(Drumroll) I hold in my hands, the LAST Danno Award segment!!! Yesssssssssssss!!
Let the awards begin.
BEST SPORTS WRITER (NEWSPAPER FORMAT)
Steven M. Sipple Lincoln Journal Star
Steve Sipple has been writing about Husker football (and other sports) for-ummm-a very long time. His style is very polished; his takes are well-thought and sensible. He avoids sensationalism, opting instead to let the facts speak for themselves. What a concept! I still don't know what his middle initial stands for, but you can bet it isn't for mediocrity.
BEST SPORTS WRITER (INTERNET FORMAT)
Sam McKewon The Nebraska State Newspaper
I started reading Sam's brilliantly written columns a few years ago when they first starting appearing on Huskerpedia. His experience as a football player gives him a perspective unlike that of most sports writers.
Sam, who is in his early 30s, is a huge boxing fan. He was an English major at UNL and a former editor for the Daily Nebraskan. He told me a couple of years ago that eventually he wants to be a high school English teacher. I'm sure he'd do well at teaching, but there are thousands of English teachers on the planet, but very few sportswriters who can write as well as he can.
FUNNIEST SPORTS WRITER
Steve "The Red Clad Loon" Smith (Huskerpedia)
About nine years ago, a buddy of mine asked if I had heard of Huskerpedia. I told him that I hadn't, but I soon became a big fan, largely because of the pieces written by Steve "The Red Clad Loon" Smith. His columns were brilliant, creative and knee-slappingly funny. His fictional "you know I'm right" character, "Elmer From Unadilla," is a classic. Sadly a couple of years ago, Steve announced he would no longer be writing sports columns. And since then, the world of Husker football hasn't been nearly as fun.
OFFICIAL HUSKER FOOTBALL HISTORIAN
Mike Babcock (Huskers Illustrated)
Mike, who holds a Masters degree in English from UNL, worked from 1978-1995 as a sports writer/columnist for the Lincoln Journal Star. And since 1982 has been a contributing editor for Huskers Illustrated magazine. Mike's columns have also appeared the past 11 years in The Reader newspaper.
But more important, Mike is the author of several books about Husker football history. His latest masterpiece is "Nebraska Football Vault: The History of the Cornhuskers." "Vault" is a must for any serious Husker football fan. He's also written "Heart of a Husker," The Nebraska Football Legacy," "Go Big Red," and "Stadium Stories: Nebraska Cornhuskers: Colorful Tales of the Scarlet and Cream."
Whenever I get stuck with a question about Husker football, I go to Mike and he usually has the answer. Until now, Mike has been the unofficial Husker football historian, but now we are making it official.
BEST CHEERS TO TEARS GAME
Texas Tech @Nebraska 2005
Late in the fourth quarter, LeKevin Smith recovered a Tech fumble near the Husker goal line, but instead of just falling on it, he attempted to run with it. And tragically for the Huskers, he fumbled it right back to the Red Raiders. Moments later, Tech QB Cody Hodges on 4th and 1 with 12 seconds to go, tossed a 10 yard TD pass to Joel Filani to beat the Huskers 34-31.
BEST TEARS TO CHEERS GAME
Colorado @ Nebraska 2000
On the drama scale, this game ranks about a 10. Husker place kicker Josh Brown kicked a 29 yard field goal as time expired to beat the Buffaloes in Lincoln, 34-32. The win put the Huskers at 9-2, finishing the season with a 10-2 record. Eric Crouch helped engineer the final exciting drive.
WORST QUARTER OF FOOTBALL
At Texas Tech 2004
From the 4:16 point of the third quarter until the final gun, the Red Raiders scored seven unanswered touchdowns against the Huskers. The result was the worst lost (70-10) in Husker football history. To make matters worse in that fateful quarter, Husker head coach Bill Callahan replaced his starting qb, Joe Dailey, with true freshman Beau Davis who prior to that time, had never played a down of D-1 football.
MOST PIVOTAL GAME WITH A NEGATIVE IMPACT
62-36 loss @ Colorado (2001)
This game may have marked the end of the Devaney/Osborne era of Husker football. After this embarrassing loss, Nebraska got pounded again-this time by a superior Miami Hurricane team in the Rose Bowl for the national championship. The following year, the Huskers experienced their first non-winning season since 1961. And although the Huskers would bounce back in 2003 with a 10-3 season, Husker head coach Frank Solich was nevertheless fired at the end of the regular season. Solich's firing led to the hiring of Bill Callahan in 2004. Callahan's first year at Nebraska resulted in the Huskers' first losing season since 1961 and they failed to go to a bowl game for the first time since 1968. The Huskers would struggle for the next three years and after a dismal 2007 season, Bill Callahan and most of his staff were dismissed and replaced by Bo Pelini and his staff. The following is painful to watch.
MOST PIVOTAL GAME WITH A POSITIVE IMPACT
2008 @ Texas Tech (loss 37-31 OT)
Although this game was another loss for the 3-3 Huskers (their third loss in a row), Nebraska took the #7 ranked Red Raiders to the wire, losing by six points in OT at Lubbock. Nebraska would win 6 of their next 7 games to finish the season with a 9-4 record, losing only to #4 Oklahoma at Norman.
2005 Pittsburgh @Nebraska (7-6 Husker win)
This is part of what I wrote about the game in its aftermath:
It would make an onion cry.
It would make Ray Charles flinch.
It would make a train take a dirt road.
If it were a home, it would run away.
If it were an old car, it would be an AMC Pacer.
If it were a new car, it would be a Pontiac Aztek.
If it were a shadow, it would refuse to follow you.
If it were a person, it would be Zasu Pitts in a thong.
If it were a newborn baby, the doc would slap the kid's mother.
If it were a man walking by a bathroom, all the toilets would flush.
If it were food, it would be the main course on Thanksgiving Day.
If it were a kid playing in a sandbox, the cat would try to cover it up.
If it were made into a movie, Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet would co-star.
If it were a new born baby, the mother would get a letter of apology from the condom factory.
That's how ugly this one was. Really.
If you'd like to read the rest of my 2005 column click here. http://huskermax.com/huskerdan/20050919dan.html
(Thankfully, we couldn't find any YouTube videos of this clunker.)
MOST AGONIZING LOSS
Texas at Nebraska 2010 (TU-20-NU 10)
There is a lot of competition for this one, but at the end of the day, one loss stands painfully above the rest.
Last year's loss at home to Texas gets the nod. Why? Because most Husker fans thought it was our time to finally beat the Longhorns. Because Nebraska would be leaving the following season for the Big 10 Conference, this was going to be the last time these two teams would meet as conference foes during the regular season. And when was the last time Nebraska beat Texas in Lincoln? 1933 (26-0). In fact, that is NU's only home win over Texas in a dismal (for Nebraska) 4-9-0 series record.
The stage for this game was set the season before. NU had lost to the Longhorns in the Big 12 championship game, with an assist by the officials who put one second back on the stadium clock after it had appeared that Nebraska had won the game. That one second allowed Texas placekicker, Hunter Lawerence, to nail a 46 yarder to win the game 13-12.
And now it was Nebraska's chance to return the favor. October 16, 2010 was finally going to be payback time. Not only was Nebraska going to win the game, the Huskers were going to rub Texas' nose into the Memorial Stadium turf.
To be sure, many Husker fans came to Lincoln that day just be a part of history. The stage was set-the weather was perfect and the crowd was pumped.
Then reality set in. Nebraska fumbled, dropped sure touchdown passes, missed blocks and tackles and boom, game over. Had it not been for a late 95 yard punt return by Eric Hagg, the Huskers wouldn't even have scored a touchdown that day. To make matters worse, this was the Longhorns' worst team (5-7) since John Mackovic's 1997 team went 4-7-0. After TU beat the Huskers, the 'Horns went 1-5, losing at home to Iowa State (28-21) and Baylor (30-22), losing at Kansas State (39-14) and finishing the conference season with home losses to Oklahoma State (33-16) and Texas A&M (24-17).
This loss will haunt Husker players, coaches and fans for decades.
WORST OFFICIAL CALL
2010 @Texas A&M
The roughing the passer penalty called on Husker safety Courtney Osborne late in the game gave the Aggies new life. The penalty put them in position to kick a field goal to win the game.
WORST OFFICIAL NON-CALL
2010 @Texas A&M
The assault on a very valuable part of Husker TE Ben Cotton's anatomy should have resulted in the offender (Aggie DE Jerod-Edie) being thrown out of the game. Instead, officials tagged Nebraska with 30 yards of penalties. Not since the near beheading of Eric Crouch at Kansas State in 1998 has there been such an irresponsible non-call for Nebraska.
BEST HUSKER TELEVISION SHOW
"Big Red Wrap Up" (NET1)
Seven time Nebraska Sportscaster of the Year winner, Kevin Kugler and former Husker linebacker, Adrian Fiala co-host the show that is seen during the football season live Tuesday nights on NET1. Both have taken "BRWU" to new heights since they paired up. Note: Kevin Kugler was also recently elected to the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.
Former Husker head coach, Bill Callahan after the Huskers lost to Texas A&M on October 20, 2007 (2004-2007)
When asked to defend his performance as Nebraska's head football coach, Callahan replied, "I’ve done an excellent job in every area...."
Callahan's words came as a bit of surprise to Husker fans who had just seen their once proud team suffer blow-out losses to Missouri (6-41), Oklahoma State (14-45) and Texas A&M (14-36). During that three game stretch, the Huskers gave up 122 points for an average of 40.7 points per game. Four games and another three losses later, Callahan was fired.
BEST HUSKER FOOTBALL BOOK
"Diary of a Husker" (David Kolowski)
I'll admit that I haven't read every book written about Nebraska football during the past eleven years, but "Diary" is the best of those I have read. Kowloski based his book on the diary he kept during his five years (1998-2002) while he was a member of the Husker football team. (His last year, he was the deep snapper on special teams.) "Diary" may be unsettling to some Husker fans who think the Husker football program is a pure as the driven snow. But sometimes, the snow needs plowing.
BEST FOOTBALL MOVIE
"We Are Marshall" (2006)
The film, starring Matthew McConaughey, is about the rebuilding of Marshall University's football program in the aftermath of a tragic plane crash that took the lives of most of the players and coaches. On a five star rating system, this one gets a 4.5. Great movie.
BEST GOODWILL AMBASSADORS
The Husker Elvises (Ron, Larry, Gerry Brew)
I've said this many, many times, THE may be the best goodwill ambassadors the Husker football program has ever had. Through the years, they have devoted much of their time, money and energy to entertaining Husker fans, especially in downtown Lincoln on game days. These mild-mannered businessmen transform themselves into the incarnation of "The King" by donning Elvis wigs and apparel. They perform Elvis tunes, but sing them with Husker football lyrics. And know this: they are three of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. (Another brother, Steve who was a regular with the group, sadly passed away several years ago.)
BEST OFFENSIVE NEWBIE
QB Redshirt Freshman Taylor Martinez (2009-present)
This is a no-brainer. Until he was injured in the eighth game of the 2010 season, T-Magic was being heralded (much too prematurely) as a shoe-in for the Heisman. And when he was healthy, he did accomplish quite a bit. In 2010, he earned Fist Team Freshman All America honors, became the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer Of The Year and set the school single game rushing record with 241 yards vs Kansas State. His 80 yard TD run at Washington was the longest TD run ever by a Husker freshman. His five TD passes for 323 yards against Oklahoma State set the school record for a freshman. He became the first quarterback in school history to pass for over 300 yards and rush for over 100 yards in a single game.
BEST DEFENSIVE NEWBIE
LB Lavonte David (2010-present)
This juco transfer really made his presence known on the playing field last fall. In his first year (he has only one more year of eligibility remaining), his 152 tackles broke the school single season record (145) set by LB Barrett Ruud in 2003. David went on to be named Rivals.com 2010 First Team All-American, Big 12 Defensive Newcomer Of The Year, was a unanimous choice as First Team All-Big 12 and was Nebraska's Defensive MVP.
MOST INSPIRATIONAL HUSKER FAN
Christian Berkshire (8 years old from Ft. Campbell, Kentucky)
A few years ago, Christian was just like all the other young boys his age. He loved to play sports and because of his father's influence, Christian became a devoted Husker football fan. Then one day, he complained of headaches-headaches so severe that they made him vomit. It was later that Christian was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer that affects his optic nerve and spinal cord. The disease has left him legally blind. One of his wishes is to see a Husker home football game. Christian and his family were guests at last year's "Husker Fans' Salute To The Troops" (www.huskersalute.org
) celebration held in Lincoln. He is an inspiration to everyone who is fortunate to meet him. With your prayers and support, we hope to make Christian's wish come true this fall.
MOST INSPIRATIONAL PLAYER
Tyrone Fahie DE (2007-2010)
Tyrone Fahie (Foy) walked on at Nebraska during the spring of '07 after completing two tours in Iraq with the US Navy's Seal Team One group as a support communicator. Fahie was prsented with an Honorary Lott Trophy Recipient (only 1 of 3 people to ever receive the award). He was also named First Team Academic All -Big (2010), Big 12 Commissioner's Fall Academic Honor Roll ('07, '08, '09 and '10). Tyrone also had the honor of carrying the American flag onto the field for Nebraska prior to last fall's September 11th game with Idaho. Tyrone was our featured speaker last year at our "Husker Fans' Salute To The Troops" (www.huskersalute.org
) celebration. Fahie carries a 4.0 grade average as he pursues an MBA at Nebraska.
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. My past columns are located under my name in the left hand column.