Archive for December, 2006

Vacation Over
Thursday, December 28, 2006


Wow… I’ve been slacking. Sorry for not posting much recently. Of course, that’s assuming you care. Possibly a bad assumption.

Cotton Bowl Preps

The Huskers are down in Dallas getting ready for the Cotton Bowl. At this point, that’s all we know.

Okay, Maybe a Little Bit More

Thank goodness for that I-Back depth. Actually, it might not even be enough. Brandon Jackson is battling a broken hand, Cody Glenn has a toe problem and Kenny Wilson is a little banged up. As is Marlon Lucky. Safety Major Culbert took a bunch of reps at I-Back last week, and may see a few carries on Monday.

Guard Matt Slauson has an MCL issue, and could miss the game. We’ll see. Greg Austin or Mike Huff could get the start at right guard if Slauson can’t go.

In summation, maybe bowl games should be played two months after the final regular season game.

Don’t Make Me Wait Up For You

Bill Callahan allowed his players to have a 2AM curfew in Dallas the first night. Or should I say the first morning. The curfew will gradually get earlier and earlier. From what I’ve heard, it reads like this:

Wednesday: 2 AM
Thursday: 1:57 AM
Friday: 1:56:30 AM
Saturday: 1:49 AM
Sunday: 10 PM

Ben Eisenhart from the small town of Culbertson, Nebraska was part of a group of Huskers that rented a limo and toured the town, including the Greenville district. Culbertson said they’d heard Greenville was a big party area, but that they must’ve been the only ones who’d heard that… because there was “nobody else there.”

Cotton an Easy Pick

There will be festive seating at the Cotton Bowl on Monday. Tickets are going for as little at $12 on ticket-selling websites.

Right now on stubhub.com, you can snag four tickets for $100.

Four tickets to the Cotton Bowl: $100.

Gas money for the 28-hour round-trip drive: $300

Sitting in your skivvies, watching the game in the comfort of your own home over a bowl of Cherrios: Priceless.

Quick Hitter

Mario Cristobal, the new head coach at Florida International, will not coach Miami’s offensive line (his old job) in the Hurricanes’ MPC Computers Bowl matchup against Nevada.

Cristobal must know how the game turns out.

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Still in Colorado
Saturday, December 23, 2006


My flight is scheduled to depart Denver on Sunday at around 10:00AM, and arrive in Omaha at 12:30PM. The weather isn’t the concern — it’s the waiting. There may be more people passing through security on Sunday than passing through Best Buy.

Maybe.

Those XBox 360s are a hot item.

Meanwhile, back in Nebraska

Since I haven’t been able to watch Nebraska or Creighton on television (oddly enough, no Denver station picked up the Hawaii Rainbow Classic) I’ve had to follow along online, reading articles and checking in on message boards… which makes me about as uneducated about their recent play as I am about meteorology.

But, being the team-player that I am, I’ll chime in.

As Dana Altman would say, it’s early. Way too early to talk about this team turning a corner on this young season. Especially with how they played at Fresno State. But these back-to-back wins are encouraging. Shooting 50% in two consecutive games isn’t too bad, with Dane Watts and Issac Miles coming off career-high nights. It’s nice to read about Nate Funk’s shooting effort against Valpo. Obviously, the opposition isn’t the toughest. Saturday night against Hawaii will provide a better lithmus test, amd winning a holiday tournament thousands of miles from home is something to write home about.

Writing home about it would be pointless, though. No way the postcards would get home before the Jays do.

Huskers Don’t Need a Rematch, Won’t Get One

Nebraska lost to Hawaii on Friday, meaning it won’t get another shot at Creighton. It would’ve been the least-watched game in the recent rivalry history, considering the tip-time.

I’m still encouraged with the Huskers’ play. This team has a lot of fight in it… down 20 at the half to Hawaii, but rallying to within 9 points. Ryan Anderson continues to impress, with 29 points against the Rainbow Warriors, the second-highest single-game scoring mark by a freshman in school history.

So Close

And to think, I had the option of going to Hawaii to cover the Rainbow Classic, or go home to Denver for the week. I forgot about that whole “probability of snow” thing. Oh well.

Denver is slowly but surely digging out. They’re advising travelers to arrive at Denver International Airport four hours ahead of time. That’s encouraging.

See you Sunday.

Snowed In!
Wednesday, December 20, 2006


The Denver area is getting hammered right now… I got here just in time. I’m in Colorado for the week to share some Christmas cheer with my family. We’re expecting upwards of 20 inches of the white stuff once it’s all said and done.

The roads, airport, shops and schools are all closed. The Nuggets game is canceled. What’s a guy to do?

Well, in John Campbell-like fashion, I’ll post some pictures.

The snow just keeps on coming.

And so does the Colorado wildlife.

Things to Do in Denver…
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Needing to squeeze in my final days of vacation before the end of the year, I’m taking the rest of the week off for a holiday visit with my family. I flew into Denver Tuesday afternoon at 12:30pm… right around the time the Allen Iverson deal was about to go through.

AI a Mile High

The Allen Iverson trade was all over the Denver airwaves Tuesday. When you combine the Carmelo Anthony suspension with the AI aquisition, you’ve got more than enough to talk about.

The media’s perception is that the trade is great for the Nuggets, adding another bonafide MVP to their roster. I’m not so sure, though… giving up a pair of number one draft picks, plus an emerging star in Andre Miller (and a Joe Smith throw-in)… that’s a lot to give up. Rarely in this day and age do you get market value (or in this case, above market value) for a guy who’s been in the league for 10 years, especially when he’s on the downslide of his career (he’s 31). Denver still isn’t a championship team, but is it really about winning? Okay, it is.

My Apologies

I just realized I wrote an entire paragraph about the NBA. Please forgive me. (In the words of KETV reporter Owen Lei: my condolences).

Bracing for a Storm

Looks like I got here just in time. Denver is expected to get rocked by a snow-storm beginning Wednesday morning. When all is said and done, the local media types are predicting anywhere from ten to 20 inches of snow on Wednesday.

John Campbell is probably seething with jealousy.


Meanwhile, in Nebraska

Boy, John Blake’s departure is really hurting recruiting, isn’t it? A couple of defensive tackles, a linebacker and a cornerback commit to Nebraska over the weekend… then a highly rated defensive end, William Yancy from Arizona, gives his verbal pledge. Of their last eight commitments, seven are on the defensive side of the ball.

I may be guessing here, but I think the Husker coaches know which side of the ball struggled this season. They’re smart.

Nebraska Takes the Title
Sunday, December 17, 2006

Despite losing the first game Saturday night, the Huskers beat Stanford three games to one to capture their third national championship, their second under head coach John Cook.

What a Scene

Qwest Center Omaha was the loudest it’s ever been. Every Nebraska point brought a deafening cheer that would make Marlee Matlin cover her ears. The home-court advantage has never been greater in women’s college volleyball. I’m not sure it would’ve made a difference, though — Nebraska was clearly the best team on the court.

Nevertheless, Omaha and the surrounding Husker communities came out in force and gave a national television audience an incredible show. It’ll be interesting to see the overnight ratings… will volleyball ever catch on?

Playing with Pressure

The Huskers have played with the pressure of getting to Omaha all year. It was never more evident than in its regional final win over Minnesota, which John Cook called his team’s “watershed moment.” They rallied from 0-2 to beat the Gophers, then rallied from 0-1 to beat UCLA in the national semifinals, then rallied from 0-1 to beat Stanford in the finals. As any head coach who loves to drill cliches into our pretty little heads would say, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

Game Three

The Huskers let game one slip from their fingers. Fortunately for them, the law of averages was on their side. Game three saw Nebraska down 25-21, only to score nine of the final 12 points to steal the momentum from the Cardinal. That took the wind out of Stanford’s sails, and allowed Nebraska to cruise to victory in game four.

The Perfect Storm

That’s what I like to call Saturday night. Most sports-television people were hoping the match was either a quick three-game sweep, or a five-game marathon. That way, it either ends soon enough to provide adequate coverage live from Qwest Center, or the match ends late and you know you you won’t have to rush. If the match is still going on, or ESPN is still on the air, we are not allowed to show highlights of the match. So there we were, standing in the Qwest Center tunnel, three minutes from the hit-time of my sportscast, watching Nebraska win the national championship. The match ended, but would ESPN be off the air? Do we race outside to do the live sportscast, or should be go upstairs to the concourse? I had to make a call, and decided to go up to the concourse. I believe I was in the Qwest Center elevator as the commercial break before the sportscast began. I remember there was a guy rolling a food-cart off the elevator as I was getting on, and I remember the sweat pouring out of my face as the wheels of his food-cart got stuck in the elevator/floor gap. Needless to say, I helped him push it off.

Our photographer Scott had the camera on his shoulder when I arrived, and 30 seconds later we were on the air with live fan-celebration from section 128. If you watched the sportscast, you were able to see highlights of the match, including match-point and the ensuing celebration, along with a wonderful shot of my forehead glistening under the Qwest Center bulbs.

It was the perfect storm, but I think we weathered it.

Now What?

Nebraska goes wire-to-wire, winning a national championship in front of 17,000 Husker fans. How can the Huskers top that?

Stanford Cardinal

For being such a smart school, Stanford still has yet to figure out how to make “Cardinal” plural. I feel incredibly uncomfortable saying, “The Standford Cardinal have lost the match.” Maybe they can work on that in the off-season.

Final Thought

Is Nebraska a volleyball school now?

Huskers Ready for Their Final Exam
Friday, December 15, 2006


After more than a season’s worth of talk and hype, the Huskers will play for a National Championship on their “home” court Saturday night.

Huskers Start Weak, Finish Strong

Nebraska was slow in getting out of the box, dropping the first game of their semifinal match with UCLA 30-23. Coach John Cook said it may have been their worst game of the year. He also said the crowd may have been partially to blame… the 17,013 was a new NCAA attendance record, and may have gotten the Huskers a little too wired in the early going.

Turning Point

The Huskers trailed 28-26 in the second game, and were staring at a long uphill climb if they were to go down two games to none. Nebraska countered with four straight points, giving UCLA its first loss of the NCAA tournament, sending the Bruins reeling.

The game two win seemed to settle the Huskers down. They got into a groove, started swinging freely, and the Big Red snowball tumbling down the mountain could not be stopped.

Pavan the Way

If Sarah Pavan isn’t named player of the year on Friday, we’ll need to count the votes again until she comes out on top. In the words of Cook, Pavan “took over the match”, with 22 kills. Her serve was on, and her effort was superb. She’s tall.

Maybe it’s a Good Thing to Lose One

Nebraska has dropped the first game of a match five times this season. They’ve won all five matches.

Rating the Crowd

When you have a media pass for an NCAA tournament, you have to go even if you’re not getting paid to go. I was off on Thursday, but decided to head down to Qwest to soak it all in (and to get some free media food, which by the way was a tasty combination of pulled-pork sandwiches and caesar salad. Delectable!)

In the early portion of the match I felt the crowd was pretty sub-par. In my opinion, they didn’t start factoring into the match until about the third game. For some reason, Qwest Center crowds seem to sit on their hands a lot and wait for something to cheer about. It happens at Creighton games, and it happened in the volleyball semifinal. 17,000 Husker fans should not sound like 6,000… but at times they did. Later in the match, though, it was absolutely deafening. I remarked to someone that it was louder for certain Husker points than it ever is for Creighton baskets. If I had to choose the louder crowd, I would take the noise for a Husker match-point than for a Bluejay game-winning bucket.

I hope ESPN is able to do the crowd noise justice — you’d be hard-pressed to find a louder venue for an NCAA championship. The attendance figure was actually #5 on SportsCenter’s
“Top-10 Plays” for Thursday night… they played the public address announcement of the attendance followed by Nebraska’s match-point. Maybe this national exposure will actually equate to a growth in the sport afterall.

Irony

The last volleyball team to win a national championship as the host school: UCLA in 1991.

More Irony

Nebraska is now 69-22 all-time in the NCAA tournament, which ranks second in wins to Stanford.

Saturday’s championship opponent: Stanford.

Okay, maybe that’s not irony.

That actually makes perfect sense.

Thursday Thoughts
Thursday, December 14, 2006


Before the Final Four begins… a few thoughts.
One being: Are we allowed to use the term “Final Four”?

Nebraska-UCLA Take Two

Last year, the Huskers made easy work of the Bruins in the Omaha regional semifinal, sweeping them 3-0. I won’t pretend to know anything about the UCLA volleyball team, other than the fact that its uniform colors resemble those of the football team.

Despite being off today, I’m going to try to head to Qwest Center to check out the action. I know Coach Cook says a lot of the pressure is off his team. But playing in front of 16,000 Husker faithful will undoubtedly put some pressure back on the ladies. Cook even mentioned before the road regional in Florida that there was less pressure playing on the road, without all the Husker fans. Tonight will be different. Should be fun.

Hildebrand is Hildemad

The junior college transfer quarterback from Mt. SAC in California is leaving about four months after he arrived in Lincoln.

In a World-Herald article and an interview on 1620 The Zone, Hildebrand said he felt he was lied to by the Nebraska football staff. He said he was basically told he would have a scholarship waiting for him after the first semester (translation: pay your way the first few months, then we’ll pay you to play after Christmas). What happened? The coaching staff reportedly told Hildebrand they don’t have a scholarship available.

What changed? Well, a lot. Soon after Hildebrand came on board, Sam Keller decided to transfer from Arizona State to Nebraska. That took care of 2007. The other side of this is that the coaching staff obviously missed on evaluating Hildebrand. If a guy is worthy of a scholarship, you give him one. Hildebrand must not’ve lived up to his recruitment/transfer value. Hildebrand says that he was told by a coach he would have a scholarship (more than likely it was the same coach who recruited him, which was Shawn Watson). If a coach told him that a scholarship was guaranteed, that’s wrong. Unfortunately, cases like these are a dime-a-dozen. Coaches whisper sweet-nothings into kids’ ears all the time: “we will give you a scholarship,” “you will start immediately,” “you’re the best player at your position,” “you can drive my car anytime you want.”

Hildebrand is paying the price; he’s a dual-transfer, meaning he won’t be able to sit out a transfer year at his next school — he will lose a year of eligibilty, meaning he’ll have only one year left. What school would want to have a guy for only one year?

There has to be at least one school out there who would.

Afterall, Nebraska took Sam Keller.

Callahan Finds a Buddy

Defensive line coach John Blake left Nebraska for North Carolina on Tuesday. Thursday, Bill Callahan found Blake’s replacement.

From Nebraska’s press release:

Nebraska Head Coach Bill Callahan announced on Thursday that Buddy Wyatt has been hired as an assistant coach with the Husker football program. Wyatt will join Callahan’s staff immediately as defensive line coach and will assist the Huskers during their preparation for the Cotton Bowl.

The 40-year-old Wyatt brings 15 years of Division I coaching experience to the Huskers, and comes to Nebraska following four seasons as the defensive line coach at the University of Alabama. During Wyatt’s tenure in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide annually ranked among the nation’s top defenses.

Wyatt has plenty of connections, and seems like a nice quick-hire for Nebraska. He’s been a defensive line coach at Oklahoma State, Colorado and Texas A&M. I remember him from his days on Gary Barnett’s staff in 1999.

That makes three former Barnett/Colorado assistants that are now on Nebraska’s staff. Ted Gilmore, Shawn Watson, and Buddy Wyatt. I suppose that will make Barnett’s transition to Nebraska a heckuva lot easier.

This Just in: the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers were good

ESPN.com ran a poll of the all-time greatest college football teams. Nebraska came in first… and second. The 1995 team faced the 1971 team in the championship game, with Tom Osborne’s ’95 team cruising to an easy win over Bob Devaney’s boys. Among the teams that the ’95 team defeated along the way: the 1983 Nebraska team.

Husker fans must’ve been logging on a heckuva lot, because the ’71 team beat the 2004 USC team, which was considered by ESPN the greatest team of all time… before the Trojans lost to Texas in the title game.

Here’s the link:
http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/sportsnation/alltimeNCF/bracket

News and Notes
Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Before the Final Four takes over Omaha on Thursday, a few quick hitters (and digs).

Author of “Slow-Mo” Makes Quick Move to Carolina


If you don’t know what “Slow-Mo” is, check out the link on the sports page. Nebraska’s defensive line coach (and slow-mo choreographer) is leaving Nebraska to become the defensive line coach (and possibly assistant head coach) at North Carolina. He’ll work alongside long-time friend Butch Davis, who was named UNC’s head coach last month. They worked together on the Dallas Cowboys’ staff, and if my memory serves me correctly, Davis coached Blake in high school.

Blake is widely regarded as one of the top recruiters in the country. He’s credited with putting together much of the highly acclaimed 2005 class… including Ola Dagunduro and Marlon Lucky.

This move was talked about as soon as Butch Davis was hired. When I co-hosted “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” on 1620 The Zone last month, recruiting expert Tom Lemming was a guest, and I asked him how likely it would be that Blake would leave to join Butch’s staff. Lemming said it was a strong possibility, noting their long-time relationship.

Blake was in on a few big-named undecided recruits in the upcoming class, so it will be interesting to see how his departure effects their decisions. Bill Callahan is also a widely regarded as a great recruiter, and with Bill Busch still on the staff, along with the likes of Randy Jordan and Jay Norvell, they should be okay. But it’s definitely a big hit. We’ll see what kind of impact it has in February.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Miami and Florida International staged a huge brawl this season, leading to ejections, suspensions and expulsions. What better way to move on then to….. have the same two teams meet again next year?

“We’re going to play it,” Miami athletic director Paul Dee told The Miami Herald on Tuesday. “We have good people, and I think everyone understands what happened can’t happen again.”

Obviously not, Mr. Dee. If everyone understands that it can’t happen again, the game would not happen again.

When my brother and I would fight growing up, the last thing my parents would do is throw us back in the ring.

Oh well… I guess a gimme win on the schedule is important enough to risk another embarrassing night in Miami.


Allen Iverson Will Be Traded

The national sports-news outlets are saturated with reports that Allen Iverson’s trade from Philadelphia is imminent. In a recent survey, 45% of NBA fans would like to see Iverson play on their favorite team. The other 55% say they don’t care where Iverson plays, just so long as it’s not in America.

What?

Tiger Woods won his 8th PGA Player of the Year honor on Tuesday. In a related story on Tuesday, SportsCenter showed slam-dunks, and Earth rotated on its axis.

Setting Up For a Big Week
Monday, December 11, 2006


No college football? Who cares! The NCAA volleyball Final Four is in Omaha this week, and it’s sure to provide a show. Sorry… no time for pigskin.


Nebraska Comes Home — The Right Way

Win or lose Saturday night, the Huskers knew they’d be coming home. After the come-back win over Minnesota, they won’t be needing tickets to get into Qwest Center.

The first two games against the Gophers looked eerily similar to last year’s match against Washington in the NCAA Finals. Unforced errors, sloppy play, down 2-0… it just looked like Nebraska was absolutely done. Then they flipped the switch, and wouldn’t you know it the Huskers are alive and well… and so are the fans. Can you imagine how many Ebay listings would’ve popped up if the Huskers lost? Actually, maybe there’re more since they won… you can’t make much money if they aren’t in high demand. The sellout happened because Nebraska was expected to be there.

Nebraska will take on UCLA on Thursday at 6:00PM, in a rematch of last year’s Omaha regional semifinal. The Huskers swept the Bruins last year, but this year’s UCLA team looks pretty solid — they haven’t lost a game in the post-season, sweeping all four opponents.

Thirty minutes after that match comes Stanford and Washington. There’s no question the Huskers would like a shot at revenge against the Huskies, who beat them in the 2005 National Finals. Remember Sanja Tomasevic? Before last year’s NCAA tournament, the Washington senior said her team would “crush” Nebraska. She later said she was misquoted, but after the Huskies knocked off the Huskers, she said, “All we’d been hearing for the last three months is that Nebraska is huge, they’re big, they’re King Kong.” Tomasevic graduated, but don’t think for a moment that Nebraska has forgotten about the sting of those comments, and that loss.

Like Nebraska, Washington only has two seniors on this year’s team. These two programs are on the cusp of quite a rivalry, should they meet in the Finals.

Great Scott!

If you watched our 6pm and/or 10pm newscasts Sunday night, you saw UNO senior Scott Parse set a new record for most-career-goals by a Mav, with 66. His two goals in the third period broke the record. Afterwards, Parse credited his teammates, while head coach Mike Kemp called Parse the most under-publicized athlete in the area. It’s hard to argue. Parse was a stud in Kearney playing for the Tri-City Storm (I covered him for a season at my previous job), and has been a man among boys with the Mavs.

Meanwhile, the Mavs have caught fire, winning five straight games. They beat Bentley 7-2 Sunday afternoon, sweeping the two-game series.

NFL – Top Pick is Top Bust

The Houston Texans selected Mario Williams with the number one pick in this year’s NFL Draft. The New Orleans Saints then selected Reggie Bush with the second pick. Tennessee snatched up Vince Young with the third pick.

Given Sunday’s outcomes (heck, last week’s, too): If you’re a Texans fan, how do you sleep at night?

Fantasy Football Talk

I may be the only fantasy football owner (I use the term “owner” loosely… I think “geek” would be more appropriate, and less offensive to actual “owners”) who missed the playoffs with LaDainian Tomlinson on my roster. Seeing him score three times on Sunday (my entire roster actually went off) simply made the sting of missing the playoffs even… mmm…. stingier.

On the bright side (like you care) I’m in the playoffs in my other league, and should be able to stave off a hard charging “Weeber’s Boys” team for the week one playoff victory.

Put on Tilt
Saturday, December 9, 2006

Thursday night, I had the opportunity to play in the Borsheim’s/Omega poker tournament to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

The winner came away with a limited edition James Bond 007 watch, worth about $3,500.

I left the tournament wearing the same watch I walked in with.
But it tells perfect time, so I suppose I’m still a big winner.


I was at a table with former Huskers Joel Mackovika and Matt Hoskinson, and also sat next to Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. The top two chip-leaders at the end of a specified time period advanced to the final table (a shootout format). I did not advance, but I still had chips, and for that I am incredibly proud.

Professional poker player Evelyn Ng also made an appearance at the table. Also in the tournament were professionals David Williams and Michael Mizrachi. It’s pretty amazing to watch these people play the game. At one point, Ng had to help the dealer with the chip-count. It’s a completely different world for the pros. They can manipulate you, push you and eliminate you if they so please. And they’re expected to win every time they sit at a table (kinda like how Phelps is expected to win everytime he touches the water).

I would imagine that life as a professional poker player is a lot like that of a professional golfer. You don’t win, you don’t get paid. And you’re playing against people who are just as good as you (unless you’re playing against me).

We ran a recap story Friday on our 6pm newscast… Phelps played along and was a good sport, telling me I wasn’t very good.

But I couldn’t tell if he really meant what he said.

He had a good poker face.