Tag:Larry Asante
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 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 6, 2009 10:54 am
Edited on: October 7, 2009 2:07 am
 

300! Nebraska 55, Louisiana Lafayette 0

It's been a few days since the Huskers' convincing win against Louisiana-Lafayette and just a couple more days until the Huskers' next big test of the season.  Meanwhile, I've been silent, only leaving a place-holder where my commentary should be.  In true Pelini-like fashion, I'm not going to offer any excuses.

Besides, the game acted as a balm, temporarily soothing the pain of the catasrophic loss in Blacksburg and reminding us Husker faithful of happier times, when Nebraska would routinely hang "half-a-hundred" on their foes.  Granted it was ULL and not LSU but, for a week all seemed right in Lincoln.  The throwback aspect of the game was as entertaining as it was unusual, right down to the Blue Streak Sports Section in the World-Herald the next day.

Other than that, there wasn't much to discuss.  The team put together a strong effort, responding well after their one-point loss the week before, and no particular Husker shone much brighter than the others. 

If you're a glass-half-empty sort of person, you could comment on the difficulty that Zac Lee and Jacob Hickman had with their exchange early in the game or the reduced production of wide receivers, Niles Paul and Menelik Holt.  Defensively, you could bemoan the injuries to the Huskers' secondary (Asante, Thenarse & Amukamara), although it seems that only Thenarse will miss significant playing time, or worry that the defense gave up too much yardage on the ground to a Sun Belt team facing its third BCS opponent in three weeks.  After all, the never-satisfied Pelini still doesn’t think that his team is where it needs to be, especially on defense.

Or if you’re like me, you could complain about Matt Davison’s work in the booth, as footballnut correctly guessed from my teaser.  Yes, I like my Husker broadcasts to have a Nebraska flavor with a little homerism mixed in, but sometimes Davison’s work is downright cringeworthy.  Nevertheless, his playing style fit the mold of the Osborne-style receivers back in the day (lots of blocking and a key reception here and there), his efforts are still sprinkled in the Huskers’ record book today and his name will forever be etched into Husker lore for being in the right place at the right time on an unforgettable early evening in Columbia, Missouri.  And fear not Husker fans, he is nowhere near my all-time least favorite announcers: #1 Brent Musburger, #2 Kirk Herbstreit, #3 Brad Sham.

If you tend to spend your time on the sunny side of the street, you could talk about Larry Asante’s 74-yard interception return for a touchdown (right before he injured his ankle), or maybe Matt O’Hanlon’s fumble recovery (though I doubt you will).  Asante’s score was the Huskers’ first pick-six by a DB since Fabian Washington did it against Arizona State in 2002.  Other positives were the Huskers D sacking the previously unsacked Ragin’ Cajun’ QB’s, handing ULL their worst loss since Texas clobbered them 60-3 in 2005 and shutting them out for the first time since North Texas in 2002.  Perhaps most important (in the long-term) was the play of Cody Green (7 of 8 for 62 yards) and Rex Burkhead (112 all-purpose yards).  The Texas duo hooked up for a 24-yard score off of a shovel pass in the fourth quarter.

But what I’d really like to take away from this game is that Nebraska rebounded well after a gut-wrenching road loss.  ULL provided the perfect “palate-cleanser” if you will, chasing away some of the bitterness after losing a game they should have won.  And this team, already road tested, should be able to go TIGER HUNTING and atone for last year’s 52-17 drubbing.  Yes, the Tigers come into the game undefeated, but two of those wins were more than lackluster (27-20 over Bowling Green & 31-21 @ Nevada).

So…Huskers win.  Oh, and I hope to see some of you at our next 300 consecutive sellouts.

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