 8 sacks. The only time the Aggie offense was close to scoring was after a Bobby Newcombe fumble was recovered on the Husker 11 yard line. Mike Brown led the defense with 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and 9 tackles; including a 10 yard sack.

At the half Nebraska was up only 6-0 scoring on a pair of Josh Brown field goals. They added another Brown field goal in their first possession of the third quarter and then had a balanced scoring attack from Dan Alexander, Eric Crouch, Correll Buckhalter and Dahrran Diedrick

Game 10- #7 Nebraska vs. #5 Kansas State, 41-15: This was the game that brought back the ‘99 team’s national title hopes and helped set them up for the Big 12 Championship game. Nebraska recorded a school record 10 fumbles (luckily only losing 3) in this game, but played so well that it’s poor ball handling didn’t have an impact on the outcome of the game. Kyle Vanden Bosch blocked a 40 yard field goal after a first possession fumble by the Nebraska offense to keep the game scoreless.

Nebraska racked up 378 yards against Kansas State’s No. 2 defense and had another strong defensive showing to dominate the Wildcats. Twelve of Kansas State’s offensive possessions lasted less than four plays. They only had 16 possessions in all. Mike Brown set up two of the three scores in the fourth quarter with a forced fumble and recovery to help set up a field goal and an interception.

Game 11- #3 Nebraska vs. Colorado, 33-30 OT: Just a week after a dominating performance against Kansas State, the Huskers needed overtime to narrowly escape an upset to Colorado. Going into the fourth quarter Nebraska was up by 24 points. After tying up the game Colorado tried an onside kick and Mike Brown fumbled. Colorado recovered, setting up a Colorado field goal that was missed sending the game into overtime. Nebraska won in overtime with a quarterback sneak by Crouch. This game was not the showing the Huskers hoped to have and it hurt their chances to catch up to Virginia Tech in the BCS standings.

Big 12 Championship Game #3 Nebraska vs. #22 Texas, 22-6: After losing to the Longhorns in three straight games Nebraska was finally able to break the streak. The defense sacked Texas quarterback Major Applewhite 7 times and intercepted him 3 times. They also held Texas to 173 yards for the first time since 1991. Now the team had to sit and wait to see if their victory would be enough to get them in the Sugar Bowl playing for the National Championship.

Fiesta Bowl #3 Nebraska vs. #6 Tennessee, 31-21: The Husker did not end up in the top two in BCS rankings so they went to Arizona to face Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl. This was the last game for long-time defensive coordinator Charlie McBride.

The Huskers jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter with big plays by Eric Crouch and Bobby Newcombe. Tennessee battled back to within three before Nebraska scored on back to back drives of 96 and 99 yards to clinch the win and hold off the Volunteers. Tennessee scored on the following drive to make it 31-21 and the Huskers ran out the clock to finish up the game.

The defense had two interceptions and one quarterback sack. Eric Crouch was named offensive MVP and Mike Brown was named defensive MVP.

There is only one way this season could’ve ended on a better note.