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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 3, 2002

Versatile Crouch has many options

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

WAILUKU, Maui — Despite struggling statistically in yesterday's Hula Bowl Maui, quarterback Eric Crouch of Nebraska remained upbeat.

Crouch, who was named the winner of the 2001 Heisman Trophy, completed 4 of 11 passes for 45 yards. He was intercepted three times and did not throw a scoring pass.

Still, Crouch said he was pleased with his transition to a drop-back quarterback. At Nebraska, Crouch was the triggerman in the option attack.

In the month since playing in the Bowl Championship Series title game, Crouch has had to take a crash course in the pro-style offense.

"I think I helped my chances by adjusting from an option system," said Crouch, who rarely took shot-gun snaps with the Cornhuskers.

As expected, Crouch was an elusive scrambler. But he also displayed a strong arm, even while throwing on the run.

Scouts believe Crouch has the ability to play running back or wide receiver in the National Football League. He was aligned wide during one series and pulled in a 33-yard pass.

But Crouch said his first preference is to play quarterback, and he believes he will be able to prove his case before the NFL draft in April.

"There are a lot more opportunities," Crouch said. "There's the combine (in Indianapolis) and individual workouts for teams. I'm going to keep fighting, and see what happens."

• Backfield in motion: Former University of Hawai'i safety Nate Jackson came up with one of 'Aina's six interceptions yesterday.

The ball ricocheted off of cornerback Dante Wesley's hands and into the air, where it was plucked by Jackson.

"I just broke for the ball and I got it," Jackson said.

Although Jackson was one of UH's best defenders, he did not make an interception last season.

"It's nice that I get my first one in the Hula Bowl," Jackson said. "That's a nice way to end my college career."

• Ailing Warriors: There was a reason former UH receiver Craig Stutzmann caught only one pass yesterday.

In practice this week, Stutzmann suffered a broken left hand. His hand was wrapped heavily for the game, but he still played in about half of the game. His one reception was good for seven yards.

Another former Warrior, safety Jacob Espiau, also played in pain.

Espiau said he will undergo surgery Saturday to correct a subluxed right shoulder. He suffered the injury last summer. He said the surgery will require six months of rehabilitation.

Espiau said he will earn his bachelor's degree in May, then he will spend the summer in Japan.

After that, he will serve as one of the Warriors' two graduate assistants next season.

• More pain: Linebacker Leo Caires was having one of his best games of the season when he suffered an apparent knee injury in the third quarter. A stretcher was used to lift Caires onto a golf cart.

Caires, a Maui High graduate, played at Wyoming. He had seven tackles before suffering the injury while trying to make a tackle.