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Posted on: March 10, 2010 3:12 am
 

Back to work...writing.

Here's my last two articles on one of CBS' partner sites. Check 'em out!
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/
358763-bo-pelinis-12-step-program-f
or-a-huskers-2010-big-12-championsh
ip


http://bleacherreport.com/articles/
350741-nebraska-report-card-does-bo
-pelini-earn-a-passing-grade


If you like 'em or have a comment, feel free to leave them on the article page.
Thanks!
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 10, 2009 11:16 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2009 11:17 pm
 

The Big XII Championship and Ndamukong Suh

Sorry for the abbreviated treatment.

If you're interested in my take on the Big XII title:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/
304254-as-much-as-it-hurts-its-time
-to-move-on-husker-nation


And here's a game-by game account of Suh's remarkable season:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/
305047-ndamukong-suhs-heisman-calib
er-season-a-game-by-game-breakdown


Thanks for the reads.

Posted on: November 28, 2009 4:00 am
 

Nebraska 28, Colorado 20

I'm not going to go in depth on this one. A win is a win.

Most of my writing nowadays is off-site anyway, though you can actually access it through the Team News on the CBS Nebraska page. Kinda cool. 

Almost as if I'm somebody.

Almost.

The defense looked pretty flat at times, but maybe that's a good thing as it will give Pelini something to clearly focus upon during team preparations.

Last thing, I live in Arlington and if anyone is heading down for the big game and is looking for someone to maybe show them around, send me a message.

Go Big Red!
Posted on: November 23, 2009 6:15 am
Edited on: November 23, 2009 6:37 am
 

Nebraska 17, Kansas State 3...and a Personal Note

Nebraska did what they had to do and won on Saturday. 

Kinda weird seeing Suh play his last game in Lincoln.

Gonna try my hardest to make it to the Big XII Championship game, since it's in my back yard.

On a personal note, after three years of posting and blogging here, I got a gig as a columnist on another website.

The level of support there (actual editors and article coordinators) as well as increased exposure, is refreshing.  It also means I'll be focusing more of my efforts there.

I just wanted people to know what's going on, in case they noticed me posting less here at CBS.

GO BIG RED!
Posted on: November 16, 2009 6:15 am
Edited on: November 16, 2009 6:17 am
 

KU KO'ed: Nebraska 31, Kansas 17

It's been a running joke all season. So much so that the television announcers who called Saturday's game between the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Kansas Jayhawks referenced it multiple times during their broadcast.

For several weeks, it's seemed that no one wanted to win the Big XII North Division Title.

And despite knowing otherwise, that oft-repeated "joke" has contained more than an element of truth during this topsy-turvy season.

It's not difficult to see why. Visit almost any college football message board or blog, and you'll quickly see a pattern. Scores of cynical fans repeatedly asking the same question.

Why would any team want to be offered up as a sacrifice to the undefeated Texas Longhorns in the Big XII Championship?

While I don't agree with that sentiment, and believe that Nebraska has the best chance out of the North to compete against Texas, it's understandable why some people might feel that way.

First off, let's look at the Longhorns.

Their offense is ranked second nationally in points scored at 41.6 pts/game. Aside from the Oklahoma game, which Texas won by three, the Longhorns' average margin of victory has been 10 points or more. However, most times it's been more. Much more. Texas Tech was the only other team that managed to keep within 10 points of the 'Horns when the final gun sounded. Texas defeated its eight other opponents by an average of 34.6 points, including this past Saturday as they pasted Baylor, 47-14.

Defensively, Texas is the No. 1 team in the nation, allowing an average of 232 yds/gm. In fact, the only things that Texas doesn't do exceptionally well (i.e. rank in the Top 25 in the country) is rush the ball (55th), punt (84th) and prevent sacks (48th).

Meanwhile, in the Big XII North, it's been a bumpy ride for most teams.

Colorado and Kansas have been downright awful. After winning five in a row, Kansas has now lost five in a row, the latest being a 31-17 defeat at the hands of the Huskers. Not even the fact that it was Senior Day for Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier, Darrell Stuckey and Max Onyegbule, among others, or the fact that the Jayhawks were playing for bowl eligibility could propel them to a win.

It probably wouldn't be too presumptuous to pencil in that sixth loss in a row; Kansas travels to Austin next week, though the Jayhawks still have their neutral site game against Mizzou on the horizon.

The Tigers, who have failed to find a consistent identity under Blaine Gabbert, did the Huskers a favor and beat the Wildcats, 38-12 in the battle of Big XII feline football. Coupled with the Nebraska win, that gives the Huskers a half-game lead over Kansas State.

It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that the Big XII North title will be decided next week in Lincoln when K-State comes-a-callin’.

And after Saturday, it appears that the Big Red wants it more. Either that or they have the talent to get the job done. Maybe both. 

Nebraska has had their fair share of key injuries, so it's a negative on depth.

Aside from the Kansas offensive line doing a fine job containing the Nebraska front four for most of the game, there was improvement in other key areas, which should be an encouraging sign for the Huskers going into their own Senior Day with the North title on the line.

Nebraska was much-improved on offense, piling up over 400 total yards, their highest output since the Louisiana-Lafayette game. Roy Helu, Jr. backed up his 100+ yard effort a week ago with 156 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

In fact, it was the Big Red offense’s turn to answer the opposition for a change instead of forcing the defense to make a game-winning play, though Dejon Gomes’ third-quarter strip of Meier as he headed to the end zone certainly helped. Besides, after the Huskers’ eight turnovers against Iowa State (several in the red zone), it somehow felt fitting, as if the earth started spinning properly around its axis once more.

In the fourth quarter, Reesing, looking like the Todd Reesing of old, drove the Jayhawks 89 yards down the field (their longest scoring drive of the season) and punctuated the effort with a sweet 21–yard strike to Dezmon Briscoe to take a 17-16 lead. 

However, following Niles Paul's hefty return of a KU pooch kick, the Huskers who had scored only four offensive touchdowns in as many games were not the same Huskers to take the field. Aided by a facemask call on KU cornerback Justin Thornton, Helu bolted for 20 yards and a score.

And unlike past games when the Huskers were unable to run significant time off the clock, the Nebraska offense managed to get the ball back with 5:15 to play and cap the game with another Helu rushing touchdown.

Nebraska still made mistakes, though not as many as last week. Asante’s late hit on Reesing could have easily earned him an ejection and will most likely be reviewed by conference officials in the coming week. Likewise, Keith Williams’ tripping penalty deep in Jayhawk territory most likely caused the Huskers to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown.

Overall, things could have been much worse for the Huskers, but they made some plays when it mattered, got some lucky breaks, cut down on penalties and managed to find the end zone more than once.

Instead, they could have had Danario Alexander compile 200 receiving yards against their defense, lose any momentum they might have had going into the game to decide the division and add another chapter to the comedy of errors also known as the 2009 Big XII North.

But on November 21st in Lincoln, when the Huskers and Wildcats face off, he who laughs last, will laugh best.

Until they face Texas.

With a chance to make history.

Posted on: November 8, 2009 1:02 am
Edited on: November 8, 2009 7:46 am
 

Oh-Hanlon! Nebraska 10, Oklahoma 3

Do you think that Matt O'Hanlon felt bad about the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after his third (and game-clinching) interception?

I don't.

He hurled the ball as far as he could, along with a season's worth of frustrations, not caring any more about the extra penalty yards (in a evening littered with yellow laundry) as he did about the hateful words directed at him from a legion of Internet critics.

For one night, the local boy made good.

The cacophony of criticism reached its zenith following the Virginia Tech game in which he missed his assignment and had to get on his horse to make a tackle that only delayed the inevitable.  Lost in the aftermath was the fact that O'Hanlon tried to atone for his error and sacked Tyrod Taylor on the very next play.  In the end, it didn't matter.

What followed was perhaps one of the poorest displays by Husker fans since the inception of the Internet.  Vindictive (and sometimes personal) attacks popped-up from every corner of cyberspace.  Not just for his gaffe against the Hokies, but for all the mistakes he had ever made in his career.  Post after post appeared on countless message boards, calling out the safety because he was "slow", because he "sucked", even because he was "white".

It's unfortunate because Matt O'Hanlon is exactly what countless young Nebraska boys aspire to be while playing catch among the falling leaves on every Saturday in autumn.  You see, O'Hanlon is a former walk-on in the Nebraska football program, the only starter on the Huskers' defense to come from such humble beginnings.

O'Hanlon, a homegrown Husker, has wanted to play for Nebraska since he was six years old.  In high school, he was a team captain for Bellevue East.  During his time with the Chieftains, he helped his team reach the state playoffs twice and played quarterback, running back, corner back, free safety and special teams.  Even though he earned several accolades for his athletic endeavors, he wasn't offered a scholarship from a Division I team.  Instead, he was offered a scholarship from South Dakota's D-II program, but his heart wasn't in it; he wanted to be a Husker. 

This is a player whose will to "keep going" is a vow to his childhood friend, Andrew Pawlak, who died of Wegener's disease.  A player who has had twin knee surgeries, a player who carries a gold keychain with the date he made the team inscribed on its surface.  Matt O'Hanlon is a true inspiration who went from being a security guard at a Target to swatting down a pass against Clemson to preserve the Huskers' 2009 Gator Bowl win.  

This is not to say that his game against Oklahoma was perfect.  A fourth-quarter defensive holding penalty against him could have been catastrophic.  But it wasn't.

Also he wasn't the only defender to make this improbable win against the Sooners possible.  With the offense struggling to break out of its continued lethargy, the task of keeping the Huskers in the game fell once more to the Blackshirts.  Cody Green, making his second start at quarterback, was pulled in favor of Zac Lee, who benefited from a 22-yard interception return from Prince Amukamara to throw a one-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Hill.  It would be Nebraska's only trip to the endzone.  A fragile Roy Helu Jr. rushed for 138 yards, although the vast majority of that total came on three of his twenty carries and he had a costly fumble in the Sooners' redzone. 

Meanwhile, the Nebraska front four disrupted things at the line of scrimmage, tipping passes and keeping the heat on OU signal-caller, Landry Jones.  Jared Crick added to his school-record five sacks from last week against Baylor and Ndamukong Suh blocked yet another field goal.  Linebacker Phillip Dillard added an interception and a sack of his own, the Tulsa native perhaps having something to prove against the preeminent program of his home state.  

In the end though, it was Matt O'Hanlon's night.  A night of redemption.  With twelve tackles (a career best) and three interceptions (the last effectively ending the game), he silenced the peanut gallery for a least a week, hopefully forever.  Those who might have thought that his unsportsmanlike conduct foul was just another boneheaded O'Hanlon play, it wasn't.  It was a spontaneous release of years of frustration and determination.  That and a cue for all the O'Hanlon haters to leave their keyboards and go back to their armchairs.

Posted on: November 6, 2009 10:26 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2009 10:29 pm
 

Just Bearly: Nebraska 20, Baylor 10

Although expounding upon my pathetic little blurb at this late date will be irrelevant, I feel I must keep some semblance of continuity in my small and insignificant corner of the Internet.  As for why it took me so long, there's mainly two reasons:

1.  The politics between DirecTV and the Versus Network.  I was unable to record the game and, even though I was in attendance, it wasn't as if I took notes.  What I usually do each week is watch the game in real-time then, if it was remarkable in any way, I re-watch it and take notes for my blog.

2.  Honestly (and more importantly), I didn't know quite what to say.  I know that a win is a win, but in all my years of being a Husker fan, I had trouble remembering another time in which I came away from a Nebraska victory with such an empty, unsatisfied feeling.

Don't get me wrong.  I had a good time overall and was in good company.  Got to see the great Dr. Tom in person as well as the boldly decorated semi that hauls all of the Huskers' equipment around and speak to its driver.  The Baylor fans were gracious (the few that were there, anyway) and it was interesting to see another Big XII stadium and compare it to Memorial Stadium.  It wasn't much of a comparison; however, you have to take into account the historical fortunes of both programs.

Before I get into my true feelings concerning the game, which are decidedly negative, I want to focus on the positive aspects first:

Most importantly, it was exciting to see the first career start of the quarterback who should end up being the face and the future of the Nebraska program.  A murmur of anticipation went through the crowd as fans received texts that Cody Green would start.  When Green did indeed take the field (with the added confidence of a 7-0 lead courtesy of the Huskers' special teams) he was greeted warmly with a generous wave of applause and probably more than a little relief.   What was perhaps the most interesting aspect of watching Green play in person, was the occasions when he tucked away the football and ran.  He has a long and graceful stride which tricks the eye into thinking that he's not moving very quickly.  However, upon closer scrutiny, it's apparent that he possesses an efficiency of movement that makes his runs look almost effortless.

Another observation (and perhaps not a surprising one coming from someone who writes a Nebraska blog): Husker fans really are among the best in the nation, at least when it comes to traveling to away games.  On the visitors' side of the field, the grandstands were an almost solid sea of red from the south endzone past midfield to the 40-yard line.  The Baylor side, from the south endzone to the twenty, was almost all Husker fans as well, with pockets of red scattered throughout the rest of the sparsely occupied seats.  I attribute this, in part, to the North Texas Nebraskans organization.  They not only threw a decent-sized shindig in the parking lot prior to the game, but also handed out "GO BIG RED" signs in addition to the ones they planted into the ground along the route to the stadium. I actually felt bad for the true Baylor faithful (and especially their players), as it appeared that they were well out-numbered in their own house. Floyd Casey Stadium seemed more like Memorial Stadium South.  

In fact, at one point, Larry Asante and other Husker players beseeched the Nebraska fans to make more noise when the Bears had the ball, which brings me to my lone complaint about many of the Husker fans who were there: They were far too passive when Nebraska was on defense.  There were times (key third downs or plays directly following a loss) when the bulk of the NU fans remained silently in their seats while the Blackshirts toiled on, trying to compensate for the poor showing by the offense.  Our group was seated at the 50-yard line and it was mentioned that, at Nebraska home games, this is typical for that section.  I just didn't expect it in Waco, Texas.

Which reminds me that, indeed, a game was played, such that it was.  The first half looked promising.  Besides the special teams touchdown, Nebraska was able to convert their early drives into points.  Jared Crick played like a proverbial monster on defense and the first half was highlighted by a beautiful 45-yard pass from Green to Niles Paul (who managed to not fumble it into the end zone) which gave the Huskers the ball at Baylor's one-yard-line.  A few rows in front of us, a fan clad in red held up a sign which read "DON'T FUMBLE!".  Tray Robinson managed to heed that advice and scored two plays later, giving Nebraska a 20-0 lead which they held onto until halftime. 

Unfortunately, they decided to play a second half...a half in which Nebraska's offense forgot how to sustain drives (much less score) and forced the defense to stay on the field much longer than they deserved (once again).  Baylor kicked a field goal, Green threw a pick-six which, by all appearances, wasn't a surprise to anyone, except maybe Green himself...and the Bears were back in the game. What had first appeared like the perfect prescription for the Huskers after consecutive losses, seemed like bad medicine.  Even when the Huskers did something right (like pressure the quarterback) things went wrong (Suh's ridiculous personal foul for throwing Baylor QB, Nick Florence, to the ground). In the fourth quarter, the Bears were able to mount a couple of drives into the Huskers' redzone, but Ben Parks missed a 24-yard field goal and a Jarred Salubi missed a gift-wrapped pass from Florence.

Watching the field goal attempt miss its mark and Baylor's subsequent drive in which they almost scored, one couldn't help but think "what if?".  What if Baylor had made the field goal?  What if a wide-open Salubi had held onto the ball?  It would have been a whole new ballgame, except that the momentum was firmly on the Bears' side.  One of the Husker fans in our party described the Nebraska offense as "tepid" and "anemic"; a fact that was painfully evident when the Huskers couldn't get a first down and run out the clock; as we all know, the game ended with Baylor continuing to take shots at the Huskers' end zone.

Now I understand that it was Green's first game.  He made a couple of mistakes while also showing some flashes of future promise.  And that's all part of the learning process.  The Huskers are also relying on youth with Robinson sharing time with a banged-up Roy Helu Jr. and receivers like Khiry Cooper figuring into the mix.  But the simple fact is that Baylor played this game with a QB that was listed third on their depth chart before the season started and their offense still managed to outgain Nebraska by three yards and convert seven more first downs.  Our offense, playing against the 91st ranked defense in the country, scored thirteen points, tallied less than 300 yards and failed to keep the Blackshirts off the field.

In the past, this is a game that would have been a laugher.  I'm not hitting the panic button, not after one game with Green as the starter.  I have faith in Pelini.  But after a season that started with such promise, with most of Husker Nation (as well as the national media) believing that Nebraska had turned some sort of corner after the Virginia Tech and Missouri games, things have gotten ugly fast.

Almost Unbearable.
Posted on: October 24, 2009 7:08 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2009 3:02 am
 

State of Shock: Iowa State 9, Nebraska 7

The Huskers entered the stadium solemnly, four-by-four, arms interlocked as a show of unity.  A silent display to all, a statement that they would not be divided following a loss to Texas Tech the week before and and all the criticism that followed it.

The Cyclones entered the stadium not having won there since 1977.

As the old rhetorical question goes, "If you knew before the game that Nebraska's defense would hold the Cyclones, who were playing with a redshirt freshman at QB and another redshirt freshman replacing the Big XII's leading rusher, to nine points, would you think that the Huskers would win?"  Yes, that was a bit longer than your typical rhetorical question, but the point is made.  Most Husker fans would feel confident going into that contest, not knowing that the sum total of Nebraska's points would be a three-yard touchdown run by Dontrayevous Robinson.

Nebraska's first play from scrimmage resulted in a fumble (fittingly, it would later seem) by Roy Helu Jr.  Nebraska's last play ended in an interception by Zac Lee.  In between, there would be six more giveaways by the Husker offense.

The Cyclones, meanwhile, didn't turn the ball over even once, preserving the ball and a two-point victory that left Husker fans speechless, temporarily.

Temporarily I say, because my cell phone has already blown up with calls of "Fire Watson!", "Bench Lee!" and the suggestion that our trip next week to Waco, to watch the Huskers play Baylor, be canceled.

So, is the "pound of flesh" that Husker Nation demands warranted?

To be sure, an autopsy of this cold corpse of a game is needed, no matter how painful.

Following the Robinson score, Nebraska's defense stopped Iowa State and, after a punt, Nebraska's offense started at their own fourteen-yard line.  They moved the ball methodically to the Iowa State sixteen where a bizarre play that changed the entire complexion of the game occurred.  The Cyclones' Jesse Smith tipped a Lee pass intended for Mike McNeill which bounced around like an exploding kernel of popcorn and finally landed in his teammate's hands.  The game wasn't the same after that.

To be sure, this is not your father's Cyclones.  A fake punt on the next possession extended the Iowa State drive.  Jerome Tiller (one of the aformentioned redshirt freshmen) threw a 47-yard bomb to Jake Williams for a touchdown.  A recurring theme: Nebraska's defense played well overall, but gave up a huge, game-changing play.  And while the extra point was blocked by Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska would not lead again, let alone score.

In the second quarter, Niles Paul dropped a sure touchdown catch as he was tripped up on his way to six points.  The ball dribbled into the end zone and was pounced upon by a Cyclone defender.  From touchdown to touchback in the blink of an eye.

On Iowa State's ensuing drive, it looked like Nebraska would force a turnover of their own as Barry Turner stripped a scrambling Tiller, but Jared Crick was unable to recover the fumble.  Any momentum that Nebraska might have gained was thwarted.

The Husker offense tried to compose themselves and drove down the field following a Cyclone punt.  Then Helu supposedly fumbled at the ISU two yard-line.  I say supposedly, because the call on the field was overturned when it seemed fairly cut and dried to everyone not wearing Iowa State colors (or black and white stripes).  Touchback.

Either way, Helu wasn't right.  Robinson's number was called.  For a while he shouldered Nebraska's offensive load and did it with an aggressive attitude, an attitude that ended up costing him and his team.  While running through Cyclone defenders in the red zone, Robinson gained a first down, was stood up at the ISU five and, while he was fighting for more yards, stripped of the ball.

The Cyclone offense was stopped once more by the Husker defense.  Nebraska again with the ball, their inconsistent offensive line playing almost the entire game without its starting center, Jacob Hickman, allowed a sack, bringing up third and fifteen.  Lee completed a pass to Menelik Holt, who was also stripped.  Cyclones' ball.

The Blackshirts again stopped Iowa State despite the Cyclones having their best field position of the day and Suh punctuated the defensive stop with another blocked kick that was returned by Sean Fisher to the Iowa State thirty-five.  However, the offense failed to get anything out of it.

If this sounds repetitive, well, it was.  All day, Nebraska's offense shot itself in the foot, the hand, the head and Nebraska's defense tried to keep the walking wounded of the offense in the game.  They couldn't.

Two more interceptions by Lee in the fourth quarter, as he tried to make something, anything happen and, in the end, Nebraska would have more turnovers (eight) than points.

The turnovers would breakdown this way: Helu fumble, Lee interception, Paul fumble, Helu fumble, Robinson fumble, Holt fumble, Lee interception, Lee interception.

Did Lee throw errant passes?  Yes.  But, while it's easy to point at the quarterback for the loss, his receivers had too many dropped passes.  The Huskers couldn't hold onto the ball when it mattered and tied their record for turnovers in a game.

Take nothing away from Iowa State.  Yes, they got lucky at times, but they also forced turnovers.  Again, Nebraska had eight giveaways.  Iowa State had none.  Nebraska lost by two points.  They were lucky that the margin was that small.  Against the powerhouses of the Big XII, they would have lost by five touchdowns or more.

So, you could blame Lee.  You could blame Watson.  But when the offense literally drops the ball on almost every possession, this is the result.  

Needless to say, it ain't pretty.  As ugly as a 9-7 game sounds in theory, this one was downright hideous.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com