Archive for January, 2007

Norvell is Leaving… So am I
Saturday, January 27, 2007

On Friday, Nebraska offensive coordinator Jay Norvell accepted the same post at UCLA.

Jay Walking

He’s been here since the beginning of Callahan’s tenure, but after three years he’s out. He interviewed for the Iowa State job, but didn’t get it. Now he’s joining Karl Dorrell at UCLA. Some call it a lateral move. Perhaps in the title, but definitely not in the role. At Nebraska, Norvell did not call the plays. That was Callahan’s job. Norvell was the eye in the sky, but Callahan was the conductor. Now, Norvell has a chance to prove his worth from a technical aspect.

Revolving Door

It’s amazing when you think about it — Memorial Stadium used to be a picture of stability, with coaches staying for 10 to 20 years at a time, players never having to worry about their position coaches (let along their head coach) leaving. Now, the Huskers will have had four offensive coordinators in five years. Solich, Cotton (and Albin sort of), Norvell, and (most likely) Shawn Watson.

Watson in Waiting

After the season ended, I said on this blog that Watson should have more input on the play-calling next season. Now that looks like a real possibility, although it hasn’t happened the way I thought it would. Watson, of course, engineered the 62-36 “Black Friday” in Boulder… although, according to some of my Colorado connections, Watson fell out of favor with fans for his semi-conservative play-calling. When Watson came to Nebraska, one guy who works in the Colorado athletic department told me, “Fine! Take him!”.

I think Watson has a fine football mind, and would be a solid offensive coordinator. We’ll see if Callahan let’s him have some input.

Should he?

I’m Leaving, Too

Saturday I leave for Cancun, Mexico. I’m meeting my family down there for a week-long vacation. Temps should be in the 80s. I’m very sorry about the upcoming polar plunge. I’ll catch a few rays for you.

I’ll be back next Sunday.

See you then.


Carriker Receives Praise
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Adam Carriker is busy preparing for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. On Tuesday, the former Husker defensive lineman received some praise from Tampa Bay’s Jon Gruden, the coach of the North team.

“We’re a big team. The North is a big physical football team. Carriker, the big end from Nebraska, he’s made some splash plays, some physical plays,” said Gruden.

Jay Moore and Stewart Bradley are also getting ready for the game, which features 100 of the NFL’s top draft prospects. NFL general managers, coaches, scouts and front office personnel have all descended on Mobile.

Just Sitting Around
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The 10pm sportscast is just about written — in the words of Snoop Dogg, ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it. That is the last time I will ever quote Snoop Dogg. I apologize.

I just finished watching the State of the Union address, and I’m following it up with Northern Iowa vs. Southern Illinois. Getting paid to watch television isn’t as great as you think.

It’s actually much better than that.

Hill of a Homecoming

Texas freshman Matt Hill will play at Devaney Center Wednesday night for the ump-teenth time. It’ll be his first time as an “enemy”. Of course you’ll remember that Hill picked Texas over Nebraska, Creighton and Gonzaga. You can’t blame him for the choice. He gets to play in a big-time conference with probably a higher ceiling for performance, and at the time Nebraska was going nowhere under Barry Collier.

That being said, you have to wonder what he’ll be thinking when he sets foot on the Devaney hardwood. In the Longhorns’ four conference games, he has scored a TOTAL of three points, while averaging six minutes of action. That’s what happens when you’re a freshman playing for a national power. If he were playing for Nebraska, you’d have to think he’d be logging at least double those minutes in conference play, especially considering the lack of Husker depth in the post. Plus, Nebrasketball is being revitalized under Doc Sadler, something Hill could’ve been a part of.

Sideshow Bob is a good guy — let’s just hope he gets enough minutes to show us something.

Curse of the Orange Pearl

Did you catch Bruce Pearl’s act Monday night? The Tennessee men’s basketball coach showed his support for the women’s team by showing up without a shirt on. Instead, his chest was painted in Volunteer orange with a letter from the “Go Vols” arrangement, as he hung out in the student section. Before the game, he kissed women’s coach Pat Summitt on the cheek.

Tennessee lost to Duke in overtime… in fact, Duke raced out to a 19-0 lead. You have to wonder if the Vols were so rattled that they couldn’t focus. Thank goodness they lost… otherwise Pearl’s half-nakedness might’ve become a good luck charm.

I give Pearl a lot of credit. Could you imagine Bob Knight or Mike Krzyzewski painting his chest or dressing up in a costume to hang out with the students and support the women’s team? Could you imagine Doc Sadler doing something like that?

Sorry for that image.

Quick Picks
Sunday, January 21, 2007

Before the conference championship games begin, two quick picks.

Bears 24
Saints 13

New Orleans is the better team, but that Bears defense will force them to make too many mistakes. That home-field advantage may be too tough to overcome for the Saints.

Colts 27
Patriots 23

If Peyton is going to win a big game, it might as well be this year.
Home sweet home. The Colts are favored by 3 points… Indy wins by 4.

Salukis Edge… Again
Sunday, January 21, 2007

Qwest Center should officially be dubbed “SIU Arena West”. Southern Illinois escaped Omaha with a 58-57 win, improving to 4-0 all-time at the Q.

Slow Start, Disappointing Finish

With a chance to get a big leg up in the Valley, Creighton was slower out of the gate than a two-legged horse. The Jays had just two field goals and two free throws in the first 12 minutes of the game. Creighton trailed 21-to-9.

The Bluejays got to within five at the half, then went on a 17-to-3 run in the second-half, eventually leading 50-43 with less than five minutes to go. That was not enough — Anthony Tolliver fouled out with a little more than two minutes to go, joining Dane Watts on the bench.

Surprise, Surprise

With 10 seconds left, Creighton up by a point and its two big men on the bench, Coach Altman guessed that Southern Illinois would go to its big man, Randal Falker. Makes sense. Instead, Bryan Mullins took Nick Porter one-on-one, drove to his left and pulled up for a fall-away jumper off the glass. Southern led 58-57 with less then five seconds left.

During the timeout before the play, SIU coach Chris Lowery drew up the game-winning play — a variation on a pick and roll between Mullins and Falker. Mullins had the option to dish to the big man or kick it out to Jamaal Tatum for a 3-pointer.

“Everybody ran to Randal, and Bryan just made a play and kept going,” Lowery said.

Way to Go Falker

If Randal Falker isn’t the best big man in the Valley (when he wants to be) then who is? He finished with a game-high 21 points, including an emphatic slam on Anthony Tollliver in the second half.

“We force-fed him,” Lowery said. “He made some unbelievable plays at the rim on finishes.”

At Home at the Q

It is amazing that Southern Illinois has yet to lose at the Qwest (4-0). SIU draws huge crowds in Omaha, and the atmosphere can be pretty intimidating, with 17,459 turning out on Saturday night. The Salukis are never phased. More impressive: SIU has now won seven straight against Creighton.

“That’s just an unbelievable environment, and when you come here, you have to play your best,” Lowery said.

“The fans were great today,” added Mullins. “It was a lot of fun to play in this game and silence them there at the end.”

A lot has been made about the weakness of the Qwest crowd, even given the size. What’s your take on the crowd? A little too blue collar?

Where They Stand

Northern Iowa 6-2
Southern Illinois 6-3
Creighton 6-3
Missouri State 5-3
Bradley 5-4
Indiana State 4-4

Next up for Creighton: at Missouri State, vs Indiana State, at Bradley

Mustain to Norman?
Thursday, January 18, 2007

Mitch Mustain might be heading to Oklahoma. That according to an Arkansas television station.

The highly-touted quarterback signed on to play football for Arkansas once his high school coach became the Razorbacks’ offensive coordinator. As a freshman he was 8-0 as a starter this season before being benched late in the year, then splitting time in the Capital One Bowl. His former high school coach, Gus Malzahn, left Arkansas to become the co-offensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Tulsa. The next day, Mustain asked for his release.

An Arkansas television station, KFSM-TV of Fort Smith, reported Wednesday that Mustain would visit OU on Thursday.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported in Thursday’s editions that OU was among the schools Mustain might like to explore.

Just what Oklahoma needs, right? Out goes a quarterback who violated NCAA rules (Rhett Bomar). In comes a disgruntled quarterback.

In order to sweeten the deal, I wonder if the Sooners will bring on Mustain’s high school gym teacher as their new water boy.

Whatever gets it done, I suppose.

Flatly Stated: Huskers Look Flat
Thursday, January 18, 2007

Doc Sadler was none too pleased after Wednesday night’s game at Oklahoma. The Huskers trailed by four at halftime in Norman.

They lost by 17. Practice starts at 5:30AM Thursday.

Tale of Two Halves

The Huskers came out slowly against Oklahoma, but battled back with the help of the three-point shot. The Huskers were 6-of-13 from beyond the arc in the first half, and trailed 30-26 at the break. In the second half, Oklahoma decided to take it to the Huskers inside. Nebraska, on the other hand, chose to live on the perimeter, firing up 14 more three-pointers (hitting only 5). As Doc Sadler said afterward, “That just tells you you’re soft. That tells you that you don’t have any aggressiveness about you at all.”

Let’s do some math together: the Huskers were 15-of-43 from the field. They were 11-of-27 from three-point range. That means that of the 26 shots they made, only four of them were two-point baskets. Soft? Try mushy.

I’ll Take Aggressive Low Post Play for $200, Aleks

The key heading into Wednesday’s tilt with the Sooners was supposedly Aleks Maric. At 6’11”, the senior center was four inches taller than anyone else on the court. Oklahoma center Longar Longar (a guy so nice, they named him twice) was out, serving a two-game suspension.

Maric finished the game 3-of-5 from the floor, for 8 points. That’s right, Maric took five shots. He missed a couple of gimmes in traffic, and did not play with the aggression that they needed. His teammates weren’t helping much in the second half, either.

Said Sadler, “Effortwise, that was as bad of a basketball team as I’ve had play in a long, long time.”

Boy, that 5:30AM practice should be fun.

Are We That Surprised?

Entering this basketball season, many people (including myself) thought this team would struggle with a lack of depth and overall talent. The win over Creighton was surprising. Their 11-3 non-conference mark was shocking. Last night’s performance was much less surprising than both.

Nebraska will struggle to be a .500 league team. After the game against Colorado, Texas comes to town. You’re looking at a 1-3 league start. It’s not going to be an easy year… but what else did you expect?

Unless Doc is a miracle worker, get the idea of an NCAA Tournament bid out of your head, and just look for signs of progress as this program grows and matures under a new head coach.

Let Threedom Reign
Tuesday, January 16, 2007

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Creighton and Wichita State staged an entertaining game with three lead changes, as the two teams combined to hit 17 three-pointers. Kyle Wilson was 3-of-3 from three-point land, the Jays missed three criticial free throws, and the Jays lost by three points, 62-59.

Hot-Shooting Shockers

Wichita State (12-6, 3-4 MVC) shot 50% from the floor, led by Kyle Wilson’s game-high 25 points. The big man was 10-of-15 from the floor, 3-of-3 from three. Just as tough to contain was Sean Ogirri, who buried six of his nine shots, amounting to 15 points.

Wichita State Stops the Funk

Nate Funk saw his free-throw shooting streak end at the most inopportune time. The senior guard had made 27 consecutive free throws (five short of the school record) when he stepped to the line with 20 seconds left and Creighton (11-6, 5-2 MVC) trailing 60-56, after he was fouled shooting a three-pointer. Funk missed his first attempt, snapping his streak. He made the second, then missed his third. Trailing 60-57, Funk later came down the floor and buried a two-pointer to pull Creighton to within 60-59. Kyle Wilson hit two free throws. Then, with about sevon seconds left, the Bluejays came down the floor, and Funk’s three-point-tying attempt was blocked. Time expired. Game over.

Funk finished 6-of-16 from the floor for 16 points. He was averaging 50-percent from the floor over the last three games.

If Nick Porter Was Never Yelled at as a Child, He’s Making Up For it Now

Cameras caught head coach Dana Altman screaming at the senior guard a couple of times on the sideline. If Porter had a nickel for every time Altman yelled at him, he’d be driving an Escalade.

Dotzler Returns

Josh Dotzler returned to the floor for the first time in about three weeks following a finger injury. He logged 15 minutes, getting one steal, one rebound, and turned the ball over once. It may take some getting used to, both for him and the Jays, but they need him back.

In Summation

After Creighton’s hot play of late, Monday night was a surprising step back. The Jays committed 14 turnovers (including three on consecutive possessions in the second half) and did not play well enough on the defensive end in order to win. Wichita is a tough place to play, but considering how rough the going has been for the Shockers, Tuesday was a great chance to put them away. Now, this Valley is certainly anybody’s for the taking. Even Wichita State’s.

Brandon Bolts
Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Monday featured the biggest news of the week, though it was the least-surprising. Nebraska runningback Brandon Jackson announced that he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.

The Statement

The only Jackson saying anything to the media in the last two weeks was Ben, Brandon’s brother. Finally on Monday, the subject of all the speculation finally spoke… sort of. None of the things that appear in the university-released statement look like they would’ve come from Jackson’s mouth. But here it is:

“Coming off a good year at Nebraska, I felt like the situation and timing was right for me to advance to the professional level. My decision was not based on the last game of the season. It was based on the opportunity in front of me to play at the next level in the NFL.

“I want to thank Coach Callahan and the rest of the coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to play Division I football at Nebraska and helping make me a better player. I have had a great three years there and this has been a hard decision to make because I have always tried to put the team first. I also want to thank the athletic administration and especially my academic advisors, Dennis (Leblanc) and Kim (Schellpeper) for helping me out along the way. I will come back to Nebraska and finish my degree.

“Finally, I want to thank the Nebraska fans for cheering me on and being the best fans in America. I will be a Husker for life and I hope to represent Nebraska in a great way in the National Football League.”

Were you as surprised as I was that Jackson called attention to the Cotton Bowl issue? Either he’s been reading message board theories, or he’s truly upset about what happened to him in Dallas. I’ll go with the latter.

Let me take a stab at translating the first paragraph of his statement. Maybe this is what Jackson wanted to say:

“I dominated this year. I came out of nowhere and showed I was the man, rushing for nearly 1,000 yards while splitting carries with three guys who couldn’t carry my books. After leading the way this season, I felt I could’ve shouldered the load against Auburn in the Cotton Bowl, despite missing a bunch of bowl practices because of my broken hand. Coach Callahan felt I wasn’t healthy enough, and gave Marlon Lucky 25 carries. I had the longest run of the day, breaking off a 20-yard touchdown run… but only carried the ball six other times. Obviously there are some politics on this team that I don’t want to be a part of next season. Perhaps my leaving will be best for everyone involved… I can make some money for my family, and Nebraska’s golden-boy can be the full-time ball carrier.”

Do you think I’m close?

That Being Said

I don’t think Jackson leaving for the NFL is a bad decision. It’s questionable, but I can’t say it’s bad. He’ll do well at the combine, he’ll raise a few eyebrows, and he could be good enough to be a late first-day pick. Plus, let’s remember that the life-span of NFL runningbacks is relatively short. Once a back develops, you’ll usually get about six or seven solid years out of a guy before he starts breaking down. As a runningback, I believe you need to get into the NFL as soon as possible. Heck, Marshall Faulk is 33 years old, and may never see the field again. Tiki Barber is retiring at 31 years old, because of the pounding he’s taken.

In his statement, Jackson said he will come back to finish his degree. That’d be the best decision he could make.

Why the Secrecy?

I went to Lincoln on Monday to do some digging on the story, and to see if anyone would talk. Thirty minutes before it became official, I asked runningbacks coach Randy Jordan what he knew. He told me, “I know nothing about it…” He later added, “This is a very sensitive subject.”

Never has there been more secrecy and tight-lippedness about a story that’s not even a secret. There’s so much more to this story than we’ll ever know.

Best of luck to B-Jax.

Friday Free-for-All
Friday, January 12, 2007

I type this as I watch the season premiere of Grey’s Anatomy. Yes, that’s right. I watch Grey’s Anatomy. I also watch “24”, so I think they cancel each other out.

Nebrasketball – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good
The Huskers have a tenacious defensive style which will keep them in many games. And they can catch fire with the three-point shot, which will also keep them in many games. Against Iowa State, Nebraska hit early three-pointers, created turnovers, and forced the Cyclones to take lousy shots.

The Bad
Aleks Maric and Jamel White got into foul trouble at the end of the first half, which forced them onto the bench, and allowed Iowa State to get back into the game. The Huskers could not get out on Mike Taylor, who buried a handful of three-pointers. Then again, you can’t expect any defense to guard an opponent 30 feet from the basket. The Huskers also committed eleven turnovers, and allowed eleven offensive rebounds. As Doc Sadler says, this team is not good enough to give another team 22 extra possessions.

The Ugly
The Iowa State student section, dubbed “Cyclone Alley”, wore yellow ponchos over their red t-shirts, so as not to give the Huskers a homey feeling. I’m sure they must’ve been feeling nice and sweaty underneath the raingear inside the humid Hilton Coliseum. My question is this: Why didn’t they just wear yellow t-shirts?

Better Creight than Never

That was a lame header, but we’re going with it. Creighton has a huge game Friday night at Northern Iowa, with sole possession of first place in the Valley on the line. I like how the Bluejays are playing… but given how tough this two-game roadie is (at UNI, at Wichita State) I’ll give them a split this weekend.

I Was Robbed!

My thanks to Rob Anderson, Creighton basketball’s sports information director, who referenced my blog in his most recent media notes. He even took my rather creative headline (with permission). Here it is, straight from :

During Tuesday’s win over Drake, the Qwest Center scoreboard posted the question of the night: “What is the record for highest field goal percentage in school history?”. The correct answer was 65.4 percent, choice C. Choice D was 65.9 percent, which, of course, was the new record by the end of the night. In the words of KETV sportscaster/blogger extraordinaire Matt Schick “That scoreboard is amazing”.

Thanks for the pub, Robby. I expect you to submit some comments on this blog every once and a while.

I Think I Know Why This Country is Getting Fatter

This year at Dodger Stadium, you can enjoy America’s two favorite pasttimes like never before! Of course, I’m talking about baseball and eating.

Purchase a $35 advance ticket ($40 at the door) in the right-field pavilion (about 3,000 seats are available) and you will have access to all-you-can-eat hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, nachos and soft drinks. You ask for something, you get it. No credit cards, no long lines, no waiting for little Timmy to make a decision while you miss the entire 6th inning.

And on your way out, Tommy Lasorda will be handing out Slimfast.

What? No!

It was revealed on Thursday that Barry Bonds failed a drug test in 2006, testing positive for amphetamines. In other news, there are 60 minutes in an hour, and a water molecule is comprised of two hydrogen atoms for every oxygen atom.