Archive for November, 2008

BCS Mess
Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oklahoma moved up to number two in the latest BCS standings, giving them the inside track to an appearance in the BCS title game. Texas sits at number three, down from number two last week.

This means that Oklahoma wins the Big 12 South, and advances to the Big 12 Championship Game. As long as the Sooners beat Missouri on Saturday in Kansas City, they will advance to the BCS title game. If Oklahoma loses, that opens the door for Texas.

The Longhorns will watch two teams that they defeated play for the conference championship. But if the Sooners fall, Texas could conceivably find itself in the national championship game, despite not playing in the Big 12 championship game. On ESPN Sunday night, analyst Kirk Herbstreit said, “I can’t recall a team not playing in the conference game, and playing in the BCS title game.” Herbstreit may not remember (how could he not?), but Husker fans surely do.

Back in 2001, Nebraska lost to Colorado 62-36 in the regular season finale. The defeat moved the Huskers and Buffs into a two-way tie in the north division, which Colorado won with the head-to-head tiebreaker. Colorado then defeated Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game. However, enough of the top teams lost in the final week that the Huskers were, by default, slotted number two in the BCS standings. Nebraska played Miami for the national title, despite not playing in the conference title game.

Yes, it has happened before.

Bus something tells me that if Missouri defeats OU, voters might be hesitant to put Texas into the BCS title game, and might let USC have a shot at the SEC champion.

Some might blame the Big 12 for its weak tiebreaking system.

I blame the university presidents.

Situations like this will continue to happen without a playoff system. Until they get a clue and change the current format, we will forever be at the mercy of polls, computers and dumb luck.

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Oh Henery!
Saturday, November 29, 2008

The expert odds-makers said it wouldn’t be close. Perhaps they were talking about Alex Henery’s 57-yard field goal. If that’s the case, they were right. It would’ve been good from 60.

In one of the most dramatic and electric finishes in the history of Memorial Stadium, the Huskers defeated the Buffaloes 40-31 to capture their eighth win of the year, while ending Colorado’s season.

Alexander the Great

In an interview with Alex Henery earlier this season, the Burke Bulldog told me he had booted 60-yard field goals inside the Hawks Championship Center. Adi who?

With roughly two minutes left and the Huskers trailing 31-30, Joe Ganz was sacked for a loss of 15 yards at the 47 yard line. On third down Ganz zipped a pass to Mike McNeill over the middle for a big gain, but it was ruled incomplete. The eyes of the fans and camera lenses immediately turned to the sidelines. Would Bo Pelini really attempt a 57-yard field goal? Of course not, he would send a kicker in to do it.

With about 1:50 left, Pelini could’ve called a timeout and punted, hoping for a three-and-out. Or, perhaps Shawn Watson had a play in mind for 4th-and-25. Bo called a timeout to think about it, essentially canceling the first option. Then cameras showed Pelini looking into the eyes of his sophomore kicker, who gave his coach a simple nod of the helmet. And here came Alex.

If you’ve ever met Alex Henery, you know he is one of the most unassuming, soft-spoken Huskers ever. He doesn’t say much, and ends every answer with “so…”. But on Friday night, he delivered the kick heard ’round Husker nation. With roughly 1:50 left, Henery had a chance to get the bowl season off on the right foot. A make and the Huskers take the lead and likely (considering Colorado’s kicker was 5-of-14 on the season at that point) the win. A miss and the Buffs run out the clock, and Nebraska’s season is soured headinginto a bowl game.

57 Yards.

True.

A school record was shattered. The glass windows in the luxury boxes nearly followed suit.

It was bedlam at Memorial Stadium, as loud as it’s ever been. The sidelines exploded. Well, one of them, anyway. Ndamukong Suh ended any chance of a comeback by returning an interception for a touchdown, trampling Buffalo Cody Hawkins in the process. It was an emphatic ending to a roller coaster ride. A microcosm of the season.

Blame Bo

Bo Pelini said he would’ve been kicking himself for a long time if the Huskers lost this game.

With two minutes remaining in the first half, Nebraska scored a touchdown to take a 24-17 lead. On the ensuing kickoff, the Huskers recovered a fumble, and set up shop at the Colorado 36. After three plays, the Huskers amassed three yards. Instead of having Henery attempt a 50-yard field goal, Pelini called for a fake. It looked identical to the successful fake against Kansas, with Jake Wesch flipping the ball blindly over his head to Alex Henery. As Wesch flipped it this time, it was clear that the Colorado Buffaloes had a film room. Jimmy Smith picked it off in mid-air and returned it 58 yards for the touchdown. It was a deflating moment for the Huskers, who found themselves tied 24-24 at halftime despite holding the ball for 22 minutes.

“The game changed when I made that call,” said Pelini. “I made a bad call. I got greedy at that point… if we would have lost… I would have hated for that to happen to (the seniors), especially if I’m the centerpiece for screwing it up for them. I tried to, but they bailed me out.”

Pelini raised this program from a near-death experience, and injected new life into this team. Isn’t it ironic then that it was the players who bailed out their head coach? He didn’t want Henery attempting a 50-yarder in the first half, but with the game on the line sent him in for a 57-yarder. It was the epitome of the “we’re all in this together attitude”, with players maximizing their potential for a staff that knows how to draw it out of them.

Finishing

Against Virginia Tech, the Huskers staged a furious fourth-quarter rally but came up short. Same story at Texas Tech, where Nebraska forced overtime only to lose in heart-breaking fashion. In the final game of the season, the Huskers finally finished. In fact, Nebraska hadn’t finished a game like this since the 2006 north-clinching game at Texas A&M. This one didn’t win the north on Friday, but you have to feel a division title is right around the corner.

Lace Up Your Bowling Shoes

Now, it’s onto the Gator Bowl. Sure, it’s not official yet. But barring any unforeseen colossal upsets, Nebraska is Gator-bound. Even in a struggling economy, I would expect plenty of Husker fans to be scheduling a New Years Day in Jacksonville.

Will you go?

Nebraska vs Colorado Reaction Blog
Friday, November 28, 2008

In the most dramatic ending to a Nebraska game this season, the Huskers edged Colorado 41-30.

Alex Henery boots a school-record 57-yard field goal with 1:43 to go in the fourth quarter to give Nebraska the lead.  Then Ndamukong Suh returns an interception 30 yards for the touchdown to seal it away.  The Huskers win their eighth game of the season, and now await their bowl fate.

Use this blog to sound off on the game.  Just click on “Responses” above and submit your comments.  We will use the best ones in a KETV sportscast.

Nebraska dug a hole, but climbed out of it in dramatic fashion.  Are you ready to go bowling?

I’ll post my comments later tonight.  Keep checking back.

Thoughts on Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who reads this blog. To those who don’t, I do not wish you Happy Thanksgiving. You won’t read it anyway.

Nebraska and Colorado meet up in their annual post-Thanksgiving affair. From 1994 through ’96, both teams were ranked in the top seven when they met. My how things have changed.

Nebraska is listed as a 18 point favorite (plus or minus a point). If memory serves me correctly, we haven’t seen one team favored this much in this rivalry since 2005, when the Huskers strolled into Boulder as a heavy underdog. We all know what happened that day: one of the top three wins in the Bill Callahan era (next to Texas A&M road win and Alamo Bowl). But this time, I just don’t see it happening. That year the Buffs were coming off of a horrific 30-16 road loss to an average Iowa State team. They then got hammered by Nebraska 30-3, then lost to Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game 70-3. Goodbye Colorado. Goodbye Gary Barnett.

This time around, the Huskers have won four of five while the Buffaloes lost three of their last four. There is nothing to indicate that a monumental upset is around the corner. Colorado has yet to win on the road this season, and from what I recall about Memorial Stadium, it’s a tough place to play.

Painful prediction from a Colorado grad:

Nebraska 38

Colorado 17

Goodbye Colorado. Hello Gator Bowl.

Stellar Seniors

This group of seniors is a pretty impressive group. I’ve had the chance to talk to a bunch of them this week. They carry themselves unlike any senior class I’ve covered at Nebraska. They recognize the role they have played, laying a foundation on which the younger guys can build. The tradition of Husker football has been revitalized this season. You can credit Bo Pelini for part of that. But you’d better give this group of seniors a standing ovation on Friday. Under a new coaching staff, they could’ve mailed it in. Instead, they bought in.

George Bush has a transition team for the Obama administration. Consider this senior class the transition team for Nebraska football.

Feast or Famine?

You thought that with an extra game on Thanksgiving we’d have at least one watchable NFL game. Tennessee @ Detroit. Seattle @ Dallas. Arizona @ Philadelphia. If you care about holding down your meal, you may want to think about delaying dinner until after the first two games are over.

Saturday Special

Creighton is coming off a brutal last-second loss at perennial power Arkansas-Little Rock. Now they head to Lincoln to take on Nebraska. The Huskers have won all four of their games, including their only road game of the season at TCU.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the team playing the better basketball, especially when the game is on its home court. Huskers by six.

Disagree?

Final Thought

Have a happy holiday. And if you can’t be thankful for what has happened to you this year, be thankful for what hasn’t.

Gilmore to the Story
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

There are trade-offs to success.

The Huskers are going for their eighth win of the season this week. And their receivers coach is reportedly being courted by his alma mater.

The University of Wyoming has a head coaching vacancy after the firing of Joe Glenn. An internet site reported that Ted Gilmore would be interviewing for the job on Tuesday. Gilmore played receiver for the Cowboys in the late 1980s, and was an assistant coach in the 90s. After Tuesday’s practice, Gilmore wasn’t saying much. “I don’t have anything to say about that. Let’s talk about Colorado.”

I asked Bo Pelini if he would anticipate Wyoming calling him if they were interested in Gilmore. “I think at some point that’s going to happen,” said Pelini. “He’ll have my full blessing. Ted’s ready to be a head coach.” He then delved into his philosophy on assistants taking other jobs. “It’s not really a big issue with me. To me, it’s about promoting your guys and making sure everybody has the best opportunity to advance in their career.” He added that Wyoming would be “crazy” not to talk to Gilmore.

Gilmore is wrapping up his fourth season as Nebraska’s receivers coach. He’s also served as the recruiting coordinator since January 2007, and added the title of assistant head coach under Bo Pelini. It appears that he will be interviewing with Wyoming in the near future.

If Gilmore leaves, will he be the only one to go this off-season?

Ah, the trade-offs of success.

Paying the Bills
Monday, November 24, 2008

It’s not that often that I get to watch a game in person as a fan. It’s even more rare that the game involves one of my favorite teams. On Sunday, it happened.

A group of friends and I left for Kansas City Sunday morning at six o’clock (I discovered that this time on the clock does indeed exist in the AM) to watch our Buffalo Bills face the Chiefs. I tailgated for the first time in eight years (read: it had been eight years since I gorged myself on burgers while at the same time standing outside the back of a van).

Being a visiting fan comes with a weird dynamic. When you’re donning the apparel of the road team, you feel an immediate kinship with others wearing the same logo. It’s like running into people in a desert. You’re sharing food, stories and pats on the back with people you met ten seconds ago. Of course, if they were wearing different clothing, you might trade barbs, derisive comments and the occasional punches to the face. And if you were wearing normal clothing passing them in a mall, you would either look the other way or pretend to have a conversation with the floor.

Decked out in some classic (some termed it “GQ”) Bills gear, I was indeed the enemy at Arrowhead Stadium. Sitting in the front row of the endzone (thank you Craig’s List), my co-hort and I were berated for most of three quarters. A couple of fans chucked peanuts and pieces of soft pretzels at us. Which wouldn’t have been bad if they had also passed down the nacho cheese dipping sauce.

Let me say this: there is nothing better than being the fan of the visiting team, being ridiculed and cussed at for an entire game, then watching your team put up 54 points (a franchise record in points allowed for the home team). Nothing shuts up fans like scoreboard. Save for a couple of the drunk fans, who weren’t aware that score was kept in football.

It was a great day for Bills fans across America, especially for those at Arrowhead Stadium. It made me realize how much I miss being a fan. But then again, perhaps the free food I receive as a member of the media makes it all worth it. Maybe.

Fantasy Football Forum
Friday, November 21, 2008

We are nearing the finish line in the fantasy football season. Every week from here on out, I’m instituting a forum to guide you through crunch time.

Anyone can ask a question, everyone can throw in their two cents.

My conundrums for this week:

1) Brett Favre or Trent Edwards?

2) Start two WR: Terrell Owens, Antonio Bryant, Justin Gage, Jerricho Cotchery, Lance Moore, Donnie Avery, Desean Jackson.

Gimme your opinions, and submit your fantasy questions for the weekend.

If you’re not into fantasy football, you can also submit your “Magic: The Gathering” questions. But I can’t promise you that those will be answered.

Friday Night Lights
Friday, November 21, 2008

Millard South and Millard West square off Friday night at Memorial Stadium for the state championship.  Two teams that are located three miles apart will travel 50 miles down the interstate to play a game.

It’s a revenge tour of sorts for the Patriots.  They lost three games in the regular season:  Elkhorn, Creighton Prep and Millard West.  They’ve defeated the Antlers and Junior Jays in the postseason.   Will they complete the tour?

There is no hotter team than Millard South.  Bronson Marsh is leading a fast-paced offensive attack, with a defense that did something that no other team was able to do this season:  shut out Creighton Prep.

If I’m setting the line, I make the Wildcats a seven point favorite.  And I take the Patriots and the points.

The Trials and Tribs of Fandom
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It happens every year.

You begin the season with guarded optimism.  Your team starts to win, inspiring confidence.  Then you jump on the bandwagon, only to suffer whiplash as it slams to a halt.  Such is the case for me as a fan of the Buffalo Bills.

Ever since the Music City Miracle, I have tried not to care as much.  In fact, to be honest, I don’t care much at all anymore.   Sure, I want them to win.  But a loss doesn’t ruin my week, or drive me to eat.  I just eat a lot because I enjoy it.

Monday night I got off work early and watched the Bills and Browns at Buffalo Wild Wings (where else?) with a couple of colleagues who also bleed Buffalo blue.  It was an entertaining game to say the least, and I was fully invested in the game.  And the honey bbq wings.  Man, those are good.

Anyway, the game comes down to a 47-yard field goal attempt by Rian Lindell.  Being a Bills fan, I had already resigned myself to the fact that he would miss it.  But before he kicked it I yelled, “If you’re gonna miss it, miss it to the left!”

Wide right.

47 yards.

Somewhere, Scott Norwood is re-entering therapy.

And here in Omaha, this Bills fan has officially thrown in the towel.

How the heck did that happen?
Monday, November 17, 2008

With about eight minutes to go in Creighton’s game with New Mexico Sunday, I made the comment to a media colleague: “I just can’t see them winning this game. It’s over.” Apparently, I haven’t learned a thing from watching the Bluejays play at home.

Creighton rallied from a 16-point second half deficit to defeat New Mexico 82-75 in one of the strangest endings to a game I have ever seen.

Every time the Jays staged a rally to pull within five or six points in the second half, the Lobos would answer with a run of their own. But New Mexico had no answers for Booker Woodfox and P’Allen Stinnett, who both turned in career-high performances with 26 and 30 points, respectively. Woodfox sparked the big runs, while Stinnett finished them off. The dynamic duo scored 44 of Creighton’s 55 second half points.

The Jays led 4-2 with two minutes gone by in the first half. They would not lead again until the final two minutes of the game. They finished the contest on a 19-3 run over the final 3:23.

This team never ceases to amaze me. Creighton looked like garbage in last week’s exhibition, and seemed to be playing like similar refuse for the first 30 minutes of the season-opener. But ten magical minutes changed the feel of this team.

Will the real Creighton Bluejays please stand up?