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Baylor prepping for Nebraska's Big Red Machine

Oct. 19, 2000

By ROB SINCLAIR

Sports Editor

The road doesn't get any easier for the Baylor football team this weekend as the Bears head north to visit the No. 1-ranked University of Nebraska Huskers at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Baylor comes into the contest at 2-4 overall and an 0-3 mark in the Big 12 Conference. Nebraska has been perfect thus far with records of 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the conference.

'They're good, but I see it as just another game,' Baylor left tackle Ethan Kelley said. 'It's just another game I have to prepare myself for.'

After holding their own in losses to Texas Tech University and Texas A&M University in the past two weeks, the Bear defense will have its hands full with the Husker offense.

The signal-caller for Nebraska is Big 12 Co-offensive Player of the Year junior Eric Crouch. He is averaging more than 200 yards of total offense per game and so far this season has thrown nine touchdown passes and run for 10.

Crouch commands so much respect that senior running back Dan Alexander almost gets lost in the shuffle. Alexander is Nebraska's leading rusher with 676 yards and four touchdowns.

Fellow senior Correll Buckhalter is also a threat in the Husker option attack with 479 yards and four touchdowns. As a team, Nebraska is averaging more than 366 yards rushing per game.

When Nebraska does pass, a trio of upperclassmen who all average better than 15 yards per reception are usually the intended receivers. Junior tight end Tracey Wistrom is Crouch's favorite target, having hauled in 14 passes for 247 yards and four touchdowns.

Senior split end Matt Davison is averaging 19 yards on his 12 catches and has a pair of touchdowns, while senior, preseason All-American wing back Bobby Newcombe has caught 10 balls for 166 yards.

Of course, none of that would be possible without the efforts of an offensive line that returns four starters from last year and averages 306 pounds. The interior of the line is especially strong, featuring preseason All-Americans Russ Hochstein at right guard and Dominic Raiola at center. Nebraska is racking up almost 500 yards of total offense this year, good for third in the nation. The Huskers are also scoring more than 44 points per contest, which ranks fifth in the country.

'They've got their base offense and defense, and they've played it for years,' Baylor head Coach Kevin Steele said. 'But they do put a percentage of new plays in each week. That's just standard procedure. They have a lot of experience, and that's no big deal for them.'

Not to be out done, the Husker defense is in the top half of the Big 12 in both rushing defense (114.8 yards per game) and scoring defense (17.3 points per game.) Anchoring Nebraska's 4-3 defensive formation is senior middle linebacker Carlos Polk. The preseason All-American leads the team with 45 tackles and is second with 10 quarterback hurries. Junior weak-side linebacker Randy Stella is first on the squad with seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

On the defensive line, senior rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch leads in the hurry department with 16 and has also collected six tackles for loss on the year.

Senior free safety Troy Watchorn leads a ball-hawking Husker secondary with four interceptions.

Baylor's offense suffered another blow this week when Steele announced starting flanker Andra Fuller will not play with knee and hip injuries.

Additionally, starting center Joe Jackson is questionable with an ankle injury. If he cannot play, it would mark the sixth offensive starter Baylor has lost to injury this year.

Kerry Dixon will start again at quarterback.