Originally created 12/29/00

Nebraska prepares for Northwestern



SAN ANTONIO -- Nebraska senior Kyle Vanden Bosch is dead serious when he says he hasn't seen an offense like Northwestern's this season.

The No. 18 Wildcats have found what few offenses can do successfully - a balance between running and passing. Vanden Bosch admits it's a little scary - even to a 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive end.

The No. 9 Cornhuskers (9-2) play the co-Big Ten champion Wildcats (8-3) in the Alamo Bowl on Saturday night.

"I'm just glad this didn't come during the season because we've had more time to prepare," Vanden Bosch said Thursday. "This offense gives us a look we haven't seen."

It's a spread-out offense that has scored more than 40 points five times this season.

Nebraska has been known for a dominant offense with a few exceptions, but the Wildcats actually outrank the Huskers when the running and passing totals are combined.

Nebraska averaged 349.3 yards per game rushing to lead the nation. Northwestern was eighth at 257.3 yards, but the Wildcats passing attack gave them a total offensive average of 475.6 yards, more than 15 yards ahead of Nebraska.

Running back Damien Anderson has led the attack, rushing for 1,914 yards - 30 more yards than Nebraska I-backs Dan Alexander and Correll Buckhalter ran for combined.

Zak Kustok is the Wildcats' other top threat. He completed more than 58 percent of his passes for 2,251 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Still, not all the Cornhuskers are impressed.

"They're a good team. I just don't feel that they're on our level yet," linebacker Carlos Polk said.

The Wildcats, who finished 3-8 a year ago, aren't intimidated going into just their fourth bowl game.

"I would love to help give this team a win. As much as it is finishing this year, everybody knows it would mean much more going into next year," receiver Teddy Johnson said. "If we beat Nebraska, there's going to be a lot of talk out there on how Northwestern just might be 'the truth.' There's a lot of doubters out there, still saying it's a mismatch game."

If nothing else, the Wildcats feel they've got luck on their side. In wins over Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, Northwestern won on touchdowns in the final seconds.

Against the Badgers, Anderson scored on a 12-yard run to lift the Wildcats to a 47-44 win in two overtimes at Wisconsin, which was ranked No. 7 at the time.

A month later Kustok launched a 45-yard pass on the final play of the game that Sam Simmons caught for a game-winning touchdown. Simmons' catch capped a 20-point fourth quarter for the Wildcats, who won 41-35.

The Wildcats lucky streak appeared over against the Wolverines when Anderson dropped a pass alone in the end zone with 1:38 left and Northwestern trailing by five. The Wildcats got a gift when Anthony Thomas fumbled and Kustok hit Simmons with another game-winning pass with 20 seconds left.

"Coach told us that we were going to win a lot of games in the fourth quarter. A lot of people put up the four fingers in the fourth quarter and it's just for show," Johnson said. "We hold that fourth quarter up we really mean it. We feel like the fourth quarter is ours - every game."

Offensive lineman Leon Brockmeier said the Wildcats had ended up on the wrong side of similar games too often.

"It's basically us watching over us because nobody was really believing that we were going to win this year," he said. "It was just us - the 85 on the team that believed it."