Defensive mission: Contain Crouch

Zac Reicks

It sounds so simple.

Run to the ball and play assignment football.

That is the task that faces the ISU defense this weekend as the Cyclones travel to Lincoln, Neb. to take on the Cornhuskers.

Both teams come into Saturday’s affair undefeated with nationally ranked offenses that haven’t had much trouble scoring points all year. Iowa State has totaled 117 points in three games for a 39 points per game average while Nebraska has totaled 174 in five games for 34.8.

That is what the Cyclone defense can look forward to as they hope to contain Heisman hopeful Eric Crouch and the rest of the Huskers’ powerful offense.

A prolific option quarterback, Crouch has spearheaded the Nebraska offensive attack to the tune of a 29-5 record over the last three and a half years.

Seniors Adam Runk, Kevin DeRonde and Justin Eilers represent a member of each one of the defensive units that will try to slow down Nebraska – defensive line, linebackers and secondary.

Each have different responsibilities, and each will have to do their jobs in order to ensure the defense has success.

“In the past, we’ve had 10 guys do the right thing and one guy lose a gap,” DeRonde said. “When we lose a gap, they usually break a play that goes for 50 yards.”

Crouch, a three-year starter, directs an offense that relies heavily on his ability to run and throw the ball. As quarterback, it is his responsibility to run its patented option-attack and also deliver the ball to sure-handed tight end Tracey Wistrom as well as its wide receivers.

It will be Runk’s job to take the pitchman, and if done successfully, will let everyone pursue Crouch.

“Everybody has to know their assignment and do their job,” Runk said. “If one guy messes up, Crouch will see it and take advantage.”

An edge Iowa State will have this weekend is the fact that they practice against a quarterback who can do everything Crouch can do – Seneca Wallace. Both nimble on their feet, Wallace has a better arm while Crouch holds the experience factor since ISU’s field general has only started three games compared to 31 for Crouch.

“I played against Seneca in junior college, and he is definitely comparable to Crouch,” said Eilers, who played at Nampa/Butte Junior College in Nampa, Idaho. “It gives us a little bit of an advantage practicing against someone like that.”

Runk also recognizes the similarities between the two.

“With Seneca and Crouch, you have two of the best running quarterbacks in the country,” Runk said.

Other than Nebraska’s skill players, one of the biggest factors that Iowa State will have to contend with is the 80,000 red-clad screaming Husker fans that can no doubt make a difference in the outcome of the games.

Just ask 60 of the last 61 teams that have been sent out of Memorial Stadium on the losing side of things.

“It is never easy to play in Memorial Stadium, because of the fans,” DeRonde said. “The night game will make for a great atmosphere.”

Concerning the huge crowd, Runk said that the team “will be very excited.”

If you’re thinking intimidated, however, don’t bet on it.

“We are a very confident team, and we are going to go in there playing our best and trying to win,” Runk said.