Archive for August, 2008

That’s More Like it
Sunday, August 31, 2008

I don’t think Bo Pelini’s debut could’ve been scripted any better. Sure, the Huskers could’ve pitched a shutout. Maybe Joe Ganz could’ve avoided those two interceptions. But for a first game, this is exactly what Doctor Tom ordered.

They’re Baaaaaaaaaack

At one point during the game when the defense was coming out onto the field, they played the famous clip from Poltergeist II on the jumbotron, where Carol Ann proclaims, “They’re baaaaack.” The clip worked fans into a frenzy. The defense followed suit.

When the Husker defense took the field in 2007, fans might’ve thought “Oh no… what bad thing is going to happen this time?” Now, there is reason for excitement every time they take the field.

Cody Glenn simply set the tone Saturday night. In my “Seasons Predictions” post, I declared Glenn would be the Defensive MVP this season. If the season-opener was any indication, he could be going home with the coveted imaginary hardware.

Glenn looked right at home at linebacker, stuffing the quarterback on the first defensive play of the night, then knocking a pass away on the third play of the initial three-and-out. He finished with 12 tackles (9 solo), two and a half for a loss, adding a forced fumble. After the game he said he wished he had made the switch from offense to defense sooner. However, I’m not sure he would’ve wanted to bear those scars from 2007. And that brings up an interesting point: Cody Glenn is exactly what this defense needed. He didn’t take part in the tribulations of the Blackshirts last year, and brings a fresh attitude to the mix. Of course, a new coaching staff will do that as well, but you get the point.

Joltin’ Joe

Did the Huskers take part in some college football games between January and August that I was not aware of? Joe Ganz picked up right where he left off in November, throwing for 345 yards and four touchdowns. His two second half interceptions were minor sour notes to an otherwise spectacular night. Three touchdown drives of 47 seconds or less? This offense is going to put up monster numbers this year.

Pound that Rock

Nebraska pledged to be more physical this year, and for part of the game we saw that from the offensive line. That being said, we need to see this team run the ball between the tackles. It didn’t happen often Saturday. Against a Western Michigan defense, you would’ve liked to have seen the Huskers rush for 200 yards.  This team needs to improve its physicality in the trenches and start knocking people off the ball.

Alex the Great

It was one of those nights you may never see again. Placekicker Alex Henery made four field goals, all from 44 yards. It was good enough to make #4 in SportsCenter’s “Top Plays”. The Huskers will be in some very close games in the Big 12. Henery’s leg will come in handy.

Tunnelwalk

Was it just me, or was that a great Tunnelwalk video? After the blackhawk helicopter skit from last year, it looked like the best ever.

In Summation

As Pelini said after the game, “Very few teams come into an opener and play perfect. That’s why it’s called an opener.” The Huskers were far from perfect Saturday night. The defense gave up 248 yards of offense in the second half, allowing a number of big plays through the air. That being said, they allowed 130 fewer yards Saturday night than they averaged last year. That is a good start. The offense will score points this season. It will be up to the defense to play well enough to win.

Nebraska vs Western Michigan
Friday, August 29, 2008

It’s the day Husker fans have been waiting for since Homecoming of 2007.  Or perhaps since the 2003 Alamo Bowl.  Bo Pelini is here to save the day.

Was the defense what you expected?  Did the offense perform up to snuff?  This is your postgame blog. Just click on “responses” above and submit your comments. We may use them in an upcoming sportscast.

I’ll add my two cents later.

Season Predictions
Monday, August 25, 2008

Hard to believe, but the Huskers are a mere five days away from kicking off the 2008 season. It seems that every year is the most anticipated of all, but after the dismal failure of 2007, this one might take the cake. Fans are begging for some positive images to embed into their collective psyche. Here’s to a season of the Husker faithful staying in their seats for at least three full quarters every game.

I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that fans aren’t as focused on wins and losses this season as they are effort. We saw a Husker team give up on the field in 2007. Either that or they were so confused that it merely appeared that way. And it’s hard to forget the befuddled looks on the faces of the coaches on the sidelines. The team was lost, and the coaches led them nowhere. That shouldn’t happen under Bo Pelini. As long as the effort is there, the wins will come.

You can’t just expect players to play hard just because it’s a game. They also need to feel a part of the team. They need to feel like they have something invested in the outcome. We’ve heard many a player remark during fall camp how different this year is from last. “Last year I didn’t get many reps,” said Niles Paul. “There was a lot of standing and watching. The ones got most of the reps,” said Rickey Thenarse. Lines like that are unfortunately common. You can’t expect guys to feel emotionally involved, let alone physically prepared, if they’re not seeing much action. Pelini and company have been more equal opportunity, leading to a more cohesive unit not separated by the distinction of “ones” and “twos”. They all seem to feel a part of Nebraska football. That leads to passionate play.

That being said, the talent level isn’t among the Big 12’s elite. And some of the talent that is there is underdeveloped. Add to that the transition of a new coaching staff, and this promised to be an up-and-down season. But with more ups than downs.

In my mind, there are three conceivable options for the regular season record: 7-5. 8-4. 9-3.

There are so many unknown quantities regarding this team:

  • Will the inexperience at linebacker be an Achilles heel? (14 of the 21 linebackers are freshmen).
  • Will the defensive line produce? (6 sacks last year)
  • Will the Huskers be able to run the ball consistently? (Every year we’ve been optimistic about the “pipeline”, only to see it fall short of expectations).
  • Will Joe Ganz remain healthy? (We’ve seen the Husker starter get knocked out of games in two of the last three years. And now Ganz will be carrying the ball more).
  • Will Ganz make smart decisions as the starter? (He had seven interceptions in his three games as a starter in 2007. The Husker defense will get takeaways this year. It’s the number of times the offense turns the ball over that will determine Nebraska’s fate).
  • Who will stretch the field at receiver? (Swift and Peterson are possession-type guys. Paul has one career reception. Holt isn’t a burner. Gilleylen is a freshman. Chris Brooks?).
  • How will Shawn Watson perform calling the offense? (In his last few years at Colorado, fans were upset at his often predictable and stubborn play calling, and were happy to see him go).
  • How will this team react to getting punched in the mouth? (Will flashbacks create doubt?)

I believe the huskers will respond well under this staff. But the question marks remain. The schedule isn’t entirely daunting, but there are games that look incredibly difficult to win. The key is to remain competitive; to stay in every game until the fourth quarter. For the most part, I think they will.

W Western Michigan

W San Jose State

W New Mexico State

W Virginia Tech

L Missouri

L @ Texas Tech

W @ Iowa State

W Baylor

L @ Oklahoma

W vs Kansas

L @ Kansas State

W vs Colorado

I think the Huskers will split the Va Tech/Missouri games, and will lose two of their last four contests. The exact outcomes might be wrong, but it’s a tough stretch.

8-4.

Not bad.

Offensive MVP: Marlon Lucky

Defensive MVP: Cody Glenn (just a hunch)

Most Improved Player: Larry Asante

Breakthrough Player of the Year:  Niles Paul

Note to end on: Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich each had nine wins in their first seasons as head coach at Nebraska. If Pelini can pull that off, there should be party at 72nd and Dodge.

Just Watch
Thursday, August 21, 2008

If you didn’t get a chance to see this story on ESPN earlier this summer, please take a few minutes to watch it here.

John Challis was an extraordinary young man who lost his battle with cancer on Wednesday.

Courage+Believe=Life

This and That
Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I still can’t believe we’re less than two weeks away from the start of college football season. I wonder if Bo Pelini wishes the clock would tick a little bit slower between now and then.

Pelini was right when he said earlier this summer that “everybody likes you when you’re undefeated.” The fans are in a trance over this season, and nothing could seem to dampen their excitement over this coaching staff or the direction of the program. What if the Huskers stumble out of the gate? What could sour the fans’ attitudes?

I’ve said it before to other people: For the sanity of this state, I hope this staff turns the program around and gets it back to competing for championships (Big 12, which would infer National) soon. Let’s face it: there is no Plan B.

My biggest concerns this season: 1) Shoring up the defensive line. 2) Depth of experience at linebacker. 3) Finding a play-making receiver who can stretch the field. 4) Joe Ganz staying smart with the football. This defense will cause turnovers. It’s how many the Huskers give away that will determine their fate.

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When someone sets out to do something that seems impossible, and then does it, it is remarkable. That being said, I don’t think I’ve seen a more impressive accomplishment than what Michael Phelps did in China. I mean, seriously: how does a guy ingest 12,000 calories a day?

When Phelps came to town a couple of years ago for a Borsheim’s/Omega poker event, I had the opportunity to sit next to him at the table. He was just like a regular guy, preferring to talk poker instead of his profession. Afterwards we were part of a group of eight that included three well-known poker professionals… we all went to Bonefish for dinner, then went out to an Omaha establishment to cap off the night. Phelps was not unknown, but no one was doing doubletakes about the tall, lanky gentleman. Something tells me that he wouldn’t be able to go unnoticed in Omaha now. Not after the Trials. Not after Beijing.

Have we ever seen a guy become so world-famous in such an obscure sport? Jordan I get. Tiger is understandable. But swimming? It’s incredible. The magic of TV.

ESPN had a write-up about an interview they did with Phelps after his eight-gold medals. They asked him about what he listens to in his I-Pod before races, to which he responded “hip-hop.” ESPN wrote: “We finally solved the mystery of his I-Pod.” Did they not read any stories during the Trials or watch them on television? That story is so two months ago.

When it comes to advertising, will Phelps become like Peyton Manning? I can see him now, wearing a fake mustache holding a cell phone: “On Sprint Mobile, you can watch exclusive highlights of all your favorite swimmers. Like Michael Phelps. That guy is pretty good. If you like six-four, 195-pound gold medalists… Lazer, rocket suit.”

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Watching these Olympians compete is impressive. A few things always come to mind. 1) When did someone ever watch Badminton and think: Ya know what? I’m going to compete in that internationally. 2) How did any female gymnast ever get up the courage to complete her first backflip on the balance beam? 3) I understand why men don’t compete in the balance beam.

Will Virginia Tech Be Able to Field a Team?
Monday, August 18, 2008

Okay, yes they will. But it seems like every week there’s a story about the Hokies involving some sort of injury, suspension or dismissal. Monday is no different.

Redshirt sophomore Zach Luckett, projected by many to be the starting flanker this season, has been suspended indefinitely by head coach Frank Beamer. The reason? A violation of team policy. Is that new? I’ve never heard that one before. He was arrested for a DUI early Sunday morning. His updated rap sheet: DUI, driving on a revoked license, leaving the scene of an accident, and public urination. Not exactly the kind of track record that would impress the parents of that special someone.

Luckett was the most experienced player in an inexperienced receiver group. The Hokies lost their four top wideouts from a year ago.

Brandon Dillard, originally considered to be the starting flanker, ruptured his Achilles tendon in June and is gone for the season. Also out for the season are freshman receiver Marcus Davis with a dislocated shoulder, freshman defensive end Joe Jones with a dislocated shoulder (that must be going around), and redshirt sophomore free safety Ron Cooper with an ACL sprain. Sophomore offensive guard Aaron Brown may be going under the knife for a shoulder injury of his own. Running back Kenny Lewis, Jr. is coming off surgery on a torn labrum in his left shoulder (seriously, what’s up with the shoulders).

Of course, Nebraska lost Kevin Dixon to an off-field issue. But so far, injuries don’t seem to be a big issue in Lincoln.

Meanwhile, the injury bug has infested Blacksburg.

We’ll keep our ear to the ground to hear if anyone else contracts the “poor judgment virus”.

Nebraska hosts Virginia Tech September 27th.

Eight is Enough
Saturday, August 16, 2008

In arguably the most remarkable accomplishment in the history of sports, Michael Phelps won his eighth gold medal of these Olympic Games, capping off an incredible week with another world record. The United States won the 4X100 meter relay to clinch Phelps’ epic run.

We live in a society that lives in the moment. Today’s greatest star is brighter than yesterday’s. Five years ago, if someone would’ve told you that a swimmer would be considered the best athlete in the world, you would’ve said they were crazy. Now that we’ve seen Michael Phelps do what he did, the conversation is legit.

Do you believe Phelps is the greatest athlete of all time?

BTW –

Phelps has won 14 career gold medals.

Tiger Woods has won 14 career majors.

Who will finish with more?

Pictures from Beijing
Tuesday, August 12, 2008

 

The Thrill of Victory

 

The Agony of Defeat

There’s Just Something About That Flag
Monday, August 11, 2008

I’m not a big fencing fan. I don’t care for rowing. You couldn’t pay me enough to participate in men’s gymnastics.

But you stick an American in any of those sports, and for some reason I turn into a fan.

Before heading into work Sunday afternoon, I was watching the team rowing competition. The United States women were trailing Australia by the slimmest of margins heading into the final 50 meters. My stomach began to sink. Part of that may have been because I burnt my lunch. Most of it was because I was internally urging the Americans on. Once the Australians won, for a split second I swore off ever going to Outback Steakhouse again. Of course I won’t hold to that. Not in a million years. The point is, I find myself caring about these obscure sports.

Swimming, on the other hand, I enjoy. Most of us have taken swimming lessons, or at least know how to stay afloat without the use of a life jacket or Mommy. During our newscast Sunday night, I could not take my eyes off of the men’s 4X100m relay. The French had declared war on the United States (well, not literally… they would surrender before they declared) by saying they wanted to “smash” America in the race. I’ll be darned if I’m going to let another country talk that kind of smack. So I did what I could to the support my country, and watched the race while eating potato chips.

It was by far the most captivating event I’ve ever seen at the Olympics, and arguably the most dramatic finish in any Olympic sport.  Team USA (consisting of four swimmers who qualified for Beijing in Omaha) was trailing with roughly 10 meters to go. Then Jason Lezak stormed back, barely edging out the Frenchman at the wall, winning by eight one-hundredths of a second. It was incredible. Here is Michael Phelps, who swam the first leg, relying on three other Americans to keep his eight-gold dreams alive. And when Lezak touched the wall first, you could see all of the relief, rage and excitement pouring out of Phelps and his six-pack abs. It was remarkable television.

Then I went on the air and relayed the story, barely doing it any justice. Legally, we are not allowed to show any highlights until the next day. It was far from unrewarding, though, as I was able to ruin Brandi Petersen’s ensuing television viewing. She had DVR’d the evening telecast and was set to watch it upon her return home. In fact, while I was sharing the information with the viewers, she scribbled a note conveying her “dissatisfaction” with my spoiler.

What a capper to an incredible Olympic night.

Odds and Ends
Thursday, August 7, 2008

  • Brett Favre is a member of the New York Jets. I’m glad this matter was settled before it got out of hand.
  • Packers fans have more than one reason to root for the Jets. Sure, most of them are still Brett Favre fans. Also, the better the Jets do, the higher the draft pick that the Packers will get in return. Maybe they’ll use it to draft another quarterback. You can never have too many of those.
  • Jets fans should feel relieved about the trade. They get a great quarterback, and they now have one less draft pick to moan and groan about on draft day.
  • Kansas State’s Ron Prince was awarded a contract extension. His new deal runs through the 2012 season. He had three years remaining on his contract, and holds a 12-13 record over his two seasons. Before you draw any Bill Callahan comparisons, don’t forget that Callahan was coming off of a North Division title. Prince is coming off a season that saw his team lose its final four games and miss out on a bowl.
  • In other words, a contract extension does not guarantee job security. It simply translates to a bigger buyout.
  • If a golf major is held and Tiger Woods is not involved, does it really happen?
  • In a controversial move, cyclists arriving in China wore protective respiratory masks over their mouths and noses to guard against the dangerous Beijing air. As if cyclists have ever had a problem with foreign substances entering their bodies.