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    by Published on 09-26-2014 12:12 AM  Number of Views: 3628 
    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: 7828 
    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: 3536 
    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: 3110 
    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: 2672 
    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: 5075 
    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 ...
    by Published on 09-10-2014 02:28 PM     Number of Views: 432 
    1. Categories:
    2. Football

    There are few things I love more than a good old fashioned whoopin' - especially when Nebraska is on the giving end. But the challenge is having such an amazing offensive performance in the first game of the season. We spent all spring and summer calibrating our expectations and finding the holes on this team. Then the fall camp "Kool Aid Season" starts, when every second stringer is a future All-American. Now this - a complete and utter annihilation of a team that was bowl eligible last year. Certainly this means that those potential losses (at Fresno? Or Wisconsin? Or maybe Northwestern?) are a little more firmly in the win column.

    Or does it?

    That is the danger with first games. We draw far too many conclusions off of 60 minutes of football against a team that, frankly, wasn't very good. Yes, Nebraska looked great, covered the spread, and had several players post career bests. But none of that matters in October when Nebraska plays some big conference games on the road.

    Make no mistake, the talent is there. The potential is there too. I believe the desire is as strong as it has been in long time. Now it is time to see if this team can put those pieces together and navigate a schedule chock full of traps and mines. Who knows where this team will be on November 1. But on September 1, all is right with the world. The Huskers are back - and they look good.

    So what did we learn? ...
    by Published on 08-27-2014 11:07 AM  Number of Views: 7517 
    1. Categories:
    2. Football,
    3. Athletics

    Some of the ways Nebraska can have a big season in 2014 are quite obvious (give the ball to Ameer Abdullah, get solid production from Tommy Armstrong, reduce turnovers, establish a punt return game, etc.)

    But there are some other keys that have kind of flown under the radar. They may not be as self-evident as "keep the defensive ends healthy", but they are just as important.

    1. Move on from Taylor Martinez.

    Love him or hate him, he is gone. And yet, I cannot begin to count the number of times I've seen and heard Martinez mentioned since the Gator Bowl ended his eligibility. The program, fans, and media do not do themselves any favors by continually ...
    by Published on 08-18-2014 12:00 AM  Number of Views: 7840 
    1. Categories:
    2. Football

    As Nebraska's fall camp continues, there is a lot of positive news, hyperbole, and high expectations being placed on the Huskers. If you consume enough of the preseason Kool Aid, you can easily convince yourself that this Husker team is poised to win the Big Ten West and even challenge for a spot in the new football playoff.,

    On the surface, I agree. Those things are possible. But such rose-colored glasses thinking overlooks some very serious concerns on this Nebraska team. Things that easily turn a promising season into another four loss campaign - or worse.

    1. Quarterback. Despite some preseason noise about being pushed by Ryker Fyfe, Tommy Armstrong will be the starter and likely will get every opportunity to succeed. I think Armstrong did a decent job last year as a redshirt freshman coming off the bench for the injured ...
    by Published on 07-28-2014 12:58 AM  Number of Views: 3988 
    1. Categories:
    2. Football

    Before we turn our attention to the flood of coach speak and clichés from Big Ten media days in Chicago, let's review some of the things in the news recently:

    1. College Football country is in a Watch List warning.

    July is the time when every college football award puts out their preseason watch list. The Huskers were well represented with Ameer Abdullah, Randy Gregory, and Kenny Bell (among others) making a list. Personally, I've always thought watch lists were rather silly. The lists aren't exactly exclusive: do we really need to watch 53 running backs for the Doak Walker Award? That is over 40% of the starting running backs in FBS. Nor is the award limited to the preseason candidates - Jameis Winston won the 2013 Walter Camp Award, but he wasn't on the watch list. And there are the curious or obligatory choices: no disrespect to Mark Pelini, but I'm pretty sure it is a Rimington Award bylaw that Nebraska's starting center be placed on their watch list.

    About the only good thing watch lists do is help pass the time until the season starts.

    2. Attention recruits: Nebraska is not one big cornfield (and the people are nice too!)

    Nebraska ...