Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I usually enjoy listening to KOZN radio's Kevin Kugler and Mike'l Severe, but on days like today when their position against the downtown stadium go down in flames, it was almost like listening to a funeral. I mean...the College World Series staying in Omaha until 2031 is good news, isn't it?
Well, not if you were looking to Save Rosenblatt. Which meant we were treated to even more conspiracy theories and black helicopter talk about how this whole new stadium idea was some sort of unnecessary ego trip by the Mayor forced on the City and the NCAA. Of course, nobody brings any substantial proof behind those charges... just more half-truths, idle speculations, and rumor mongering.
My favorite is the idea that the NCAA would never move the CWS. Let's break that argument up into two parts: would another city bid for the CWS, and would the NCAA ever leave Omaha? We already know that other cities would bid for the CWS; even Hal Daub acknowledged it. Would the NCAA ever leave Omaha? That's a loaded question, and the answer depends on the timing. The NCAA College World Series is a unique event. Omaha knows it. The NCAA knows it. The history of the CWS in Omaha counts for something, and the NCAA knows that they have something good going in Omaha. So the answer is...as long as Omaha shows that we're serious about wanting the CWS in Omaha, we'll probably keep the CWS.
Now some people want to twist this around and read into that statement that the huggable NCAA just loves the CWS exactly the way it is...which couldn't be further from the truth. The NCAA had a list of things that they wanted addressed in order to obtain a new contract: clean zone, new locker rooms, etc. That bill was likely to run over $30 million...and probably would have garnered Omaha another five year extension. But what after that?
That's when the $80 million renovation idea took hold...but even that wouldn't solve everything at Rosenblatt (open concourses, hotels). But is that necessary for an extension starting in 2011? Nope. But when you look at everything that the NCAA has suggested, you know that at some point, the NCAA would be making requests for those other things.
From my perspective, a new stadium for the CWS was inevitable. If not in 2011, then 2016 or 2021. Should we have waited to find out? Perhaps...but you run the risk that very likely the changes made at Rosenblatt for 2011 would have been demolished in 2016 or 2021. That would be money wasted.
The NCAA looked long term at this. Mayor Fahey looked long term. Omaha's philanthropic community looked long term at this. That's why Omaha is building a new stadium. It wasn't necessary to keep the College World Series in 2011...but we would have been kicking ourselves in 2016 or 2021 when we ended up building a new stadium anyway despite tossing $30 million into the Rosenblatt money pit.
And yes. I do believe that, in the end, the Royals play in the new downtown stadium by 2012 too. Yes, it's probably too big for the Royals. I don't believe La Vista is going to be able to justify a $25 million subsidy for a new stadium when Omaha struggled with justifying it. Warren Buffett and Walter Scott didn't buy half of the Royals to have them leave town either. It may sound impossible now, but some people thought the new stadium sounded impossible in March.
The other criticism revolved around the process. Which is fair; it was a contentious process that divided a lot of people. But one frequent criticism of government is that it's slow to react. This stadium process went from idea to signed contracts in just over one year. That's almost unheard of in government. How long did Omaha argue about building the Qwest Center? Lincoln started talking about an arena years ago, and their commission recommended a new arena near the Haymarket in 2005. Today, they moved a little closer by selecting a developer for the arena. And it's still not a done deal; it might go in front of the voters next year. Almost FIVE years from the first discussions.
Speaking of the Lincoln arena, this looks like a rather sweet future home for Husker basketball. I just hope Doc Sadler can wait until 2012 or 2013 for his practice facility.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Many people want to point to this season's mediocre NFL draft results as some sort of indictment of Bill Callahan's recruiting. That may be...but the jury is going to be out on that for some time. This class of NFL draft picks is tough to assign to any coach, since it contained some fifth-year Frank Solich recruits. Much like the argument as to whether Callahan was able to fully develop players either... we'll see this fall just what kind of improvement these players have made, but for now, it's all speculation.
One thing is clear... there are a lot of four and five star recruits whose eligibility expired that never came close to meeting the buzz that was showered on them when they arrived in Lincoln. Were those expectations overrated, or did Callahan and company fail to develop players? Right now, I'd have to go with "all of the above."
Speaking of Billy C, Matt Hayes of the Sporting News reveals yet another juicy tidbit about the Bill Callahan Clusterfool that provides yet more insight what really happened:
Compared with where the process was last fall in Lincoln, the Huskers have made bigger strides than any team this spring. How bad was the dysfunction? Consider this anecdote:
Former coach Bill Callahan was obsessive about his offense; he made the game plan and called the plays. Sources say before the Texas game -- and at the height of Nebraska's failures -- Callahan let his assistants build the game plan and said he wouldn't call one play.After the first series, Callahan not only called every offensive play, he called the defensive sets, too. The Huskers gave up three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and lost, 28-25.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Smiles are so prevalent you wonder if laughing gas is pumped through the vents.
One rumor that is being dispelled is that donors would send in millions of dollars in donations once the previous regime was ousted. They really haven't seen much of a windfall in donations, though they really haven't asked for anything. Donors may not feel much of an urgency to donate, since the north stadium complex is completed. That'll change as Osborne plans to start working on upgrading the Hewitt Academic Center as well as a Nebraska Hall of Fame. Also in the preliminary stages are discussions for a new basketball facilities, though the basketball facilities must wait for the city to make a decision on a new Lincoln arena.
One thing that Steve Pederson did well was keep the budget in balance, as Osborne feels the finances of the athletic department are in very good shape. That's allowing Osborne to move forward with other plans.
Those plans don't include additional sports. Periodically I hear rumors of the Huskers upgrading their club hockey program to division 1...but Osborne doesn't even mention hockey. He does mention interest in resurrecting men's swimming and adding men's soccer, but he doesn't plan on adding any sports. So that rumor can be debunked as well.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
So what's going on here? Well...it's negotiations carried in public. And the media and the public is getting to see part of the posturing that is going on. Nothing new really...this is the sequel to MECA's negotiations with the Mayor's office over the ball park.
Both sides have made some bombastic statements. MECA's David Sokol and Roger Dixon have said the stadium works without the Royals. Perhaps...but without any activity in the stadium in July and August once college baseball season is over, it's not as likely to spur development downtown. Of course, maybe MECA is thinking about another team, perhaps a independent league team like in Kansas City, Lincoln, and Sioux City.
A couple of weeks ago, Stein suggested that MECA's $6 parking fee was too high compared to other minor league ballparks. So I did a quick survey of other nearby PCL teams: Indianapolis $5, Oklahoma City also $5, Des Moines $6. Now I don't particularly like to pay to park...but considering the Royals first proposed a downtown stadium, you've got to question what they were expecting.
Bottom line is that both sides are posturing to get themselves the best deal. I don't think La Vista is a serious option. I'm not sure where La Vista would get the money for a ballpark, or even how La Vista would make it economically viable. Council Bluffs used casino revenue to build the Mid-America Center to lure the Omaha Lancers across the river...and the Mid-America Center has struggled financially. Maybe the economics of Sarpy County and suburban Omaha are better than Council Bluffs, but I really question the viability of a suburban baseball stadium. There's a reason why most baseball stadiums are built downtown these days.
Another interesting dynamic in this debate that no one speaks of is David Sokol, chairman of MECA and Warren Buffett, part owner of the Royals. The same David Sokol who is mentioned as a potential successor to succeed Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway. That's why, in the end, I think this deal gets done downtown. We're just seeing tough negotiations by very successful people.
With rain in the forecast for today and tomorrow, I took advantage of last night's beautiful weather to fertilize and seed my lawn last evening. So I turned off the TV...and when I came back in an hour and a half later, realized I had only missed one inning of the Nebraska/Creighton game. Oh...and "Huskers 13"...
Jeffie over at DoubleExtraPoint enters the debate over Joe Ganz vs. Sam Keller...except that Jeffie starts reading more into my defense of Ganz than I stated. Obviously the best quarterbacks in the Big XII are Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, Sam Bradford, and probably Colt McKoy. Ganz is going to be somewhere in the middle. Jeffie does use a little different definition of "garbage time" than I originally used; he worked with a 15 point or greater lead. I used a 24 or more points as my definition. His numbers might be a better way to evaluate the two.
What a turnaround season for Dan Ellis. The former UNO goaltender signed a free-agent contract with Nashville after being buried in the Dallas Stars organization ever since leaving UNO. He made the Predators roster in training camp in a minor surprise, joining former UNO teammate Greg Zanon...then spent the whole season outplaying the Preds' #1 goalie before finally getting the nod as the playoffs approached. And Ellis took his game to the next level in the playoffs, almost singlehandely holding off the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings throughout the series, including a 52 save performance in game 5. Alas, Detroit took game 6 to end the season. But Ellis is getting plenty of props, including some kudos from Don Cherry (you know, the crazy Canadian hockey commentator who dresses like Herb Tarlek, minus the white belt). Ellis will be a free agent again, and certainly will cash in for much more this offseason.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Speaking of lunatic fringe, it seems the few remaining members of the Steve Pederson fan club took a lot of joy over the fumble on the opening, tribute play of the spring game. I guess now that they've been completely marginalized, they have to find SOMETHING to hold onto after their hero nearly ran the program into the ground. But if there was any doubt that the vast majority of Husker fans are glad that the last four years are history, it was erased on Saturday afternoon when over 80,000 showed up in Lincoln for a freaking scrimmage. Jon from CornNation reported that fans started lining up around 6:30 in the morning, even though they were assured of getting a seat in the stadium.
After digesting on the spring game for a few days, I'm still not sure what to think about the Huskers in 2008. It certainly didn't clarify much, other than I think the defensive line is much improved. (Either that, or the offensive line isn't as strong as we've been told.)
The success of the Husker offense is going to revolve around Joe Ganz managing the game and the stable of Husker running backs being productive. I came away from the Spring Game even more impressed with Roy Helu and Marcus Mendoza. I already liked Quentin Castille as well. That's four backs who look like they can contribute. And if Kenny Wilson can somehow get healthy again, that would make five.
Wide receiver is going to be the question mark offensively. Nate Swift and Todd Peterson are going to be the anchors, but some of the young receivers are going to have to step up this spring. Curenski Gilleylen can stretch the field, but will need to improve his hands. Chris Brooks one-handed catch showed he has good hands. With the depth at I-back looking even stronger, I've got to believe that we'll see Marlon Lucky split his time between I-back and wide receiver. If you want to get the best players on the field, you need both Lucky and either Helu or Castille on the field at the same time occasionally.
Defensively, should Husker fans be pleased or worried that a walk-on and a recently converted I-back were among the stars at linebacker last Saturday? I guess pleased, when you consider the lack of depth going into the spring. Certainly, I think the position will be stronger than I thought it would be a month ago. But it's still cause for worry, because that position only went from being a major liability to a concern.
The biggest takeaway is watching and listening to the change in attitude in the players. Almost to a man, they all seem happier than before, and it shows on the field. Will that make a difference next fall? Hard to say, but considering how horrible things were towards the end of 2007, it couldn't hurt.
But even if they improve...does that mean a better record in 2008? Improvement could mean that thirty-point blowout losses simply get cut to single digit losses. In 2004, I knew that the team would struggle with the transition in offense. In 2008, it's not so much a change in methodology but rather a change in attitude and coaching. I still could see a 9-3 or even a 10-2 record, if everything breaks right and we see incredible improvement on defense. On the other hand, 7-5 isn't hard to fathom with road trips to Norman and Lubbock, plus games against solid teams like Virginia Tech, a top-ten Missouri, and a Kansas squad coming off an Orange Bowl victory.
Maybe we'll find out more in the remaining months...but I have a feeling we really WON'T know until the end of September or perhaps the middle of October. Until then, it's all speculation.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
This was a sold out Memorial Stadium in April. Yeah, Alabama packed their stadium last year, but admission was free. This was a sellout. In April. For a scrimmage.
Joe Ganz had plenty of time to find Curenski Gilleylen for a 77-yard bomb on this play. Good protection for the Huskers' returning quarterback here. Ganz even got a star from ESPN's "College Gameday Final" this evening, primarily for this play.
On Ganz's second touchdown pass, the defense got a little more pressure on Ganz. But Ganz still got the ball to Marcus Mendoza, who scored on a 24 yard reception. Husker defensive coordinator Carl Pelini had a great view of the pass rush generated by Barry Turner and Eric Hagg. Interesting that many of the coaches were on the field; they got a great view of what was happening, and were able to provide immediate feedback to the players.
Quentin Castille blew through the defensive line early in the second quarter on this run, and while he won the first battle with Prince Amukamara, Amukamara got the better of Castille when he stripped Castille of the ball a couple of seconds later.
Patrick Witt wishes he could have had this pass back. With :36 left in the 2nd quarter, Armando Murillo picked off Witt, giving the Red squad the ball at the White 38. The Red squad failed to capitalize as the clock ran out when Ganz completed a 20 yard pass to Nate Swift.
But from my perspective, the run of the day had to be my daughter's scamper from the end zone all the way out to midfield at halftime, as she attempted to escape her parents, who were in hot pursuit. With the relatively even split of talent between the two squads, today's game should be useful to the coaching staff in team in evaluating the progress of the team. But the biggest impact of the spring game is on youngsters, who get an opportunity to be introduced to Husker football. We'll have plenty of photos to remember today's game by.
What did we see? Well, the game tried to open with a tribute to the Osborne option offense by running an option play to the right, but Patrick Witt was forced to pitch the ball early by senior walkon Tyler Wortman, sending the ball bouncing on the turf. For some reason, I bet that Wortman has defended far more option plays during his high school days in Grand Island than Witt ran in his entire life...and it showed. But at least fans didn't give this fumble a standing ovation, unlike the opening pass into double coverage that fell incomplete in the 2004 spring game. In running a tribute play, Bo Pelini follows the lead of Bob Stoops, who had the Sooners line up in the wishbone for his first play in his first Spring Game.
The 80,000 fans in Lincoln appear to be the largest Spring Game crowd this year, topping the 78,200 who watch Alabama's spring game for free last week and the announced crowd of 76,346 claimed by Ohio State today. And the biggest ovation of the day had to be for the return of the Big Red to the field, showing that last year's acrimony was directed primarily at the previous regime.
So what did Husker fans see?
Joe Ganz staked his claim as the #1 quarterback, though his 4 for 9 numbers were nothing to write home about. Several drops by receivers today. Patrick Witt outplayed Zac Lee in the first half, though Lee had a nice scramble in the third quarter as well as a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
The hype over Roy Helu, Jr. is for real. Shawn Watson has to find a way this summer to get Helu on the field more. Quentin Castille got off to a really slow start, but had some nice runs as the game got going. A bad turnover though.
Of the young receivers, Curenski Gillylan made the highlight of the day catching a bomb from Joe Ganz. I had to watch the play on replay because silly me decided it was a good idea to break out the camera.
Either the offensive line isn't as strong as we've been told, or the defensive line has addressed many of their problems from last year. Which is it? We'll find out this fall.
Marcus Mendoza struggled with fielding punts in a scrimmage where there were no returns. But Mendoza made up for his punt return miscues with a nice performance on the ground and receiving. Mendoza looks like he can contribute as well at running back...all the more reason to consider playing Marlon Lucky occasionally at wide receiver.
Chris Brooks had the catch of the day, with a nice 1-handed circus grab.
Name I hadn't heard of before: Austin Jones. Got lit up by Rickey Thenarse in the fourth quarter. (Of course, Thenarse can light up a lot of people.) But he responded with a couple of nice runs late as well as catching a touchdown pass from Zac Lee.
Was it an awe-inspiring performance today? Hardly not. But you didn't see a lot of mistakes and you did see good effort the whole game. That might have been the most important part of today's spring game.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
- Young wide receivers. The names are known more for their storylines in January and February than during the actual football season. I'm looking to see who will emerge to replace Maurice Purify and Terrence Nunn. Niles Paul? Curenski Gilleylen? Menelik Holt? Will Henry? Chris Brooks? Perhaps Jim Rose's joke, Xavier Rucker perhaps?
- Roy Helu, Jr. People who've been watching practice rave about this back.
- Patrick Witt/Zach Lee. Unlike Darren, I'm not automatically handing the job to Joe Ganz just yet. I want to see these two quarterbacks in action.
- Cody Glenn. I loved Cody Glenn as an I-back. We're shorthanded at linebacker. Is this move just for everybody's convenience, or is this really going to help this squad?
- Defensive Line. Except for Zach Potter at times, these guys were pushed out of position most of last season. Can a little weight loss and a little more quickness, courtesy of James Dobson, make a difference?
- Swarm to the Ball. Expecting everybody to make every play might be a noble, but unrealistic goal. If someone makes a mistake on defense, is it going to mean another 45 yard gain?
- Playmaking. Like always, I'm looking for players making plays, not mistakes. A long pass play can be a good play both the offense and defense if the quarterback makes a perfect catch that only the receiver can catch. Likewise, a poorly thrown ball could get picked off by a defensive back who got beat by his receiver.
- Names I haven't heard of. Again, that's half the fun of the spring game is looking for players who stand out. And with this format of somewhat evenly matched teams, players that stand out might be guys to keep an eye on in the future.
- Crowd. What will 85,000 fans at a spring game look like?
- My daughter and nephew. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to go down onto the field to play a little "fuh baw" (as she calls it) at halftime.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
So imagine my surprise when I found myself today in AJ's cross hairs, accused of gulping the Big Red "kool aid". Granted, we don't see quite eye-to-eye about Bo Pelini. I'm cautiously optimistic he's going to turn things around in Lincoln, and he thinks there still are major problems with Husker football. Fair enough. Pelini is 1-0 as a head coach...and that was five seasons ago. He's got to put together a football team from a squad that was left behind as road kill by much of the Big Twelve last season.
Recently, we talked about Joe Ganz and whether it would have made a difference last season if he had gotten a chance to play earlier last season. In hindsight, I truly believe that Joe Ganz was the better quarterback last season. In Ganz's three starts, Nebraska scored 167 points. In Sam Keller's last six starts, Nebraska scored 166 points. No matter how you look at it, Nebraska's offense became much more effective once the unheralded Ganz took over.
AJ disagrees, though. He points out that Ganz lit up Kansas State (#89 in defensive pass efficiency) and Colorado (#73). On the other hand, he dismisses Kansas (#9 in defensive pass efficiency). He points out that Keller played against USC (#6 nationally in defensive pass efficiency) and Wake Forest (#14 nationally). Fair enough. But then he forgets how Keller played against Oklahoma State (#103 nationally) and Texas A&M (#91).
In his nine starts, Sam Keller threw for 14 touchdowns. Joe Ganz threw for 16 touchdowns in six games (3 relief appearances, 3 starts). He suggests that Ganz's passing stats were inflated by garbage time when Nebraska was down by 40 points. Which isn't exactly true. Ganz did throw one touchdown pass when Kansas led by 45...but also threw touchdown passes to give Nebraska a 14-7 and cut a Kansas lead to 28-21 and 48-31.
But when AJ talks "garbage touchdowns," he's got his statistics all backwards in this case. Against Southern Cal, Keller threw two touchdown passes in the final five minutes of the game to turn a 49-17 deficit to 49-31. Against Oklahoma State (remember, #103 defense in pass efficiency), Keller threw two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to avert a home shutout. That's four out of Keller's fourteen touchdowns in "garbage time". In contrast, Ganz threw two fourth quarter touchdown passes against Kansas State when Callahan ran up the score. So by my math, that's three garbage touchdowns for Ganz versus four for Keller.
AJ can disagree with me all he wants, but the statistics sure show that Ganz was the more effective quarterback last season.
But AJ didn't stop there, as he starts setting the stage to claim that Husker fans are going to turn Joe Ganz into the next Steve Young. AJ had a lot of fun last year with Husker fans prematurely anointing Sam Keller as Jesus Christ, Quarterback. So why not go for the sequel with Joe Ganz in the lead role?
Except I've never made a case that Ganz is going to be that kind of quarterback. I think he was better than Keller, but we don't know about the other contenders. I've liked Patrick Witt's makeup and I've heard nothing but good things about his play. Zac Lee is supposed to be very mobile and has a cannon for an arm. I'm not assuming anything. Ganz has the edge in experience at this point. I'm curious what we'll see from all three quarterbacks in the spring game.
Is Ganz the answer at quarterback? Don't know. I do firmly believe that much of Nebraska's problems can be placed on Bill Callahan and Kevin Cosgrove, but that's just a belief. We simply won't know until this fall. Right now, it's just an opinion. Or maybe just a hope.
We won't know for sure one way or another until this fall. Until then, it does make for an interesting debate.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I couldn't disagree more. It doesn't make one bit of difference.
Williams, who accepted a Nebraska scholarship offer in February, was arrested after being accused of punching a man, who was sitting in his pickup truck counting his money after cashing his paycheck, and then taking $900 from the man. Serious charges, to be sure, and nothing that can be simply ignored. However, before acting on this case, the facts have to be known first. Williams was arrested, not convicted. I'm not even sure he's actually been charged at this point; the only news media reports I've found only mention an arrest.
Sometimes there is a rush in this country to convict people before the facts are known. In 1995, two Nebraska football players were arrested for domestic assault on one Sunday. Lawrence Phillips was found guilty and was suspended from the football team for half the season, then saw his NFL career end prematurely due to problems with his behavior. And even after his football career ended, trouble continued to follow Phillips. Damon Benning was arrested that same day, but within days, the case was dropped when it became clear that Benning was the victim.
The point is that before rushing to make any judgement about Williams, the facts need to come out first. That doesn't mean that a judgement can't be made until after the trial, but more needs to be known other than he was arrested. Any decisions about Williams need to be based on the facts of the situation. Williams football talent is completely irrelevant in making these decisions.
The student newspaper at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Daily Nebraskan, took offense in a staff editorial at Bo Pelini's lack of action in the Williams case. The editorial is guilty of a rush to judgement and presenting only part of the case. They completely ignored players that have been suspended and dismissed from the program, only to focus on a couple of incidents. It was a hatchet job intended to get a rise out of Bo Pelini. And they got one when Pelini called the student editors to criticize the editorial. Pelini snapped, and apparently treated the editors like he treated Bill Snyder after Snyder left his starters in against a bunch of walk-on late in Kansas State's 38-9 victory in 2003. Eventually, Pelini cooled off and lifted a brief ban against the student newspaper.
Pelini was wrong to go off on the Daily Nebraskan, but the student newspaper was more wrong to not investigate the situation more in depth. A simple Google search would have revealed that the Daily Nebraskan's premise was flawed from the start, and expecting Pelini to act in the Williams situation when the facts weren't known and Williams was still 500 miles from Lincoln was grandstanding.
When Bo Pelini was being discussed as a potential head coach at Nebraska, this type of situation was the knock against Pelini. Not the discipline issue, but rather the "rough around the edges" perception. I'm glad to see that Pelini cooled off and changed his mind about allowing the student newspaper to cover practices again. It shows that Pelini is going to learn from this situation, and can grow into the job of being a head coach. It's a shame that the editors at the Daily Nebraskan didn't likewise reconsider their original editorial.
In the meantime, let's wait and see what the facts are with respect to Josh Williams before reacting. There's still plenty of time to revoke his scholarship, if it turns out that the arrest reports were accurate. On the other hand, revoking his scholarship now would only serve to damage both Williams and the University if the arrest reports turn out to be erroneous.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Dirk Chatelain of the World-Herald talked to Ganz's roommate, who placed the blame squarely on the recruiting services:
Ganz's roommate, Jaymes Kralicek, blames the emphasis on recruiting, which Callahan initiated. Recruiting rankings molded Ganz's reputation as a career backup. He couldn't shake it.
"In college, everybody's a great athlete: five stars and all that bull," Ganz said. "I hated it. I was a two-star. I don't know how many four- or five-stars I beat out.
"I hate recruiting, the whole deal. It's a million-dollar business, but I would shut it down if it was up to me."
Keller and Ganz dueled intensely last spring and summer. Teammates described it like a stalemate. But Ganz noticed a different perspective outside the stadium.
"People just gave it to (Keller)," Ganz said. "It's like, 'Why aren't these guys giving me a chance?'"
Danny Ganz suspects that Joe fell victim to football politics. Perhaps Callahan wanted to put a quarterback in the NFL and Keller was his best hope.
In October, as losses started piling up, as Ganz remained on the sideline, "it was getting to the point where we were hoping something would happen to open Callahan's eyes," Danny Ganz said. "If it was so close in the spring, why not give Joey a shot? There should've been a change."
Keller went down with an injury in the fourth quarter against Texas. During the next three games, Ganz threw for 1,399 yards.
Finally, recognition came.
"I think most of the reporters were stuck with their foot in the mouth," Danny Ganz said. "They thought Keller was their savior and they got one of the worst seasons in 40 years. There's not a whole lot more that can be said about it."
I see the Royals position that the new stadium is bigger than is necessary for AAA baseball. Fair point. Being sent on the road for two weeks in June is inconvenient for them. Fair point also. But the Royals have a sweetheart deal with the city currently: The city pays them $95,000 to play at Rosenblatt, they get all of the concession revenue during Royals games and a cut of CWS concession revenue as well.
If the Royals don't want to play in the stadium, that's their prerogative, though I'd expect that co-owners Warren Buffett and Walter Scott might have something to say about it. If the Royals move on, look for another baseball team to come to town. Some might say that the loss of AAA baseball would be a huge black mark on the city, but that's not the case. Even Stein admits that most minor league fans care more about the experience, not the game. So, if a reformulated Royals start were to start playing in the American Association against teams from Lincoln (Saltdogs), Sioux City, St. Paul, and Fort Worth...would area baseball fans notice much of a difference?
I think this is a negotiating tactic by the Royals, playing a little hardball to see what they can get. In the end, I think there will be some sort of professional baseball team playing in the new downtown stadium. Hopefully it's the AAA Royals.
It's been a rough season for the WCHA in college hockey. First, a sub-.500 Wisconsin team somehow made the NCAA tournament. North Dakota got blasted by eventual National Champion Boston College in the Frozen Four semis. And the WCHA director of officials botched a key replay in the national championship game after having to apologize for two previous replay errors by his officials earlier this season. Boston College was up 3-1 in the third period of last night's national championship game when the replay wiped out a Notre Dame goal, ruling that Kyle Lawson kicked the puck into the goal. ESPN's Gary Thorne didn't see it. (Well, sometimes Thorne is watching a different game anyway...) I didn't see it. CHN's Adam Wodon didn't see it. But it was a crucial call that took the heart out of the Irish, and once BC's Nathan Gerbe made that sick pass to assist on Ben Smith's goal to make it 4-1 instead of 3-2 just 35 seconds later, it essentially clinched the national championship for the Eagles.
Can we FINALLY drop the inane talk about a Tiger Slam in golf? Let's make one thing clear: Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world. Let's make another thing clear: He's one of many great golfers playing on the PGA Tour. Yesterday, ESPN showed highlights of The Masters focusing almost exclusively on Tiger Woods... who was in FIFTH place. They showed exactly one highlight from the tournament leader. If Tiger Woods is leading a golf tournament, he deserves the attention. But when he's in the middle of the pack, focusing all of the attention on Woods hurts the game by not showcasing the accomplishments of others. I know Tiger finished second in the end. Good for him. But he shouldn't have been the focus of this weekend. The guy who led wire-to-wire should have been the focus. Back in December, he had to withdrawn from a pro-am tournament in such severe pain that he ended up in the hospital. Doctors found a tumor that fortunately turned out to be benign. It took him two weeks to walk again, a month before he could pick up a golf club. And three months later? Masters champion.
Great story. Too bad we had to listen to Tiger Slam garbage instead.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
What this likely means is that most of the time, we'll see some starters mixed up with some reserves throughout the game on both sides of the ball, no matter who's got the ball. Should be good to help identify who's made the most improvement this spring.
Also good news is the weather forecast for next Saturday; weather.com is predicting a high of 64 and partly cloudy skies. I'm sure glad that the spring game is NEXT Saturday rather than today, as it's flurried off and on all day.
It sounds like Roy Helu is making a serious bid to unseat Marlon Lucky at I-back. Of course, there's room for both guys. (I'm still hoping that we find a way to get BOTH guys on the field at the same time. Look at how Florida used Chris Rainey in their spring game, both at running back and wide receiver.)
And the Cody Glenn experiment at linebacker is over. Or maybe it's more accurate to say his days as an I-back are over, as Glenn is making the move permanent. He's already established himself as the top WILL linebacker (weakside) this spring.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Lincoln, NE; January 15, 2038; Nebraska head football coach Bo Pelini announced his retirement today, ending his amazing thirty-year career with the Huskers undefeated. Pelini's amazing 416-0 record started with an Alamo Bowl victory as Nebraska's interim head coach in 2003, then finished with thirty straight national championships after taking control of the program again in 2008.Yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally ridiculous. No way Pelini goes thirty years undefeated. Somewhere along the way, he'll get jobbed by a crooked ref. He'll just go 391-27, and will win 28 out of 30 national championships.
Ok, both scenarios are just about equally absurd. But so are some of the things I've been reading this week. Heavy Soul talked to former Husker offensive lineman Matt Vrzal, who thinks that the Huskers could make a BCS bowl game this season. Over at the Big Red Network, Steve Hanaway is wondering if Bo Pelini will stick around if his alma mater comes calling, much like Bill Self. And the Husker mailing list is full of expectations of a nine win season.
It's early April. The spring game is still a week away. Bo Pelini hasn't even coached a single regular season game as a head coach. And people are already trying to lay expectations for 2008 and beyond?
Oh. My. Goodness.
We all know 2007 went badly. It left a bad taste in our mouth. And Nebraska fans are genuinely excited about Bo Pelini's return. The spring game is sold out. We're hearing lots of positive things from spring practice. But it's just that...spring practice.
I'm excited too; got my tickets today to the spring game, plus a surprise parking pass. But before we get too excited, let's remember where we left off last season. A 5-7 season where the defense gave up 57 points a game in November.
In football, not basketball.
I think there have been some really positive changes in Lincoln. But there are a lot of questions on the field. Will Nebraska be able to run the ball more effectively in 2008? Who will step forward at receiver to replace Terrence Nunn and Maurice Purify? Can Joe Ganz cut down on his turnovers? Will Zac Lee or Patrick Witt challenge Ganz at quarterback?
On defense, even more questions need to be answered. Will we find that new coaching and major weight loss make our defensive line relevant again? Is a converted running back really our best linebacker? Can the secondary start getting turnovers again?
That's some of what I want to start to learn next week... and I certainly hope that we'll see the top units facing off so we can get a better idea of who has improved and who hasn't. Until then, it's almost impossible to try and prognosticate what 2008 will be like.
Listen, I can see just about every scenario. Let's say we see a miraculous turnaround in the defense, going from one of the 20 worst to top-20. Insane? Yeah, kind of. But the Huskers had quite an impressive turnaround in 2003 in Pelini's first stint. If you see an unbelievable turnaround in the defense and the offense clicks, Matt Vrzal (who has at least seen the practices) might not be quite so crazy in predicting a BCS bowl bid.
Of course, Nebraska has to go on the road to Norman, Oklahoma. Oh, and Lubbock, Texas as well. (Remember what happened last time? Let's leave it at that.) Oh, and Missouri will be stacked as well, and we get them between Virginia Tech and Texas Tech. It's not exactly an easy schedule.
And maybe we'll find out Bo Pelini was a fraud. Just because Husker fans want Bo Pelini to succeed, doesn't mean he will. You can pray that he'll succeed. We may need Pelini to succeed. But that doesn't make it so.
We simply don't know much about this program. Last season, the team looked horribly conditioned and not very talented. Is that the truth? Or were they just completely mismanaged by the previous administration?
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Recruitniks have told us that we have an unprecedented talent level in Lincoln. We haven't seen it... but just because it was mismanaged doesn't mean it might not be there. It could be like Oklahoma in 1999, a program full of talent waiting for a great coach to come in an organize the situation.
Or we might find that Kevin Cosgrove did the best that could be done with a completely overrated group of players on defense, but that's not good enough to compete in college football.
We simply don't know. Maybe we'll find something out next week. But it's still April, for pete's sake. Plenty of time this summer to prognosticate... no need to make ridiculous predictions now.
In April...it's almost as absurd as expecting Pelini to remain undefeated for very long.
Monday, April 07, 2008
"I love my guys. I really do. And they know that. I never throw my guys under the bus. If we win, it's because of the players. If we lose, it's because of the coaches. That's how it has to be. It's really pretty simple to play for me. There are no gray areas. It's black and white. If they don't buy in, they can leave."
The new Husker coaching staff is oozing confidence and chemistry unlike the previous one. Is it rubbing off on players? Husker fans can hope, and players can say so, but that's something we really won't have much of a read on it until mid-October, and probably nothing definitive until mid-November.
Certainly fans are buying in, whether it's buying "Got Bo?" or "I'm a Bo-liever" T-shirts. General admission tickets for the spring game are now sold out for the first time ever, with only about 4,000 reserved (and mostly obstructed) seats still available for sale.
Springtime is the time for optimism. And certainly last season left a bad taste that every Husker fan wants to get out of their mouth. But wanting doesn't make it so.
Bo Pelini is not going to maintain his 1.000 winning percentage forever. Dienhart rated Pelini the #9 coach in the Big XII, though he also admits he expects Pelini to "shoot up this list quickly." Just because fans think he can do it, just because Pelini knows he can do it, just because Husker fans want or need him to do it doesn't mean it is going to happen.
But if the players do buy in... great things can happen. Back in 2004, when Steve Pederson was being booed off the field, Bob Brown was talking about the belief that he and his teammates had in Bob Devaney when he arrived. At that time, Brown tried to extrapolate that to Bill Callahan, though there was absolutely no evidence that Callahan had earned that belief:
"You believe in your teammates, your system. 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."
Let's check back this fall. Color me cautiously optimistic.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Well, Bo Pelini wasn't just talking last month when he told Husker football players that certain downtown Lincoln establishments were off limits. Thursday night/Friday morning, Pelini was spotted around downtown Lincoln, apparently looking for Husker players who might have been violating his new team rules. I'd say that Pelini is definitely walking the walk unlike nearly every other coach I've seen. Is this approach going to be successful? Way too soon to say...but it's safe to say he's doing things his way. Certainly his predecessor wouldn't have been caught dead in downtown Lincoln around midnight unless his perfect play needed a young coed.
Today's Lincoln Journal-Star practice report suggests that Cody Glenn is surprising the coaches with his progress at linebacker. He even practiced with the first string defense...though that might be a bigger reflection on the lack of depth at that position.
The Omaha World-Herald has a nice profile of Curenski Gilleylen. He might have been more of a prototype Husker receiver five or ten years ago than in recent years, but he's certainly making an impact this spring. He certainly didn't arrive in Lincoln with a lot of buzz...but made an impression last fall.
If you are thinking about attending the spring game in a couple of weeks...better order your tickets now if you haven't already. As of yesterday, there are less than 8,000 tickets left according to the Husker ticket office. I was hoping to wait and see how the weather was going to be before taking my 1 year old daughter, but we might just order the tickets and hope for the best.
If you do go to the spring game, expect the team to look a lot lighter than it did last year. More importantly, they should be much, much faster. Of course, watching how everybody ran through and past the Huskers last season, it's got to be an improvement.
UNO Quiddich, anybody?
Speaking of April Fools Day, Jeffie over at DoubleExtraPoint brings you Pete Carroll's April Fools Day joke. Seems that police interrupted a USC team meeting, telling Carroll that they had a tape of defensive end Everson Griffen "physically abusing a freshman." The police escort Griffen out of the room while Carroll hands the tape over to the video crew, who pops the tape up on the big screen. The "abuse"? Practice tape of Griffen bowling over offensive lineman Matt Meyer...
Ahh, I see Kansas did manage to hold off the Tar Heels after all. Looks like I'll win the DXP NCAA tournament pool...
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
In the spring of 2006, I thought Cody Glenn was Nebraska's best I-back. Once Brandon Jackson returned to the field, Glenn and Jackson were Nebraska's top I-back's until both were injured late in the season. Now, Marlon Lucky had a nice season catching the ball last year and running wide, but he frequently struggled running inside. Cody Glenn certainly could help there at I-back... until you realize that Roy Helu and Quentin Castille are also impressing coaches with their progress as well. I'd like to see Helu and Castille to take over as the main I-backs, and line Lucky up all over the place: I-back, wide receiver, and heck, maybe a little quarterback on some gimmick plays. Where does that leave Glenn?
Glenn wants to win, and sees a need on the team...and an opportunity to take the field for his senior season. Spring is a time to experiment a little...so why not give it a chance.
Jeffie over at DoubleExtraPoint was feeling rather cranky last night, dredging up the three losses from 2003. I'm not sure what his point is. Vince Young, who went to a pro bowl and got Mack Brown a national championship? Kansas State, who three weeks later would absolutely annihilate #1 Oklahoma? Missouri, who scored 21 points after turnovers on touchdown drives of 6, 9, and 7 yards?
Against Missouri, Nebraska turned the ball over five times. Missouri got the ball on the Nebraska 6, Nebraska 29, Nebraska 49, Nebraska 9, and Nebraska 7 yard lines. Was that the Blackshirts best game? No way. But when the defense walks onto the field facing first and goal 3 times, it's hard to blame the defense. As for Texas, halfway through the 4th quarter, Texas only led 17-7. Against Kansas State, again it was 17-7 to open the fourth quarter before K-State started throwing deep when Nebraska started trying to force turnovers to get back into the game.
I guess if the point is that Bo Pelini isn't going to be a miracle worker, point taken. I'm not expecting a miracle worker. I'm just looking for a defense that doesn't give up basketball scores.
Doc Sadler got a well-deserved contract extension today. Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald points out that while Oklahoma State probably wasn't going to pursue Sadler (Sadler was close to the Suttons, even babysitting now-fired OSU coach Sean Sutton once. Plus, T. Boone Pickens is probably going to fund a run on Kansas coach Bill Self), other schools are interested. Last season, apparently Texas A&M and Arkansas, to be specific. Good move, coach Osborne. I want to see where Sadler takes this program in the next few years.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
It looks like the City Council is going to be on board, as it seems that only Garry Gernandt (he of the Don Quixote-ish "Save The Parking Lots in South Omaha Front Yards" Committee) is vocally still opposing this proposal. Omaha's "citizens of substance" (as Bill Byrne would call them) all seem to be on board, meaning that the private funds are likely already committed to this project. The only question are the hotheads mounting a recall petition drive, and I haven't seen much evidence that they've had much success in getting signatures except from the core group that protested the stadium at all the public forums.
So what does this agreement between the City and MECA mean? The agreement focuses on two points:
- The city won't develop any other Qwest Center lots without agreement from MECA
- MECA gains the rights to develop a full-service hotel on the site of the old Swanson frozen foods plant at 10th & Cass.
As for the convention hotel, the major complaint about the Hilton hotel attached to the Qwest Center is that it's too small. In his last days in office, Hal Daub proposed a $90+ million Marriott high-rise hotel with 600 rooms. When Mike Fahey took over, he rejected that idea and went with a $65 million Hilton with 450 rooms. Some have criticized Fahey for choosing the smaller Hilton, but it's hard to argue that the Hilton wasn't the better value. ($25 million for another 150 rooms? Yikes!) I'm not convinced that those 150 rooms made much of a difference in conferences choosing Omaha, but adding another 500 or so rooms in a second hotel would probably answer those questions. Certainly with the College World Series adding to demand, a second downtown hotel is likely much more viable now, and if that means that more conventions at the Qwest Center, that's another win-win for both sides. And since the city was already working on attracting a hotel to the Swanson plant property, this isn't much of a concession to MECA.
I think there are some lingering concerns about how the MECA board publicly disagreed with the city in this debate. (Withdrawing from the Stadium Oversight committee, voting "No" on the stadium even before the proposal was finalized, grandstanding to the media to add to the discord on this issue.) That's part of the reason I still kind of expect this agreement to fall apart at some point in the future, only to be rescued once again at some point since too many of Omaha's civic leaders have already agreed this is the right plan for Omaha.
The next issue is getting the MECA board to officially endorse this deal. (The next opportunity for this to fall apart.) After that, the Mayor and CWS, Incorporated can approach the NCAA to get agreement on a new long-term contract. I think the bar is set on a 20 year contract as a bare, absolute minimum.... and I expect the city to push hard for a 30+ year arrangement. With everything this city has gone through to make this deal happen, here's hoping the NCAA recognizes the need to lock this deal up for a long, long time to prevent it from falling apart again. A 30 or 35 year agreement goes a long way towards ending all of the discord in this city.