Posted on: December 10, 2009 11:16 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2009 11:17 pm
Sorry for the abbreviated treatment.
If you're interested in my take on the Big XII title:
And here's a game-by game account of Suh's remarkable season:
Thanks for the reads.
Posted on: December 7, 2009 11:53 am
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Posted on: November 23, 2009 6:15 am
Edited on: November 23, 2009 6:37 am
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 8, 2009 1:02 am
Edited on: November 8, 2009 7:46 am
Do you think that Matt O'Hanlon felt bad about the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after his third (and game-clinching) interception?
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.
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.
Posted on: November 6, 2009 10:26 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2009 10:29 pm
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.
Posted on: October 24, 2009 7:08 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2009 3:02 am
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.
Posted on: October 17, 2009 7:04 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2009 9:08 pm
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
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.