Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Nice win for Husker Hoops over Marquette

I missed the first half tonight, and must admit I was shocked by the halftime score; Huskers by 19 at the break over Marquette. The Golden Eagles are fresh off their Great Alaskan Shootout championship and presented their toughest challenge to this point. (Sagarin rated their schedule #311 out of 334!)

They seemed to relax a bit in the second half, allowing Marquette to close to within 6 points with about 7 minutes to go. Last year, Nebraska seemed to find a way to let those leads slip away at the end, but this game, Nebraska turned it up at the end and won 84-74.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Solich's worst day: Saturday after Thanksgiving

Ohio head coach Frank Solich was arrested Saturday night for drunken driving in Athens, Ohio. No spin here; it was a dangerous and stupid act. Solich immediately pled no contest and was fined, ordered to pay a fine and attend a 3 day intervention program, and recieved a 180 day license suspension.

Solich will discuss the incident at a press conference tomorrow; Ohio University is treating this as a personnel matter, and Solich is expected to remain as the head coach.

When I heard of this situation, the first thing I thought of was that 2 years ago on the Saturday night after Thanksgiving, Solich was fired as the head coach of the Huskers. We may find out tomorrow whether this was a coincedence; my instinct says not.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

One man's ego

I think every Husker fan should be elated and excited about Friday's victory. Fans can take a lot of positives out of the performance of the Big Red. And I don't want to take anything away from it. Callahan supporters and critics alike saw clear signs of optimism that indicate the program is finally putting the discord from 2 years ago finally behind.

Then the athletic director reopened all the old wounds, claiming vindication by saying "This is the reason we did what we did." Before the game, Pederson declined to an interview with KETV-Channel 7 to discuss the events of 2 years ago. He knew that the questions would be uncomfortable, and nothing is to be gained by revisiting that decision.

So why do it after the game? Simple. Ego. The folks in Pittsburgh know about it. And at the first sign of progress on Friday, there's Steve Pederson's ego once again on display.

It's now been 104 weeks, and the wounds still haven't been healed. Bill Callahan seems to finally have gotten the embrace of his football team. Many critics of his, including me, recognize that this might be the turning point in the program.

So why does Steve Pederson suddenly want to brag about his 2003 coaching decision? Ego, ego, ego. 2 years ago, with his plans in place to fire Frank Solich in place, Pederson was the invisible man. And as soon as Nebraska seems ready to finally move on, there is Steve Pederson taking center stage to take the credit.

I can think of 38.5 million reasons why Pederson should have kept his mouth shut after Saturday's game, much like he kept it quiet after the Kansas game. But, once again, Steve Pederson put his ego ahead of the athletic department.

Bill Callahan may very well turn out to be a success. I saw something on Friday that indicates that this might work out in the end.

At the same time, I am further convinced that Steve Pederson will NEVER be able to repair his relationship with the fan base he alienated 2 years ago. He has talked about moving on, but Friday night, he refused to "walk the talk." My opinion that he should resign or be fired has not changed.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

It finally all clicks...

In the Bill Callahan era, the Huskers have had short bursts of offensive success. And some longer bursts of defensive success. But until yesterday in Boulder, they've never put together a cohesive 60 minutes of football.

Yesterday, it all came together. Every Husker fan has to be amazed by what they saw yesterday. It was a beautiful thing.

I must admit that I was expecting a repeat of the 2001 game, especially after the opening 3-and-out followed by Colorado running a counter play to gain 40 yards early on. But that was it for the CoCo Puffs. From there on out, the Huskers simply dominated.

Credit goes to everyone for this performance. Zac Taylor elevated his game to the next level, making clutch throw after clutch throw. Bo Ruud spent almost as much time in Colorado's backfield as CU quarterback Joel Klatt. And when Cory Ross wasn't picking up a CU blitzer, he was making a big reception.

After the Kansas debacle, I stated that the problem wasn't talent - and yesterday proved it. In the last 2 years, the only team to significantly outtalent Nebraska was Oklahoma. So what changed?

Simple. For the first time since the shakeup, the coaching staff and the players truly were on one page. Sure, they've said the right things at times, but you've never gotten the feeling that all was right in the Husker camp.

Until yesterday.

You could see it in the tears in Bill Callahan's eyes in his post game press conference. You could see it in the Gatorade dunk Callahan received.

It was a masterful performance by both the players and coaches. It's a shame that the Huskers will need to wait another month for another game to build on this performance.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Not the Victory but the Recruiting

I wonder if part of the new building campaign will include an updating of the inscription on Memorial Stadium to reflect the new reality:
Not the Victory but the recruiting
Not the game but the letter of intent
In the glory.

Last week, I received a spam-mail from the Nebraska Athletic Department announcing 52 signees in various sports, especially trumpeting their recruiting ratings. And while I look forward to seeing many of these players in Husker uniforms, I can't help but continue to be concerned about the escalation of the recruiting hype machine.

In the past, Husker fans were advised to stay away from recruits. And for good reason; it's not very difficult to comply with NCAA regulations. Earlier this month, I was talking to my former boss, who has a son who is being recruited by several schools, and she was extremely proud of her son. And for good reason. And as we talked, I realized how easy it would be to commit an NCAA rules violation, even though she placed the call to me.

Before the Kansas State game, I was early enough and was underneath South Stadium with a few hundred fans as the team returned to the locker room from warmups. All the fans were cheering, applauding, and encouraging the team as they passed. Great! Wonderful! Go Big Red!

After the team passed, my elation turned to pure disgust. Some fans suddenly went absolutely nuts as the recruits began to follow along to the locker room. They weren't there to cheer on the Huskers; they were there for the RECRUITS! As far as I'm concerned -- completely PATHETIC.

After many home games, I've seen many people asking "Nevermind the game, what did the recruits think?" Like any fan should have the answer; fans run dangerously close to violating NCAA rules by contacting a recruit.

Don't get me wrong. Recruiting is important. But fan involvement in recruiting is an invitation to disaster. Fans can cause nothing but problems when they get involved.

Speaking of recruiting, did anyone notice that USC/Fresno State game on Saturday night? Everybody likes to talk about USC's athletes, and that's part of why they are #1. But it's not the whole reason; USC has always had top rated recruiting classes. It took Pete Carroll to turn it into a national contender. But how do recruitnik's explain Fresno State? Carl pointed it out a couple of weeks ago; Fresno State's last few recruiting classes were rated 53rd, 98th, 111th, and 75th. And they almost knocked off USC in the Mausoleum. Great coaching, good talent, and completely bogus recruiting evaluation.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Rough day for UNO

Yesterday was a bad day all around for UNO; the Mavs were bounced from the Division II football playoffs by Saginaw State, losing 24-21 at home. Then, in hockey, Alaska-Fairbanks took advantage of a couple of bad bounces, a coaching blunder, and an outstanding goalie performance to split the series with the Mavs.

Last night was a frustrating game for UNO; they outshot the Nanooks 34-13. But Fairbanks scored the opening goal on a breakaway after a UNO scoring chance was deflected, then scored the 2nd period on a breakaway as the Nanooks were exiting the penalty box.

The Nanooks 2nd goal was extremely disappointing; the power play goal began at the start of the 2nd period when UNO was penalized for not returning to the ice after intermission. I've been frustrated by Bill Callahan's sideline blunders the last couple of years, but this was inexcusable. This one will knaw at us at the end of the season, though you can drive yourself crazy playing the "what if" game.

One thing though is clear; this team is loaded with talent. Once the goaltending stabilizes, these Mavs will be GOOD. Fairbanks went into Mariucci and kept the Gophers winless last month, and they're the only team to beat Michigan this season. And UNO pummelled them all weekend. And they went into Munn last weekend and swept Sparty.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sports Illustrated: "Out of line"

Mark Beech of Sports Illustrated writes this week that Nebraska's struggles start at the position that Nebraska used to become a national power in the first place: the offensive line. It's a fairly balanced piece; it skewers everyone including:
  • The fans who called for a coaching change 2 years ago after that "not very impressive" 9-3 season.
  • Bill Callahan for his "condescending" demeanor and his gaffes when playing Oklahoma.
One thing it does call for is patience, quoting Arizona coach Mike Stoops as saying that Nebraska's change is going to take time and patience if it is ever going to succeed.

And I agree to a degree. I'm willing to give Bill Callahan at least one more year to see if we start seeing some progress. It's not a endorsement of Callahan by any means; outside of recruiting, he's made far more mistakes than he's made good changes too date. But Nebraska can't get into a coaching carousel. Look around at how difficult it is to replace a legend: it took Alabama 3 tries to replace Bear Bryant. It took Oklahoma 3 tries to replace Barry Switzer. How many tries did it take for USC to replace John Robinson??? I still don't think Bill Callahan is the answer at Nebraska; he's just the 2nd guy to try and replace Tom Osborne.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sporting News: Callahan can't point fingers

Matt Hayes of The Sporting News joins the parade of national correspondents taking shots at Bill Callahan, this time for pointing the fingers at his players for the loss to Kansas. And while I'm not sure he directly blamed the players for Kansas, he sure implied it with some of his comments. It's not even the most recent example of this; last Saturday, he blamed Zac Taylor for "telegraphing" that boneheaded swing pass that resulted in an easy safety against Kansas State.

Some people will be quick to attribute this to a national media "hatred" of Nebraska, but let's be honest here, that's just blaming the messenger. But let's be honest, outside of recruiting, Callahan has not accomplished much since arriving at Nebraska. Perhaps after Callahan gets all his recruits in place, Callahan may look like a smarter coach and a better hire.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Burned Shirts & Sparty Sweep

Predictably, there's a lot of commotion about Harrison Beck's redshirt getting burned. Personally, I find it hard to criticize Callahan in this situation. I think he rolled the dice that he could get away with redshirting his top backup, and lost. Saturday, I don't think Callahan had much of a choice.

I do criticize Callahan for not putting Joe Ganz in at the tail end of the Missouri and Kansas games. Taylor took 3 or 4 unnecessary hits in those games after those games got to blowout status. But Saturday, if Callahan thinks Harrison Beck is his top backup, he has to play him in a 2 point game when Zac Taylor gets knocked out of the game. If it was a 3 touchdown game, that might be a different situation.

And it's a situation that critics like me have to expect. The heat is on Bill Callahan, and he really can't worry about whether Harrison Beck has any eligibility for the 2009 season. If Nebraska loses to K-State, and misses a bowl game, they lose 4 more weeks of practice. And if they continue to struggle in 2006 and 2007, there will be another head coach to worry about who will start in 2009.

And if we're talking what-if's, if you believe the recruitniks and Beck is as good as they say, he might declare for the NFL early anyway. Of course, those same people said that Zac Bowman would be declaring for the NFL after this season. More overhype from the recruiting crowd; I wonder what the NFL thought of Bowman's game on Saturday? He got sucked in badly on several plays, including chasing a Kansas State receiver down the length of the field on a draw play. The KSU receiver kept turning around to throw a block, but when Bowman kept following him, he just kept running.

And I neglected to throw some props towards the Mavericks. After starting the conference season 0-4, they rebound quite nicely to sweep #6 Michigan State at their barn. Driving back from Lincoln, I got to hear Greg Harrington and Terry Leahy describe the OT game winner by Bill Thomas on Saturday night. You could hear the folks in the Road Banned going nuts as the shocked Sparty fans quietly exited Munn.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Huskers win the Bungle Bowl

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Some of the best playcalling of the season (misdirection, toss sweep plays), some of the worst playcalling (screen pass in the end zone?). The Husker offense looked great at times, and anemic at times.

Let's look at the positives on the day:
  • Zac Taylor, until he got smashed in the 4th quarter, had his best game of the day. 21 for 31 passing on a day where the wind was howling.
  • Nate Swift is turning into a clutch playmaker.
  • Corey McKeon is proving that doesn't rate players for heart.
  • After struggles earlier this season, Jordon Congdon is now living up to the recruitnik hype with that clutch field goal.
I think Husker fans are split on whether burning Harrison Beck's redshirt was appropriate or not. My preference would have been to put Joe Ganz in the game; however, Callahan has clearly said previously that Beck is the backup and would go in if something happened to Taylor. And that's exactly what happened.

I think all Husker fans are hoping that this was Beck's worst performance of his career. His one completion was huge, and the roughing penalty he took put the Big Red into position for the winning field goal. However, Beck's interception cost the Huskers the lead and nearly the game.

Like I said, I would have preferred Ganz in the game, but I won't criticize Callahan for this decision. I knew that it was only a matter of time before Taylor got knocked out of the game, and I had hoped that Callahan would put Ganz in at some point to get him some reps and spare Taylor the shots he took at the end of the games against Kansas and Missouri. But what's done is done.

Apparantly, the coaching staff took notice of the media reports of Beck's lack of attention to the game the last 2 weeks; my wife noticed that staff personnel were watching him closely on the sidelines.

Thank goodness this game was not televised; it was a sloppy mess on both sides of the ball. Daniel Bullocks strip against Wake Forest was a great play, but twice he's been burned by trying to strip the ball instead of tackling. Whoever taught Bullocks to start doing that better hope that the NFL doesn't penalize him for this on draft day next spring.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Thanks to the Seniors

Before their final home game, just thought I'd salute the seniors on this year's Husker team.

Those that redshirted in 2001 saw them come close to the big prize, playing in the BCS National Championship game. They endured 2 coaching staff changes and even a losing season last year. They've endured insults from some "fans" who insist that they weren't any good, who can't wait for them to leave.

While they won't leave Lincoln with any rings, they do leave with my respect and admiration for how they fought through their Husker careers and finished it out.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Talent is NOT the issue

The frequent excuse from the kool-aid crowd is that we don't have the talent that we had 10 years ago.

Guess what. We probably never will. 1995 was something special, something that will probably never be repeated.

The 1995 Huskers should be considered the pinnacle of achievement; they are considered by some to be the greatest football team ever. If you expect that to be repeated, you will go through the rest of your life sorely disappointed.

Kool-aid drinkers like to recite rankings for the past several years as proof that "talent is our problem." Problem is, they never look at the rankings of our opponents. Sure, Oklahoma always has great recruiting rankings, but their top-5 2003 signing class is in shambles. But has Texas Tech had better recruiting classes? Nope. And Kansas? Please.

Success in football is not just based on talent. Talent is only part of the equation. Coaching and preparation plays as big, if not bigger role. Look at Notre Dame; last year, people used the talent card to explain their struggles. Add in a great coach in Charlie Weis, and suddenly the talent level has mysteriously been upgraded.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Fire Steve Pederson

(Update October 7, 2007: It's Time to Pull The Plug on Steve Pederson...)

Bill Callahan should NOT be fired.

He is in year 2 of a monumental transition. It is not going well, and I'm doubtful that he is the answer as Nebraska's head coach. But, we're only in year 2 of his run. Some of the holes in this year's team may start filling themselves next season, especially on the offensive line. But however cathartic the firing might be, the next question is, who would replace him?

Several names have already been brought up. Joe Glenn at Wyoming. Monte Kiffin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Barney Cotton at Iowa State. I'll throw out Marvin Sanders at North Carolina as well. As much as I like Frank Solich, he'd be a poor choice; there is still a large contingent of Husker fans who despise him. Many of them actually blamed him for yesterday's debacle.

But the decision as to who would replace Bill Callahan doesn't belong to the fans. It's the responsibility of the athletic director.

The person currently filling that position has experience in coaching searches. His process was roundly criticized and lampooned 2 years ago. Fox's Jimmy Johnson quipped that a dozen NFL guys received raises thanks to Steve. At least 3 of Pederson's candidates are already in hot water and in danger of losing their current job: Dave Wannstedt (who might get fired for the 2nd time), Houston Nutt, and Chuck Amato.

Steve Pederson is a divisive figure in this state. Named last year as Nebraska's Enemy of the State by Sports Illustrated, fundraising for the Osborne Complex has stalled since his last coaching change. I don't doubt that Pederson loves the University and the athletic program, but it's obvious a change is necessary.

Hopefully, Steve will do the right think and resign. But if he doesn't, fire Steve Pederson.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Welcome to Pediocrity.

2 years ago, Nebraska's athletic director made the statement that he refused to allow Nebraska to "gravitate to mediocrity". Whether we are "gravitating" or "accelerating", there is no denying it.

We have descended below mediocrity.

138 total yards of offense.

428 total yards and 40 points given up on defense. To a team that had was 1-4 in Big XII play and had scored 49 points in those 5 games.

For those of you who had the misfortune of listening to Jim Rose today, at least you could turn it off. I watched the whole thing in person.

Here are some of the more disturbing observations from section 31:
  • Playcalling was even more abysmal than usual. Bill Callahan decided that we needed to establish a ground game against one of the top rushing defenses in the country. And there was almost no variety in the running play; if I had a video tape, I would say of the first 10 runs, there were only 3 or 4 different plays run.
  • Kansas defended us with 9 or 10 players "in the box" most of the game. However, we only attempted to stretch the defense a handful of times by sending receivers deeper than 10 yards downfield.
  • Harrison Beck and Joe Ganz know that they aren't getting into the game unless Zac Taylor is knocked out. They spent much of the first half watching the Kansas dance squad.
  • Callahan might be trying to get Zac Taylor killed by leaving him in the game to get assaulted when the game is out of reach.
  • The defense tried to keep Nebraska in the game today. Corey McKeon had a key interception to end a Kansas threat as well as the safety. But, they wore down, and sadly in the 4th quarter, threw in the towel. All season long many fans have raved about their "never give up" will, but today, they went to the well one too many times.
They need to find a way to beat either Kansas State or Colorado. Kansas State may be the only opportunity as they may be struggling more than the Huskers at this point.

This Husker program is staring 5-6 in the face for the second consecutive year.

I must say, however, that you couldn't help but be happy for the Kansas fans. Everyone I ran into was cordial. Heading back up the hill, I had a heck of a view of the KU students swimming with the goal posts for the second straight week. And I was touched by a conversation with a Kansas fan who talked about being 5 years old the last time Kansas beat our Huskers. As the final seconds, you could see the tears in his eyes as he watched his team accomplish something he thought he might never see.

It brought back my own memories of watching Tom Osborne defeat Miami on their home field for the 1994 National Championship. My, how times have changed.

During a dinner stop on the Plaza in Kansas City this evening, we ran into several Husker fans trying to recover from the game. From the persepective of the fans I talked to this evening, I think HuskerNation is growing restless.

Update: Revisiting Pediocrity

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Which way will they go?

I must say that after last week's game, I was extremely pessimistic about this week's game against Kansas. However, after I thought about it a bit more, I remembered that I still think Oklahoma is a pretty darn good team. With Adrian Peterson back in the lineup, I think they've got a legitimate case to be the 2nd best team in the Big XII. Yes, that means I think they'll run the table and beat A&M (boy, Franchione sure hit a bump in year 3), Texas Tech (overrated), and Oklahoma State.

But, Kansas' defense is legit. Problem for them is, their offense isn't. Nebraska might not be as good as the Jayhawks on defense, but they're better than them on offense. Either way, this is shaping up to be a low scoring affair. First team to 10 wins? The over/under on this one is 38. Yuck!

Since this game is not on TV, you'll either have to drive to Lawrence or listen on the radio. Fortunately, you don't have to listen to the Husker Information Minister; UNL's students will be broadcasting the game as well. You can get their webcast at

Meanwhile, the UNO Maverick hockey team tries to bounce back after a bye week against Bowling Green. The 0-4-1 Falcons miss their inspirational leader, Jordan Sigalet, who is now on the roster of roster of the NHL's Boston Bruins despite battling Multiple Sclerosis. Hope the game still goes on; their last home game was postponed after someone drilled into a cooling pipe while setting up the nets.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Slash

Well, I must say I was disappointed, but not surprised by Callahan's comments at today's press conference. He seemed surprised that the question came up, then admitted that he had discussed the matter with both the Big XII's Supervisor of Officials as well as with the Athletic Director. He also said that he hadn't seen the video in question despite apparantly spending quite a bit of time over the previous 24 hours discussing it.

It's obvious that Callahan at this point doesn't care what the effects of this story is. And I kind of doubt Steve Pederson does either. So, the media will take some more pot shots with his comments in today's press conference, and then put the video from Saturday's game in their clip drawer, ready to pull out the every time they want to take a shot at him or Nebraska.

As Bill Callahan said today, "the damage is done". He had several opportunities to defuse the situation, and didn't, so that's where this stands. Everybody has an opinion at this point: some people say this is yet more proof that Callahan isn't suited to be a head coach. Others see this as proof that Callahan will do whatever he feels is right. Nobody's opinions are going to be swayed at this point.