The distance: 28 yards
The star: Julius Jackson
The date: Sept. 18, 1999
The outcome: Huskers 20, Southern Miss 13
The good news to come out of a 20-13 win against Southern Miss in 1999 was that Julius Jackson scored two touchdowns — the first since his days as a fullback at Gainesville (Texas) High.
The bad news? Jackson played defense, and his two touchdowns were more points than the Husker offense produced in the win. That result was a cause for Husker concern, considering fourth-ranked NU only squeaked by unranked Southern Miss.
Jackson’s second touchdown — a 28-yard interception return in the third quarter — was the winning score.
Husker cornerback Keyuo Craver got his hand on a pass by Southern Miss quarterback Jeff Kelly, sending it about 10 yards in the air. A couple of seconds seemed like a couple of hours for Jackson, who was in perfect position to haul in the deflected pass at the Southern Miss 28-yard line.
“You just sit there and wait,” Jackson told reporters, “and you’re hoping somebody doesn’t come in and take it away from you. I was fortunate enough to catch it and just run away with it.”
His first touchdown came midway through the first quarter after a Kyle Vanden Bosch backside hit on Kelly. Vanden Bosch knocked the ball loose, and Jackson scooped it up and ran 16 yards for a TD.
Several players were depressed about the team’s shaky performance. It was the first game with Eric Crouch starting at quarterback and former QB Bobby Newcombe at wingback, and a week after I-back DeAngelo Evans quit the team.
It was a joyous day for Jackson, and he wanted to share it with the rest of the defense.
“We scored twice,” said Jackson, who was subbing for an injured Eric Johnson at weakside linebacker. “We had a lot of picks (four interceptions). We had a lot of tackles behind the line of scrimmage (seven). It’s almost like we played a perfect game.”
The 1999 season was the final one with Charlie McBride as defensive coordinator, and one of his best defenses in his 18 years as coordinator.
It was also Frank Solich’s best team in his second of six seasons as head coach, with a 12-1 record and Big 12 championship. Without a 24-20 regular-season loss to Texas, the Huskers may have played for a national championship.
McBride beamed with pride following the win against Southern Miss.
“I look back and I know we lost two national championships because we couldn’t play defense at this level,” McBride said. “I can count on these guys. … We came up with big plays, sacks, batted passes. Jason Lohr on a big tipped pass, and played like the Junkyard Dogs of the old Georgia teams.”
— Brent C. Wagner