Archive for September, 2008

Pinkel Praises Pelini
Monday, September 29, 2008

Gary Pinkel met with the media on Monday in a rare position:  as the head coach of a heavily-favored Tiger team expected to crush the Huskers in Lincoln. 

Here are some excerpts from the Missouri head coach:

“Nebraska is a good football team… we’re excited to get into league play. I’m very impressed with them… Joe Ganz is a very talented player. He has a lot of energy.  He is very good in terms of reading defenses, sees things down field… Nate Swift done an excellent job, and we’ve seen Lucky.”

“Bo Pelini defenses are good. He’s the best in the business. He’s doing a great job with their defense.”

“I’m very impressed with Cody Glenn.  He makes a lot of things happen, puts a lot of pressure on offenses.”

“Bo Pelini defenses will play with great energy and effort. That’s our challenge… We’re looking forward to practicing hard this week and going out and playing our best.”

Advertisements

Tigers Have the Gift of Gabbert
Monday, September 29, 2008

At some point Saturday, Blaine Gabbert may get into the game against Nebraska.  You remember him, right?  The quarterback who committed to play football for the Huskers, before renegging following Bill Callahan’s termination.  Now, he’s a Missouri Tiger.

On Monday, Chase Daniel was asked to forecast the atmosphere at Memorial Stadium if Gabbert were to see action.

“Not only the 90,000 screaming fans, but also the booing. It’s life, it’s the recruiting process,” said Daniel.  “It comes down to signing day. Coach (David) Yost did a good job of getting him… I’m sure he’ll be shaking and scared… It’s hard to go into a place like that with 90,0000 screaming fans. Even though a lot of them are really nice. They’re the greatest fans except for ours (catching himself).  We’ll see what Blaine can do if he gets in.”

Maybe Blaine should give Josh Freeman a call.  He would know what to expect.

 

Recovered
Monday, September 29, 2008

It’s obvious there’s a different attitude in Lincoln.  We saw the entire preseason how there was a relaxed atmosphere in everything the Huskers did.  No pretensions, no stiff upper lips.

Following the first loss under coach Bo Pelini, the Huskers were at ease Monday.  After practice, guys like Nate Swift and Mike McNeill wore smiles on their faces as they answered questions.  “It’s a different mentality, different team, different coaches,” said Swift.  “We came in today and fixed our mistakes. We got over it, and we’re getting ready for Missouri.”

No one is hanging their heads, and you can credit their head coach for that.

“We talked about it after the game. We gotta forget about it. We gotta learn from our mistakes, but it’s time to move on,” said Pelini.

Players will take their cues from their head coach.  As long as he is at ease, the rest of the team will be, too.

Nobody is pushing any panic button at Memorial Stadium.  Nobody is doubting what is going on in Lincoln.  It’s a process, one that the entire team believes in.

Lessons from Norman

Pelini was asked why Oklahoma has had so much success against Missouri recently.  “They’re pretty good.  They’re number one!” Pelini laughed.  “Missouri moved the ball on Oklahoma, but Oklahoma was able to push the pocket and affect Chase a little bit. There are a lot of different ways to go about it and how to play him. Nodboy’s really stopped them, you just hope you can slow’em down.”

1978

The year was 1978.  I was one year away from being born.  These Huskers were mere twinkles in their daddies’ eyes.  Whatever that means.  I’ve heard it said, so I thought I’d use it.  We all know we don’t come from twinkles.

1978 was the last year Missouri beat Nebraska in Lincoln.  The Tigers know it.  And the Huskers know that the Tigers know it.

“That’s something the players know,” said Mike McNeill.  “Mizzou has said they’ve broken a lot of records already, and that they’re trying to break another one this week.”

No need for bulletin board material.  The Huskers probably don’t have any more room on their team corkboard.

Big Red Concerns
Monday, September 29, 2008

Bo Pelini said Monday his Huskers are making too many “boneheaded” mistakes.  That was fairly obvious from Saturday’s game.  But it’s not just boneheaded mistakes that are alarming, it’s the ineptitude.

You should be very disappointed in the lack of a running game by Nebraska.  For whatever reason, this team does not appear committed to it.  I understand Virginia Tech is a good defense, but the Huskers had problems running it against Western Michigan and San Jose State.  The Huskers are ranked 57th in the country running the football.  And that includes three games against below-average teams.  The offensive coaches need to get in the lab and figure this out.  And fast.  This team doesn’t seem to be capable of doing any one thing extremely well, and doesn’t have an offensive identity.  Adding to the frustration is that Nebraska doesn’t have any big-time playmakers.  Nate Swift appears to be the closest thing they have to that.  Perhaps even Roy Helu.  But he doesn’t touch the ball enough for us to know for sure.

Defensively, blown assignments are probably characteristic for players in the first year of a system.  But these are not freshmen making these mistakes.  These are juniors and seniors.  And if Virginia Tech can make Nebraska look bad, imagine what Missouri and Texas Tech will do.  The Huskers have five days to get everyone on the same page.   If those mistakes are not corrected, or at least minimized, it will be a very ugly day on Saturday. 

Nebraska should win 7 games this year.  But there are no gimmes on the schedule.

How did the loss to Virginia Tech impact your expectations for the rest of the season?

Weekend Wrap
Sunday, September 28, 2008

Congrats to you for setting a new record in visits to this blog this weekend. This blog’s for you. That was cheesey.

Cup Half-Full

The more I think about it, the more I come to the realization that Nebraska might actually be playing above its capabilities. If that makes any sense. Perhaps better put, they’re fullfilling their potential.  Aside from the lack of a consistent running game, of course… and defensive lapses… and… well, you get the point.

Someone made a comment to me today at church using a video game analogy. To paraphrase, he said that the Husker players all seem the same. They’re all in the “80s” ranking in “NCAA Football 2008” (Xbox, PS3, whatever). They’re quick but not blazing fast. They’re decent fundamentally but not sharp. They’re strong, but not overpowering. They’re agile but not elusive. They’ve got good moves, but they’re not going to make the highlight reel. In reality, this Husker football team is just okay. It’s not great. But with some good coaching, they can become better than okay.

If the Huskers win seven games, then the coaching staff will have done a good job at getting this team to play at or above its potential. Do you agree with my assessment?

Maverick Misery

Saturday, I watched the entire UNO football game in person. I’m still in shock as to how the Mavs could get manhandled the way they did. If you would’ve bet me that the Mavs would ever get shutout this year (even by a division one opponent), I would’ve taken that bet to make some quick money. On Saturday I would’ve quickly lost some money.

How did it happen? Each player decided to have his worst game on the same day. As Zach Miller goes, so goes the Maverick offense. Miller didn’t go. He turned the ball over three times, including fumbling once into the endzone. The Mavs actually were able to run the ball with some degree of success, but continued to end drives with bad mistakes.

After a loss like this, I can’t help but think that there is a boat load of self-doubt aboard the Maverick. Was it just simply a bad day? “I hope so,” said Zach Miller.

You Gotta Bill-lieve!

I’ve continued to invite you onto the Buffalo Bills bandwagon, but as of today I have only received one comment on my blog by someone eager to jump on board. How many wins will it take for you to buy into this team? They are 4-0 for the first time since 1992. Or, for the first time since I would get tired from climbing a flight of stairs. I was chubby.

Sure, the schedule is cake. Sure they have yet to beat a team with a winning record. That’s irrelevant. After the win over Jacksonville two weeks ago I declared this “Buffalo’s Year.” What does that mean? A spot in the playoffs. A colleague asked me today, “You think they’re going to the Super Bowl?” Ah, no. I may be a fan, but I’m a realist. Those kind of people are hard to come by.

“Got Carl?” Sightings

I’ve been a little lazy in uploading those Carl Pelini story outtakes. When I put them up I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’d like to give kudos to those fans who wore “Got Carl?” t-shirts at Memorial Stadium for the Virginia Tech game. From what I’ve heard, a bunch of fans were donning the comedic wear. Some were even shown on the jumbotron. That’s good pub.

Carl Big Red

While I was flattered to hear this news, I was also faced with the cold, harsh reality of my missing out on an opportunity to financially capitalize on the story. I should’ve made dozens of those shirts and sold them outside the stadium. Like that wouldn’t’ve looked lame and desperate. “Who is that selling those t-shirts? Is that Matt Schick? Wow… times must be tough for him. And he isn’t fooling anyone with that fake moustache.”

Huskers and Hokies a Mixed Bag
Sunday, September 28, 2008

Nebraska started slow, finished fast, and lost to Virginia Tech. Just like the bathroom faucets, the Huskers ran hot and cold at Memorial Stadium Saturday. They showed great effort and attitude, but the lack of consistency on the side of execution did Nebraska in. Your final: 35-30.

“Special” Night for Both Teams

Both teams got giant sparks from special teams. In the first quarter, the Hokies blocked a Dan Titchener punt out of the endzone for a safety. I’m not sure Larry Asante blocked anybody on the punt, and the extra man sprinted in untouched. “We just blew it on the punt,” said Pelini. “We didn’t touch the guy… we didn’t execute.”

Nebraska was the beneficiary of special teams magic in the fourth quarter when Nate Swift returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown. It was the first Husker punt return for a score since 2002. I never thought Swift would be able to return a kick for a score. He seemed to be more of a possession-type guy, one of the most sure-handed guys on the field. Maybe he even surprised himself with his moves down the sideline. The touchdown brought the Huskers to within 28-23.

Where’s the Rush?

Earlier in the season, the coaches bristled at anyone who voiced concerns about the run game. After Saturday’s showing against Virginia Tech, those concerns are officially valid. The Huskers rushed for 55 yards on 25 attempts. If the holes were there, they were hard to find for the i-backs. Marlon Lucky toted the ball eight times for 17 yards. Roy Helu had four carries for 21 yards. There is no excuse for Helu only getting four handoffs in a game. He provides a different dimension for this offense. And a much-needed one at that.

Discpline, anyone?

In the pregame show I said that the Huskers needed to minimize their mental errors and foolish penalties. So what happened? They lose the turnover battle 2-0, they get a punt blocked, and they give up 69 yards in penalties (to Virginia Tech’s 30). Nebraska is not overflowing with talent, so it needs to rely on passion and intensity. But that can work against them sometimes, like it did in the fourth quarter.

Was it a Penalty?

With a shade over four minutes left, it looked like the Huskers had stopped Tyrod Taylor short of a first down, forcing a probable punt at the Nebraska 37-yard line. But Ndamukong Suh was flagged for a late hit on Taylor out of bounds, prolonging the drive with a 15-yard penalty. Bo Pelini argued the call for the better part of the next two minutes, leading to an unsportsmanlike foul that moved the ball from the 20 to the 11-yard line. Taylor scored three plays later to provide the Hokies with an insurmountable lead.

Suh’s hit on Taylor was a little late, but I don’t think it warranted a flag. Refs need to look at intent. By the book, it was probably a late hit. But in that situation the ref needs to use discretion. Suh was flying in as Taylor went out of bounds. That being said, let’s say it was the right call. Pelini has to control himself. He can argue for a little bit, but after awhile he has to give it a rest and move on, just like he expects his players to do after each play. If Pelini doesn’t go crazy, the Hokies set up shop at the 20. Who knows, maybe the Huskers force a field goal and only trail by eight points?  This is the second time in his five games as head coach that Bo Pelini has been flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty.

Just like you can’t let one loss turn into two, you can’t let one play impact the next, and you can’t let one penalty lead to another. And the head coach needs to lead by example.

Other Observations From the Sports Office

Joe Ganz had his worst game as a starting quarterback. He was 17-of-26 for 278 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. His feet were happier than the ones in that penguin movie. He was getting knocked around and you could tell it rattled him. His offensive line wasn’t giving him great protection, but he too often held onto the ball too long.

Why weren’t Nate Swift and Todd Peterson involved in the offense before the fourth quarter? Were they simply not open?

Why isn’t Roy Helu getting more carries? He got one carry in the first quarter for nine yards. He got one carry in the second quarter for no gain. He got one carry in the third quarter for a 12-yard touchdown. In the fourth, he got one carry for no gain. How can he get into a rhythm when he’s rushing the ball one time each quarter? That is inexcusable.

Larry Asante is a talented player. Unfortunately, it’s not translating all that well to the games. He missed a block on Stephan Virgil, who came in scot-free to block Dan Titchener’s punt in the first quarter. He was late covering a couple of long pass plays, and continues to miss tackles. When he missed a tackle against San Jose State, his momentum carried him into Barry Turner’s leg, ending his season. He isn’t the only one making mistakes.  They’re all experiencing growing pains in a new system.  But in this system, the Huskers need better safety play.

Big Red Zone

Entering the game, Nebraska ranked tenth nationally in red zone defense. Saturday night the Husker defense forced three field goals in the red zone.  Granted, the Hokies scored all six times they were in the red zone, but this game could’ve easily gotten out of hand if it weren’t for the big D holding them to field goals. Unfortunately, the Husker offense could not follow suit.

Four Quarters

If the 2007 Huskers played in this game, they would’ve lost by at least three touchdowns. When Nebraska trailed 28-10, it would’ve been lights out. But this team did not give up. They kept fighting, they kept pressing. Even trailing 28-10 you could see the emotion flowing from the sidelines. And it manifested itself on the field. This team won’t be quitting anytime soon.

Up Next

The Huskers performed well on the national stage. But the stage will only get hotter and brighter from here on out. Nebraska will face two top-ten teams over the next two weeks. Missouri will probably carry a #3 or #4 ranking into Lincoln next Saturday. The Red Raiders could be as high as 7th or 8th when the Huskers travel to Lubbock.  And oh yeah, the Sooners could be #1 when they host Nebraska November 1st.  Ouch.

Heads Up, Seven Up

This is not a great year to be a first-year coach in the Big 12. Not with this schedule. Bo and the boys will take some hits along the way. What Husker fans saw on Saturday was a hard dose of reality in the form of a seven-win team. Which, given last year’s misery, isn’t a bad thing.

Just watch this team, appreciate the effort, and enjoy the process. As painful as it may be.

Nebraska vs Virginia Tech Blog
Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Huskers have a chance to jump back onto the national scene with a win over Virginia Tech.  With Missouri coming to town next week, a win over the Hokies is a must.

Click on “Responses” above and submit your thoughts and comments about the Huskers and Hokies.  Your post-game reactions might be used in a KETV sportscast.  Just double-check your spelling.

I’ll give you my post-game analysis after the game.  Until then, fire away.

ESPN College Gameday Coming to Lincoln?
Friday, September 26, 2008

Looking at next week’s schedule, there seems to be only one other destination that could have an edge over Lincoln as ESPN’s college town of choice. That being Madison.

If you want to see Lee Corso taunt Husker fans by strapping on the Tiger-head, you’d better root for Michigan to upset Wisconsin at the Big House Saturday. The 8th-ranked Badgers host #13 Ohio State next week. If Nebraska beats Virginia Tech, the Huskers will be in the top-25 to host #5 Missouri. That may not matter if Wisconsin is undefeated.

College Gameday is always looking for reasons to get out of the southeast and branch out up north. So far they’ve traveled to Atlanta, Gainesville, Los Angeles, Auburn and Athens. Lincoln or Madison would fit the bill.

Gameday was in Lincoln last year. The ESPN crew hasn’t been to Madison in four years. That may work against the Cornhusker State.

That along with a Badger win over the Wolverines may give Wisconsin the edge. Of course, the Huskers need to take care of business to be in the conversation.

Game Prediction: Huskers Win. No Doubt.
Friday, September 26, 2008

Nebraska faces its toughest challenge yet. That’s easy. What’s a little more difficult is seeing how this game shapes up. Virginia Tech and Nebraska are two fairly evenly-matched teams.

That being said, I believe the Huskers will make life difficult for Tyrod Taylor. The Hokie quarterback is a much better rusher than passer. Expect Bo Pelini to sell-out against the run and force Taylor to beat Nebraska with his arm. In watching Virginia Tech against North Carolina, Taylor time and again missed receivers deep. While they may have been running open, he was off the mark. I look at Taylor as Reggie McNeal, although Taylor is a better rusher then McNeal was. Back in 2003, McNeal and A&M had a terrible day facing Pelini’s defense. While I don’t think this will be a blowout like we saw in that game, I do believe the Husker defense will handle Taylor. The Husker defensive line and front seven (including a fresh-legged Tyler Wortman) will be the key in making sure that happens.

On the other side of the ball, I am a little concerned at how well the Husker offense will be able to move the ball against Virginia Tech. This game will be a matchup of two of the best defensive minds in football: Bo Pelini and Bud Foster. As the architect of the “Lunch Pail Defense”, Foster will load up against the run. Not because they don’t fear Joe Ganz, but because they want to make Nebraska one-dimensional. The Huskers haven’t proven anything this year when it comes to being able to move the ball consistently, because they haven’t faced great defenses. Foster will make them prove it.

Tech is one of only eight teams nationally yet to lose a fumble this year. The Hokies have won the turnover and penalty battles in each of the last three games. The Huskers have won the turnover battle in only one game this year, and they have lost the penalty battle in two games.

Here is the key: Virginia Tech relies on turnovers and field position to win football games. Three of their four scoring drives at North Carolina started inside the Tarheel 30, and two of those were due to turnovers. Furthermore, the Hokies have been penalized only 17 times this season for 96 yards. Nebraska has been penalized 25 times for 204 yards.

The Huskers need to be on the screws Saturday night. They need to minimize their mental errors, hold onto the ball and make smart decisions. Especially on special teams, where the Hokies make their living.

Nebraska will be in a tough battle with Virginia Tech, but the Husker defense will assert itself and provide the offense with decent field position off of turnovers. That’s what the gut says.

Nebraska 23

Virginia Tech 13

Thursday’s Random Thoughts
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

  • Seeing as it was a Wednesday night with nothing on my personal docket (i.e. I was a living example of “The Biggest Loser”), I watched “David Blaine’s Dive of Death” on ABC. It should’ve been called “David Blaine’s Bungee Jump of Letdowns.”
  • Favorite new show thus far: “Worst Week”. Saw the season premiere and actually laughed out loud a time or two. Am I alone on this one?
  • After missing a practice on Monday, the New York Giants suspended receiver Plaxico Burress for two weeks. He will lose $235,000. I would have to be suspended for five years to lose that much.
  • Actually, I think that’s called getting fired.
  • Speaking of which, Matt Millen was fired as General Manager of the Detroit Lions. They should hire someone else with the last name “Millen” as his replacement, so the fans with those “Fire Millen” t-shirts won’t have to buy new ones. Even “Miller” would suffice, as it would only require the removal of half-a-letter.
  • If Millen taught us anything, it’s that receivers don’t win championships.
  • Husker fans may be “Bolievers”. I on the other hand, am a “Billiever.” Anyone else on the Buffalo bandwagon? Space is at a premium. And we won’t let you on when the team is 5-0.
  • Nebraska, Alabama and Penn State are a combined 11-0. For those who have just awoken from seven-year long comas, this seems pretty ho-hum.
  • KETV did a nice job with those Brandi Petersen promos. Rob McCartney had some genuinely nice words for her. Jon Schuetz was asked to do some promos about me, but he wasn’t convincing enough.