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  1. 2010 Aug 03

    Ranking the NU Teams since 1980: No. 4


    By HuskerLocker

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    In July, we’ll be ranking all 30 of Nebraska teams since 1980, worst to first. Be sure to keep track and argue along the way. Remember, too, to visit our 30 best games and 30 best players series since 1980, as well. Enjoy!

    1997 Nebraska

    Overall Record (Big 8/12): 13-0 (9-0)
    Titles won: Big 12 Championship, Coaches National Championship
    All-Americans: Grant Wistrom, Jason Peter and Aaron Taylor, 1st-team All-Americans. Taylor won the Outland Trophy while Wistrom won the Lombardi Trophy.

    Summary: After steamrolling through the first two-thirds of the season, Nebraska ran into a few hiccups in November, needed a Miracle in Missouri and a questionable pass interference call in Colorado to remain undefeated through the regular season. As Tom Osborne stunned fans - though not close friends - by announcing his retirement, NU rolled Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship and Peyton Manning’s Tennessee in the Orange Bowl to capture a piece of the national title one year before the BCS fell into place.

    Would Nebraska have beaten the other national champ, Michigan? Perhaps. Maybe. It would have been a terrific game, low-scoring, and exciting into the final quarter. It’s one of the “what ifs” of NU’s run through the 1990s. It takes nothing away from a championship season.

    The Huskers opened at No. 6 to start the season, beating Akron in the season-opener. Nebraska withstood a surprising challenge from Duante Culpepper and Central Florida in game two with a 38-24 win; Culpepper, then an unknown, threw for 318 yards, raising concerns that NU’s defense wouldn’t stand up during a road trip to No. 2 Washington.

    The Huskies were all frost and no cake, as Nebraska steamrolled UW for 384 rushing yards in a 27-14 wins. Scott Frost, maligned for most of his career in Lincoln, flipped the switch and earned admiration with his performance, rushing for 97 yards and two early touchdowns.

    Nebraska thumped the next five opponents, including a darn good Kansas State team. During that portion of the season, Ahman Green ran wild. 193 yards vs. KSU. 158 at Baylor. 178 vs. Texas Tech. 123 at Kansas. 105 in a 69-7 humiliation of Oklahoma. NU had risen to No. 1 heading into a game at Missouri.

    And thus commenced one of the great games in Nebraska history, a 45-38 win in overtime. The Flea Kicker!

    The Huskers slipped to No. 3, behind Michigan and Florida State. When FSU dropped a 32-29 decision to Florida in its season-finale, Nebraska rose to No. 2, within striking distance of the Wolverines. Nebraska nearly coughed it up in Boulder, surviving a Buffalo comeback in a 27-24 win. An offensive pass interference penalty on a CU receiver halted the Buffs’ final drive.

    No worries in the Big 12 Championship game, though, as Nebraska smashed overmatched Texas A&M 54-15, whose offensive strategy failed in the first quarter, and never got much better. NU racked up 536 yards in all manners of destruction. Frost was brilliant, throwing for 201 and rushing for 79. For the year, he racked up 2,332 total yards and 24 total touchdowns. The best single year, at the time, for any Husker signal-caller.

    After the title game, Osborne announced his retirement and selected Frank Solich as his successor. He cited his faith and his family as primary reasons. In hindsight, perhaps Osborne retired too early. He was still sharp mentally and physically was in terrific shape. If a different athletic director had been in place, who knows?

    So the Huskers had extra motivation heading into the Orange Bowl and, after a sluggish first half, beat Tennessee 42-17 to help clinch half of the national title. That win over the Volunteers encapsulated everything Nebraska was about in that season. Manning, one of the best passers in NFL history, was harassed all night into short slant passes and hurried throws. Sacked just once, Manning was off his game all night because of the Blackshirts’ daunting front four, led by Grant Wistrom and Jason Peter. Nebraska’s running game racked up 409 yards against UT’s overmatched defense (which won a national title just one year later).

    Frost was, again, efficient, throwing just 12 passes, but completing nine for 125 yards. After the game, Frost’s speech on the trophy podium presented a clear argument for coaches to switch their votes to Nebraska from Michigan. It worked. NU narrowly captured a piece of the crown.

    This Husker squad was stocked with stars. Wistrom and Peter were a two-man comedy team off the field, and the nation’s preeminent enforcers on it, archetypes of technique and effort. Mike Rucker manned another defensive position, while defensive backs Mike and Ralph Brown patrolled the secondary. The offensive line featured Taylor, while the backfield featured Green and fullback Joel Makovicka. NU even had some of the nation’s best punt and kickoff returners in Bobby Newcombe, Joe Walker and Shevin Wiggins.

    Highlight: The Orange Bowl performance, especially the second half. The Big 12 Championship was equally impressive.

    Lowlight: Almost collapsing in Colorado.

    Check out the rest of the list!

    No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, No. 26, No. 25, No. 24, No. 23, No. 22, No. 21, No. 20, No. 19, No. 18, No. 17, No. 16, No. 15, No. 14, No. 13, No. 12, No. 11, No. 10, No. 9, No. 8, No. 7, No. 6, No. 5

    Tags: 30 best teams since 1980, scott frost, jason peter, grant wistrom, aaron taylor

  2. 2010 Jul 27

    Ranking NU Teams Since 1980: No. 10


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    In July, we’ll be ranking all 30 of Nebraska teams since 1980, worst to first. Be sure to keep track and argue along the way. Remember, too, to visit our 30 best games and 30 best players series since 1980, as well. Enjoy!

    1996 Nebraska

    Overall Record (Big 8/12): 11-2
    Titles won: Big 12 North Division, Orange Bowl Champions
    All-Americans: Center Aaron Taylor and defensive end Grant Wistrom and Jared Tomich, 1st-team All-Americans.

    Summary: After two straight national titles, Nebraska sought a rare three-peat. Despite a terrific, dominant defense, Nebraska’s offense was inconsistent at times during the regular season, especially in a 19-0 loss to Arizona State. In the Big 12 Championship, NU had a shot at playing for the national title. And that’s when the defense, riddled with the flu, fell apart in a 37-27 loss.

    In between those two games, the Huskers rolled through the Big 12 without a blemish, flexing its defensive muscles most of the way. The inaugural year of the league wasn’t particularly strong - especially in, ironically, the Big 12 South - and Nebraska had the strongest roster and coaching staff by some margin. New quarterback Scott Frost survived through some struggles, throwing for 1,400 yards, while young running backs Ahman Green and DeAngelo Evans combined for almost 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns. The defense intercepted 23 passes and the Huskers returned four kicks for touchdowns.

    The three-peat quest began with a 55-14 romp over Michigan State on national TV. The top-ranked Huskers then headed to Arizona State for a late-night game on ASU’s “tradition night,” in which it was honoring former coach Frank Kush.

    The Sun Devils - who came within three points of winning the national title that year - ambushed the Big Red, 19-0. ASU notched three safeties, two of them on sacks of Frost, who was briefly replaced by Matt Turman.

    Nebraska played the next nine games as if it wanted to purge itself of that game, blasting every opponent, including a 39-3 win over No. 16 Kansas State and a 73-21 win over Oklahoma. It set up a game with Colorado for the Big 12 North title.

    NU and CU engaged in a slobber knocker, with the Huskers prevailing 17-12 thanks to a inspired performance from the Blackshirts, which routinely rebuffed the Buffaloes.

    The Big 12 title game, held in St. Louis was, well, forgettable. Texas, stocked with underachieving talent, picked that one day to play to its potential. Nebraska, meanwhile, was without linebacker Terrell Farley and struggling with a team-wide bout of the flu. UT racked up 503 total yards and scored the game’s final two touchdowns in a 37-27 win. The most memorable play - a fourth-down conversion by the Longhorns in which James Brown, instead of sneaking for first down, rolled out to pass and found tight end Derek Lewis for a 63-yard gain.

    After that loss, Nebraska headed to the consolation prize, a Orange Bowl date with Virginia Tech. In a game that was closer than the score suggested, NU prevailed 41-21 with running back Damon Benning win bowl MVP honors.

    Highlight: Nebraska’s 39-3 butt-kicking of K-State in Manhattan, with Evans silencing the KSU crowd.

    Lowlight: The Arizona State game. NU looked overconfident and lost.

    Check out the rest of the list!

    No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, No. 26, No. 25, No. 24, No. 23, No. 22, No. 21, No. 20, No. 19, No. 18, No. 17, No. 16, No. 15, No. 14, No. 13, No. 12, No. 11

    Tags: 30 best teams since 1980, grant wistrom, jared tomich, aaron taylor

  3. 2010 May 10

    30/1980 BEST PLAYERS: No. 20


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Welcome to Husker Locker’s “30 Best Players since 1980” portion of the Summer 30 series. Check throughout May to see our updated rankings; the previous rankings will be housed at the bottom of this blog post.

    Like or dislike our pick? Comment on it below.

    Not a member, but would like to comment? Join Husker Locker today - it's free!.

    Remember, too, to weigh in on the Best Individual Performances and Best Games since 1980. Also stay tuned for our ranking of every team, 1980-2009, at the end of the series!

    No. 20 Aaron Taylor (1994-1997)

    The 1997 Outland Trophy winner excelled at two different positions - guard and center - during his Husker career. He won three national titles, and was an integral part of the 1995 and 1997 squads. The school record-holder in pancake blocks until Toniu Fonoti surpassed him in 2001, Taylor is the only Husker to be named an All-American at two different positions.

    Amiable and friendly off the field, but rawhide-tough on it, Taylor wasn’t of prototypical size - about 6-foot, 300 pounds - but he was quick around the corner, powerful and smart. His low center of gravity, along with a sharp, quick burst on his first step, often set back opposing defensive tackles on his heels. Few NU offensive linemen were better in NU’s history, and none were tougher.

    Check Out the Entire List!

    Honorable Mention, No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, No. 26, No. 25, No. 24, No. 23, No. 22, No. 21

    Tags: 30 best players since 1980, aaron taylor

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