Sept. 9, 1999
LINCOLN, Neb. - Nebraska coach Frank Solich isn't expecting another lopsided victory Saturday when the Cornhuskers play their home opener against California.
The No. 5 Cornhuskers are coming off a 42-7 victory over an Iowa team that played its first game under a new coach. The Hawkeyes were young and inexperienced, two qualities that aren't as prevalent on Cal.
The Golden Bears (1-0) gave the Cornhuskers trouble a year ago, before losing 24-3 at Berkeley. The Huskers didn't put the game away until late in the fourth quarter with a touchdown and field goal.
"Last year, they held our offense down most of the game," Nebraska split end Matt Davison said. "It's hard to compare teams, but last year's Cal game might have been more of a challenge than last weekend's Iowa game."
Solich said the Golden Bears' biggest threat is still their defense, with seven returning starters from last year's team.
"I think they were one of the better defenses we faced last year," Solich said. "You don't see many breakdowns."
The Cornhuskers' defense manhandled Iowa last week, shutting down the Hawkeyes' offense, but Nebraska's offense had trouble scoring in the first half. Nebraska led only 7-0 at haltime, but that turned around quickly with five second-half touchdowns.
"I think that what's scary is that Iowa played them well for a quarter," Cal coach Tom Holmoe said. "Nebraska looked like they were doing the right things. They look much the way they always look on offense, except they just weren't scoring. Then the floodgate opened so quickly and there was nothing that Iowa could do. They looked helpless trying to defend Nebraska's offense."
Nebraska did it with the quarterback combination of starter Bobby Newcombe and Eric Crouch. Newcombe, who injured a knee in the season opener a year ago and ended up missing seven games, didn't play in last year's Cal game. Crouch started and rushed for two touchdowns.
Holmoe expects the combination of a healthy Newcombe and Crouch to give the Cornhuskers a more powerful option attack than they brought west last year, when they rushed for 254 yards.
Cal also has a quarterback platoon, starter Samuel Clemens, a sophomore, and Kyle Boller, who last year played for Hart High School in Newhall, Calif. The two combined for a 21-7 win over Rutgers last week.
"They're sitting well at the quarterback spot," Solich said. "And they have excellent skill people who can run. They are running the football better and they're an extremely balanced team."
The Bears went 5-6 last year. It was an improvement over 1997's 3-8 finish, but Holmoe wants more.
"The pressure is for us to get better to the point where we win on a consistent basis and we're a perennial top 10 team," he said. "5-6 is unacceptable to me."
By DOUG ALDEN
Associated Press Writer