Archive for December, 2008

Gator Blog: Zoo Day
Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Spending a week away from home with no schoolwork to keep them busy, the Huskers have plenty of downtime during their Gator Bowl preps.   After a morning practice, Nebraska was shuffled off to the Jacksonville Zoo.  I decided to tag along.  Honestly, had the Huskers not gone, I would not have gone.  There’s nothing more pathetic than a man going to the zoo by himself.  Maybe a movie.  Not the zoo.

We see the Huskers in front of the podium every week giving the typical soundbites.  That’s why it’s so refreshing to catch these guys when they’re loose and unguarded.   After a second lunch (these players eat seven meals a day) the Huskers wandered into the zoo.  I followed Joe Ganz, Ndamukong Suh, Beau Davis, Mike McNeill, Zac Lee and a few others around.  “There are the Suh’s, everybody.  There’s Papa Suh, building a fort for the family,” said Ganz, pointing to a rhinocerous.  “And there’s Suh.  Look, he’s just standing around.  Not doing anything,” he added, pointing to a sedentary rhinocerous.  I asked Suh for a response.  “We may not have a quarterback (for the bowl game),” he said.

After looking at the elephants, it brought to Mike McNeill’s mind how his grandmother gave him about ten elephants over the course of his life.  McNeill clarified, saying they were miniature statues, alleviating concerns that McNeill’s family consisted of illegal ivory dealers.

Offensive lineman Keith Williams asked Ganz if he would sign his shirt, acting as one of Joe’s adoring fans.  Ganz said he would under one condition:  that Williams take his shirt off, go inside the monkey cage and torment the monkeys.  Williams did not get his shirt signed.

Seeing these guys away from the football field is refreshing and frightening.  If chemistry wins games, these guys should be alright on Thursday.

By the way, there were no Tigers at the Jacksonville Zoo.  Nebraska will get a chance to see them up close on New Year’s Day.

Best Sports Year Ever?
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A new year is dawning.  But I’m not sure it has any chance of topping the year gone by.

Is it possible that 2008 was the greatest year in the history of sports?  Keep in mind it was an Olympic year with tremendous stories.  And Omaha got a big taste of it.

Run down this “We Didn’t Start the Fire” list and see if I’m leaving anything out.

———————————————–

Summer Olympics – Phelps, Torres, Bolt, Team USA.

NCAA March Madness:  Davidson and Stephen Curry play the role of Cinderella.   Kansas beats Memphis with the help of a miracle shot from Mario Chalmers.

NBA:  Celtics face the Lakers in a storied matchup and reclaim the championship.

NFL:  Giants rally to beat previously-unbeaten New England in one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time, with the indelible memory of David Tyree  catching the a football with his helmet.  Add to that the drama of Brett Favre in the off-season, signing with the Jets.  Tom Brady suffers a season-ending injury, opening the door for the rest of the AFC.

PGA:  Tiger Woods wins the US Open on a broken leg.  The United States wins the Ryder Cup.

Auto Racing:  Jimmie Johnson wins his third straight Cup.  Danica Patrick becomes first woman to win an IndyCar race.

Horse Racing:  Big Brown captures America’s heart, nearly winning the Triple Crown.

Tennis:  Rafael Nadal upsets Roger Federer at Wimbledon, in what is widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis matches of all time.

MLB:   The steroid issue comes front and center ascurrent and former players face the music in Washington.  Comeback story of the year Josh Hamilton belts 28 home runs in the first round of the home run derby.  The Tampa Bay Rays go from worst-to-first, winning the money-driven American League East.

NCAA Football:   The number one team in college football is upset more times than we can remember.  Texas Tech upsets Texas in one of the best college football games in recent memory.   One of the best Heisman trophy races of all time comes down to three great quarterbacks.

NCAA Baseball:  The glass slipper fits Fresno State.

NHL:  Okay, nothing great.  But that outdoor hockey game was pretty sweet in Buffalo.

Nebraska had a great year in the sports world as well:

– Olympic swim trials starring Michael Phelps and Qwest Center Omaha.

– Bo Pelini takes the reigns in Lincoln as the Huskers bounce back.

– College World Series and Fresno State.

– Former Husker Turner Gill turns the Buffalo Bulls around.

– NCAA Volleyball Final Four with an incredible five-setter between Nebraska and Penn State.  The Nittany Lions finish off an undefeated season as one of the greatest teams of all time.

What am I missing?

And is this the greatest year in sports?

Gator Bowl Blog: In Jacksonville
Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday was a travel day.  And what a day of travel it was.

Delta flight leaving Omaha at 1:06pm was delayed until 2:20pm because of a mechanical issue.  Who knew mechanics were so important to airplanes?   I knew I would miss my connection in Atlanta, but the Delta agent said that since there were so many people needing that connection to Jacksonville, they may hold the plane an extra 40 minutes for us.  This guy seemed to know what he was talking about.

I missed my connecting flight in Atlanta. 

After de-planing in Atlanta, I called Delta and was placed on standby for the 7:50pm ET flight to Jacksonville, and was told to go to the gate and check in.  At the time, a Delta flight to Buenos Aires was being boarded.  I tried to get on that flight, but apparently you need a passport.   All the people flying standby for Jacksonville (about 30 Husker fans and me) sat and waited with crossed fingers and praying hands for an open seat on the flight to the Gator Bowl.  After about 70 minutes of waiting, I was given a seat in a exit row.  “Are you willing and able to assist if needed in an emergency?”  I was close to saying, “Gee, that’s a lot of responsibility…”, but decided to say “yes” and took the seat.

Arrived in Jacksonville at 9:15 ET, roughly three hours later than the itinerary indicated.  I went to baggage claim to claim my baggage, which is what happens in that area.  However, only one bag was there.  The tripod.  The suitcase containing my clothing, toiletries, shoes, etc. was sent to another airport about an hour away.  I wondered if I had said something snarky to the skycap in Omaha.

I got my rental car and made it to my room at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Jacksonville.  It’s a beautiful spot right along the riverfront.  I hope to find out the name of the river by the end of the week.

Here’s to a fabulous week.

Who needs clothes?

Off to Jacksonville
Monday, December 29, 2008

Gator Bowl, here we come.

I leave Monday for Jacksonville, Florida, as we begin our live coverage from the sunshine state.  We will have reports beginning Tuesday at 6pm.

Assuming there are some wireless networks available in the Jacksonville area, I’ll update this blog as much as possible.

Feel free to post your comments.

Merry Christmas
Thursday, December 25, 2008

I’ve been out of town for the past week, which explains the lack of new posts.  I’m back for a few days until I depart for the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.

From all of us (me) to all of you, Merry Christmas.

We’ll be in touch.

The Slipper is Just a Little Too Snug
Thursday, December 18, 2008

In the most compelling match ever seen in the state of Nebraska, the Nittany Lions defeated the Huskers in the national semifinal: 25-17. 25-18, 15-25, 22-25, 15-11. The Cinderella story ended for Nebraska, dropping its first match in the state since 2002.

Just as they did in the regional final against Washington, the Huskers dropped the first two sets. Once again, they forced a fifth and deciding set by flipping the switch and physically wearing down the Nittany Lions. Penn State, which had won 111 consecutive sets, dropped back-to-back sets at Qwest Center in front of a national record-setting crowd. Looking tired and beaten, the Nittany Lions put on a championship surge at the end of the fifth set to advance to Saturday’s final.

PSU is now 37-0, with only the Stanford Cardinal standing in their way of a second straight national championship.

Penn State, widely considered one of the greatest teams in the history of the sport, was able to overcome the greatest home court advantage the sport has ever seen.

With Nebraska leading 10-8 in the fifth set, Penn State scored six consecutive points to take a 14-10 lead, thanks in large part to the serving of Nicole Fawcett. The first-team all-american forced the Huskers into their worst passing sequences of the match. Almost in the blink of an eye, the dream season was over for Nebraska.  It loss also snapped their 96-match win streak within the state’s borders.

It will go down as a season to remember for the Huskers. This team was not expected to return to Omaha for the Final Four without tickets, but found itself just five points away from playing for a national championship.

Congrats to John Cook and the Huskers on a fantastic season.

Feel free to share your thoughts.

Turner Gill Staying Put
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It is now confirmed from the University at Buffalo:

BUFFALO, NY University at Buffalo head football coach Turner Gill will remain on the Bulls sidelines in 2009 and for the foreseeable future after receiving an extension and increase in salary for the Bulls outstanding accomplishments this year.

Due to University policy, terms of the agreement will not be released.
Gill, who came to Buffalo in 2006, led Buffalo to its first Mid-American Conference championship with a decisive 42-24 win over previously unbeaten and 12th ranked Ball State. The Bulls are currently 8-5 and ready for the program’s first-ever bowl appearance when they take on Connecticut on January 3rd in the International Bowl in Toronto. Gill has a 15-22 overall record and his Bulls’ claimed a share of the 2007 MAC East title before claiming it outright this year.

This season has seen Buffalo break its all-time scoring record, post its first overall winning record since moving up to Division I-A in 1999, having numerous players break school career and single-season records and saw UB earn unprecedented national coverage with four appearances soon to be five with the bowl game on the ESPN family of networks as the Bulls were 4-0 in those contests.

Of Buffalo’s five losses this season, four of them (Pittsburgh, Missouri, Western Michigan and Central Michigan) came against teams that have advanced to bowl games, with two of those teams ranked in the Top 25.
“On the day I came here to be the head coach I told my team that one day we would be successful here at the University at Buffalo,” said Gill. “Now, more than ever, I have never been more proud to be the head coach of this program at this great academic institution. This program has proven it can win now and it is built to continue to win in the future. I am grateful to President John Simpson and Athletic Director Warde Manuel for their continued support and faith in me as a football coach and leader of young men.

“I additionally want to thank our coaching staff and support staff for all they have done that has allowed us to have success in our football program,” said Gill.

Gill’s contract will now run through the 2013 season, with a rollover option each year, and his raise in pay will place him as one of the highest-paid coaches in the Mid-American Conference. All of the Bulls’ assistant coaches will also see an increase in their compensation.

“I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of Turner, his coaching staff and his team,” said Manuel. “They have brought unprecedented attention to the University at Buffalo and have been great ambassadors for the school.

I am thrilled that Turner will remain as our head coach, and with President John Simpson, am elated to reward him and his staff for their efforts.”

Turner Gill Speaks
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Buffalo Bulls coach Turner Gill is speaking to the media today at a news conference in Buffalo. 

On Monday, Charles Barkley said in an interview that he believed Gill was not hired by his alma mater (Auburn) because of race.  I would imagine Gill may address those comments today.

Also — a source close to the situation in Buffalo tells me that Gill’s agent has informed Iowa State that he is not interested in the Cyclone job.

Stay tuned…

Comeback Kids
Sunday, December 14, 2008

In one of the most improbable, unbelievable, unthinkable volleyball matches you will ever see, Nebraska rallied from two sets down to defeat Washington in the Seattle regional final Saturday night.

The match started at 10:36pm central time and lasted more than two hours. 14-25, 23-25, 25-17, 26-24, 15-13. Someone please monitor John Cook’s condition.

In a rematch of the 2005 National Championship match, the Huskies stormed out of the gate to take the first set. Then rallied for a crushing win in the second set. Then the Huskers came on, and although they nearly squandered a big lead in the fourth, they forced a deciding fifth set. Nebraska trailed 9-3 in the fifth set before going on a remarkable 9-0 run to take a 12-9 lead. The Huskies tied it at 13, before an attack error and a Jordan Larson service ace ended the festivities.

“We left it all out there. We had nothing left,” said Larson.

It would have been interesting to see how Nebraska fans would’ve turned out for a Final Four in Omaha without Nebraska involved.

Now we won’t have to worry about it.

Nebraska, Texas, Stanford and Penn State are coming to Omaha for what promises to be a compelling Final Four.

The Huskers will try to advance to the championship match for the third time in the last four seasons.

Undefeated Penn State (36-0) has yet to drop a set. Nebraska will need some more magic in order to change that.

Qwest Center Omaha seems like the perfect place to try.

Who’s Your Heisman?
Friday, December 12, 2008

The 74th annual Heisman Trophy will be handed out Saturday night in New York City. Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow are the invitees in what could be one of the closest votes in the history of the award.

Sam Bradford has completed 68% of his passes for 4,464 with 48 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He also ran for five scores. Those passing yards and touchdowns are the most when compared to the last ten quarterbacks to win the Heisman.

Colt McCoy completed 78% of his passes for 3,445 yards and 32 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. He’s also rushed for 576 yards and 10 touchdowns. His passing efficiency of 77.2% is tops in the country this season.

Tim Tebow completed 65% of his passes for 2,515 yards and 28 touchdowns with just two interceptions. He’s done much of his damage on the ground, rushing for 564 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Heisman is awarded to the best college football player in the country. What Sam Bradford has done this season is mind-blowing. I’ve heard some people say that Colt McCoy has done more with less. Since when should a player be penalized for playing on a great team? Tim Tebow has rebounded strongly from the loss at Mississippi, but Bradford’s body of work is far superior.

My vote goes to Sam the Man.

Who gets yours?