Wallace and Crouch set for battle

Jeff Stell

Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch is on the fast track towards establishing himself as one of the better quarterbacks in the short history of the Big 12 Conference’s North division.

Meanwhile, ISU signal-caller Seneca Wallace is getting a tight grasp on the offensive system and the results have been stellar in the Cyclones’ successful start to the season.

Both quarterbacks will lead unbeaten teams onto the field in Lincoln Saturday when the Cyclones take on the fourth-ranked Cornhuskers. It will be just another big game for the three year starter Crouch, but for Wallace, a big game could put him on the national college football map.

“I’m not going to let that [quarterback matchup] bother me, it doesn’t ever matter,” Wallace said. “He [Crouch] does his thing, I do my thing, and we’ll see what the outcome is.”

Wallace, a junior college transfer, is in his first year at the helm of the Cyclone offense, but looks like a veteran. Last week, Wallace completed a Big 12 record 18 passes in a row in a 41-0 rout of Baylor.

Wallace finished 22-of-24 with four touchdowns and kept the defense off-balance by throwing to eight different receivers. Through three games, Wallace has passed for 596 yards and four touchdowns, completing 66 percent of his passes, and has rushed for three scores.

“He’s doing a nice job with his decisions, he’s throwing the heck out of the ball, and he can beat you with his feet too,” ISU head coach Dan McCarney said. “He’s only been here 15 spring practices and August, as far as being able to practice and learn the offense, so he’s still real new, but he’s getting a better grasp on our offense all the time. He’s already shown in three games that he’s a great leader and a tremendous player.”

Wallace will have plenty of challenges Saturday going against a fierce defense nicknamed “The Blackshirts.” To go along with the tough defense, Wallace will have to battle the element of 78,000 fans in one of the loudest stadiums in football.

Coming from a junior college background, Wallace will face a new experience Saturday in Lincoln, but he’s not overly worried.

“You really can’t prepare yourself for that,” Wallace said. “You just got to go in there with the right frame of mind and go in there and compete and have fun.”

Wallace and the Cyclone offense will want to be on the field as much as possible, because when they’re not, that means the ball is in Crouch’s hands. The Cornhusker senior is 26-3 as a starter, including a 16-0 mark at home.

Crouch has spearheaded an option attack that ranks second nationally, averaging 275 yards per game. Despite the machine like numbers in the Cornhuskers 5-0 start, Crouch isn’t satisfied with his numbers and cares more about winning.

“I feel like I haven’t played up to my potential in the first half of the season,” Crouch said. “We’re improving as an offense week to week, and that is expected to happen in an offense like ours. If my stats didn’t measure up, but we won the rest of our games this season, I’d be very happy.”

Operating in an option offense means Crouch’s passing opportunities are limited as he makes his mark running the ball. Last week in a 36-3 win over Missouri, Crouch racked up 191 rushing yards, including a school record 95-yard touchdown run.

McCarney has seen plenty of Crouch the last two seasons. Under Crouch’s leadership, the Huskers have scored 49 points in each of the last two seasons in victories over the Cyclones.

“The talk of the Heisman Trophy with Eric Crouch is not lip service,” McCarney said. “He’s one of the premier players in college football. He can make you miss, he can run through you, and he’s strong. He can also run away from what you think are your fast guys on defense.”