Tag:Menelik Holt
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 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.

Posted on: September 6, 2009 12:03 am
Edited on: September 6, 2009 2:32 am
 

Nebraska 49, Florida Atlantic 3

 First let me say, "Ah, football season."

Next let me say "wow".

But I'll get to the wow in a minute.

The game started a bit slow as the Huskers were tentative on offense at first, but quickly made up for it with a strong performance by Zac Lee and some phenomenal running by Roy Helu Jr.  The defense, anchored by the awe-inspiring Ndamukong Suh, sometimes allowed the Owls' to grab big chunks of real estate, but kept them out of the end zone by making plays when it mattered.

Menelik Holt showed a great inside move after a quick grab from Lee, then tore down the sideline for the Husker's first score and Curenski Gilleyen just flat outran the Owls' defense after catching a beautiful pass by Lee for a 51-yard touchdown.  Helu punched in a score on fourth and goal to further deflate Florida Atlantic.

At the half, Pelini was asked about his team's performance and replied in typical Pelini-like fashion, saying that the Huskers weren't as crisp and clean as he'd like them to be, but they weren't horrible.  A pretty astute assessment as a couple of drops and bad penalties kept the Cornhuskers from widening the gap on the scoreboard even earlier than they did.

And yes, it's the first game, but I have a question for the so-called experts.  What Nebraska running backs problem?  Not only was Helu stellar, with diamond-precise cuts and sudden explosiveness, but diminutive Rex Burkhead showed great power as he gave Helu a rest following his 152-yard, 3 touchdown performance, including a 44-yard sprint that had jaws dropping from Omaha to Scottsbluff and beyond.

Then came Cody Green.  And now comes the "wow".  Zac Lee, while fairly impressive, had better listen for the footsteps behind him.  Those footsteps belonging to Cody Green who, after completing a couple of passes, almost scored on a 49-yd sideline dash which showcased his pure athleticism, then punched it in from the one for Nebraska's final score.  It was exciting to see both Burkhead, who had a TD of his own, and Green giving Husker Nation a glimpse of our future, which judging by their performances, should be a bright future indeed.

And one last note, I had to chuckle when Schnellenberger got laid out on the sideline.  My negative emotions for that man run deep.

GO BIG RED!
 
 
 
 
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