Monday, December 31, 2012

Is Bobo's "Marshall Plan" for Georgia More Jet Sweep?

When I look at Georgia's offense, only one thing scares me.  It's not quarterback Aaron Murray, and it's not the prospect of freshman running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall alternating at tailback.

It's the possibility of both backs in the game.  Why?  This:
Nebraska tried to cheat on Montee Ball and lock him down.  Which they did early on, but that left a huge opportunity for Gordon to exploit.

Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo hinted on Saturday that they've got something in mind for Keith Marshall, an explosive running back who hasn't had the touches that Todd Gurley has gotten.
“But we’ve got a big plan for Keith in this game, and expect him to make plays and play well in this game. He’s running good.”

Doesn't take much to put two and two together.  Until Nebraska shows they can stop this play, it behooves Georgia to mimic Wisconsin's plan.  That being said, I have to expect that Bo Pelini and John Papuchis have anticipated the same thing.  So it shouldn't be a surprise to see Georgia try the same things Wisconsin had such success with, and build on them.  What response has Nebraska come up with in response?

Once again, it'll be incumbent on Nebraska's secondary (and linebackers) to respond to this plan and shut it down.  Hard to think that they could play it worse than they did against Wisconsin, though.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

This Blog Entry Has Not Been Approved by Mike'l Severe

Watching tonight's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl between Michigan State and TCU, the strangest tweet came from KOZN-AM's Mike'l Severe:
Except Maxwell was on the sidelines at the time...  Connor Cook was in the game.  And Twitter lit up...
And Severe acknowledged he was watching the game on tape-delay, commenting on what he was watching, not what was currently happening in the game.

So I suggested that maybe he shouldn't comment about things that happened 45 minutes ago on Twitter.
Well, that didn't set well with Severe, who let me know in no uncertain terms that he didn't appreciate my response.
 I clarified...but it was too late.  Severe threw a block on Twitter on me.
Now, of course, if it was Steve Sipple who was responding after-the-fact, Severe would be all over it with a "#tweetsSipWouldMake" ... but apparently, it's a lot easier to dish it out than take criticism.

Update: Severe admitted on-air a few months later to blocking me, along with the official Huskers Twitter account and several other media personalities. Guess I'm not alone...

Monday, December 24, 2012

UNO Athletics No Longer Hemmoraging Money

In Sunday's World-Herald, UNO reported a slight budget surplus in the 2011-12 school year for Maverick athletics.  OK, very slight:  $911 to be precise.  The biggest revelation is that state support for UNO athletics was cut to $3 million last year; down significantly from the year before.

Frankly, that's good news for UNO athletics moving forward.  The budget problems for Mav athletics has been an ongoing issue for a long, long time, and now we have some definitive proof that this is no longer the case.

Note that doesn't necessarily justify last year's controversial decision to cut football and wrestling by itself.   That's a decision that's bigger than the budget issue.  In an ideal world, football and wrestling would still be part of UNO athletics.

We don't live in an ideal world, however.

And that's the reason that Maverick football and wrestling no longer exist.  Sad, yes.  Disappointing, yes.  But reality.  Football and wrestling ran at a $1.7 million deficit before being cut; the new men's soccer program only lost $158,427 in comparison.  So that's a $1.5 million improvement in the bottom line.  Hockey revenue is up, showing a $228,346 surplus.

The budget issues with UNO athletics have been well documented since 2006.  If boosters were unaware prior to that, that excuse doesn't fly now.  Football boosters had five years to solidify the program's financial standing, and it didn't happen.  Expecting government to increase funding for athletics is unreasonable in this age when government budgets are being stretched further and further.  UNO's $3 million subsidy from the state is apparently down from nearly $6 million.

That's good news for state taxpayers.  The fact that UNO's athletic department is on a stable financial basis is good news for the programs that remain and is a credit to Trev Alberts and his team.  It's solid evidence that UNO is on the right path moving forward.

It doesn't ease the pain from the termination of football and wrestling.  Nothing could do that.  But that's not the fault of Alberts or UNO.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Another Massacre Demands Solutions

We've been here time and time again.  Columbine.  Tucson.  Aurora.  Virginia TechVon Maur.  And now, Newtown, CT.  Lives torn apart by someone with an assault weapon and a desire to take out as many innocent lives as possible using the most lethal weapons available to them.

We have laws against other tools capable of inflicting mass casualties. Biological and chemical weapons are illegal. But not assault weapons.  We're told time and time again.  Guns don't kill people, people kill people. After 9/11, we didn't ban airplanes.  Or round up the Muslims.

Of course, all three are fallacies by supposedly educated people that should know better.  We shut down the entire air traffic system as the World Trade Center burned and crumbled.  Many of the people insisting that guns aren't the problem have no problem blaming the entire Muslim religion for the actions of a few religious extremists.  And the NRA screams at any attempt to keep assault weapons in check, or even out of the hands of people who really shouldn't have a weapon.  They've screamed for years that President Obama was out to take every hunter's gun, even though he's done absolutely nothing of the sort.

So here we go again... many people on the pro-gun side have been silent this week, though that didn't stop Rep. Louie Gohmert from tossing out the old standby that the principal should have had an automatic weapon locked up in her office for just such a situation.  Of course, the gunman's mother had weapons...that didn't stop him, and in fact, actually was the origins of the whole mess.

We shouldn't act rashly.  But we must act.  The Constitution rightfully allows people to keep and bear arms. Banning guns isn't the answer.  But do we really need to have weapons that can massacre an entire classroom of six year olds in a matter of seconds?  Maybe it's not the guns themselves; maybe it's the magazines.  I'm not a hunter; I'm just assuming that no hunter wants a deer that's been ground up into sausage before it falls to the ground.  Are 30 round magazines really needed for hunting or self-defense?

We're going to need solutions.  Tragedies like Sandy Hook can't happen again.  Von Maur was too close to home physically.  Sandy Hook hit too close to home emotionally.  (That's why I'm diverting from sports for this topic.) One of the victims, Noah Panzer, was born the same day as my daughter.  One week before Sandy Hook, I joined her and her classmates for lunch.  Last Friday, I imagined in horror what that scene in Newtown must have looked like, using my daughter's classroom as the background.  That was simply an unspeakable horror...relived in my head at all hours of the day and night ever since last Friday.

Want more unspeakable?  Check out this goodbye letter that one little boy wrote to his friend.
If that doesn't break your heart, I don't know what could. Six year old kids should never have to write a letter like this.

I'm not ready to say what must change.  But something has to change.  If we don't place some sort of limit on assault weapons, then what else?

Isn't America better than this?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ominous Weather Pattern for UNO Outdoor Hockey Game

Last Friday, I mentioned the "LRC" theory of repeating winter weather, and how the weather on Thursday would reflect the weather pattern on February 9th for the UNO vs. North Dakota outdoor hockey game at TD Ameritrade Park.  Last Friday, the forecasts looked just fine.

Today, we now have Winter Storm Warnings for Wednesday night and Thursday.  What happened?  Did the LRC fail?  Maybe...though let's not forget, the storm hasn't actually occurred yet.  And the LRC did mention a storm; KSHB's Gary Lezak thought that the storm would form east of Kansas City and wallop the east coast later this week.

Now?  Well, the models now are talking upwards of 6+ inches of snow on Wednesday night into Thursday in Omaha.  It's silly to make any definitive predictions for February's weather in December (especially when you consider that three days ago, the weather for this week looked just fine), but it does point out that weather could be an issue.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hockey Setup at TD Ameritrade Park Underway

With the nice weather currently underway, crews at TD Ameritrade Park have begun preparing the field for the hockey rink for February 9th's "Battles on Ice" outdoor game between UNO and North Dakota.  The actual rink won't be set up until after the figure skating championships end on January 27th.  But field preparation is already underway as you can see.

It looks like center ice will be approximately around second base, and I still believe the best seats for the money will be the $30 seats in the 300 sections, which will be looking down the ice.

Last time I checked, there seemed to be about 5k-7k tickets sold by my unofficial tracking of the Ticketmaster site; that data is rather dated, though.  I've since heard that there are numerous busloads of North Dakota fans planning to head down I-29 for the game.  Will this sell out?  I thought it would originally, and still think it might.  Even if it doesn't, it should be a really cool event.

That is, depending on the weather...and that's too far off to predict.  That being said, a few years ago, I came across Kansas City meteorologist Gary Lezak while planning a Christmastime trip to KC and familiarized myself with his "LRC" theory.  For that weekend, the weather forecasts were looking rather iffy and all over the board, and Lezak nailed the forecast.  (One station was predicting freezing rain one night, when in fact, it ended up being about 60 that evening, which made it a perfect evening to stroll the Plaza.)

Since then, I've always kept an eye on his forecasts.  This year, his theory says that weather patterns are cycling at approximately 51 days, so the weather map you see later next week will correspond to the weather we'll see for the outdoor game. Right now, the Omaha forecasts look fine (clear to partly cloudy with temperatures near 40), and Lezak's models point to a possible repeat of the pattern that led to Hurricane Sandy hitting the east coast.  (This doesn't mean a storm like Sandy is going to hit New York and New Jersey again; just that another winter storm could hit the east coast this week...and if so, around February 9th.)

So if that means relatively clear skies and moderate temperatures, it could be a fine day for hockey outdoors. That's just a prognostication at this point; we'll have to wait until the week of the game to get a more accurate prediction.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mavs Quietly Surging This Hockey Season

It seemed to be one of the quietest off-seasons I can remember for UNO hockey.  There wasn't much buzz coming from the fans, nor from the hockey experts.  The preseason media poll had UNO picked to finish eighth in the twelve team WCHA with nobody rating more than one vote on the preseason all-conference team.

Well, fast forward to mid December (traditionally the time when Dean Blais' UNO teams tend to swoon), and lookie where UNO sits.  10-5-1 and currently ranked #13 in the USCHO national rankings. Fifth in the WCHA, though they also have played two less games than everybody else ahead of them. They are only three points out of first place, so when they play that extra series, a sweep would put them on top.

This weekend, UNO faces off against the "Purple Mavs" from Minnesota State-Mankato.  Mankato is now coached by former UNO assistant and longtime Lancer head coach Mike Hastings.  Hastings replaced Troy Jutting, who's now a UNO assistant.  Needless to say, both coaching staffs will be very familiar with the other team's players...and it could be a rather spirited series this weekend.

Mankato is currently tied for third in the WCHA, but only one point ahead of UNO.  A sweep of Mankato launches UNO into sole possession of second place in the conference; three points (a win and a tie) should get them third place.  UNO has a little momentum on it's side right now; they split with Minnesota two weeks ago in the Twin Cities.  Last weekend, they split with third-place St. Cloud State on the road, but lost when two third-period goals were disallowed.

And after Christmas, there are series with #9 Quinnipiac on the road, followed by Colorado College and first-place Denver.  It's not inconceivable that UNO could be a top-10 team by mid-January with some strong play.  The Quinnipiac series isn't a conference series, but could be crucial in terms when it comes time to select and seed teams for the NCAA tournament.

I'm getting a good feeling from this year's Maverick team.  It's still a young team, but they are playing better defensively than I've ever seen a Dean Blais team play.  And the offense is still there.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Coach of the Year Ballot

I just submitted my ballot for the Eddie Robinson "Coach of the Year" award... here are my choices in the order on my ballot:

1 Bill O'Brien - Coach - Penn State
2 Bill Snyder - Coach - Kansas State
3 Kevin Sumlin - Coach - Texas A&M
4 Urban Meyer - Coach - Ohio State
5 David Shaw - Coach - Stanford
6 Brian Kelly - Coach - Notre Dame
7 Gary Andersen - Coach - Utah State
8 Dave Doeren - Coach - Northern Illinois
9 Will Muschamp - Coach - Florida 

Bill O'Brien from Penn State was an easy choice to top my ballot.  I didn't expect Penn State to actually be BETTER after all of their losses this season.  Only two returning starters on offense?  A heckuva job.  Bill Snyder's second miracle in Manhattan gets my #2 vote, and can't argue with Kevin Sumlin's job at A&M either.

Monday, December 03, 2012

BlogPoll Week 14 Ballot - Not Much of a Change on Championship Week

Leaving the top teams pretty much as they are.  Georgia only drops one spot; if they score at the end of the game; they're #1 and headed for the BCS title game.  And Alabama probably stays above Notre Dame on my ballot, which would probably get a whack rating from the powers that be.

Why is Nebraska still ranked?  Simple question, who else moves above them?  Michigan?  Nebraska beat 'em.  Northern Illinois?  Seriously?  About the only way I'd switch this is move UCLA back to #15, Nebraska to #16 and then leave Northwestern and Vandy where they were.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Badger Beatdown

I had a nagging feeling that when Baker Steinkuhler went down to injury, Nebraska was going to find it hard to handle Wisconsin's rushing game.  I never would have thought it have been impossible, but from my perspective, Bo Pelini and the Huskers tried to overcompensate for his loss.  Add in a lapse in basic fundamentals - a problem that has hounded this team all season long - and Wisconsin was off to the races.

Then just before halftime, it got silly.  Melvin Gordon runs yet another sweep, and Nebraska "Blackshirts" (and I use that term loosely) made bad decisions, bad tackles, and then tries to tackle the ball instead of the runner.  Garbage touchdown at just before halftime I step away from the TV at the start of the third quarter for a couple of plays, and boom... now it's 49-10 and well on it's way to an epic beatdown.

In my book, this defeat started last week in Iowa City when Steinkuhler went out. It's a little too trite to blame what happened on the absence of one player, but credit Brett Bielema's staff for recognizing how Nebraska would try to compensate for his absence.  Stack the middle, cheat to the inside to deal with that powerful Wisconsin offensive line. So what does Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada do?  Take it wide; run sweeps.  And nobody was home on the perimeter. All night long.

Wisconsin unloaded their playbook tonight...probably even added a few things to it.  Adding shifts and motions so that Nebraska couldn't identify what was going on until it was running past them.

On defense, Wisconsin broke out a formation I've never seen before.  A 2-4-5 where the two defensive linemen split out wide on the tackles, and nobody is on the guards and center.  It exploited an inexperienced center in Cole Pensick, who was discombulated as to who to try to block.  First play was the Taylor Martinez run of the year.  It's a jailbreak, and Martinez is running for his life...nearly lost 20 yards but scrambled his way out of trouble and into the highlight reels.

Next time, Martinez did find Quincy Enunwa for a completion, but after that, the gig was up.  The line was owned and owned badly.  Once again, Brett Bielema's coaching staff recognized the inexperience at center and breaks out a gadget defense that foils the Big Red.

Was Bo Pelini completely outcoached today?  Yep.  But that's less on Bo Pelini than on Brett Bielema.  It was a masterful coaching job, and you have to give Wisconsin credit for identifying and exploiting Nebraska's weaknesses.  That's not the Wisconsin team we saw in September.

In the second half, it got chippy.  Wisconsin took offense at that devastating block by Kenny Bell and took aim at Martinez.  First it was a dive at his knees long after Martinez threw the ball, then Chris Borland pile-drived Martinez in a move only Hulk Hogan could approve of.  How Borland wasn't ejected, let alone flagged is unclear, but you had to be relieved that it never got any worse than that.

In recent days, you've heard reports that schools like Auburn, Tennessee, and Arkansas were interested in talking to Bo Pelini.  Well, this game will end that speculation right there. It would be impossible to sell a defensive-minded coach who just gave up 70 to your boosters.

Instead, the focus goes onto what needs to change at Nebraska.  It'll start on the defensive line, where with the departure of Steinkuhler, Eric Martin, Cameron Meredith, and Joe Carter, it's got to be an all-out search for bodies in the juco ranks.  Maybe Vincent Valentine is the next coming of Ndamukong Suh, but other than Chase Rome, there's little experience returning up front on the d-line.  Linebacker isn't much better, with Will Compton and Alonzo Whaley gone.  Perhaps Sean Fisher gets a 6th year of eligibility, and hopefully Zaire Anderson is ready next fall.  David Santos needs to get the mental aspects of of his game fixed.  Maybe Michael Rose is going to be ready to be the next Barrett Ruud next fall.

And will the coaching staff be back intact?  Ross Els is getting kudos for his work as a recruiting coordinator, but special teams has been a disaster this season.  Barney Cotton gets a lot of flak for the offensive line, but prior to tonight, they had been playing better.

What's most disappointing is that once again, Nebraska got embarrassed in primetime tonight.  UCLA was bad, Ohio State was worse, and this was, well, Callahan/Cosgrove-esque. There's no doubt that Nebraska is in a better place now with Bo Pelini than it was from 2004-07, and anybody who calls for Pelini to be fired needs to have their head examined.  That doesn't mean that there aren't questions that Pelini needs to answer, and Pelini is going to have to come up with a different answer than "process" and "execute".  But that answer won't be revealed until 2013; Pelini believes in his coaches too much to do anything in November.  Look for changes to be made gradually in January and February.  Remember how Shawn Watson, Ted Gilmore, and Corey Raymond were carefully jettisoned?  Expect the changes to be made much more gracefully than they were.

Those changes also won't be made rashly.  In the pain of the Big Ten championship, it's too easy to reach for the panic button.  And as easy as it is to want to panic, panic is not what you do with a ten win team.

Not even when someone hangs 70 on you.