Tag:Blackshirts
Posted on: November 28, 2009 4:00 am
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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 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 17, 2009 7:04 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2009 9:08 pm
 

Wrecked: Texas Tech 31, Nebraska 10

We're six games into the season, and Husker Nation still doesn't know the identity of this Nebraska team and exactly what they can accomplish.

Following a last-minute meltdown on the road against Virginia Tech, a thrilling rally against Mizzou in a monsoon, and three convincing wins against Sun Belt opponents, Husker fans could point at this team and, despite all its scars and blemishes, feel somewhat good about them.  Yet, while most felt that the VT loss was as respectable as the Mizzou win was dramatic, many question marks remained.  There were those who thought that the rain-soaked game in Columbia, despite the thrill it gave much of the nation, obscured several glaring concerns spiraling around this Nebraska team, not unlike like the sheets of rain that pelted them last Thursday.

So, as much as we don't know about this version of the Cornhuskers, perhaps it's easier to talk about the things we DO know about them:

Their offense, when not playing Florida Atlantic or Louisiana-Lafayette, can be downright offensive.  Zac Lee is wildly inconsistent, not only in his throws but in his decision-making on the field.  While I no longer reside in Nebraska, I can only imagine the swelling opinion, correct or not, that will be resonating throught the state: Cody Green needs to play more, if not start altogether.  As it turned out, Pelini somewhat agreed as I wrote this, inserting Green into the offense in the second half, though it was far too little, far too late (a lone touchdown pass to Khiry Cooper following a near-interception). 

It's clear that Roy Helu Jr. cannot do everything and, while I feel that there is no room for excuses, the loss of Rex Burkhead as the number-two I-back was more costly than initially imagined.  Additionally, it seems that while a receiver or two might step up one week, no receiver has stepped up consistently.  The announcers today hit the nail on the head when they remarked that Nebraska's receiving corps is essentially wide-receiver-by-committee.

The Huskers' defense, just rewarded their Blackshirts by Pelini, have a very unsettling habit of playing soft towards the end of a half; they did it most notably against Virginia Tech, in the first half against in Missouri and also in the first half against Texas Tech.  Exactly what was Carl Pelini thinking at that point, calling a prevent defense and having his defenders play so far off of the Red Raiders' receivers?  And while Ndamukong Suh has been adding to his resume each week (except perhaps this one) and Jared Crick has been benefiting from all of the extra attention being paid to his linemate, the defense has had horrible lapses and not exactly where they might be expected.  Going into the season, the main concern surrounding the Nebraska defense was the lack of experience at linebacker, not the secondary, which is where a frightening amount of NU's defensive failures have occurred.  Yes, the Blackshirts held the Red Raiders' offense to just a handful of yards in the second half, but it was long after the real damage had been done.

One more defensive observation: Though they managed to put some pressure on Sheffield, how was the Nebraska defense not able to more fully exploit Tech's offensive line in the first half, when they had three players get nicked?

Another thing that Husker fans this season have known all too well?  Penalties.  Penalties, penalties, penalties.  Again not an excuse, but it's been very surprising to see a team, coached by a disciplinarian like Pelini, consistently shoot itself in the foot with stupid penalties and suffer other mental lapses, not the least of which was how the offense just gave up and stood around after the botched lateral from Lee to Niles Paul.

None of this bodes well as Nebraska still faces games against Oklahoma and Kansas (in Lawrence).  And at this point, following this game in which Nebraska had gotten most of the nation to buy what it was selling, if they didn't win the game outright, they were expected to at least feed off of the win at Missouri, continue their momentum and be competitive.  Instead, Nebraska hit a red and black wall of bricks and the Big Red machine came to a smoking, grinding halt.  At this point, no conference game is a gimme.

The final thing we do know about Nebraska?  They are NOT back.  Back?  We don't even know who they are.
Posted on: October 9, 2009 7:23 am
Edited on: October 24, 2009 9:17 pm
 

Declawed: Nebraska 27, Missouri 12

For three quarters, I'm sure that most of Husker Nation was feeling the same way: Here we go again.

After dispatching the Ragin' Cajuns 55-0, our beloved Cornhuskers were getting embarrassed on a national stage once more.  All that talk of Nebraska's inability to win a road game against a ranked opponent, the same mantra over and over again by media types of every stature.

Shawn Watson tried running Helu inside with poor results.  In the third quarter, Helu tried the sidelines with only slight improvement.  Zac Lee, despite his upbeat demeanor, was throwing above and behind receivers.  The flooded field was further flooded by yellow flags on both teams.  Time and time again, the Huskers' transgressions seemed to come at the most inopportune moments; the proverbial self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the foot.  Special teams were almost impossible to watch, causing more than one Husker fan's heart to catch in their throat each time a punt by either squad was attempted and well before the safety that started the scoring for Mizzou.  Admirably, the blackshirtless "Blackshirts", anchored by Ndamukong Suh, kept NU in the game.  Yet, seemingly certain interceptions bounced from their grasp and once again they gave the impression that they were unable to finish a complete half of football as the second quarter expired.  My honest and (somewhat) unbiased opinion?  Gabbert's knee was down.

So for three quarters, visions of how fiery Coach Bo was going to berate his team were flashing through my mind while I pieced together the criticisms I intended to unleash on the Huskers (and their staff) in my commentary.

Then, while the rain kept falling in Columbia, the clouds abruptly parted for the Huskers.

Three plays into the final stanza and, like a bolt of lightning from those same rain clouds, Niles Paul benefited from a blown assignment in the Mizzou secondary (sound familiar?) and a beautiful pass from Lee which resulted in a 56-yard touchdown strike.  Even from my comfortable (and dry) seat on my living room sofa some five hundred miles away, I could feel a cold wave of apprehension and disbelief ripple through Faurot Field.

Momentum had swung in an instant.  Husker fans everywhere hoped that Nebraska could capitalize on it and erase a five-point deficit.  They didn't have to wait long.  On the Tigers' first play from scrimmage following the kickoff, Ndamukong Suh showed again why he is a man among boys, as he took to the air to intercept a Gabbert pass.  Prior to that, the former Husker-commit hadn't thrown a pick all season.  It wouldn't be his last.  Suddenly, the crack in Missouri's composure had become a fissure; one large enough for Niles Paul to run through again and score his second touchdown, a thirteen yard pass from a resurgent Lee.  Although, the Huskers failed to convert their two-point try, the damage was done.  The thoroughly soaked gold and black clad locals, hoping to see their team defeat Nebraska for the third year in a row, a feat not accomplished in most of their lifetimes, could only stand in the rain with their mouths agape.

Meanwhile, the Husker faithful who had made this rain-drenched journey rejoiced; nothing could dampen their spirits.

Especially when a mere three plays into Mizzou's next possession, Dejon Gomes, neatly stepped in front of another Gabbert pass near the midfield stripe and took it to the Tigers' ten-yard line.  Mike McNeill ran a delayed route on third down, made the grab, and waltzed into the endzone with nary a Tiger in sight for the Huskers' third touchdown of the quarter.

With each ensuing score, the Tiger fans became further dejected, further deflated and farther from the stadium as they sought shelter from not only the garden-variety rain, but the Big Red reign as well.

On Mizzou's next drive, the Nebraska defense seemed to soften, allowing the Tigers to gain some yardage, aided by a weak horse collar penalty called on Suh, but then found their aggressiveness once more.  Following a holding call on Missouri, Gabbert threw four straight incompletions and surrendered the ball to the Huskers.

While running out the clock, Helu finally broke loose for a 41-yard gain, then punched in Nebraska's final score from the five-yard line on the ensuing play.  A handful of meaningless seconds ticked away into the soggy night.

One of the most dramatic turnarounds in Husker history was complete.  An ESPN analyst quipped that the rain hid the Tigers' tears.

It was a vindicating win for a team that would not give up.  Yes, it's true that Coach Pelini will have a laundry list of items for his team, items where they need improvement.  But for one quarter of one game on one miserably wet night in enemy territory, the Huskers played up to their potential like the great teams of the past.  As the joyous Huskers head home to Lincoln, they have to know that, as a program, they're headed in the right direction as well.
Posted on: September 20, 2009 12:19 am
Edited on: September 20, 2009 4:09 am
 

Epic Fail: Virginia Tech 16, Nebraska 15

Now that my blood pressure has gone down sufficiently for me to form complete sentences, I'm going to try to give a little commentary on a game that tore the collective heart out of Husker Nation.

Yes, it hurt that bad.  At least it did for me.

Despite the Blackshirts playing well for most of the game, they gave up the big play with under two minutes to go and lost another heartbreaker. 

There were a few bright spots, though not bright enough to chase away the gloom after this loss.  Roy Helu Jr. bested his personal single-game mark in rushing.  Alex Henery was stuck on automatic and made a nifty rugby-style punt of 76 yards with Hokie heat in his face.  Niles Paul's 54-yard punt return gave Nebraska a spark and led to their first points of the game.  Defensively, Ndamukong Suh continued to make a name for himself.  If you didn't know who he was before today; you had better know now.

However, both offenses looked horrible at times.  Nebraska couldn't find the end zone with a GPS unit.  The implosion after getting first and goal at the Hokies' 6-yard line will echo in the minds of Husker fans for a long time. 

From what I've seen, many Husker fans are upset with a particular defender, who they believe had a bad game and then gave up the big play.  Personally, I don't like to call out any particular player, especially an amateur.  Yes, he plays for a big-time college program, but he's just a kid.  Besides, he wasn't the only defender fooled on that play (the corner was frozen by Taylor's scramble and let the receiver slip past); however, he was the only player to sack the quarterback on the next one.  If you want a goat, fine.  You want your pound of flesh?  Kick your dog.  Or blame Pelini for not going for it on fourth-and-one when Virginia Tech was out of time-outs and Helu had posted a career rushing day.  The coaches are professionals; blame them for not calling the right plays at the right time, especially in the red zone, and settling for field goals instead of touchdowns.

And while this one hurts, I can't help but feel that Nebraska is still headed in the right direction.  Yes, their record of futility against Top 20 opponents continues, as does their penchant for losing the close game, but I know that the majority of America didn't think that the Huskers would be competitive in Blacksburg, let alone come that close to winning.  On that note, a special shout-out goes to the degenerate gamblers at work who picked VT.  Although there are no moral victories, at least you lost your money.

A lot of people are also saying that the better team lost the game.  While my heart tells me that Nebraska is the better team, you have to score touchdowns, not field goals if you want to win.  You have to be better than a missed call by the officials or a single lapse in pass coverage.  Nebraska failed in that respect...in epic fashion.

All Husker fans can do at this point is hope that this young Nebraska team learns something positive from it.

And when Nebraska finally gets that elusive win over a Top 20 team, the scream of jubilation you'll hear coming from North Texas?  That will be me.

Posted on: September 14, 2009 2:30 am
Edited on: September 14, 2009 2:31 am
 

Nebraska 38, Arkansas State 9

It wasn't the Roy Helu Jr. Show again this week.  Instead, It was Zac Lee's time to shine.

Meanwhile the Blackshirts played better in some aspects, worse in others.

Not to oversimplify things, but having watched the game twice and knowing that many of you watched it also and/or read recaps and commentaries of the game, I'm going to break the game down into what I think are the salient points.

Note-I never read any media reports on the week's game until after I write my blog, so as not to color my perception.  I only check stats.

Before I examine the forensics of Nebraska's latest win, I have an admission to make: I hardly knew anything about Arkansas State.  I  know that they shocked the Aggies in College Station last year and that they beat Mississippi Valley State, 61-0, in the first week of this season.  And yes, Mississippi Valley State is what we would have formerly called a Division I-AA school.  However, despite the disparity in talent, anytime a team shuts out another by sixty-one points that's saying something.  So to reiterate, I didn't know what to expect from the Red Wolves, but I still expected a comfortable win by the Huskers.  And that's what we got.

Comfortable, but not particularly impressive.

Even though the Huskers punched in their first score in just over three minutes and jumped out to a 21-0 lead (which should have been 28-0, see below), Coach Pelini, ever the perfectionist, thought his team could play better.

Especially considering that the Huskers have a date in Blacksburg in less than a week, and while the Hokies lost in week one to Alabama, they more than took care of business against Marshall, albeit a Marshall team that squeaked out a three-point victory a week before against Southern Illinois.

So what do we really know?  Practically nothing.  I don't think it's any big secret that Pelini and his OC, Shawn Watson, haven't shown their team's full potential against two decidedly inferior opponents.  We do know that Alabama left a blueprint on how to beat Tech, but we don't know if the Huskers have the talent to execute it.

Besides, all of this is a topic for another day, a day very soon.

So, here are my observations of the Arkansas State Game:

Zac Lee looked quite comfortable as he threw for four touchdowns and over 300 yards, which was good considering that Arkansas State's defense seemed to have an answer for Roy Helu, Jr.  Helu had sixty yards rushing and another forty-four receiving.  While Helu's production was diminished, Watson stuck with his gameplan, mixing equal parts of running and passing plays well into the second half when it became clear that Nebraska's fortunes were to be gained through the air.  What was more impressive than Lee's stats was his ball distribution.  Fourteen Huskers caught passes (eleven from Lee), and the touchdowns were scored by Mike McNeill (twice), Niles Paul and Tyler Legate.  Niles Paul could have had a third score (his other TD came on a reverse), but Lee's beautiful 70-yard strike to Paul was called back after a holding penalty.

Which brings me to a second point.  While the Huskers had only four penalties, the aforementioned holding call and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following a kickoff were big ones and are the type of mistakes that the Huskers can ill afford to make against the Hokies or any of their upper-echelon Big XII foes.

Another thing that should give Husker fans pause was the play of the defense.  This week, Carl Pelini's squad managed to get pressure on the opposing quarterback and tally four sacks.  They also held the Red Wolves to ninety-eight net passing yards.  However, they allowed 174 yards on the ground and gave up sizable chunks of yardage on first and second downs.  Once again, this will not do when Nebraska faces more talented offenses.  They cannot continually give their opponents the advantage of second-and-short or third-and short.  And while Nebraska was able to exploit personnel mismatches, most notably their taller receivers against ASU's 5'11" DB, Cordarious Mingo, Pelini remarked after the game that the Huskers have had too many missed tackles and blown assignments in their first two contests.

So, in a week in which there were perhaps more questions than answers, will Nebraska have time to sharpen its game before their big date in Blacksburg?  And, just what is this team capable of accomplishing?

Husker Nation will have to wait for the answers.

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