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    by Published on 10-25-2014 12:28 AM  Number of Views: 1235 
    1. Categories:
    2. Football

    Note: As is my custom, the winner of the Nebraska-Northwestern game unofficially earns the right to use "NU" for the following year. Therefore, any references to "NU" in this piece will refer to Nebraska.

    This game was a true tale of two halves. In the first half, NU was sloppy on both sides of the ball. There was poor tackling, bad pursuit angles, and a defense that seemed determined to make Justin Jackson (the NW RB, not the former Nebraska lineman) look like an All-American. The defense could not get stops on 3rd down, which led to sustained drives down the field.

    Offensively, it felt more like Beck was throwing plays up against the wall instead of executing a game plan. Ameer Abdullah struggled to get established and the line looked subpar once again. The team was unable to convert third downs, including some bad drops. Despite coming to life late in the half, NU was lucky to be down just three points at halftime.

    In the second half, everything changed. The defense shut down the run and made Northwestern one-dimensional. Trevor Siemian is not very mobile when he's healthy, and he looked beat up. The defense was able to pressure ...
    by Published on 10-22-2014 12:00 AM     Number of Views: 5225 
    1. Categories:
    2. Football

    A heaping helping of hot takes to get you through until Halloween...

    Bo Pelini thinks the ESPN / SEC relationship is "bad for college football".
    I won't argue Bo's point, as it remains to be seen just how much ESPN's love affair with the SEC impacts the game. But I hate to see the coach give fuel to the message board conspiracy theorists who believe every announcer hates Nebraska, and ESPN disrespects the Big Ten and every other conference north or west of Columbia, MO.

    Look: You and I may sometimes forget it, but I guarantee that ESPN always knows the "E" in their name stands for "Entertainment", not Ethics, Equality, or anything else. ESPN wants viewers (which leads to higher cable fees and more ad dollars). They get those viewers by promoting and talking about winning teams. And right now, the SEC (as a whole) is widely viewed as a winning team.

    This is nothing new. Before their love affair with the SEC began, ESPN fawned all over USC. And Texas. And Boise State. And other top programs before that. As some of those teams have fallen on hard times, ESPN quickly moves on to the next big thing. For the most part, this is decided as much by the results on the field as it is by any financial implications ESPN may see from a team or conference's success.

    Remember, ESPN has a big, big stake in Texas's Longhorn Network, so if the "ESPN only promotes what they own" conspiracy ...
    by Published on 10-09-2014 11:40 PM     Number of Views: 4447 
    1. Categories:
    2. Football

    At halftime, I was not feeling all that confident about Nebraska's chances for a comeback. NU was down 17-0, had wasted several scoring opportunities, and was doing very little on offense.

    Then ABC showed a stat that gave me an odd sense of hope: The last time Nebraska was shut out in the first half was the 2009 game at Missouri.

    The similarities, both on the field and personal - were striking.

    As you may recall, that '09 Mizzou game was a night game, on the road, and the weather was a factor (an obvious understatement, but stay with me). Nebraska looked helpless on offense and it appeared to be a matter of time before a strong defense collapsed.

    Ditto on Saturday. A road night game, played in a chilly, windy rain. The defense had made given up some big plays, but they were doing their best to keep Nebraska in the game. The offense had no answers for Michigan State's defense.

    But the biggest similarities were personal. I watched that 2009 game from a hotel room outside Tampa, Florida with my wife and then 11 month old daughter sleeping next to me. It was so surreal to experience an exciting comeback victory knowing that if made any noise I would have a crying baby and a crabby wife.

    I watched the Michigan State game from a hotel room in Kearney with my two youngest children (2 ...
    by Published on 10-03-2014 11:06 AM  Number of Views: 4720 
    1. Categories:
    2. Football

    Author's note: A lot of you are about to read will make reference to the uniforms Nebraska wore against Illinois. While I was not a fan of this version going in, these things impacted my game experience like nothing else in the 30+ years I've been a fan. I was not able to view the game the way I'm used to watching it, which makes it very tough for me to write about the way I'm used to doing it. Know that going in...

    I'm not going to pull any punches: I absolutely hated the alternative uniforms Nebraska wore against Illinois. H -A - T - E, hate.

    I can deal with an all red get-up. I can deal with a two tone helmet (even if it may have a hidden message inside it). I can deal with Nebraska being adidas's guinea pigs for new innovation and design. I understand why Nebraska does the alternate uniform thing, the benefits it supposedly brings, etc. Yes, I have not been a fan of any of the three alts NU has worn to date (2012, 2013, 2014), but when NU wears them I put on my big boy pants and deal with it, because at the end of the day it doesn't impact me directly.

    But on Saturday night, the "Red Rising" uniforms impacted me directly.

    The black lettering on the back of the red jersey made it impossible to read the names on the jerseys. The shiny, almost reflective numbers and a very closed font made it extremely difficult to know who was who. That is a big problem for me.

    I go to games to see the things TV doesn't show me. I want to watch the linemen, I want to see plays develop and receivers coming open, I want to see the defense react to the ball. Most importantly, when the play is done I want be ...
    by Published on 09-26-2014 12:12 AM  Number of Views: 4157 
    1. Categories:
    2. Football

    Turn on a fan, because I have more Husker Hot Takes:

    The Boyd is Back in Town.
    Pioneering Strength & Conditioning coach Boyd Epley has returned to the Nebraska athletic department as the Assistant Athletic Director for Strength and Conditioning. The reaction I saw was all very positive. Of course, Husker fans have a strong affinity for bringing back people that they associate with the pre-Callahan glory years. Epley certainly fits the bill.

    Frankly, I'm not real sure what to make of this. On one hand, I certainly know and appreciate the many innovations Epley is responsible for, as well as the physical advantages the Huskers had over most of their opponents during his 35 year tenure. Yet, I also heard rumblings from many outlets about a drop-off towards the end of his first run in 2004. Additionally, the rash of athletic pubalgia injuries in that time was concerning. I guess I'm in wait and see mode on what Epley's day-to-day role will be - and how it will translate to results on the field and court.

    The important caveat in this hire is that Epley will oversee all sports - except football. This has the detractors of current S&C coach Tim Dobson (who apparently is responsible for every ACL injury in Lancaster County since 2010) plotting ...
    by Published on 09-22-2014 11:53 PM  Number of Views: 8741 
    1. Categories:
    2. Football,
    3. Athletics

    Throughout the game on Saturday night, I kept thinking how much fun I was having. Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed going to every one of the Husker games I've attended over the years. But this was different. I've been trying to put my finger on why.

    Yes, the late kickoff (and some pregame beverages) didn't hurt. Certainly, the opponent was a big part. Miami. The dreaded Hurricanes. The team that ruined more New Year's Days than any other program. After years of having to play the biggest game of the season in their stadium, they were finally coming north. (Seriously, I'm still bummed it didn't snow - or at least get below 50 degrees). And we beat them. Decidedly.

    Yet, there's more to it than just the win. More than Nebraska going to 4-0 and emerging as one of the better teams in the conference. It was how they won. With four quarters of no-nonsense power football, featuring an amazing player doing amazing things. It was a throwback to the glory days, which was fitting as the 1994 team - the team the finally broke through and did the impossible - was there to watch it.

    And that is what made the night special.

    It was Bo Pelini being as stoic as he possibly can. It was John Garrison channeling the offensive line success of his former coach. It was diminutive Josh Mitchell breaking the game open like another undersized play maker, Baron Miles. It was a quarterback named Tommy making excellent decisions in the option game. It was Ameer Abdullah cementing his ...
    by Published on 09-18-2014 08:32 AM  Number of Views: 4424 
    1. Categories:
    2. Football

    Time for another edition of the Hot Takes.

    Husker fans, we have found our "Jump Around"

    As we've discussed before, Nebraska is unsure of how to fill the gap between the 3rd and 4th quarters. The goal is to replicate the excitement, fan involvement, and impact on the other team that Wisconsin's "Jump Around" has become. To that end, Nebraska has tried several things, most of which were failures. Here is a partial recap of what's been done in the last 10 years:

    • An ill-fated attempt to get one half of the stadium to chant “Can’t be beat”, while the other half responds “Won’t be beat”. Aside from the potential awkwardness of doing this chant should NU be down 14 points going into the 4th quarter, it was too hard for fans to know what to chant and when to chant it.

    • The HuskerVision version of the shell game (Valentino’s “Eye the Pie”, as well as an earlier Runza-themed version) where fans follow a pizza or Husker logo as it is shuffled around. Boy did that one get the fans fired up!

    • The NU drum line goes out on the field to do a drum cadence for one corner of the stadium (usually the students) while the flag line twirls neon rifles. It's cool for the corner of the stadium they pick, but the rest of us don't get the full effect.

    • The band plays “Hey ...
    by Published on 09-17-2014 10:53 PM  Number of Views: 4055 
    1. Categories:
    2. Football

    That was something, wasn't it?

    Not the game, although that was quite entertaining - if a little long at times. I'm talking about the experience of playing Fresno State in Fresno. A 9:30 CDT kickoff meant that the game started after the bed times for the youngest and oldest Husker fans. Thousands more probably didn't make it past halftime. For those fans watching in bars with 1:00 closing times, did you get kicked out before the game ended? And I'm guessing Sunday morning church attendance across the state really took a hit.

    For all the quirks and inconveniences of this game, it was an important one to play. Fresno State may not be the best team Nebraska has played in 2014, but they are the most respected brand name - and that does matter. It also matters to play the occasional game in the state of California if you intend to maintain a recruiting presence in the state. Short of a Rose Bowl appearance, late night in Fresno will have to do for now.

    So what did we learn?

    The defense showed flashes of dominance. Looking at the night as a whole, the defense had a pretty solid outing. The Blackshirts held Fresno to just over 100 yards rushing and 346 in total offense. One of the Bulldog touchdowns (the 66 yard keeper by quarterback Brian Burrell) was a busted play that snowballed. But other than that, Fresno did not mount much of a threat ...
    by Published on 09-12-2014 02:42 PM     Number of Views: 3791 
    1. Categories:
    2. Football

    Nebraska is renowned for having excellent fans who support their Cornhuskers to the end. The sellout streak at Memorial Stadium will reach 340 by the end of the 2014 season. But there has always been a divide among Husker fans in the stadium. There are those fans who want games to be raucous events, and some who would prefer to go, sit, and quietly watch the game. Typically, that latter group is labeled "blue hairs", as they tend to be some of the older fans who have had season tickets for decades. Over the years*, the blue hairs have been telling fans to sit down, shut up, and generally do things that one might consider counter to having a loud, intimidating environment for opposing teams.

    *I've ...
    by Published on 09-10-2014 02:31 PM  Number of Views: 6578 
    1. Categories:
    2. Football

    Walking into the stadium on Saturday, I was lamenting that this was going to be Nebraska's last game against a FCS opponent. I was mentally compiling arguments to lay out in this space for why NU should consider the occasional game against a lower tier school. I felt confident that although my opinion may not be popular, I could make a good case for dipping into the minor leagues every now and again.

    And then the game started.

    Three hours later, most of my arguments were trumped. I knew that McNeese State was the last FCS to enter Memorial Stadium without a ticket. The risks simply outweigh any reward that can be gained.

    That is the harsh reality of a Power 5 program - especially one with Nebraska's tradition - playing a team from the lower division: there is very little on-field upside. Seriously, imagine the best case scenario that could have happened on Saturday. In my mind, it's a 70-0 win where the stars put up big numbers, the backups get lots of game experience, and nobody gets hurt. That type of success only happens once in an Idaho State moon.

    Instead, Nebraska came dangerously close to the worst case scenario: a home loss to a FCS school that is a black mark on the program for years and years. As it was, Nebraska got a hell of a scare, lost some key players to injury, and took a hit to the program's credibility. Nobody cares that McNeese State would easily defeat Florida Atlantic (despite what ...