Saturday, September 29, 2007

On Upset Saturday, Huskers Pull One Out Against Cyclones

In a post-game conversation with JJ from CornNation, I said that while the Huskers performance today was a huge improvement, they need to improve much, much more or risk going 0-for-October. The Huskers played with better heart today and made quite a few plays. On the other hand, they did give up 415 yards and 28 first downs to one of the worst offenses in college football. 102 plays? Time of possession nearly 2 to 1 in favor of the Cyclones? I suppose one could take solace in the fact that this week that we didn't give up a 96 yard touchdown drive in just 5 or 6 plays. Instead, we gave up a 97 yard, 17 play drive. Oy!

In fairness to the Blackshirts, Iowa State's first two drives were extended by crucial special teams penalties that erased Iowa State punts. The resulting drives kept the Blackshirts on the field for nearly 13 minutes in the first quarter. Even so, you'd like to think that Nebraska would have had more success on defense against Iowa State. When Iowa State jumped out to a 10-0 lead, you could have sworn that the pots of tar were being warmed up.

Enter Cortney Grixby, Nebraska's player of the game. When the game started, I was surprised to see Grixby being the only Blackshirt not to start, and Grixby was no where to be found in the first quarter. I haven't seen anything to explain it yet, so I'm going to assume that he was suspended for the first quarter of the game.

Grixby changed the game when he arrived in second quarter with 2 interceptions and a couple of huge kickoff returns. Not to mention tipping the pass that Bo Ruud returned for a 93 yard touchdown return. I guess it's not surprising that after a week where the Blackshirts were criticized and questioned harshly, the two senior native sons stepped it up huge.

Nebraska is 4-1, and while that's nothing to be ashamed of, even Harvey Perlman would have to admit that it's not even a slightly impressive 4-1. But it's still 4-1. Guess who else is suddenly 4-1? Oklahoma, Florida, Texas, West Virginia, Oregon, Rutgers, Clemson. What a day of upsets! So considering what else happened in college football today, I'll take an ugly victory over the alternative.

Glass half full or glass half empty? Depends on your perspective, but no matter where you sit, you have to realize that if the Huskers are going anywhere this season, they need to find a way to make the glass runneth over.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Big 12 Round Table – The State of the Conference

The Big XII Roundtable is firing up again over at the Crimson & Cream Machine, this time looking at the state of the conference.

The Big 12 conference has only four unbeaten teams left and has endured numerous embarrassing performances on television. State where you believe the Big 12 ranks among the BCS conferences.
Not best, and not worst. Here's my rankings: SEC, Pac 10, Big East, Big XII, Big Televen, ACC

The gap between the SEC and Pac-10 isn't very large, but the gap between the Pac-10 and the Big East is huge. The Big XII wins out over the others due to the strength of the Sooners. I might be generous with the Big Televen, as they have many more head scratchers than solid wins. (Ohio State's victory over Washington being the exception...)

What has been the conference’s best victory and worst defeat so far this season?

Best victory: Oklahoma's demolition of Miami-Florida. Honorable mention: bottom feeder Iowa State's defeat of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Worst defeat: Troy's demolition of Oklahoma State. Dishonorable mention: Northern Iowa over Iowa State, Miami-Florida over A&M.

Who is the worst coached team in the conference?
Since Missouri is off to a 4-0 start, Gary Pinkel gets a pass. That means that Coach Fran moves into the lead after showing suckage in three of four games. Dishonorable mention: Bill Callahan is going to start getting some mention if he and Kevin Cosgrove can't figure out what's wrong with the Blackshirts.

With the regular season already a third of the way over, which players received too much hype in late August and which players didn’t receive enough?
Too much hype? Well, I'd have to say Adarius Bowman of Oklahoma State and Bo Ruud of Nebraska. If you were to change the timeframe to early September to now, Marlon Lucky of Nebraska would be well out in front. His second half performance against Nevada was stunning, but that was it from Lucky.
Not enough hype? Easy... Oklahoma's Sam Bradford.

Conference Power Rankings. The best part of the roundtable is voicing how we believe the conference teams rank each week, from top to bottom. So, go ahead, let us know who’s up and who’s down in your book this week.

Already posted these: Oklahoma, Oklahoma second string, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma Scout Team, Baylor, Iowa State

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

An Open Letter to #13-Corey McKeon

Dear Corey:

First of all, I'd like to thank you for your contributions to the Husker football program over the past few years. I listened to your comments during yesterday's press conference and one thing is abundantly clear: you aren't having much fun playing football this season. It shows on the field and it showed in your comments yesterday.

I noticed that you decided to take it out on the fans, which is rather unfortunate. I'm not condoning the boo-birds last Saturday, but even you realize the boos are merely an effect of the team's problems. They certainly aren't a factor. Perhaps you weren't trying to pass the blame to the fans, instead trying to defend your coach. That's admirable.

However, your actions speak louder than your words. Kevin Cosgrove doesn't need you defending him in front of reporters in Tuesday press conferences. Kevin Cosgrove needed you sending a message to Nate Davis and the rest of the Ball State team last Saturday. Kevin Cosgrove needed you tackling Trojan running backs. the week before.

"It really bothers me when people point the finger at Coach Coz," you said yesterday. "All this garbage on Facebook and on the Internet and all the blogs, it's garbage. There's no one else I'd rather have leading our defense."

Fair enough. Last time we heard this many boos at Memorial Stadium, Steve Pederson was making his last public appearance at a Husker game. At that time, he was introducing Hall-of-Famer Bob Brown, who had a few thoughts at that time that seem to apply:

"You believe in your teammates, your system," Brown said in 2004. "You have to walk fire for your coach. You can't think you're going to win. You can't hope you're going to win. You can't wish you're going to win. You've got to know you're going to win. It has to be a part of you.

"When these young men walk through that tunnel and touch that field, they have to know they have the finest coaches and go to the finest university. They have to support each other a thousand percent. There's no room for bickering or pointing fingers. You have to be prepared to lay down a withering barrage on the opposition. If you get 11 guys on the same team doing that, I promise you will win."

I remember watching you and your teammates walk out of the locker room last Saturday, and neither you nor your coaches looked like you wanted to be out there last Saturday. That showed in how you and your teammates played last Saturday. Your teammate, Steve Octavien, said yesterday that some of the players on the defense aren't buying in completely into the game plans.

You can say that you love playing for Coz, but your actions say something quite a bit different. You talk about not having the same fire you've had in previous years; your teammate Ndamakong Suh talked about a similar issue a week before. That's where the criticism of Coach Cosgrove comes from.

You may think that you don't have the support of the fans; well, I beg to differ with you. Nearly 85,000 of us were there, wearing red and cheering for you last Saturday. How many fans traveled to Winston-Salem two weeks ago? A whole bunch. Yes, us bloggers have been critical of your play, but even you admit that you are playing "like garbage". Do you really want us to give you a hug and a participation trophy? That's not Corey McKeon.

“It’s important for this state to win, but when you get to a point when you’re 3-1, you lose, (and) your one loss — granted, we played like garbage — was to the No. 1 team in the country? Then to come back the next week and pull out a win at the last second, but it’s still a win, and you’re being scrutinized for being 3-1? People aren’t looking at it like it’s just fun college football,” you said.

“They’re looking at it like, ‘They’re not getting the job done and we need to find people who are.’ That’s business, man. That’s NFL. This is college football. This isn’t supposed to be a giant organization that if things aren’t going right you take someone out and find someone new right away. This is team. This is school spirit.”

Don't look at the fans for an answer here. If you really think that way, I'd suggest you go up to the top floor of the Osborne Complex and ask Steve Pederson that same question. That's where fan expectations come from. He set them in 2003, and when your coaches aren't meeting those expectations in 2007, you have to expect this response from the fans.

I hope it felt better getting this off your chest. I hope you can put this behind you and begin playing like the old McKeon again. I and 80,000 other Husker fans will be in Lincoln this Saturday to cheer you on. Take out your frustrations on Bret Meyer for us, please? We'll all feel much better about it.

Thanks for listening. Go Big Red!
Husker Mike

Monday, September 24, 2007

Big Red Roundtable: Emergency Edition

After the events of the last few weeks, Corn Blight and I decided it was time to convene an emergency session of the Big Red Rountable. Not sure who all will answer the emergency beacon, especially if they are out searching for Blackshirts gone AWOL.

1) Assess the Huskers performance this season. What is going well, and what has surprised you?
Special teams have been the most consistent performer, especially Adi Kunalic on kickoff coverage. The wide receivers have really been impressive the last couple of weeks after a slow start. The running game got off to a great start against Nevada, but disappeared about the same time the Blackshirts did. Sam Keller has played better the last couple of weeks, though turnovers continue to be a problem.

2) Let's not sugar coat things; the Blackshirts are struggling. What do you think the issue is, and what needs to be done to rectify things this season?
On Saturday night, I really thought it was a talent issue. But after some further discussions with others, plus listening to Dr. Rob Zatechka last night on KMTV-channel 3 (naturally ignoring Travis Justice), I'm not so sure. Instead, I'm now leaning towards a combination of confusion, lack of confidence, and bad coaching. And the first two items are really the end result of the big problem. The good news is that by fixing the coaching, the first two problems should also be correctable. Probably need to begin by simplifying the defense and giving them something managable. Don't make these guys think about what they are supposed to be doing at each moment, but rather let the game come to them.

Damon Benning had some good thoughts on KOZN-1620 the Zone today (podcast), pointing out that some players are being substituted too freely, not allowing players to get into a rhythm.

3) Kevin Cosgrove is the target of a lot of criticism over the play of the Blackshirts. How will this play out?
I've been a constant critic of Kevin Cosgrove. I couldn't figure out why Bill Callahan hired him in the first place except as an obligation to a promise they made to each other years ago. Wisconsin fans weren't exactly pleased with Cosgrove when he was there either. But there must be a reason he was hired at Nebraska. Personally, I think that unless something remarkable happens, the handwriting is on the wall and Cosgrove will be gone after the season is over.

4) You went into this season with some expectations. Has the start to this season changed your mind? Where do you see the Huskers at the end of the season?
I went in expecting 10-2 with losses to USC and Texas. The Huskers are still on track. However, Nebraska has had two close calls against Wake Forest and Ball State that probably shouldn't have been anywhere near that close, and with the conference schedule ready to begin, raise concerns as to where this team is going. 10-2 is still possible if they get the defense straightened out, but if not, this season could get ugly in a hurry. Personally, I think this team is now tilting towards 8-4, and that could be generous.

5) There was a loud chorus of boos last weekend at Memorial Stadium. Your reaction? Is it okay to boo the Huskers under any circumstance?
If you are paying $52 to attend a game, you certainly have the legal right to boo. Now, is it a good thing to boo? It depends on your intent. Personally, I don't think it's right to boo individual players (i.e. Scott Frost), just like I don't think it's right to rip these individual players on message boards. Coaches, on the other hand, make plenty of money and if they can't get their players lined up properly or even get a play called in time, they deserve to hear about it. Administrators who make poor decisions then hide behind others in order to avoid facing the music also deserve it when they leave their cocoon. Officials who make boneheaded calls also deserve boos.

I'm curious how many fans who criticize other fans for "booing" have said or written far worse things than "boo" about players, former players, or coaches away from the stadium. Personally, I think that's rather hypocritical.

So what will the rest of the Roundtable think? Look for a summary over at CornNation...

Power Poll - Week 4

1. LSU
2. Southern Cal
3. Oklahoma
4. West Virginia
5. Oregon
6. Florida
7. Cal
8. Rutgers
9. Texas
10. Ohio State

Texas and Ohio State join the parade by looking like they finally have their act together.

Big XII Standings

1. Oklahoma
2. Oklahoma Second String (Separating themselves from the pack)
3. Texas (Finally making their move?)
4. Kansas (Blows out everybody they play)
5. Missouri (Scores a lot, but also allows a lot of scores)
6. Kansas State
7. Nebraska (Blackshirts last seen on a Roberts' milk carton)
8. Colorado (Unlike another Big XII North team, they shut out a MAC team last week...)
9. Oklahoma State
10. Texas A&M (Too bad they sent stand-ins to Miami last week)
11. Texas Tech
12. Oklahoma Scout Team
13. Baylor
14. Iowa State

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Fallout over the Husker Meltdown Continues

Reaction is coming down hard on the performance of the Huskers yesterday...or should I say, lack of performance. Suffice it to say that with the possible exception of people employed in positions of responsibility at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, nobody has a warm feeling about the direction of the program.

Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star:
Make no mistake, Steve Pederson’s bold proclamations four years ago are haunting him now more than ever. Gravitating toward mediocrity? Scratch the “gravitating.” Nebraska just might be staring mediocrity squarely in the face. I’ve never heard boos ring so loudly at Memorial Stadium. It was the sound of mediocrity.

Weeks before Pederson hired Bill Callahan four years ago, the athletic director told us Nebraska should be playing for or gaining on the national championship on a consistent basis. At this point, the Huskers appear to be losing ground in the lackluster Big 12 North Division. Need any more examples of mediocrity?

Anybody dare to guess how many points Missouri’s high-octane spread offense might hang on Nebraska in two weeks? Bidding begins at 45.
Darren Carlson from
I spent most of my time last week seeking patience when it came to the "Blackshirts" and Kevin Cosgrove. This most recent performance won't do anything to silence people, and may have even soured me.

Jeffie from DoubleExtraPoint:
Humor as a Defense Mechanism

Let's stop for a second for a sanity check. It's rather unlikely that anybody is going to be fired this week, though Texas Tech did replace their defensive coordinator today after yesterday's track meet in Stillwater. Heck, with the ink still wet on Callahan's contract extension (talk about getting THAT done just in the nick of time), nobody is at risk of immediate firing.

That being said, all is not well in Husker Nation. We are basically right back where we were in November 2005 after getting blasted by Kansas. All that talk about "resurgence"? Gone. Can it be recovered? Of course, but time is running short.

First thing is to figure out SOMETHING with the defense. I really don't care about Kevin Cosgrove's feelings at this point, but I do worry about the psyche of the players in his charge. They look slow, underpowered, and completely befuddled. They lack confidence in what they are doing, and for good reason. Giving up 80 points and nearly 1100 yards the last two weeks will do that to you.

I'd start by reviewing video and figuring out what, if any aspects, of the defense are working. Find something that these players can master and let's master just that aspect. Pick something, and let's try to be good at that. Stopping the run? Rushing the quarterback? Covering receivers? We'd like to be good at all of them, but we've found that we're awful at all three. So let's focus on one item and see if we can get ok at that one aspect. Get some confidence, and maybe we'll figure out the rest.

I'd also throw open competition for all spots. Maybe a younger inexperienced player will make a mistake, but I'd rather have a mistake come from a young player because of inexperience rather than have a senior player make a mistake because of confusion or lack of confidence.

This thing could get better, and we certainly hope so. We cannot let fear of making the problem worse stop us because it's difficult to make it any worse than it already is. (Let's face it, my worst case scenario is that we have to replace most of our coaching staff and restart recruiting with a new staff. I'm not so sure we're that far off from that point, so I'd argue that HuskerNation doesn't have much to lose at this point.)

Finally, a lot is being said about the booing at yesterday's game. I didn't boo, and have never boo-ed a player. (I have boo-ed an athletic director, however...) That doesn't mean I haven't groaned and moaned a few times, though. Personally, my take is that people shouldn't be offended by the boos. People should be offended by the performance of the defense.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It's Evening in Nebraska

In 1984, Ronald Reagan once ended a Presidential Debate by asking if you were better off now than you were four years before. I was reminded of this question a couple of times last week, once over at BigRedNetwork and again on during afternoon sports talk radio. Today's 41-40 comeback win over Ball State only stengthen's my opinion.

Believe it or not, the Huskers are not a better football team than they were four years ago.

The instinctive reaction is to point to the Husker offense. Look over the offense, and yes, Nebraska is better. Quarterback Sam Keller is better, especially in this system. Wide receivers definitely are better. Last week, I thought that we were better at tight end with a pre-injury Matt Herian, but I'm not so sure after today's performance by Sean Hill. I think Cody Ross is a better running back than Marlon Lucky, but we have more, better depth. I think the offensive line might be a little better. So yes, the Huskers are better on offense.

Defense is now a whole another issue. Last week's defensive meltdown can be explained in part by the opponent. USC is a very talented team. This week's meltdown against a middle-of-the-road MAC team can't be explained. Yes, we were missing a few key defenders today. That doesn't explain over 600 yards. That doesn't explain the lack of physical play. That doesn't explain looking slower than a MAC school.

That's right...a MAC team has better defensive football players than the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

That a sobering thought...especially on a night when a lot of Husker fans are probably drinking heavily to forget what they saw today.

In fairness, there are a lot of games left this season, and plenty of opportunity to regroup. Plenty of opportunities to sway my opinion. I'd sure like to believe that we've got some playmakers on defense. But right now, I don't see them.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fahey & NCAA Agree on Replacing Rosenblatt; Flat Earth Society Protests

Today's announcement that the NCAA and the City of Omaha have agreed to move forward with a new downtown ballpark to replace venerable Rosenblatt Stadium was met with a understandable, yet very disappointing response from the SaveRosenblatt folks. The next steps are to begin to designing the new ballpark and providing folks with the details, but will opponents even stop to listen? Listening to criticism of Mayor Mike Fahey today was like listening to the Flat Earth Society claim that Planet Earth is not a sphere.

First of all, let's provide some background. I was opposed to the idea of building a new stadium downtown originally, but I changed my position much like our city fathers did. Why the shift in opinion? Look at the NCAA's list of demands:
  • Open concourses
  • Nearby Practice Fields
  • New Locker Rooms
  • Surrounding Clean Zone to eliminate the Mardi Gras zone outside
  • Nearby Hotels and Restaurants
Now, how do you fit this into Rosenblatt? Rosenblatt's infastructure is 60 years old, and much of the original steel structure is nearing the end of it's useful life. Opening up the concourse to the field would likely require removing thousands of seats, and widening the concourse might provide to be an engineering challenge since the outer wall is load-bearing. Plus, you literally have to dig up the underpinings of the stadium to expand and add new locker rooms as well. That's why remodeling Rosenblatt isn't a feasible option anymore; you literally have to tear it down and start over. Unpleasant, but when the NCAA is asking for such major changes, sometimes you have to realize you can only do so much with the old ball park.

The other demands from the NCAA also demand that the College World Series move downtown. The NCAA wants nearby hotels and restaurants. Nothing around Rosenblatt, but there are plenty downtown with even more under construction. Nearby practice fields? None there, but Creighton is planning to build baseball facilities downtown as well.

I understand the history and tradition at Rosenblatt, but the history and tradition isn't the stadium. It's a patchwork of renovations and expansions. The real history and tradition revolves around the people who attend the games, and that won't change if you move it 3 miles north.

The College World Series keeps on changing to fit the needs of the NCAA. Next year it starts a day later. They've eliminated Dingerville, and want to eliminate the Mardi Gras atmosphere outside that wasn't there in the past. Now, they want these changes, and it sounds like they've asked for more than is possible at Rosenblatt Stadium. Is that too bad? Yes...and no.

Yes, because replacing Rosenblatt is going to be expensive. Yes, because it's decisive and emotional.

But also No, because the NCAA is considering an unprecedented long-term commitment to Omaha. Mayor Fahey is pushing hard for a 20 year guarantee with automatic renewals based on meeting certain performance measurements. If successful, this will mean that the College World Series will stay in Omaha for generations to come.

It's not an automatic decision to replace Rosenblatt. We still don't know the price tag. But the benefits are oh-so-tempting... a guarantee that the CWS stays in Omaha for many, many years. Land for the Henry Doorly Zoo to expand, creating a new South Omaha anchor. A centerpiece for north downtown redevelopment.

I see the SaveRosenblatt folks are planning their own counterproposal for an expensive alternative that addresses a few things at Rosenblatt but fails to address most of the NCAA's requests. Perhaps they need to try it for themselves and fail; that's certainly their prerogative, but it doesn't change my opinion that Mayor Fahey's plan is exactly what Omaha and the College World Series needs.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

OWH: Bursting the Bubble on Recruiting Hype

Mitch Sherman of the Omaha World-Herald asked a question yesterday that's been screaming for an answer now:
At what point is it fair to say the bubble has burst on recruiting hype at Nebraska?
I would argue that the hype meter has long since been burst, but people are just now realizing it. Let's take that legendary 2005 recruiting class. You know, the one that Tom Lemming said was "one of the 'Huskers' deepest classes in recent history." Let's really take a look at it again:

Gone: (11)
Justin Tomerlin (4), Tyrell Spain (3), Brock Pasteur (2), Jeff Souder (0), Robert Rands (2), Dontrell Moore (3), Leon Jackson (4), Jordan Congdon (3), Rodney Picou (4), Craig Roark (3), Harrison Beck (4)

Graduated : (3)
Ola Dagunduro (4), Zac Taylor (3), Barry Cryer (3)

Bench Warmers: (3)
Chris Brooks (4), David Harvey (2), Nick Covey (3)

Backups: (6)
Bryan Wilson (2), Frantz Hardy (4), Jordan Picou (2), Cody Glenn (3), Jacob Hickman (3), Phillip Dillard (4)

Starters: (6)
Barry Turner (3), Ndamakong Suh (4), Steve Octavien (4), Marlon Lucky (5), Zach Potter (4), Zack Bowman (5)

As I see it, Nebraska will get 10 starters out of that 29 person class. (2 did not qualify) Jacob Hickman could eventually be #10. Obviously, the ratings for Bowman, Potter, Suh, Octavien, Dagunduro, Cryer, and Taylor were pretty much spot on. Zac Taylor might have even been a little underrated by the recruiting experts. Marlon Lucky was overrated when you consider what people thought, but he'll still turn out to be a very productive member of this group. Cody Glenn was probably underrated.

Overrated appears to be Frantz Hardy and Chris Brooks, 2 four-star receivers.

So how do those 9 starters from 2005 compare? Well, that "horrible" 2002 recruiting class produced 8 starters (Adam Carriker, Matt Herian, Mark LeFlore, Kurt Mann, Jay Moore, Dane Todd, Fabian Washington, and Demarrio Williams). The equally ridiculed 2003 class produced 10 (Brett Byford, Joe Dailey, Darren DeLone, Tierre Green, Corey McKeon, Josh Mueller, Wali Muhammed, Chris Patrick, J.B. Phillips, and Bo Ruud).

I'd say that the myth of recruiting is BUSTED!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Power Poll - Week 3

Here's my updated "Power Poll"... again, this is based solely on what teams have done on the field, not what they are expected to do.

1. LSU (NOBODY is playing better defense than the BeauxShirts, and defenses win championships)
2. Southern Cal (Throttling Huskers on the road rates higher than throttling Hurricanes at home))
3. Oklahoma (Separating themselves from the rest of the Big XII, though they didn't do anything to deserve a drop from #2 to #3)
4. Oregon (Huge gap between #3 and #4)
5. Florida (Fun offense to watch, but lack of defense will catch up with the Gators eventually)
6. Cal
7. West Virginia
8. Rutgers (Yes, they haven't played anybody, but they don't give you a reason to downgrade 'em either.)
9. Boston College
10. Kansas (Hey, Sagarin's computer has Kansas ahead of Rutgers. Once they hit the conference season, it'll work out...)

In the Big XII...

1. Oklahoma
2. Kansas (They've crushed everybody on their (weak, granted) schedule... a lot of other teams can't say that...)
3. Texas (Should get bonus points for going on the road to Central Florida)
4. Missouri (No defense, but the offense is tops...)
5. Nebraska (No defense either, but the offense is getting better...)
6. Texas Tech (Tell me if you've heard this... "No defense, but the offense...")
7. Texas A&M
8. Kansas State
9. Oklahoma State (Didn't show up at all against Troy)
10. Colorado
11. Iowa State
12. Baylor

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Few Final (Family Friendly) Thoughts about the USC Game

A few final thoughts on USC's blowout of Nebraska that I wanted to get out before we move on...
  • At least for one night, the Husker receivers put the dropsies behind them, catching nearly everything within reach while the game was still in doubt. Even Frantz Hardy had a nice catch while on the receiving end of a ferocious hit. One definite positive to take from Saturday night.
  • Callahan is now having Sam Keller run to the sidelines for each playcall, much like he had Joe Dailey do in 2004. Looks like this is on Callahan and the verbiage of his playcalling, not the quarterbacks.
  • Speaking of playcalls, my wife reported that during the ABC broadcast, cameras caught Sam Keller's father criticizing Callahan "for not getting the play called" after a timeout.
  • A lot of people are wondering where Quentin Castille was on Saturday night. Let's remember that under Callahan, freshmen I-backs are only in the game for plays they have mastered, which usually means they only enter the game for plays in which they are going to run the ball. Since Nebraska pretty much had to abandon the run, the opportunity for Castille to get into the game was abandoned as well. Not necessarily Castille's fault; most great running back prospects come to college for their running ability, not their blocking ability. But Castille's block on a second quarter kickoff sure gives you hope in the future that he'll pick it up well:
A lot of people have responded to Saturday night's game by pointing out that "we didn't REALLY expect to beat the #1 USC Trojans." They seem to be incredulous that people were surprised we lost. The surprise wasn't that we lost, it was that it was such a complete domination. It was 42-10 before Pete Carroll called off the dogs in the THIRD QUARTER. Some of them even take solace in the 3 4th quarter scores we made against the third and fourth string Trojans.

If that makes those people feel better, well, that's fine for them. Personally, I'm bothered by the size of some of the holes Saturday night...and that's even before you consider the lack of tackling we saw. It reminds me of another CozBohl defensive gem when Brad Smith made the Blackshirts disappear.

Darren over at BigRedNetwork decries the rush to fire Kevin Cosgrove after just three games into the season, though I'm not sure I see it quite that way. I personally think fans are just setting the expectation that unless the defense significantly improves by the end of the season, changes need to be made in the offseason. Changing coordinators in the middle of the season is a desperation move at best.

Over at Huskerpedia, the internet rumor mill has more gossip that questions Husker strength coach Dave Kennedy's training regimen, pointing out that USC now employs former Husker strength coach Bryan Bailey. And it's hard to argue with the results from Saturday night.

All in all, Tom Dienhart of The Sporting News probably summed it up best: "Welcome to Nebraska's Nightmare"

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Steve Pederson Error

I had been standing outside of Memorial Stadium for several minutes waiting to get in as the memories of the 2002 Rose Bowl came flooding in. That night, it took nearly an hour and a half just to get through the gate due to incompetent security ill-prepared for 90,000 fans. In the end, it took nearly a half hour to pass through the lines to get into Memorial Stadium, allowing me to get to my seat just a minute before kickoff, much like that night in Pasadena six years ago. That feeling of deja vu got even stronger as the talented Trojans went on to dominate the Huskers most of the game before allowing the Huskers to score late against their reserves.

That Rose Bowl experience is one of the reasons cited by many fans as the reason why a coaching change was required after the 2003 season. Last December, I stated it was time to move on from that decision, and while that is still a noble idea, I'm swimming against the current on it, especially on night's like last night when we were reminded that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

All throughout the offseason, we were told how winning the Big XII North championship represented real progress for Nebraska, which is true... but only if you are looking back to November 2005. Comparing the Sagarin ratings for 2003 and 2006, the 2003 Huskers still were better. So then the argument arose that the 2006 Huskers didn't suffer any ugly home blowouts... until last night.

Everybody has opinions on this situation, and they aren't afraid to express them as proven facts. What I'm calling for is for everybody to be consistent in their actions.

In other words, if you were one of those people who felt there needed to be a change in 2003, you must begin screaming and yelling for change now. You argued that Nebraska got embarrased in blowouts... well, that happened last night. You argued in 2003 that Nebraska didn't have any difference makers on offense. We still don't have any in 2007. In fact, now we don't have any difference makers on defense now as well.

On the other hand, people who stood for patience in 2003 should continue to call for patience in 2007. Firing coaches might be cathartic, but there is one huge problem.

Steve Pederson.

The man who created this whole snafu in the first place recently received a contract extension and a raise from his boss. He then turned around and gave Bill Callahan a contract extension as well. So not only did the price to make a change go up significantly, but the powers that be have already endorsed the current direction.

The FireBillCallahan blog and web sites are already full of reasons to make a change, most of them hard to dispute. Except for one... who would select the replacement? The athletic department would spend millions of dollars to buy out Callahan's contract, then spend millions of dollars more to repeat the circus-like coaching search that Husker fans endured four years ago.

This isn't a problem that has a simple solution. Firing everybody is a simple knee-jerk reaction, and with both sides as entrenched as ever, it just ain't happening immediately. Harvey Perlman, who has Pederson's back, already has found himself in the crosshairs of criticism for his plans to expand the UNL campus onto the State Fairgrounds. And LA Times columnist T.J. Simers was surprised to find that every Nebraskan seems to hate Steve Pederson.

Let's remember the words of Steve Pederson of December 1st, 2003:
"No one should apply for this job who doesn't plan to win national championships."

"Nebraskans want, and expect to be, the very best."

"I believe we should be playing for or gaining on the (national) championship on a consistent basis. I don't feel currently we are playing for or gaining on championships."
In September 2007, it seems to me that we are even farther away from that goal than ever. Meanwhile, the Steve Pederson Error continues.

Trojan Conquest

Earlier this week, I noted things that Nebraska needed to do to defeat Southern Cal. Here's how it turned out:
  • First of all, Nebraska can't be predictable. Mission accomplished for the most part on offense.
  • No mistakes. Nebraska MUST win the turnover battle. Did not happen, though there were opportunities all night.
  • Keller will need to be efficient by completing short and medium range passes to loosen up the defense. Mission accomplished. Keller stepped up tonight and gave a good effort.
  • Nebraska also needs to establish a physical ground game to balance out the passing game. Mission failed. Marlon Lucky was ineffective most of the game, Quentin Castille did not play, though Cody Glenn played well, all things considered.
  • Keep USC's offense off the field as much as possible with a balanced, ball-control attack. Mission accomplished for the most part, at least in the first half. Time of possession was in Nebraska's advantage.
  • The Blackshirts need to be as disruptive as possible. Complete and utter failure, if not disaster.
Nebraska fans should be shaking their heads in disgust with the performance of the Blackshirts. While USC's offensive line deserves their fair share of kudos for dominating the Husker defensive line, there is no excuse for the number of missed tackles and the size of some of the holes that were opened up.

No excuse.

Absolutely no excuse.

Yes, I'm looking at you, CozBohl. If it was just a couple of players, that might be different. What we saw tonight was a systematic failure of the defense nearly the entire night. Nebraska won the time of possession battle tonight, not because of the offense but because USC cut through the Husker defense like a hot knife through butter. The defense was both physically overwhelmed and fundamentally lacking.

Kool-aid drinkers may choose to focus on the yards the offense put on the board through the air. Fair enough... the passing game was much improved tonight. They may point to the idea that USC is that good... they are.

But what we saw out of the Husker defense should be completely unacceptable to Husker fans.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Do the Huskers REALLY have a chance against the Trojans?

Husker fans are anxiously awaiting this Saturday's battle against Southern Cal. The asking price for tickets is as high as $1000 a piece on Ebay, and between $80 and $969 at StubHub. ESPN's College Gameday is coming to Lincoln. The athletic department and UNL Police are reminding fans to stay off the field after the Huskers win.

Which raises the question... do Husker fans really think the Huskers are going to win?

USC was the clear pre-season favorite to win the national championship this season. John David Booty is a Heisman contender. They return 10 starters from a defense that Pete Carroll called his fastest. Do the Huskers even have a chance?

Of course the Huskers do...that's why they play the game.

We all know the reasons why USC will win. 4-star, 5-star, and 47-star players all over the field. One of the best coaches in college football in Carroll. How does Nebraska counteract all this?

First of all, let's look at what Nebraska can't do.
But what CAN Nebraska do?

Well, for starters, let's look at Sam Keller. He's not only played USC, but he even taken a lead into the locker room at halftime. He knows what it will take to beat the Trojans, and won't be intimidated. Keller will need to be efficient by completing short and medium range passes to loosen up the defense. He also knows that he needs to step up in this one.

Nebraska also needs to establish a physical ground game to balance out the passing game. Last year, USC remarked at how physical Nebraska played. We need to do some. Matt Slauson told the Lincoln Journal-Star about how Oregon State took the legs out from under USC in their upset of the Trojans last season. USC's team speed will negate our ability to run wide; we'll have to run right at them. I look for a lot out of Quentin Castille Saturday night, as I'm not sure Marlon Lucky matches up well here. If Cody Glenn is healthy, that could be a huge advantage as well.

Remember... the key is balance. Run the ball when USC expects us to pass. Pass when USC expects the run. The Huskers must keep USC off balance.

Last year on defense, Nebraska did an ok job of containing USC's explosive wide receivers. They're gone now...meaning that while USC still has talent, they are inexperienced. Conversely, Nebraska's depth in the secondary is better this season. Kevin Cosgrove will need to mix up his defenses, showing USC different looks all night long to keep Booty from getting into a groove.

Fans expect Memorial Stadium to be loud, and hopefully Cosgrove has figured out how the defense can deal with a loud crowd. A loud crowd might also affect USC a little more than usual, as USC will start true freshman Kristofer O'Dowd at center. The center makes the line calls on the offensive line, so while the rest of the USC offensive line is experienced, O'Dowd has likely never ever played in an environment like will exist on Saturday night. (As if lining up opposite Ndamakong Suh won't be tough enough.) How will he respond? Will he make the right calls? At first, I thought USC wouldn't be impacted by the crowd noise on Saturday night, but now, I see a real opening for fans to make a difference early.

A winning strategy? Keep USC's offense off the field as much as possible with a balanced, ball-control attack. When USC's offense does manage to get on the field, the fans and Blackshirts need to unite to be as disruptive as possible. It won't be easy. Nebraska will need to play a perfect game.

But it can be done. Unlike last year, Nebraska must play to win the game. Herm Edwards said it oh so must play to win the game.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Big XII Roundtable: Now That We Know

Here's this week installment of the Big XII Roundtable:

1. Based on what you now know to be your team’s strengths and weaknesses if the game was on the line do you want your offense or defense on the field?
Right now, it would be the Blackshirts. How many times did they hold the Deacons last weekend inside the ten yard line? Right now, Sam Keller is still trying to digest this offense, so I'd rather take my chances with the defense.

2. If you had to pick a team from the AP Top 10 for your team to play this weekend who would you pick and why (OU & Texas are not options).
What about USC? Seriously, if I had to choose another Top 10 team, it would be Ohio State for several reasons. First of all, great tradition with both programs. Second of all, the entire Bigger Ten is in a down cycle. A team like Ohio State presents a nice challenge for the Huskers and allows them to take the next step. I don't know if we're ready for USC just yet...

3. You can take one player off your team and trade him for any player in the conference who plays the same position who are you taking?
You didn't say I had to take any starters, correct? In that case, I'll take Adarius Bowman, the Cowboys standout wide receiver. Nebraska's receivers have had the dropsies, and the Huskers sure could use a player like Bowman. Who would we give up? Probably Frantz Hardy or Chris Brooks, who have struggled to make much of a contribution the last three seasons. Second choice would be Sooner safety Reggie Smith, who almost was a Husker, and could contribute just about anywhere in the Husker secondary, for Bryan Wilson, a reserve juco transfer. (If I was really looking to make an unfair trade, I'd send Husker quarterback Beau Davis to the Sooners for Sam Bradford...)

4. Conference Power Rankings! Rank the teams in the conference from first to worst.
Already did this: Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Nebraska, Missouri, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Colorado, Baylor, Iowa State. Kansas looks out of position, but I'm basing my ratings on what they've done this season, and the Jayhawks' blowout of defending MAC champion Central Michigan was d**n impressive. Texas gets penalized for sleepwalking through the first 6 quarters of the season. A&M gets penalized for getting outyarded in both games. I don't expect Kansas to stay that high, but for now, they deserve the kudos.

5. Big 12 Players of the Week – Make your selections for offensive and defensive players of the week for week two.
Sam Bradford, Sooners QB, gets offensive player of the week for his play in the demolition of the Miami Hurricanes. On defense, I'll split my vote between Reggie Smith of the Sooners and Zack Bowman of the Huskers, both of whom had game changing turnovers this weekend.

Power Poll - Week 2

Here's my week 2 "Power Poll"...again, based solely on performance on the field as opposed to expectations.

1. LSU (Can you name anybody else playing better? Thought not...)
2. Oklahoma (Demolished a decent Miami squad)
3. USC (Idle last week...)
4. Penn State
5. Florida
6. Oregon
7. Wisconsin
8. Cal
9. Kansas (Week 1 victim throttled their Week 3 opponent... look for another blowout in Lawrence this week)
10. West Virginia

In the Big XII:
1. Oklahoma
2. Kansas
3. Texas (Huge boost due to second half blowout of TCU)
4. Nebraska
5. Missouri
6. Texas Tech
7. Texas A&M
8. Kansas State
9. Oklahoma State
10. Colorado
11. Baylor
12. Iowa State

Not sure how long Kansas will stay on the list, but much of the top 25 already has an ugly game under their belt that prevents them from leaping Kansas at this point.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hey Doofus! The Huskers Beat Wake Forest!

Two opposing viewpoints seem to have emerged from Nebraska's 20-17 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday:
  • The Huskers beat the defending ACC Champions on the road. What's with all the complaining?
  • Nebraska did not play well at all, considering Wake Forest started their backup quarterback. Besides, Wake winning the ACC last year was proof of just how far down the ACC is.
Who's correct? Guess what...both are. A road win is always something to be happy with. But let's put it in perspective: last season's ACC champs finished the season 27th in the Sagarin ratings. Riley Skinner, the ACC rookie of the year, was on the sidelines with his arm in a sling. And Nebraska made a lot of mistakes that weren't forced by Wake.

The Journal-Star's Steve Sipple summarized it nicely this past weekend:
"Trouble is, “good” and “nice” typically don’t cut it against top-ranked USC. The No. 16 Huskers need to discover a quick way to transform into “great” and “nasty.” They were neither against Wake Forest. They looked like, well, a 9-3 team or maybe even an 8-4 outfit, hence the teeth gnashing by all those Husker fans outside Groves Stadium."
9-3? 8-4? Let's not go there. I'm fighting REAL hard to not tell you what that sounds like. We don't want to go there. Don't do it.

Jeffie Husker over at DoubleExtraPoint had a couple of good takes today on the Wake Forest game. First, he tried to defend the decision to go for the first down on fourth and two late in the game, saying that if Callahan thought that we had a 60% chance of gaining a first down, we should go for it. Ok, I'll buy that. So what were the odds of getting that that first down? Here's what we did on Saturday on 3rd and 2 all prior to that: Lucky, gain of 1; Fumble; Lucky, no gain; Keller, incomplete pass; Lucky, gain of 22 and a touchdown; Lucky, no gain. So extrapolating that to 4th down with the memory of the previous "no gain" fresh in everyone's mind, what's the success rate of going for it on 4th and 2? I show 1 for 7 for a 14% success rate on 3rd and short in similar circumstances against Wake. Verdict: Mathematically, it was a bad call.

Turning to Sam Keller, he compares Keller's first two games with Zac Taylor's first two games, and expects that Keller will grow more comfortable in this offense as he gets more experience running it. He's certainly doing better than Zac Taylor did in his first two games...but it does make you pause as to what the future holds when quarterbacks continually struggle getting into a rhythm in this offense, as we'll likely be breaking in yet another new quarterback (4th in 5 years) next season. Did Husker fans have unrealistic expectations for Sam Keller this season? Definitely yes.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

USC's Missing Man Formation

Thanks to Conquest Chronicles for the link....

In USC's season opening victory over Idaho, USC paid tribute to Mario Denelo, their record setting placekicker who was found dead in January, by lining up for their first placekick without a kicker to symbolize their loss.

USC kicker Mario Danelo died tragically on January 6th, 2007. The players had asked coach Carroll if it would be okay to leave the first kick for him. It was a kick that everyone felt rightfully belonged to Danelo; a kick, however, that could never be taken. But it was in this simple moment of silence that the USC Trojans found the perfect way for Mario Danelo to enter the coliseum, and take a bow for the Trojans for one final time.
A very poignant and classy move on the Trojans part to remember their teammate.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Bill Callahan's Demons

How does a win feel like a loss? That's the sensation Husker fans are experiencing after today's 20-17 victory over Wake Forest. It's kind of a glass half-full, glass half-empty situation. Problem is, after last week's Nevada game we really thought the glass was overflowing. I know my expectations increased; heck, I put them 7th in my "Power Poll" last week. (Here's a shocker... they won't be there after this week...) With last year's ACC rookie of the year on the sidelines, I expected more out of the Big Red.

Not that they did some good things at times on defense, especially to open the game and for much of the second half. Ndamakong Suh played like a man possessed at times today. But at other times, Wake counteracted our physical play by putting more speed on the field, and on several key plays, Wake Forest's speed killed us.

On offense, it was mostly a muddled mess. The offensive line wasn't creating the push they did the week before. Maurice Purify had a few key drops. But more importantly, Sam Keller is really struggling at quarterback. At first glance, numbers weren't horrible... 24 for 41 passing for 258 yards and a touchdown. But then read on... 2 interceptions plus a 2 fumbled snaps. Even more disturbing was watching Keller staring down receivers all afternoon, though fortunately, Wake didn't capitalize on this.

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by this. Joe Dailey struggled as a first year quarterback in this system. Zac Taylor struggled early in his first year starting in this system, and even though he improved towards the end of the season, still had a fairly low pass efficiency rating. But Sam Keller was the NFL prospect, the quarterback with the strong arm. He once torched LSU, right? How can he be struggling too? Here's the scary thought... it may be the system.

Over at Corn Nation, Corn Blight absolves Bill Callahan from blame, pointing out receivers were open. I'll disagree on this point, as it doesn't matter whether the receivers were open or not when the plays aren't successful. The West Coast Offense is most productive when it tries to be balanced, and Callahan seemed to abandon the rushing game at times to put the ball in the hands of a struggling quarterback. That's on Bill Callahan.

Once again, we have yet another entry into Bill Callahan's "Calls of Shame". These are calls that make you jump up and scream "WTF?", and it's starting to become a sad tradition at Nebraska. It started against Pitt in 2004 with the 18 yard field goal attempt from the 6 inch line that resulted in no points. In 2005, there was the screen pass out of the end zone that resulted in an easy safety for Kansas State. And last season, there was the fake punt in the Cotton Bowl that gave Auburn control of the game. The latest entry? Bill Callahan called on his inner Gary Pinkel by deciding to go for it on 4th and 2 with 2 minutes left, running essentially the same play that got blown up on 3rd and 2, just running it to the other side of the field. Guess what... it got blown up as well, giving the Deacons one more shot with great field position. Yes, if the play is successful, the game is over. But the downside of this play was simply not worth taking the risk. Take a delay penalty if necessary, then punt the ball and pin the Deacons deep in their territory.

The officials also had a bad day as well. Wake fans will wonder where the holding or pass interference call was on the last play. Holding was a real possibility, but pass interference wasn't possible since the ball wasn't really catchable. On the other hand, how can someone lose control of the ball then step out of bounds, yet retain possession? And when using the chains to measure for a first down, it's usually considered good form to fully stretch the chain out tight rather than push the stick back towards the ball and calling it good.

So while it's a win, it was an ugly win. Glass half full folks will see 2-0, while glass half empty will see a team that didn't play well and really was lucky to win this week.

I'd rather be lucky than a fan of Iowa State or the Weasels, both of whom are now 0-2...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Contract Extensions & Power Polls

My boss asked earlier today why I hadn't posted anything about Bill Callahan's contract extension. I could have used the excuse it's been a busy week, but the truth is, it's not really news. It was simply the next step after Steve Pederson's contract extension. Did he deserve a contract extension and a raise? Depends on your perspective. On one hand, he hasn't really accomplished anything on the field. On the other hand, the team has made great progress since November 2005. Does he deserve $2 million a year? Again, compared to the Average Joe? Of course not. But compared to other coaches? Probably. And like I said in July, if Gary Pinkel is deserving of a contract extension, Bill Callahan is.

I've had a couple of invitations to participate in the Blogpoll and declined for any number of reasons, the most important being that until we get to October, it's really irrelevant. The boys over at Big Red Network seem to agree with their first ballot. That spawned my own idea... the Husker Mike Power Poll, where it's based almost entirely on what you've done this season, not what people thought you would do. With that in mind, here's my Top 10.

1. LSU (Beauxshirt defense was as dominating as ever)
2. Oklahoma (New QB, no problem.)
3. USC (Fast start, then sleepwalked...)
4. Florida (Score held down due to lightning...)
5. Wisconsin
6. Cal (Looked great against Tennessee)
7. Nebraska (Blew out bowl team from last year)
8. Louisville (Will drop next week after giving up 42 to Middle Tennessee State tonight)
9. Georgia
10. Kansas (Again, blew out a bowl team from last year.)

Next week's poll will be based on the first two weeks only, so it probably will look quite a bit different. And as long as I'm doing a Power Poll, here's my Big XII Power Poll based solely on last week's games.

1. Oklahoma
2. Nebraska
3. Kansas
4. Texas Tech
5. Kansas State (lead most of the game against Auburn means more than some teams "victories")
6. Missouri
7. Colorado
8. Texas A&M (blew out on scoreboard, but outgained by 1-AA Montana State)
9. Oklahoma State
10. Texas (outgained by Sun Belt team, and only winning by 8 when Ark State misses 2 field goals?)
11. Iowa State
12. Baylor

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Big XII Roundtable: Getting Personal

The lead author over at CornNation is this week's host of the Big XII Roundtable...

1. What did you learn, if anything, about your team on opening weekend? More specifically, did you see anything that brought complete elation or utter disappointment?
It looks like the Husker offensive line is closer to the level of dominance that we took for granted in the previous three decades. They wore down Nevada and plowed the field for the Husker I-backs. That's elation. Also bringing elation is watching Kevin Cosgrove mix up defenses more on Saturday than he has the previous three years in Lincoln. You almost needed a scorecard and DVR to track what he was doing.

2. 20 years from now, someone will ask you "Where Were You When Appalachian State beat Michigoon?". Describe what you were doing at the time, your reaction.
Sitting in Memorial Stadium, early in the 1st quarter, the PA announcer came on and announced "Final Score from Ann Arbor: Michigan 32 ... Appalachian State ... ... ... 34!" The place erupted, and I just laughed at the overrated Weasels.

3. Given the big event of this past weekend, what's the worst you've ever felt about your team?
My first thought was to bring up 70-10, but I'd rather not. Then I thought about the aftermath of the Kansas 40-15 trouncing in 2005. Neither of those were the worst, as I figured that if things didn't start to improve, changes would be made in Lincoln. And sure enough...things started to improve shortly thereafter. No, the low point has to be the January 1st, 1991, when Nebraska was drubbed by Georgia Tech in the Citrus Bowl. That followed a 45-10 drubbing by Oklahoma to end the regular season and a 27-12 loss to Colorado in last home game of the season. Nebraska finished third in the Big 8, and the future wasn't looking good at all. Tom Osborne felt the same way, I think, and began to rethink his offensive and defensive schemes, recruiting more speed, and the rest is history. A 60-3 run in the mid 90's was inconceivable after that 91 Citrus Bowl.

4. Take a classic - like Homer's Odyssey, Lord of the Flies, Little Women, or, heck, even the latest Simpsons Movie and tell me how it relates to your team this season.
Wow. I'm not even sure how to begin to answer this one. Not enough time, not enough mind altering chemicals. So I'm not even going to try.

5. It wasn't just by accident you got here. Somewhere, some time, there was someone who influenced you to become a fan of your team. Tell that story.
It would have to be my parents. They've had Husker season tickets since before I was born, and in the fall, Saturday's were Husker football. At first, I had to relegate myself to listening to Lyle Bremser on the radio. Once or twice a year, the games were on TV. And every so often, I'd actually get to go as well. The 1978 Nebraska-Oklahoma game was my second game, I believe, and the first one I really remember. It was pretty darn cold that day. I could recite the offensive line from memory and I remember using my binoculars to tell my Dad who the linemen in the game were. He was impressed. I was in heaven; it was a great game. My sister, who didn't really want to be there and was freezing, asked my Dad "what time is it?" as Billy Sims and the Sooners were driving the field late in the fourth quarter. To this date, we all still kid her about this...

Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week:

Todd Reesing, Kansas...20 for 29 and 4 touchdowns in his first start against the defending MAC champions. When Kansas puts 52 points on the board against a bowl team from the year before...that's worthy of an honor.

Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week:
Cornelius "Pig" Brown, Missouri... 3 turnovers, 1 returned 100 yards for a touchdown, and an interception on the goal line to seal a 40-34 victory over Illinois.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Weasels Implode while Trojans Idle

As you look around college football, Nebraska's 52-10 victory over Nevada starts looking better and better. Yeah, it's only one game. Yeah, we don't know how good Nevada is (or isn't). But a lot of teams would sure like to be where the Huskers are right now. Let's start in Ann Arbor, where Weasel fans are thoroughly embarrased by their loss to Appalachian State. The MgoBlog spent most of the weekend draped in pink and displaying kittens, and now plans to spend the rest of the week "crying like little girls". The MichiganZone blog, meanwhile, is watching their season and expectations burst into flames like the Hindenberg.

Husker fans probably should pause briefly before chuckling at the Weasels, remembering that 1-AA Maine pulled within one score of the Huskers 2 years ago. That's a little better than trailing a 1-AA team by two scores much of the second half. Fortunately for Weasel fans, most college football fans could only watch highlights since the game was only televised on DirecTV by the Big Ten Network. I was able to catch part of a replay of the game yesterday and came away impressed with both the Big Ten Network and Appalachian State. The Mountaineer victory was no fluke; they outplayed the Weasels. And the Big Ten Network broadcast was better than just about every FSN broadcast of college football. (Better announcers, better graphics, better camera work, better production.) Of course, with the money they are trying to charge cable companies, they'd better be putting together a pretty good broadcast.

Back to Appalachian State, they almost made a huge tactical error by kicking the winning field goal with 30 seconds left. Like Florida State in the 1994 Orange Bowl, they left enough time to allow the other team to throw a long pass to get into field goal range. I'd hate to be on the Michigoon field goal unit after allowing two field goal attempts to be blocked by the Mountaineers...

Other teams that laid eggs were Texas and USC. The Longhorns 21-13 victory over Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference has Burnt Orange fans unhappy with all aspects of the game. And after getting off to a fast start, the Trojans spent much of late Saturday night in neutral. Rule number 1 in college football is that you shouldn't read too much into opening games.

However, that being said, the idea that there are two "automatic losses" on the Husker schedule is certainly not as strong as it looked before. For as bad or mediocre that some teams looked, Nebraska looked pretty darned good in the second half Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Wake Forest QB Riley Skinner suffered a separated shoulder on Saturday against Boston College and is doubtful to play against the Huskers. Before getting too excited, Brett Hodges went 17 for 23 for 130 yards in relief of Skinner.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Nevada Gasser & 2007 Tunnel Walk Revealed

A few initial thoughts on today's Nevada-Nebraska game (and the 2007 Tunnel Walk towards the bottom...).
  • If I had to award game balls, I'd hand them out to the Husker offensive line. 413 yards rushing on 70 attempts? That's simply outstanding.
  • Marlon Lucky put up some huge numbers in the 3rd quarter with some nice runs as the o-line wore down the Wolfpack. Quentin Castille looks to be the real deal, adding 79 yards on 18 carries. Major Culbert showed the best moves of the day on his 4th quarter touchdown. I'd like to see him get a shot returning kicks.
  • Terrence Nunn had a very rough day, suffice it to say.
  • After some early issues, the defense was smothering after the 1st quarter. Steve Octavien made some huge plays, and Kevin Cosgrove mixed up his defenses quite nicely. Keeping the Nevada offense off-the-field combined with a heavy dose of pound-the-rock on offense lead to a 2-1 advantage for the Huskers in time of possession. The Wolfpack simply got gassed today.
  • Sam Keller had a quiet start at quarterback, making a few nice throws but also forcing the ball into coverage a few times. From the south end zone, you could see trouble as soon as he threw that interception. His 25-yard completion to tight end Mike McNeil also looked like a ball that was lucky to not be intercepted, let alone be caught.
  • The new clock rules are going to really limit Callahan's ability to shift before the snap. They whistle the ball ready for play much sooner this season than in the past, meaning there's about 10-15 seconds less time to get plays in. Both teams seemed to be caught off guard by how fast the play clock started, resulting in many delay penalties. Most of the time, Sam Keller was snapping the ball with only about 3 seconds left on the play clock.
  • Adi Kunalic's leg is as advertised. Putting kickoffs into the back of the end zone from the 30 yard line is going to be a huge weapon. It's a sight for sore eyes as kickoffs have been a consistent problem during the previous three years.
  • Did Bill Callahan look back at some film from the previous regime? Quentin Castille lined up at fullback and took several handoffs for positive yardage, and Andy Sand caught a few passes as well. In the old offense, handing off to the fullback occasionally resulted in huge gains for guys like Tom Rathman and the Mackovika brothers. It also means that defenses have to keep an eye on both backs. Also, did anybody else catch Joey Ganz trying to run the option? I thought people said that the option was obsolete!
Off the field, I had to chuckle at the irony of today's "Pound the Rock" game plan combined with the new "winged-N" logo and "Nebraska Air Force" tunnel walk. Speaking of the tunnel walk, well, the 2007 Tunnel Walk is the worst one ever. (Though according to Randy York's blog, Steve Pederson loves it calling it "Great!" ... though once again, they previewed it in a conference room rather than in a stadium with 85,000 people standing and screaming.)

What was wrong with it? Well, first of all, the concept was confusing as can be. It starts off with a plane from the "Nebraska Air National Guard" flying over Memorial Stadium, then cutting inside to guys wearing suits in a plane jumping out with parachutes. They land and somehow find their way into the new Osborne complex, where as they walk through Steve Pederson's waterfall, they morph into Husker players ready to storm the field. Another animation cuts away from this animation to the field where the video pans out from the giant HuskerVision screen to the field then under the stands to the locker room doors, when the Tunnel Walk begins. Figure that out? Neither did I. And from what I've heard from others, they didn't like it either.

Compounding it was the extremely distorted audio. The Journal-Star reports that the sound was pretty much garbage everywhere within the stadium except on the top of the press box. Plus the stupid fireworks are back again.

On the video, the Mikey Bo track is the prelude, switching to Sirius (with a weird, unnecessary drum track remix) once the players begin to emerge from the locker room. But if they don't fix the sound system, it doesn't matter whether Nebraska uses the Mikey Bo remix, the original Sirius, or Wayne Newton's "Danke Schoen"...

In fact, they are probably better off going back to the original 1994 version where there were simply stars circling the screen before the team appeared. What a waste of time.

Fans in the stadium may have noticed that the team stood for nearly a minute after the gate was opened rather than going onto the field. Seems that the Huskers' entrance was being held at the request of ABC who wanted to show the entrance in their broadcast. (Memo to the idiots at ABC...that's what you have instant replay for!)

In other college football news...
  • Appalachian-frickin-State takes out the Weasels! I tried to tell Husker Jeffie last month that Michigan was severely overrated, but he still voted them #3. Me thinks they'll be a lot lower next week.
  • Kansas State nearly shocked Auburn tonight. Ron Prince is delivering on the field.
  • Oklahoma was simply dominating, while Texas looks overrated.