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Tag:Jared Crick
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.

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