Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday Night Beer: Lovin' Those Throwback Unis

One thing I neglected to mention is how much I liked the throwback jerseys the Huskers wore on Saturday night. The only complaint was that as the benches emptied, fans really needed a roster to keep track of who was in the game. For example, when #31 nailed Louisiana's Louis Lee, only to get flagged, fans had to ask "Who was THAT?" since the jerseys did not carry names on the back.

Now, I wasn't quite so hot for the helmets and the pants, but I'd really like to keep those script numbers in the future. There's no reason why Nebraska couldn't keep the current jersey design, but use the script numbers going forward. They're distinctive, just as easy to read, and classy.

Suddenly, Mike Leach seems to be on the precipice of a cliff after losing to Houston on Saturday. First he suspends offensive guard Brandon Carter (you know, the guy with the crazy tattoos), then bans Twitter after players start tweeting behind his back. Now, Tech isn't likely to lose to New Mexico this Saturday, but after that game... we'll see where the Raiders end up. This could unify the team, or could fracture it. We'll get a good idea in about 2 1/2 weeks when Tech comes to Lincoln. It's a story worth following.

Allow me to disagree with new UNO hockey coach Dean Blais over the shootout in college hockey. In today's sports world, people simply don't accept ties. It just feels unfulfilling to leave an event where nobody won. And as UNO fans learned in 2008, multiple overtime games are exhausting and just encourage fans to leave if they go on too long. Like college football's overtime, the shootout is exciting and gives you a winner. The tweaks the CCHA made this week, making regulation and overtime victories worth three points, should address much of the criticism of the shootout format. I'm hoping that the WCHA will consider the shootout in the future.

Speaking of UNO hockey, I see that Eddie DelGrosso made 2nd team preseason all-CCHA. I have to believe that Blais' run-and-gun style will really suit an offensively minded defensement. Goaltender Jeremie Dupont shouldn't expect much help from his defensive corps this season; his numbers may go down even if he ups his game in his senior season.

Now that the NCAA has given Creighton fan another shot at hoarding all of the NCAA regional basketball tickets, Tom Shatel suggests that if you want tickets, you follow the old adage: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. What, buy Creighton tickets? Sure...but that doesn't mean you have to become a Creighton fan. Show up for key games and wear your red, whether it's UNO red, Husker red, or Cyclone red. Boo the Jays, and cheer for the opponent. Destroy their home court advantage in the process. (Won't take many anti-Jay fans to do that..) If you're going to have to pay extra, you might as well get the satisfaction and exact your pound of flesh anyway.

Monday, September 28, 2009

CBSsports.com BlogPoll Week 4 Draft

Another week of upsets in college football, though my rankings aren't as affected as others. Penn State, Ole Miss, and Miami weren't in my top ten, so only California's loss changed things at the top this week.

My pick of Alabama at #1 is becoming stronger and stronger as the Crimson Tide continue to steamroll everybody in their path, including a decent Arkansas team this week. If anything, the top 3 teams separated themselves from the rest of the field. Virginia Tech has a better victory (Miami) and a better loss (Alabama) than everybody else, so they jump up to #4. I hate to bump Boise down a spot. LSU wasn't impressive, but who would jump them?

1 Alabama
2 Florida
3 Texas
4 Virginia Tech 5
5 Boise State 1
6 LSU 1
7 Oklahoma
8 Southern Cal
9 TCU 1
10 Cincinnati 1
11 Nebraska 6
12 Ohio State 2
13 Houston 7
14 Oklahoma State 7
15 Iowa
16 Kansas 2
17 Georgia 1
18 Missouri 1
19 Oregon
20 Miami (Florida) 8
21 California 15
22 Mississippi 9
23 Penn State 8
24 Michigan 1
25 Georgia Tech
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Washington (#22), North Carolina (#24), Florida State (#25).

The obvious homer pick is Nebraska jumping to #11. If I think Virginia Tech is #4, then #11 for a Nebraska squad that outplayed the Hokies in Blacksburg is probably too low. But they failed to finish the deal, so they're at #11. I'm not sure what to do with Iowa; I think #14 is too high ...but I can't find a team to rank above them....and that's the way this should work. I'm thinking Missouri is overrated at #18; who have they played? Their opponents have only won one game against a 1-A opponent (Bowling Green beat Troy).

Big XII PowerPoll
  1. Texas
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Nebraska
  4. Oklahoma State
  5. Kansas
  6. Missouri
  7. Texas A&M
  8. Texas Tech
  9. Baylor
  10. Iowa State
  11. Kansas State
  12. Colorado
No change this week, though I think Baylor will fall in the standings without Robert Grifin.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cajun Rage No Match For Husker Power

Tonight's Huskers/Cajuns matchup was less about the game and more about 300. So while the game was about as uncompetitive as it gets, the stadium was packed (record crowd) and energized most of the night. It was a great atmosphere...but despite the score, wasn't a great performance.

There's plenty to be happy about: 55 points scored, 0 allowed. Zac Lee completing 15 of 18 passes. Larry Asante picking off a pass and racing to the house. Cody Green showing speed on the ground and a strong arm through the air. Rex Burkhead showing speed, great vision, and great balance on his touchdown reception. Eric Martin creating highlight reel hits on special teams.

But there's plenty to be unhappy about: only 133 yards rushing, multiple bobbled snaps, and 14 first downs allowed to the Cajuns.

Early on, I had to wonder what was up with the exchange between Lee and Jacob Hickman, as snaps out of the shotgun repeatedly arrived head high or even higher. Running room was tough to find against the Cajuns.

In a blowout like this, what you hate to see are injuries. Media reports sound like Rickey Thenarse's injury is serious. Larry Asante might be okay with a bye week coming up. (Truth be told, from my vantage point high in the south end zone, we had to wonder what happened to Asante as he looked fine running into the end zone, then we saw him a couple of minutes later being helped from the back of the end zone. Turns out he tweaked his ankle on the run, but we had to wonder if he suffered a injury in the celebration.)

So it's a good game for Pelini and company. A blow out victory, but one that will provide plenty of teaching opportunities for the coaching staff. Plenty of things to work on, but plenty of reasons for optimism going into conference play.

Why optimism? Well, for starters, look how Nebraska nearly pulled off a victory in Blacksburg last week. Many national "experts" were pushing Miami as being "back" and a consensus top team. The Hokies blew them out. Missouri went on the road to Reno, and won somewhat ugly thanks to Danario Alexander, who's becoming one of the elite receivers in the conference. Kansas narrowly defeated Southern Miss and their basketball team this week. While the Tigers and Jayhawks may have arguably better offenses, Nebraska's defense appears to be the best in the North. That could be a bigger difference than playing games in Columbia and Lawrence.

But the story of the night was the 300th sellout celebration. Especially poignant was Ohio coach Frank Solich appearing on the big screen to thank fans for their support, and receiving loud applause. Buffalo coach Turner Gill also appeared, and also received cheers, though Gill's comments were extremely brief. Barry Switzer got a few boos, and the end of game retrospective was well-done. The fireworks might have been unnecessary since most fans focused on the highlights, but it was still worth sticking around to the end of a 55-0 blowout.

Louisiana-Lafayette PostGame Podcast

Husker Mike's PostGame Podcast powered by Gabcast

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday Night Beer: Are We Still Bi***ing About O'Hanlon

You know a Husker loss is hard when we're days after the game and people are still complaining about it. Frankly at this point, it's pretty much repetition at this point. Should Matt O'Hanlon have reacted faster to Danny Coale sprinting further downfield? Probably. But would that have sealed the victory? Maybe...maybe not. There were other receivers running free in the secondary, and we might be arguing about somebody else.

A lot of people are extrapolating Zac Lee's horrible passing statistics from Saturday's game over the entire season and making gross assumptions about what kind of quarterback he'll be. You do that at your own risk, assuming that he's going to face defenses like Virginia Tech throughout the season (which he's not, except against Oklahoma) in places as hostile as Blacksburg (which he's not, period.) throughout the season.

Now is it fair to say that Sun Belt opposition may have given us an unrealistic view of Lee? Probably. But when you take a single bad half of football (Lee's first half wasn't too bad) and use that as your baseline for the rest of the season, you're making sketchy assumptions that might burn you later. Plenty of time for Zac Lee to prove himself.

Tom Shatel of the World-Herald took a bit of offense to Bo Pelini's terse post-game press conference last Saturday. Would it be nice or good to get an explanation of what all-went wrong in that final drive? Yes, but I'm not sure the postgame presser was going to give us a good explanation, just minutes after that stunning defeat. And really, what did you expect Pelini to do? Call out a single player? You should know Bo Pelini better than that. Truth be told, Pelini was brutally honest when he told the media this:

“Played well. Did some good things. Didn’t finish it. We all take responsibility for not finishing the deal. You have to finish the job and we didn’t do that. Each and every guy that walked on the field had a hand in us not winning that football game. Coaches included. They made the plays. We didn’t. Pretty simple. In a game like that, you’ve got to make a play."

Everybody wants to focus on the 81 yard bomb...but what about not getting the sack on 3rd and goal. What about getting a touchdown on 1st and goal from the VT 6? (What about at least getting a friggin' field goal in that situation?)

Pelini may not have answered the specific question, but you got the answer and the accountability that fans and reporters needed to hear after the game. Now the question is how the Huskers will respond to this loss, and that's not going to be answered in any press conference.

I see the Journal-Star is looking for stories of "Love at Memorial Stadium." Looks like they're interested in proposals or first dates at actual games; my story took place in March in an empty Memorial Stadium. Still wouldn't do it any other way, either the place or (especially) the lady. (Speaking of which, I've got to figure out a 10 year anniversary gift...time is getting away from me here!)

Monday, September 21, 2009

CBSsports.com BlogPoll Week 3 Draft

Quite a shakeup this week, as several teams lost or didn't play up to expectations, starting with former #1 Southern Cal. So who's the new #1? I expected Texas and Florida to mop the field this weekend with home games where they should have been motivated to demolish the other team. Didn't happen. So I'm going with Alabama for now, mostly on the strength of their victory over Virginia Tech. But how good is Virginia Tech? A good question; they were outplayed by Nebraska most of the game yesterday.

And that's an issue with early season resume setting; everybody has an incomplete resume at this point, so you have to go with a lot of "gut feel" at this point. So here's my "gut feel" at this point:
1 Alabama 3
2 Florida
3 Texas
4 Boise State 1
5 LSU 4
6 California 1
7 Oklahoma 1
8 Southern Cal 7
9 Virginia Tech 1
10 TCU 1
11 Cincinnati 12
12 Miami (Florida) 2
13 Mississippi 1
14 Ohio State 1
15 Penn State
16 Georgia
17 Nebraska
18 Kansas
19 Missouri 1
20 Houston
21 Oklahoma State 2
22 Washington
23 Michigan 1
24 North Carolina 1
25 Florida State
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Brigham Young (#6), Utah (#21), Baylor (#22).

The obvious criticism that someone could make is leaving Nebraska unchanged. My perspective is that they lost by one point on the road against a higher ranked team, and by all accounts outplayed that team. Last week, I bumped Ohio State up 9 spots after nearly upsetting USC last weekend using similar logic. A narrow loss against a better opponent isn't necessarily grounds for dropping in the polls.

Big movers are LSU and Cincinnati. LSU's opening victory on the road at Washington looks stronger now that USC lost there. Cincinnati has two road victories against BCS conference foes, so they get credit there. I'm not feeling the same love for Miami at this point. Georgia Tech didn't overwhelm FCS/1-AA Jacksonville State in their season opener, and narrowly beat Clemson. Good win, yes. But I'm just not buying Miami yet.

I'm also not buying Penn State at this point; beating Akron, Syracuse, and Temple by three touchdowns doesn't impress me. In fact, the more I think about it, I think #15 is too high...but they'll probably pull my ballot if I drop them. (The more I think about it, Penn State belongs after Missouri...)

Houston was an omission from last week, and Florida State grudgingly gets back in after blasting BYU on the road. The 'Noles had to come from behind in the last minute to defeat Jacksonville State last week, so I'm still not sold. But give them credit for traveling to Utah.

Big XII PowerPoll
  1. Texas
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Nebraska
  4. Kansas
  5. Missouri
  6. Oklahoma State
  7. Texas Tech
  8. Texas A&M
  9. Baylor
  10. Iowa State
  11. Kansas State
  12. Colorado
Again, I'm not dropping Nebraska for losing by 1 point in the last minute on the road against a top-ten foe. Missouri and Kansas haven't played anybody near the calibre of Virginia Tech yet, so they remain behind the Huskers. Oklahoma State's season opening victory over Georgia is beginning to look like an exception; they drop to 6th. Tech kept it competitive in Austin; I'll move them to 7th. The final three teams all performed better this weekend, but it's still tough to distinguish between them. So I'm keeping them as-is for now.

Your feedback? This is my draft, and won't be final until Wednesday morning, so convince me of where I'm off, and I'll make the changes.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

NU/Virginia Tech: Let the Knawing Begin

If you are looking for a moral victory or perhaps something just to ease the pain of today's Husker loss to Virginia Tech, perhaps the place to look is that this wasn't a game that Nebraska "could've" won, like Texas Tech last season. This wasn't a game that Nebraska "would've" won, perhaps like Texas Tech in 2005 or Texas in 2006. This really was a game Nebraska "should've" won against a higher ranked team on the road.

Looking around the internets, much derision is going towards Matt O'Hanlon who finally hauled down Danny Coale 81 yards down field. I admit, I took ABC's lead and blamed Anthony West who let Coale sprint downfield. But is that true? Marvin Sanders indicated in his post game comments that O'Hanlon didn't get deep enough. But was O'Hanlon in a no-win situation here? I found the video of the play on YouTube, and look at the situation that O'Hanlon faced:
As Taylor prepares to throw, three receivers broke free in the deep zone, with two on O'Hanlon's side of the field. Does he take Coale, and hope that Lance Thorell can recover against tight end Greg Boone? Does he try to position himself to chase down either one? Tough position to be in, and in hindsight, not covering Coale is probably the biggest mistake he could have made.

But let's be honest, while that play sticks in everybody's mind, there were plenty of other reasons why Nebraska lost to the Hokies. Let's start with no touchdowns by the offense. Unlike 2007 at Missouri, Nebraska had plenty of opportunities to score touchdowns...just never could do it. One could argue that Nebraska could have won this game by two touchdowns if they could have capitalized on those drives. That fiasco that turned 1st and goal at the Virginia Tech 6 into 4th and goal from the 37 resulted in no points. If one of those holding calls isn't made, perhaps Alex Henery kicks another field goal, and suddenly that breakdown late in the game merely puts Virginia Tech into position to tie the game with a 2-point conversion.

Zac Lee is going to take a lot of heat for his 11-for-30 performance today...and rightfully so. Certainly Lee missed a few throws, and could have ended the game earlier by hitting Curenski Gilleylen in bounds so that Gilleylen could have turned and raced to the end zone rather than worry about getting a foot inbounds. But Lee kept several drives alive with his running, carrying eight times for 38 yards. I wonder if part of the problem today was Lee feeling pressure to become a playmaker instead of a manager, causing him to force plays at time.

The team plane should now be back in Lincoln, and if the fan base is any indication, this game should be knawing their insides apart. The biggest objective for this week is to move past this week and rectify the errors this week. Nebraska still is tied at 0-0 with everybody else in the Big XII North, so every goal on the season is still intact. Tough road games lay ahead in Columbia, Waco (even though they lost to UConn today), and Lawrence. Oklahoma defeated a decent Tulsa squad 45-0, and Texas Tech gave Texas more of a battle than some thought tonight. If Nebraska plays the way they played today, they can win some of those games. If they rectify the mistakes they made today, they could win most of them. And starting tomorrow, winning those games is now the goal.

But for tonight, a lot of tossing and turning await, wondering just what if...

NU/Virginia Tech: Close Only Counts in Horseshoes and Handgrenades

Instant feedback on Virginia Tech's 16-15 victory over Nebraska.

  • Nebraska won most of the game, but two key breakdowns at the start and the end of the game resulted in the deciding points. Blown tackles on the opening kickoff and Anthony West's blown coverage were the big blows.
  • Don't blame Anthony West for this loss. Plenty of blame to go around, especially on the offensive line's discombobulation when Nebraska had 1st and goal at the 6. When you have to punt on 4th and goal, you know something horrible has gone wrong.
  • Zac Lee will have plenty of things to look at in his second half. His second quarter performance was nothing less than spectacular, but Virginia Tech turned up the pressure on Lee in the second half, giving him a stat line that'll look downright mediocre.
  • Thank goodness for Matt O'Hanlon. Read that profile of him from the World-Herald.
  • Roy Helu. What can I say; he carried the offense from the 2nd quarter on.
  • Ndamukong Suh. At times, he was playing volleyball with Tyrod Taylor's passes.
  • Pierre Allen and Barry Turner came up huge as well.

This one is going to hurt for a while, and the what-if's can tie you up in knots if you let them. Fortunately, I think Bo Pelini will get this team focused and not let them dwell too long on the negatives. We'll find out as the season goes on just how good Virginia Tech is, just like we'll learn just how good Nebraska is. We know that Nebraska nearly won at one of the toughest places to win as a visitor. Sadly, moral victories don't count.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday Night Beer: Exit Okafor, Welcome Back Dillard

Redshirt freshman I-back Collins Okafor left the Huskers today. Not necessary a huge loss for the team, since he was buried on the depth chart. I know some fans were more impressed by his spring game performance than I was. You'd like to see players like Okafor stick around and try to work their way up the depth chart, but anymore, it seems to be the rule to transfer and take your chances elsewhere. We'll see where he transfers to, and hopefully it'll work out for him in the end.

It looks like Phillip Dillard is adjusting well to and making the most of his chance at WILL linebacker. Certainly, the Husker defense needs a boost at linebacker, and this week seems to be a good opportunity to get Dillard back into the game. Now the question is how much of this is injury related, how much of this is the performance of others in the first two games, and how much is this Dillard getting back into the coaching staff's good graces? Irrelevent now, but we'll see how this works on Saturday.

AJ the Huskerh8r really went fishing this week with his power ratings, and nobody's biting the bait, it seems. Iowa State ahead of Nebraska? He does have a minor point: Nebraska hasn't played anybody, so we really don't know much about the Huskers at this point. So while putting the Clones ahead of the Huskers is about as absurd as Phyllis Diller modeling for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, it's not worth arguing at this point. Come Saturday, we'll have an answer one way or the other.

How bad are things in Colorado? The Buffaloes may have to keep Dan Hawkins for another couple of years because the Colorado athletic department can't afford to fire him. The Boulder Daily Camera determined that his buyout would approach $3 million...and that's money the Buffies don't have. In fact, Colorado is still paying off loans from the firing of Gary Barnett. You want a bleak outlook for Colorado football? Look at this scenario: Hawkins continues to coach for another couple of years in Boulder, with everybody knowing that his contract won't be renewed. Recruiting suffers because nobody wants to play for a lame duck coach. The already fickle Colorado sports fan ignores Buff football even more, causing athletic department revenues to fall further, leaving even fewer resources for the next head coach. Without any sort of bold reversal of fortunes in Colorado, the Buffaloes may be entering a Baylor-esque type of funk.

Meanwhile, Dean Blais has started preparing the UNO Maverick hockey team and is running them ragged in a series of four-a-week, 30 minute supervised workouts permitted under NCAA rules. Yes, run-and-gun hockey is coming to Omaha, and I have this feeling it'll be unlike anything else we've seen around here before.

Monday, September 14, 2009

CBSsports.com BlogPoll Week 2 Draft

A wild and wacky weekend of college football, but it really didn't change much in the poll this week.
1 Southern Cal
2 Florida
3 Texas
4 Alabama
5 Boise State
6 Brigham Young
7 California
8 Oklahoma 1
9 LSU 1
10 Virginia Tech 2
11 TCU 2
12 Mississippi 1
13 Ohio State 9
14 Miami (Florida)
15 Penn State 2
16 Georgia 1
17 Nebraska 2
18 Kansas 2
19 Oklahoma State 11
20 Missouri 4
21 Utah 2
22 Baylor 2
23 Cincinnati 2
24 Michigan
25 North Carolina
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Florida State (#18), Notre Dame (#21).

Ohio State may have lost, but they showed they are able to compete with a top program. So even though they lost, they move up. Again, that's because they played much better this week losing to USC than they did by squeaking by Navy. Oklahoma State falls by losing at home. Missouri drops for three quarters of suckage against the Perverts. (Unfair perhaps, but they've played 5 quarters of outstanding football and 3 quarters of awful football so far this season.) The Weasels get a spot for beating Notre Dame as well. Florida State bows out after trailing nearly the entire night against 1-AA Jacksonville State. (Even if Jacksonville State is quarterbacked by former LSU head-case Ryan Perriloux.)

Big XII PowerPoll
  1. Texas
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Nebraska
  4. Kansas
  5. Oklahoma State
  6. Missouri
  7. Baylor
  8. Texas A&M
  9. Texas Tech
  10. Iowa State
  11. Kansas State
  12. Colorado
About what you might expect until you get to the final 3 spots who embarrassed themselves this weekend. I almost should put them into a three-way tie for last, but that's the chicken way. Iowa State at least lost to a team that was ranked in the preseason, so it's probably the least bad loss. Kansas State sneaks ahead of Colorado because they at least were competitive with Lafayette. Colorado's defense was so mind-numbingly Cosgrovian that I can't help but rank them dead last.