Wednesday, August 31, 2005

SI takes another shot at Callahan

Stuart Mandel takes another shot at the 2004 Huskers:

In response to this question from "Karen in Lincoln": "I was offended by your reference to horse racing being boring. I find football boring. Horse racing is exciting as well as beautiful and intellectual. I wouldn't care if the NFL and college football disappeared altogether."

Mandel responds: "Poor Karen. I'd probably find football boring, too, if I had to watch Nebraska last season."

Judging from the number of tickets for sale towards the end of last season, there wasn't a lot of disagreement. Except, of course, from Steve Pederson and the Kool-Aid Krew.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Callahan: Silently admitting they screwed up 2004

In Sunday's Omaha paper, Rich Kaipust discusses the aftermath of 2004 with Bill Callahan, Jay Norvell, Tim Cassiday, and Steve Pederson. While Callahan doesn't want to come out and say it, it's pretty obvious that they realize that they failed in 2004. You can see it in how they are doing everything completely different this year, whether it be closing practices to the media, no scrimmages or depth charts, or even in how they teach. Even the coaching assignments are changed, with Phil Elmassian giving up the safeties to Bill Busch.

Our intrepid athletic director, though, refuses to admit that his coaches didn't do well last year: "Remember this, he only inherited what he had. He inherited what the situation was at hand." He probably wants to point the blame at Frank Solich, but perhaps he's admitting that the die for disharmony in 2004 was cast with his coaching search/circus.

What does this mean? Well, I take this as an optimistic sign; they know they messed up and aren't too stubborn to change. On the other hand, Callahan has screwed up his last 2 attempts to remake a program (Oakland 2003, Nebraska 2004)...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Here we go again with Lawrence Phillips

Whether it's USA Today or the fine folks on, it's time to rehash the Lawrence Phillips saga again. What the heck, it's the 10 year anniversary. And whether it's Bernard Goldberg or some 2-bit hack (wait a minute, Bernard Goldberg IS a 2-bit hack), they usually don't let the facts get in the way of their argument.

I must admit that when Tom Osborne reinstated LP, I was disappointed and felt it was the wrong thing to do. But I also understood Osborne's motivation at the time, and while I disagreed with it, I knew it wasn't to win football games. Let's face it, if anyone believes that Nebraska needed LP in 1995, go watch that Fiesta Bowl video tape again. (Dave Letterman joked a few days later that "uh oh, Nebraska just scored again.) How many pro-bowls has that other running back been too again? Nebraska and T.O. "needed" Phillips in 1995? Puh-leaze. Give me a break.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Solich: It was about egos and personalities

Frank Solich comments briefly to ESPN about his firing at Nebraska:

"One of the things I've found is that I enjoy being around people who do not have huge egos," Solich said. "That makes life an awful lot easier for everybody."

Everyone says it is about recruiting, but remember what Tom Osborne said about the firing in February 2004:

"I've listened to everybody. I've heard all sides of the story. And I just don't see anything that maybe we couldn't have sat down in one room, maybe 45 minutes to an hour, hashed it out and had it back on track.

Make no bones about it: The talk about "gravitating to mediocrity" and "recruiting" is nothing more than a smokescreen by the current athletic director.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

So much for team unity

As the 2004 season spiraled out of control, the stories coming out of Lincoln about the lack of chemistry between the players and coaches grew worse and worse. The best unconfirmed story I heard was that Charlie McBride himself threw the defensive coaches out of the locker room at halftime of the Missouri game. Between the mass departures of unhappy players and an emphasis on building back the relationships between the players and coaches, I was starting to get a good vibe that this problem was under control, and that this new coaching staff had the situation back under control.

Then the Shane Siegel story hit the paper.

On a team of 100+ players, it's unreasonable to expect that everyone is on-board. However, the first thing that comes to mind is: "Here we go again". Last year, as the season progress, the relationship went steadily south, and it especially showed in losses at Kansas State and to Colorado. Bill Callahan and his staff better make sure that this problem doesn't recur, especially with some of his multi-star recruits.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Coaching Change Report Card - Year 1

A lot of the "Kool-aid drinkers" talk about how great these coaches will be after they get their players in. So I thought I'd take a look and see how the teams that lost coaches to Nebraska fared. And also, how the schools that hired former Husker coaches did as well. It's a sobering statistic:

Teams that lost coaches:
Oakland Raiders (Bill Callahan, Jay Norvell, Randy Jordan): +1 win (4-12 to 5-11)
Fresno State (Dennis Wagner): +1 (9-5 to 9-3)
Wisconsin (Kevin Cosgrove): +2.5 (7-6 to 9-3)
Utah (Bill Busch): +2 (10-2 to 12-0)
Purdue (Phil Elmassian): -1.5 (9-4 to 7-5)
Mississippi State (John Blake): +1.5 (2-10 to 3-8)

Teams that gained coaches:
Iowa State (Barney Cotton): +4.5 (2-9 to 7-5)
Minnesota State (Jeff Jamrog, Tim Albin): +6 (0-11 to 6-5)
Oklahoma (Bo Pelini): +0.5 (12-2 to 12-1)
North Carolina (Marvin Sanders): +4 (2-10 to 6-6)

Nebraska: -4 (10-3 to 5-6)

The verdict:
5 out of 6 teams that lost coaches to Nebraska IMPROVED their record as a result.
All 4 teams that gained former Nebraska coaches also IMPROVED their record, 3 of which very significantly. (And the 4th team, Oklahoma, really didn't have much room for improving their record anyway...)

So, when you evaluate year 1 of this coaching change, there is no other possible grade: F

Fortunately, we're wiping the slate clean, and everybody starts at 0-0. We'll see how 2005 goes...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Photo Caption Contest

Ok, time out from sports... caption this photo!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Steve Pederson: Still Dancing

Tom Shatel of the Omaha daily newspaper sat down with Steve Pederson this week for lunch. Kind of a short interview, but some comments on what the athletic director said:
  • In regards to Frank Solich's quest for new facilities: "Facilities are a big part of winning. But a lot of schools are going to invest in facilities. Recruiting is still the key to it." I'm still not so sure that Solich was fired over recruiting, but Pederson and Bill Callahan have staked their careers at Nebraska on football recruiting, so it's not surprising that he would say this.
  • "We're playing in the toughest conference in the country, in my opinion." Some years, I could probably buy that claim. But this year? Let's get serious here. The Big XII is definitely in a down cycle right now; they might only be the 5th strongest conference in football.
  • In response to a question about limiting access to the football program, what with the end of the Extra Point Luncheons and access to the field: "I don't believe so. I'm the guy who started the 'Husker Nation Pavilion,'" where fans can go before games for free. The thing about the field is, we don't want people on the field running around playing touch football. That's been an issue for years." So having the opportunity to buy $3 hot dogs and bottles of pop is somehow an acceptable subsitute for the real thing? C'mon here.
  • On criticism of Callahan's coaching last year: "A pass here and a catch there might have changed a game or two dramatically. But the most important thing is making sure you lay the groundwork for your program. You are putting in a program and a way of doing things. You're not going to run the wishbone just to win an extra game. You want to put your system in and show people (recruits) this is what you are going to do." Nobody really suggested that Callahan switch to the wishbone, but the offensive gameplans for Southern Miss and Iowa State sure look like disasters, especially when compared to the game plans for Baylor and Oklahoma. However, the Baylor gameplan was influenced in large part by Marlon Lucky's recruiting visit. And the Oklahoma gameplan was intended to avoid a repeat of the Texas Tech debacle. At some point, Bill Callahan has to start paying more attention to the players he has than he pays the players he hopes to recruit. And the sooner, the better. Remember, last year he loved to talk about the flexibility of his offense.
  • On scheduling: "As many home games as possible. We want to maintain a national schedule. We also know it's going to be hard to do that, because everyone wants home games. Ideally, you want to play as many I-A teams as you can. We are working on some big things that I think people will really like." Based on Pederson's record on scheduling since returning to Nebraska, I'm really skeptical here. Everybody remembers last winter's Houston debacle, but don't forget that Pederson rejected Iowa's overtures for a game this season. Meanwhile, Nevada announced plans to play Nebraska in 2007, but this game still doesn't appear on Nebraska's schedule. After this season, the only non-conference games scheduled are USC (2006 & 2007) and Wake Forest (2007).

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The BloggerTwins

One of my first exposures to blogging was CamWorld, operated by Cameron Barrett. Barrett was one of the list-mom's for the now-defunct cms-list, which was an insightful view into web content management. Barrett went on to help the General Wesley Clark and briefly John Kerry campaigns. Before that, he helped create the political blog-zine where the John Kerry intern rumor began. But I digress.

Now, he and his twin brother are using a new blog called to campaign for the next season of The Amazing Race on CBS.

Huskers and Steriods - Chapter 4

13 current and former Huskers. have been named as potential witnesses in the Lincoln steroid ring.

They include Wali Muhammad, Ross Pilkington (subject to speculation previously), Richie Incognito, Nick Povendo, Benard Thomas, Ryan Bingham, Josh Brown, and Sandro DeAngelis.

Note the emphasis on potential witnesses. So far, nothing really seems to indicate that these players were involved, at least from what has been posted. Whether that changes once the trial begins is another matter.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Husker Nation wants improvement . . . yesterday

Here's a take from Sean Keeler of the Des Moines Register about Husker football; while it's not very in depth and takes it's shots from deepest Iowegia, he does touch on a few points that much of the local press doesn't:
  • "While the North Division was thrown into utter chaos last October, Nebraska sank into the moor."
  • "But the jury's still out on whether (Zac) Taylor is the Rich Gannon clone his coach so desperately covets. Not every spring snap was polished and not every pass at Memorial Stadium had zip."
  • "Last November, in the NJCAA national championship game against Pearl River (Miss.), Taylor completed just 10 of 35 throws and was picked off five times. A few more Saturdays like that and you can earmark the Huskers' 2005 pocket schedule for the bonfire. Right along with Callahan's contract."

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Most Evil Blog

I stumbled across the most vile hockey blog today. MavPuck-ers AJ and MavRick should probably grab a frosty cold adult beverage before they click on this one.

There is some common ground between all three blogs, at least in their opinion of Floppy the Wonder Goalie...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Please stay off the FieldTurf

Well, FieldTurfGate has another little ripple... with the issue now being that the field is now closed to the general public. Is this an overreaction to the incidents at Missouri and Oklahoma? Perhaps. It's one thing to close the field down on game days. It's another thing entirely to close it down when it's not in use.

When I was in elementary school, in the 5th grade we took a field trip down to UNL and the planetarium and museum. Afterwards, we got the opportunity to run out onto the field and work off some energy. To this day, I still remember how exciting it was running around on the Huskers field. (Hey, it doesn't take much to excite a 5th grader...)

Of course, that pales to my next story. AJ probably should stop reading here. Yes, I proposed to my wife at midfield 6 years ago. Fortunately, I got extremely lucky and found a great woman who loves football perhaps more than I do. So when I made the decision to propose to her, it just seemed like the best way to make it really special. (No jumbotrons, skywriters, fireworks, singing telegrams, or taking a chance on the waiter sending the ring to the wrong table.) And Memorial Stadium in early March is extremely quiet and rather private. I'm sure I'm not the first person to do this, but I do feel sorry that others won't have this same opportunity if they find themselves in a similar situation. (Oh, and if AJ is still reading this... nyah nyah nyah, my wife was actually excited on her birthday once when I gave her tickets to a Chiefs/Raiders game that was scheduled on our wedding anniversary. Am I one of the luckiest guys in the world, or WHAT!!!)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Sports Illustrated: Big XII South has superior coaches

The Koolaid drinkers won't like what SI's Stewart Mandel has to say in this week's mailbag:

"While I certainly expect the gap to start lessening as soon as this season, it's hard to imagine that the balance of power will shift back to the North again anytime soon, as long as you have four coaches in the South (Bob Stoops, Mack Brown, Dennis Franchione and Mike Leach) whom you'd take in a heartbeat over anyone in the North save Bill Snyder. Until Nebraska proves it can compete at an elite level again, the North simply isn't going to have the same type of clout at the top as the South does, even if a Missouri, Iowa State or Kansas has a good season."


Monday, August 01, 2005

Burn the Boats?

In 1994, the Huskers used the motto "Unfinished Business" to set the mood for the season. For those that don't remember, the 1993 Husker team went 11-1, losing to Florida State in the Orange Bowl as they gave up a 16-15 lead with 1:16 left in the game and missed a 45-yard field goal as time expired. Despite losing QB's to blood clots and collapsed lungs during the season, they went 13-0 and claimed Tom Osborne's first national title.

So now Bill Callahan has declared a motto for 2005: "Burn the Boats".

Nice thought, but when it has to be explained, it's probably a poor motto. And let's face it, if "Billy C and the Puppetmasters" put another 5-6 on the board in 2005, the flames won't be limited to a boat...