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  1. 2012 Mar 25

    Knee-Jerk Reactions (3/25/2012)


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - Tim Miles passed the first press conference test with flying colors.

    - Unless you’re hated with a passion coming in, you always pass the first press conference test with flying colors.

    - He has the right mindset, now let’s see if he can coach with the big boys.

    - Enjoyed chatting with CBS’ Gregg Doyel about the future of Nebrasketball.

    - Dropping the first B1G baseball game to Illinois seemed appropriate considering football’s loss to Wisconsin. Nice rebound on Saturday, though.

    - Hoping PJ Smith gets the opportunity to show what he can do at safety. He’s not the most cerebral guy, but he makes up for it in athleticism.

    - The Capital One Bowl wasn’t good for much, but if it drives Brett Maher to be even better in 2012, doesn’t that make it closer to a wash?

    - Pelini’s guys have lofty goals, and that’s respectable, but their words don’t seem like those of guys who’ve been told about a process repeatedly.

    - They talk too much about their destination rather than the journey, at least for now.

    - Looking forward to see what Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green can do during the Spring Game.

    - Agree with Brian that Green should redshirt unless needed, but likely won’t.

    - For your KJR wrap up:

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    Tags: tim miles, baseball, pj smith, brett maher, ameer abdullah, aaron green

  2. 2012 Mar 20

    Husker Heartbeat (3/20/12): Abdullah's Latest, New Name for Nebrasketball and Joseph's Southern Challenge


    By HuskerLocker

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    A daily dose of what's new in Husker Nation from Monday through Friday:

    - Ameer Abdullah is preparing for a sensational sophomore season

    - Oral Roberts' Scott Sutton's name has been linked to Nebrasketball's coaching search

    - Terry Joseph's ready to plant a Husker flag in SEC country

    - Nebraska's pulling in average revenue compared to the rest of the Big Ten

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    Tags: ameer abdullah, basketball, terry joseph

  3. 2012 Mar 09

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Mucho Hooch-O - Who's at Second...Behind Rex?


    By HuskerLocker

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    The fifteenth edition of Mucho Hooch-O, an audio blog by Husker Locker's own Greg "Hooch" Mehochko examines one of the biggest questions that may not be answered until the fall. Who's Nebraska's No. 2 running back?

    Topics on the docket:

    - Redshirt remorse
    - How will Mike Marrow affect the race?
    - The hybrid that is Imani Cross
    - The Husker backfield's favorite superheroes

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Follow Greg a.k.a. Hooch on Twitter: @thehooch36
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    Tags: rex burkhead, ameer abdullah, braylon heard, aaron green, mike marrow, imani cross

  4. 2012 Mar 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Spring Practice Position Primer


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Quarterback: Without Tommy Armstrong in camp, Martinez has no threat to his starting spot. He’s showed tremendous athletic potential last spring.

    If Carnes continues to improve athletically, and the mental aspect of the game can be reinforced, while the gap between he and Martinez isn’t likely to shrink that much, a legitimate backup candidate could be crowned.

    Running back: Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green start on equal footing heading into Saturday and could very well end up where they started following April’s spring game.

    Thanks to Abdullah’s edge in experience during actual FBS play, one has to think he has a leg up on Green. His fumbling problems may level the playing field, however.

    Wide receiver: Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, Tim Marlowe and Jamal Turner will all have the opportunity to solidify their starting roles.

    With the departure of Khiry Cooper, look for Taariq Allen, who followed wide receivers coach Rich Fisher from Weston, Massachusetts, to vie for the fifth spot. KC Hyland and Tyler Evans are two other talents with an opportunity to shine.

    Tight End: Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed aren’t going anywhere, but David Sutton and Eddie Ridder have the opportunity to showcase their potential.

    Offensive Line: Departed center Mike Caputo’s replacement could come from a number of candidates including Cole Pensick, Nick Ash and Ryan Klachko. Pensick and Ash may have seniority, but Klachko sticks out as the prospect with a higher ceiling.

    Brandon Thompson, Andrew Rodriguez, Mike Moudy and Ryne Reeves look to be the favorites to hold down the guard spots. Rodriguez’s attitude has reportedly been lackadaisical, but Moudy and Reeves have the tenacity to step up should he slack off.

    Sirles and Qvale will start out spring at the tackle spots with Tyler Moore giving them all they can handle in an attempt to take one of their spots. Zach Sterup is a likely backup candidate with Givens Price needing a strong spring to assert himself as a legitimate threat for playing time.

    Defensive Line: Cameron Meredith, Jason Ankrah, Eric Martin and Joseph Cater have the end positions on lockdown barring injury. Donovan Vestal and Walker Ashburn need huge springs to hold off the incoming Avery Moss and Greg McMullen come the fall.

    The interior’s been decimated by injury with Chase Rome and Todd Peat, Jr. now out for the entirety of spring ball. Once Kevin Williams and Thad Randle return from injury, they’ll be plugged in next to Baker Steinkuhler in an attempt to hone their abilities, and find a suitable replacement for Rome’s spring absence.

    Having a deeper interior for rotation’s sake won’t hurt heading into Big Ten play. Jay Guy and newly-placed Tobi Okuyemi will have the opportunity to show that their work ethic has improved.

    Linebackers: Will Compton has the MIKE slot on lockdown while Sean Fisher will spend most of his time trying to cement the BUCK slot by the end of spring. Max Pirman could find himself trying to work into rotation behind him.

    Pelini mentioned to look for David Santos and Alonzo Whaley to work at the WILL position to begin the essentially-impossible task of taking over for Lavonte David. Don’t be surprised to see Santos win that battle by mid-April.

    Defensive back: Mohammed Seisay will be one of the most-watched players on the entire team this spring. Not only will he be wearing the departed David’s No. 4, but he looks to lock down the title of Nebraska’s elite cornerback.

    Andrew Green, Cinate Evans, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and recently-switched Braylon Heard will likely get the opportunity to lock down the opposite end.

    Safety: Daimion Stafford, Courtney Osborne and P.J. Smith are the likely candidates to lock down starting role. Osborne’s recent concussion issues may cause Pelini and company to take things slow with him.

    Kicker/Punter: Brett Maher is light years ahead of Mauro Bondi, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Boca Raton native can narrow the gap in the slightest.

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    Tags: spring practice, taylor martinez, brion carnes, ameer abdullah, aaron green, kenny bell, quincy enunwa, tim marlowe, jamal turner, taariq allen, ben cotton, kyler reed, cole pensick, nick ash, ryan klachko, brandon thompson, andrew rodriguez, mike moudy, ryne reeves, cameron meredith, eric martin, chase rome, todd peat, baker steinkuhler, will compton, david santos, mohammed seisay, brett maher

  5. 2012 Mar 07

    Husker Heartbeat (3/07/12): Abdullah and Green's Future, Pelini says No to Yes and Williams Released


    By HuskerLocker

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    A daily dose of what's new in Husker Nation from Monday through Friday:

    - Ameer Abdullah and Aaron Green will be getting plenty of opportunities to hone their skills to help Burkhead in 2012

    - Bo Pelini isn't interested in being surrounded by "yes men"

    - Taylor Martinez is looking forward to taking the next step in his collegiate career

    - Nebraska's anxious to see if Big Red bonding pays off

    - The Kansas City Chiefs release former Husker Demorrio Williams

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    Tags: ameer abdullah, aaron green, bo pelini, taylor martinez, demorrio williams

  6. 2012 Mar 04

    NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: Knee-Jerk Reactions (3/04/2012)


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - Couldn’t have been more impressed with how Pelini handled the Corey Raymond situation. Can anyone else see how that conversation went?

    Pelini: “Well Corey, that’s a shame. Best of luck to you.”

    *reaches for the phone*

    Pelini: “…Terry, what’s up? Yeah hey, Raymond’s headed to LSU. Right, so how’s the Dooley situation treating you? Yeah, how’d you like to coach defensive backs here?...Okay, I’ll send you the paperwork.”

    Smooth as a silk sheet

    - Nebraska’s seniors had the opportunity to play in a men's basketball program so drenched in apathy that the thought of them just not caring against Minnesota seems plausible.

    - On the flip side, Connie Yori’s crew went to Indianapolis and has back-handed all challengers. Purdue best bring their A game.

    - West Virginia brought Nebraska baseball fans back down to Earth after a 4-0 run, but in these losses that are defined in a single moment, the Cornhuskers’ aggression never stops. That wins series.

    - Lavonte David continues to impress. A 233 pound linebacker with his instincts runs a 4.56 40-yard dash and you think GMs aren’t moving him up the board? No, he is not a safety.

    - It’s unlikely that Crick stays in the first round, but the Patriots may throw him a lifeline if he impresses at NU’s Pro Day.

    - Everyone in unison: How is Tommie Frazier not in the College Football Hall of Fame?

    - Exhibit A against the new NCAA kickoff rules:

    The defense rests.

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    Tags: terry joseph, doc sadler, connie yori, basketball, baseball, ameer abdullah, lavonte david, jared crick

  7. 2012 Feb 27

    NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: Knee-Jerk Reactions (2/27/2012)


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - Erstad’s club played like a team on a mission this past weekend, one with something to prove.

    - Highlights from Nebraska’s 15-0 win over Utah:

    - Saturday’s notebook: Men’s basketball 34, Baseball 21.

    - Several Nebraska basketball fans are finding themselves with a feeling far more dangerous than anger towards the program’s current state: Apathy

    - Unless you play roundball for Connie Yori. Upsetting the No. 8 Ohio State on Senior Day is the kind of last home game dreamt of.

    - One of the funniest comments heard following Sadler’s embarrassing loss: Cut the basketball program to save money.

    1.) Spend millions on new arena and practice facility.
    2.) Cut basketball program.
    3.) ?????
    4.) Profit

    - The NCAA’s decision to move kickoffs to the 30, thus increasing touchback probability is idiocy. A well-managed 80-yard drive can be fun to watch, but Nebraska fans seemed to enjoy watching Ameer Abdullah zip between would-be tacklers.

    - Love the inking of the game with BYU. Even though the contest is three years off, that’s a long time for things to change in the world of college football.

    - Stop complaining about Idaho State. Gus Malzahn’s going to be a pain with Arkansas State and every school needs a track meet. Ask any top SEC team. They seem to be doing well.

    - Tom Osborne turned 75 last Thursday and apparently works out 60-plus minutes per day. Several egos took a hit after reading that sentence.

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    Tags: darin erstad, baseball, basketball, connie yori, tom osborne, ameer abdullah, byu, idaho state

  8. 2012 Jan 04

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: 10 Huskers to Watch in 2012


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Guest Columnist Sean Berger

    10. Defensive Line Youngins: Chase Rome and Jason Ankrah

    Young blood on the defensive line. With all of their playing time this year, much was asked of these guys. The early injury to Jared Crick becomes a blessing in disguise for the short-term future of our beloved Blackshirts.

    9. Quarterback Taylor Martinez

    An obvious selection, the entire fan base expects improvement No. 1 signal-caller. We need to see him improve his focus on protecting the ball when running this pistol-option-hybrid thing that Tim Beck and Shawn Watson developed. This year he improved in checking down on routes. We couldn't have asked him to spread the ball around more. (Thank you, Joe Ganz?)

    He involved nearly every tight end and wide receiver on the depth chart. Throwing the ball away when necessary seems natural for this guy. He may get outplayed at quarterback in his final two seasons if he can't develop new passing mechanics, though. His current mechanics combined with his lack of arm strength for the deep ball are not a long term solution. They're a liability in the games that matter most.

    8. Wide receivers Quincy Enunwa and Kenny Bell

    Personal intuition tells me that Enunwa will plateau into a "nice" Kenny Cheatham, but we've only begun to see Bell's potential, of which the only ceiling becomes his 6’1” frame. Enunwa prove me wrong! Nonetheless, Nebraska finally has playmakers at wide receiver. Improving hands seem to be the priority, but these guys have speed, too.

    7. Offensive linemen Seung Hoon Choi, Jeremiah Sirles and Andrew Rodriguez

    Here's the beef that has to continue to get stronger. These are the underclassmen with playing time under their belts. For the read-option-pistol thinger to continue to evolve, these guys need to give Martinez the running room and the extra seconds of decision time for Beck to utilize his best athletes: Rex Burkhead, Taylor Martinez, Ameer Abdullah and Jamal Turner.

    6. Running back Ameer Abdullah

    All of his athletic capabilities — strength, agility and speed — points to this guy being a consistent No. 2 running back for 2012. He's an exciting player with game-changing capabilities on special teams.

    5. Linebacker Will Compton

    This guy becomes the anchor of the defense. During his last two games, he seemed to be more aggressive off the ball. He's a playmaker in his best moments. I think he'll be a strong leader for the defense because he's just as committed as the next guy to the team's desire to write chapters of championship legacy.

    4. Wide receiver Jamal Turner

    In my opinion, I think Tim Beck will give him a strong look at quarterback during the offseason this offseason. We saw flashes of his athleticism this season. He has the speed of a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. Does he have an arm that can unseat Taylor Martinez? Beck is just crazy enough to involve three quarterbacks (Burkhead, Martinez and Turner) if the need arises.

    3. Defensive lineman Cameron Meredith

    I have to believe he'll get some Mel Kiper talk following his senior year at Nebraska. Everyone loves the curly locks, right? They resemble the raw gutsy leader that he is on the field and off.

    2. Running back Rex Burkhead

    The best running back in the categories of muscle and heart, Rex Burkhead didn't miss a beat for a Nebraska running attack that experienced the loss of third-round NFL draft selection Roy Helu, Jr. Every carry by Burkhead featured No. 22 inching out tough-as-nails yards after contract and reminding every Husker fan why Lincoln is the Pittsburgh of the Midwest in the process.

    1. Safety Daimion Stafford

    A hard-hitting safety, Stafford had some great moments in coverage this year. With all of the problems in the secondary this year - the change in coaching, a transition of philosophies, the loss of Prince Amukamara, Dejon Gomes and Ricky Thenarse - there were almost too many holes to for the Blackshirts to fill in pass coverage.

    Nebraska will need two solid corners to compliment Stafford but there's no overlooking the fact that he was an answer amidst all of the questions. Stafford will be the heart of the defensive backfield in 2012.

    Follow Sean on Twitter: @bergrbergr
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    Tags: chase rome, jason ankrah, taylor martinez, quincy enunwa, kenny bell, seung hoon choi, heremiah sirles, andrew rodriguez, ameer abdullah, will compton, jamal turner, cameron meredith, rex burkhead, daimion stafford

  9. 2012 Jan 03

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against South Carolina


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Erin Sorensen

    30-13 - a score Nebraska fans were neither expecting nor hoping for. Well, maybe fans hoped the score was flipped in the Big Red's favor. Unfortunately, the Huskers landed on the bad end, recording their second consecutive bowl loss. The game was filled with plenty of game-changing moments. Fans were asked to keep an eye on five very important areas. How did they fare in the season finale?

    1. Connor Shaw Was Contained…For a While

    South Carolina’s quarterback saw the ground more than he was probably expecting yesterday. At times, it appeared as if the Blackshirts had the Gamecock offense more than figured out. At others, it was Wisconsin and Michigan all over again.

    The Blackshirts of the Michigan State game made various appearances during the game. It wasn’t consistent, but it was clear Shaw was getting tired of being run around. Had the Huskers been able to keep it up, Shaw could have been worn down.

    2. The Rex Burkhead Show (With a Supporting Cast)

    Everyone saw this coming a mile away including the Gamecocks, The Rex Burkhead Show made another appearance yesterday. However, Burkhead is a player than can break blocks and find holes where there are none, so this wasn't much of an issue. When it seemed impossible for him to run, he broke free. The month-long break was clearly good for his legs.

    Interestingly, Nebraska's offense wasn't a one man act this time. Thankfully, he had a supporting cast that did what they could when they could. Ameer Abdullah scored a touchdown, for instance. That more players were seeing the ball was a positive note for Tim Beck and his play calling. Again, this might not have been much but it was something worth noting.

    However, Abdullah also proved why the ball is often handed solely to Burkhead – he fumbled the ball on the Gamecocks' eight-yard line. Abdullah shouldn’t be vilified for one fumble, but this one was a momentum changer. Fans can expect to see Burkhead in an even bigger role come 2012, making sure his young backups learn to hold on to the ball.

    3. The Results of Team Preparation

    It turns out that “team preparation” wasn’t what should have been the biggest thing to watch for with the Huskers. No, it was “team discipline.” Calling this Nebraska team unprepared would be inaccurate. This team was prepared. You could see it in those several glimmering moments of hope. You saw the groundwork laid that resulted in Kenny Bell’s 30-yard touchdown catch. Unfortunately, you also saw the lack of discipline in the reaction to the following blocked PAT.

    More often than not, players were in it for themselves. The things they were coached to do went out the window. Emotions were worn on sleeves and frustration got the better of many. It overshadowed every bit of preparation the Huskers had. You can watch as much game film as you want, but without attention to discipline, none of it matters.

    The blame cannot rest fully on the players. While they did make mistakes, their lack of composure reflected their head coach who stood on the sidelines yelling at referees. This is a passionate team and fans know that. However, it’s time to start finding balance.

    4. Lavonte David’s Finest Hour

    As was said post-game, “Lavonte David is a freak.” He really is. David had a stellar game against South Carolina. Don’t agree? You might have missed it between every blown coverage and poorly read South Carolina offense. David held up his end of the deal by being where he needed to be, as always.

    If anything, he solidified himself as a desirable early-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. For his size, David is a tough player. When the going got tough, he kept playing. He was also the player to offer words of wisdom and comfort cornerback Alfonzo Dennard after he was ejected from the game. David is truly a special player through and through.

    It may not have been Nebraska’s finest hour, but it surely was one of David’s.

    5. Lack of Confidence by Taylor Martinez

    Taylor Martinez’s confidence level has been a rollercoaster this season to say the least. He has had extreme highs (Ohio State and Northwestern) along with severe lows (Wisconsin and Michigan). How he handles adversity has been a crapshoot each and every game of his career. Yesterday’s performance has been added to the extreme lows for the sophomore quarterback.

    Martinez is now a veteran. He has been the starting quarterback for two years. There are no more excuses in 2012. He has the talent. The confidence needs to be there, too. Here’s hoping Brion Carnes and incoming recruit Tommy Armstrong can provide some stiff competition in the offseason. Martinez feeds off of that competition. With enough coaching, the low-confidence days of 2010 and 2011 could be a distant memory. It’s time for him to be the CEO of the huddle.

    It really has been a wild ride. The SEC once again dominated the Big Ten. Nebraska must be feeling right at home among their conference brothers. The Capital One Bowl didn’t end as fans had hoped and it is sending the team into a long offseason with a bitter taste in their mouths…again. How will it ultimately affect the program? Husker fans have plenty of time to wait and see.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: capital one bowl, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, ameer abdullah, kenny bell, bo pelini

  10. 2012 Jan 02

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Capital One Bowl Game Day Thoughts


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The Husker Locker staff will be presented a number of questions addressing various aspects of each week's game all season long.

    This week:

    What's your confidence level heading into the Capital One Bowl?

    Brian: About the same as I have had the last half of the season. While the defense has gotten better, there is still too much inconsistency in the offense in both playcalling and execution for me to have any peace of mind that Nebraska will be going into this game with all guns blazing. Add on the rust of not seeing live action in over a month, and there is enough to worry about.

    Erin: It could be higher, but I always have faith in the Huskers. I believe this team has what it takes to win. I've felt that way all season, in fact. I genuinely believe that with a different game plan, Nebraska could have beat Wisconsin and Michigan (I'm choosing to ignore Northwestern though because they definitely could have - and should have - beat the Wildcats).

    The talent has always been there. We saw telling moments against Ohio State and Michigan State that proved this. Again, I'm always confident the Huskers could win. As long as they have confidence in themselves and Tim Beck provides a stellar game plan, my confidence is there.

    James: Marginal. It's pretty similar to how it has been all season - which Nebraska team shows up? If it's the team that dominated Michigan State, it could be an impressive win for the Huskers. If it's the team that got beaten by Northwestern, it could be another ugly SEC beatdown of a B1G team.

    I picked South Carolina in my bowl pick'ems, I unfortunately have to stick to that prediction. I think the issue will actually be Nebraska's offense, they won't score enough points to get it done against a strong SEC defense.

    Brandon: I’m cautiously optimistic about Nebraska’s chances. I think they can hang with South Carolina and considering the athletes they have and the final stretch of the regular season for the Cornhuskers, that’s impressive. You’ve got a number of factors playing into this game, but one of the biggest ones has to be last year’s Holiday Bowl.

    There’s been a number of reports coming out of practices about how focused the team is. Normally I’d brush this off as lip service, but I truly believe that following the Northwester-esque efforts given last season against Washington, these guys want to smack a quality SEC opponent in the mouth. I’m skeptical about the defense’s ability to contain Connor Shaw, but if Lavonte David’s his spy all game, No. 4 will have an easier time dealing with him than Dennard Robinson, for example.

    How much of an impact do you think a win or loss will have on the offseason?

    Brian: A win will get this team to that 10-win plateau that people should measure success in a season upon. 10 wins now is the new “nine-win season” that several Husker fans have fallen in love with. There are too many games now (this makes 13 for Nebraska in 2011) to say that nine wins is the standard. 10, even 11 wins should be the standard. However, that’s another argument for another time.

    A loss, on the other hand, will have people throwing out a lot of worry and questions during the winter months into the summer. It will have the stench of last year’s failed ending with the Big 12 title game and the Holiday Bowl debacle.

    If Nebraska plays well and loses, that will be one thing. If the Huskers stink up Orlando on Monday, there will be questions that need to be asked about the core group of leaders on this team.

    Erin: I don't know if a loss would be devastating, but it wouldn't be exactly how we would want to start 2012. A win would really motivate this team and may even seal the deal for some recruits that are still on the fence. Let's call it like it is: Nebraska needs to win, for a lot of reasons. Every fan, player, and coach has their own.

    James: A win over a solid SEC team would be a nice indicator of where Nebraska is going into 2012. Given that last season ended with a meltdown prior to and during the bowl game, repeating that performance with Bo looking for jobs and an underwhelming recruiting class would give Husker fans plenty to worry about heading into 2012. This is even more true thanks losing the three-headed monster of Crick, David and Dennard on defense.

    Brandon: We saw how much of an impact a bowl loss can have last season post-Washington, but I don’t feel that was because of the loss itself, but rather how the game was lost. Regardless, you’ve got to think that since they fell short of even competing for the Big Ten Championship, Pelini and the Huskers consider this an opportunity to prove they belong. Wins against the SEC are something that every Big Ten team wants to put on their resume.

    What's your take on Nebraska's latest hire, former Iowa defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski?

    Brian: Is “meh” a grade? It’s not like Nebraska did horribly here, but I don’t see how Kaz is such a great hire. Granted, he came from an inter-divisional team and, for all intents and purposes, our new “rival” in the Big Ten. However, it’s not like Rick has torn it up in the coaching ranks.

    Yes, he had Adrian Clayborn, however like Bo/Carl had Ndamukong Suh, you need to be consistently pulling talent into the program and creating great players to be considered a solid hire. There were better people out there (Ron Zook and Larry Johnson Jr. to name a couple), but Kaczenski is not a slouch by any means. Now, if he can recruit Florida like he did for Iowa, then my feelings about him improve for sure.

    Erin: I don't think it was a bad hire. In fact, it's definitely going to create some animosity for the Iowa-Nebraska rivalry. Really no better way to get that started then stealing a coach.

    As for the actual hire, Coach Kaz is going to balance out the lack of experience on the defensive side of the coaching staff. I am not implying Papuchis isn't good at what he does, but he's only 33. Coach Kaz will be able to provide additional support and knowledge from his previous experience. That alone makes him a good hire. Plus, I think he'll be stellar with our defensive line.

    James: I like the hire, he's known as a good teacher, a decent recruiter, and has solid connections to Nebraska strength coach James Dobson. Dobson has done great things here, and his endorsement is enough for me. I hope he can really hit the recruiting trail, for all of the success Nebraska's defensive linemen have had under Pelini, it's shocking that they haven't landed young recruit after recruit.

    Brandon: I’m taking a wait-and-see approach, but I like everything I’ve heard thus far. Allegedly, Kaz weeds out slackers, has solid recruiting connections, is very technique-oriented and is a blue-collar guy which fits Bo’s mentality to the letter. He seems to have a fair amount of energy, too. See his comments regarding finally being able to sport Nebraska as a “brand name” for evidence of that.

    Have a prediction, both gameplan and score for the Capital One Bowl?

    Brian: The offense will go as Taylor goes, per usual. You of course will see a steady diet of Rex and option/zone read. Knowing how good South Carolina has been against the run, they will load up, daring Martinez to beat them with his arm.

    While there will be some success, I fear that Nebraska will not do enough good things to score much. The defense will make plays and it will be close, but I just do not see the offense being consistent enough to pull this one out.

    South Carolina 17 Nebraska 13

    Erin: My score prediction has been 24-21. I said that weeks ago and I'm sticking with it. It'll be a close game no matter what.

    As for game plan, I'm really hoping Beck has drawn up a lot of run plays, utilizing more than just Rex Burkhead. Burkhead can be the anchor, but let's get guys like Ameer Abdullah going and catch South Carolina off guard. Quick passes on slants would be ideal.

    Bring the Gamecock defense up with those quick slants, then throw a bomb to Kenny Bell down the field. Basically, I'm predicting a lot of quick plays that will have the South Carolina defense all over the place. I believe that is the key to winning.

    James: South Carolina 24-21. I think the defense will play lights out, but will be burned by a key big play breakdown, as well as timely quarterback runs to keep the chains moving for USC. The Huskers will keep it closely with a big play or two on defense and special teams to set the offense up.

    This could easily go the other way if Nebraska shows up. That said, don't you get the feeling Steve Spurrier is looking to extract some revenge for the 1996 Fiesta Bowl? If it goes badly early, I see the Old Ball Coach pouring it on.

    Brandon: On offense, keep the ball on the ground heading north-south as much as possible. South Carolina has struggled with the option all year, so there’s little doubt in my mind that they’ve been hitting the books hard on defending it. Given that there’s opportunity to gash the middle of their defensive line, take the opportunity. If Nebraska’s going to pass, short to intermediate gains need to be the goal. Don’t test that Gamecock secondary much.

    Defensively, while the Blackshirts don’t have to worry about Marcus Lattimore, they need to keep South Carolina’s running game in check. More importantly, they need to put doubt in Connor Shaw’s head about pulling the ball down and running. Alfonzo Dennard looks to be on Alshon Jeffery all day which is going to force Shaw to look for other talented receivers. Going against some questionable talent in Nebraska’s secondary, I expect Bo to run the nickel for most of the game.

    Score prediction: Whoever wins, they’ll do it by a score of 27-23

    Follow the panel on Twitter:

    Brandon: @huskerlocker
    Brian: @btbowling
    Erin: @helloerinmarie
    James: @jamesstevenson

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    Tags: capital one bowl, jared crick, lavonte david, alfonzo dennard, rex burkhead, ameer abdullah, taylor martinez

  11. 2011 Dec 11

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Pelini's Passion To Be Tested This Winter


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    It’s approaching mid-December and Nebraska recently picked up its eighth commitment of this recruiting cycle. Linebacker Thomas Brown is a welcome addition as fellow linebacker Deion Jones defected to LSU. The peculiar thing is that the Cornhuskers could easily have approximately double their current commitment numbers, so why don’t they?

    Bo Pelini’s not a fan of recruiting and it’s easy to understand why. It’s a 24/7/365 gig and it’s not for everyone which is why a recruiting coordinator is usually designated. In some cases, head coaches will crack the whip and in others, such as with Pelini’s staff, the coach with the official title of recruiting specialist is trusted to make necessary adjustments.

    Through Nebraska’s 2011 home slate when the Cornhuskers can take advantage of their biggest recruiting tool in the Big Red faithful, they used 29 official visits out of an allotted 55. Only 22 of those trips brought uncommitted prospects to Lincoln.

    The December and January months need to be when the Cornhuskers find a few diamonds in the rough or sneak athletes like true freshman running back Ameer Abdullah out from underneath the noses of the nation’s premiere programs. It’s not the time for the heaviest of lifting to be done.

    When Pelini’s not at official Capital One Bowl functions, he’s pounding the recruiting pavement with a ferocity not seen out of the Huskers’ fourth-year coach during his tenure. Could Urban Meyer’s hiring at Ohio State signal a gauntlet being thrown down? Whatever the reason, Pelini would be doing his program a service by stepping into recruiting matters more often, but it’s understandable why he doesn’t.

    Bo Pelini is the big gun. When he steps into a recruit’s living room, you know the situation just got real. The Kingpin of North Stadium has come to pay a visit. When Pelini is ready to talk face to face, he cranks up the heat. He has “it”, but does he truly realize that or not?

    This ramped up recruiting effort is part one in determining how serious Pelini is about taking the Nebraska football program back to the elite level. He knows his strengths. He’s a tactician, he deals with the X’s and O’s, but he has gradually grown more into the CEO role necessary of a head coach at a major FBS school.

    Part two will be revealed in his hire of a new defensive coordinator. If he hires someone from outside the program who knows how to properly recruit, buckle down and gladly be the taskmaster, one has to think he’s in it for the long haul.

    Another promotion from within, another Ohio Bobcat, another ho-hum pick and it’ll be hard to take talk of commitment to win as seriously. Bo Pelini’s defenses will likely always provide nine or ten wins. To challenge for and win Big Ten championships, not to mention grace a BCS bowl for the first time in a decade, there needs to be a legitimate hire that makes a statement from the initial tweet.

    Nebraska's head man has everything he needs to return the Cornhuskers to true relevancy. The Huskers were the fresh face in the Big Ten this season, the new kid on the block. With Jared Crick, Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard, they looked to produce one of the finest defenses seen since the defensive mastermind came to town. The rest is history.

    Pelini must redirect the passion seen on the Huskers’ sideline every game day to recruiting, development of depth and a true pledge to be the best in the nation by actions, not words. If this happens, Nebraska stands a good chance of casting an intimidating shadow across the entire college football landscape again.

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    Tags: bo pelini, ameer abdullah

  12. 2011 Nov 28

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Statistically Speaking as of 11/28


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    At the end of this season, if current trends continue:

    - Quarterback Taylor Martinez will complete 55.9% of his passes (165-295) throwing for 2137 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions ending 2011 with a passing efficiency rating of 125.9.

    - Running back Rex Burkhead will finish the season with 283 carries for 1374 yards rushing (4.9 YPC) and 16 touchdowns.

    - Wide receiver Kenny Bell will wrap up his year with 32 catches for 530 yards (16.6 YPC) and three touchdowns.

    - Linebacker Lavonte David will have accumulated 132 tackles, 62 solo, 12 tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions, two passes broken up, three quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

    - Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard will have broken up at least one pass in all but two games he’s played.

    - Specialist Brett Maher will have converted 21 of 24 field goals. He will have kicked 59 punts averaging 44.6 yards per punt, downing 26 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. On 75 kickoffs, he’ll have averaged 67 yards per kickoff, tally 21 touchbacks and have scored 107 points.

    - Running back Ameer Abdullah will have piled up 896 yards in total return yardage (69 YPG).

    - Nebraska will have fumbled the ball 34 times, but will have only lost 11.

    - The Cornhuskers will have committed 82 penalties accumulating 683 yards of punishment (52 YPG).

    - The third quarter will have been Nebraska’s finest as they will have outscored opponents 119-72.

    - If the Huskers win the 2012 Capital One Bowl, about 771,463 fans will have seen Nebraska win live.

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    Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, kenny bell, lavonte david, alfonzo dennard, brett maher, ameer abdullah, capital one bowl

  13. 2011 Nov 27

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Knee-Jerk Reactions - Iowa


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - Call Rex Burkhead’s final tote of the rock what you want, but he deserved the record for carries after his day/season.

    - Speaking of Superman, he was responsible for over 72 percent of Nebraska’s rushing yardage and over 41 percent of the Cornhuskers’ entire offensive output.

    - The gameplan was vanilla, but when you have a weapon like Burkhead and an opponent that can’t stop him, why mess with a good thing?

    - Ameer Abdullah ran hard when he had the opportunity. Another year’s tutelage under No. 22 will only end in positive results for the young backups.

    - Taylor’s touchdown lob to Kyler Reed was awfully Tebowesque.

    - Martinez has improved over the season, but it’s been two steps forward, one step back.

    - Props to seniors on the offensive line. This is a unit that's pulled a 180.

    - Lavonte David plays like the entire opposing team has personally wronged him. In other news, the sun rose today.

    - Andrew Green looks remarkably different from game one. We might see brothers playing regularly on offense and defense come next season.

    - Wonder what five things Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt wishes he could’ve brought to Dennard Island.

    - Brett Maher had a 16-yard punt and still ended the game with a near 42-yard average on seven boots.

    - Bowl Prediction of the Week: Capital One vs. Arkansas.

    - Nebraska and Iowa should be playing for a six-foot-long bronzed pitchfork. There, it’s been said.

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    Tags: rex burkhead, ameer abdullah, taylor martinez, kyler reed, lavonte david, andrew green, alfonzo dennard, marvin mcnutt, brett maher, capital one bowl, arkansas, heroes game

  14. 2011 Nov 21

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Most Valuable Huskers vs. Michigan


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By James Stevenson

    Offensive MVP: Film not found. Nebraska junior quarterback Taylor Martinez completed nine passes out of 23 and was sacked three times. The Huskers’ star running back Rex Burkhead gained only 36 yards on 10 carries (how did he only have 10 carries?!). The offense lost two fumbles. If we were forced to give an MVP out, we’d give it to the sweet triple read option play. You know the one.

    The play where Martinez read the defensive end, handed off to Burkhead who then read the corner and pitched to Freshman I-back Ameer Abdullah who waltzed in for a touchdown. Did you get the feeling that ESPN color analyst Urban Meyer will be running that play against Nebraska next season as the head coach of Ohio State?

    Defensive MVP: If there was a silver lining to last Saturday’s game, it was the amazing play of senior linebacker Lavonte David. It was a career day for David, finishing with an eye-popping 17 tackles (14 solo). While spying Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, he combined with safety Daimion Stafford for a sack, and had 2.5 tackles for a loss.

    Special Teams MVP: The unit that directly led to Nebraska’s implosion doesn’t deserve an award this week. We would’ve considered junior kicker/punter Brett Maher had he not bobbled the snap on what eventually was a blocked punt. He was money otherwise, hitting a 51-yard field goal, and averaging 46 yards on six punts.

    Michigan MVP: Michigan junior quarterback Denard Robinson completed 11 of 18 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed 23 times for another 83 yards and two more touchdowns. He single-handedly outscored the Huskers, and constantly broke the Blackshirts’ backs with well-timed runs and passes.

    Texas A&M Redux: Just over one year ago, Nebraska took an infamous trip to College Station. Conspiracy theorists in the crowd will recall quite a few questionable calls in that game. The curse of Novembers' past followed the Huskers to Ann Arbor. Early in the game, Michigan completed a 46-yard pass to wide receiver Roy Roundtree after he pushed off of All-American cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.

    Later, wide receiver Tim Marlowe was tackled on third down before a pass arrived, but no flag was thrown. When Nebraska was trying to make a late comeback, the referees flagged Nebraska’s special teams for roughing the kicker, even though he’d barely been touched by the Cornhusker rush. The referees certainly didn’t cost Nebraska the game, but they tilted the odds in Michigan’s favor even more.

    Stubhub Award: Internet-service providers certainly saw an uptick in Husker fans heading to online ticket broker Stubhub.com during the second half of the game. Instead of buying tickets to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis, the Husker Faithful were listing their tickets on Stubhub, hoping to gobble up some Turkey Day spending money. If you’re a Michigan State fan planning your trip, you should check the hotels in Indianapolis. A number of rooms likely became available as of last Saturday.

    Nebraska Loves the Option So Much: …that it tries to run it on defense too. When defensive tackle Terrence Moore intercepted an attempted screen pass by Denard Robinson, he returned it 10 yards before attempting to pitch it out to a nearby teammate. He was ultimately ruled down before the pitch, but it was one of the Cornhuskers’ best option plays of the day.

    The Corn Bowl?: The Huskers have a short week ahead. They play the Iowa Hawkeyes bright and early in Lincoln on Black Friday at 11:00 AM. It’ll be the final home game for the Nebraska seniors, as they play for an ugly wooden trophy with a bowl of corn on the top (fans certainly didn't vote for that base).

    The sad thing is that the trophy will only be seen by the Innocents Society and is better than the game’s other stakes with the winner claiming third place in the Big Ten Legends division. A loss would likely banish the Huskers to the Insight Bowl (held at another House of Husker Horror: Sun Devil Stadium). Talk about a step back from 2009 and 2010.

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    Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, terrence moore, ameer abdullah, lavonte david, daimion stafford, brett maher, alfonzo dennard, denard robinson, roy roundtree, tim marlowe

  15. 2011 Nov 18

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Surprising Huskers of 2011


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Following the end of a tumultuous 2010 season that saw Nebraska drop three of their last four games including an embarrassing performance against Washington, what 2011 held was a mystery.

    As spring turned to fall and this Cornhusker squad stubbed their toes, learned from their mistakes and grew, some unexpected developments took place amongst the roster. Five stand out in particular:

    - Seung Hoon Choi

    The Seoul, South Korea native made waves in fall camp and was expected to be put in rotation by many who follow the program closely. It’s hard to believe that anyone aside from coaches and players saw Choi's exceptional performances coming. The junior offensive guard has proven his mettle, especially when it comes to steamrolling defensive linemen to make way for his running backs.

    Choi’s development is a testament to the assistance that John Garrison and Brendan Stai have been giving Barney Cotton this season. It appears that with Cotton relaying what he’s seeing from the big uglies up front, the Garrison/Stai combination has been able to install strategic training allowing all linemen to excel, but Choi’s improvement stands above the rest.

    - Kenny Bell

    "If you don’t know, throw to the ‘fro!"

    While Bell's had a case of the dropsies lately, that doesn’t change the fact that the redshirt freshman has proven game-changing ability. He currently leads the team in receiving yards with 307 and is tied with three others for the most touchdown catches with two. Bell’s signature hairdo isn’t the only thing that has endeared him to Husker fans.

    His measurables (6’1” 180 pounds according to Huskers.com) make for a daunting deep threat against any secondary. Many times, Bell has found himself ready to haul in massive chunks of yardage via passes from quarterback Taylor Martinez. Unfortunately, far too many of those tosses have bounced off of his hands. The good news is that while young, Bell has a tremendous upside and the potential to become an extremely dangerous weapon in Tim Beck’s offense.

    - Ameer Abdullah

    As the 2011 season has developed, it seems like we’ve seen less and less of Abdullah who thrilled Nebraska fans thanks to his kick returns earlier in the year. With a reliance on the unwavering Rex Burkhead to help guide Nebraska to victory from the I-Back spot, Abdullah is now been primarily used to get Superman what little rest he's afforded.

    Despite having some issues securing the football, many Husker fans remember back to Abdullah's electrifying 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Fresno State. Thanks to that one remarkable play, the Big Red masses are waiting for him to thrill them over and over. One has to think it’s only a matter of time.

    - Brett Maher

    Let’s face it, folks. Nebraska’s spoiled. No, not by conference titles or national championships, but by the seeming assembly line of efficient, if not great, kickers and punters to come through the football program. Severe uncertainty ran rampant following the departure of arguably the best kicker in Cornhusker history, current Philadelphia Eagle Alex Henery.

    How do you replace the NCAA’s all-time most accurate kicker? Enter Brett Maher. He watched silently as Nebraska signed Boca Raton, Florida native Mauro Bondi to a scholarship. Surely the guy with a free ride had the starting spot on lock down, right? Maher never had to say a word.

    His cleats briefly flatten the Memorial Stadium FieldTurf before he nails field goals with accuracy coveted by the SEC. He booms punts, often downing them inside the 20-yard line and trots back to the sidelines. Sorry, Mr. Bondi. Brett Maher's the new sheriff in town.

    - Taylor Martinez

    How can Nebraska’s returning starter at quarterback be a surprise? The consensus last April/May was to get Brion Carnes on the field immediately following an absolutely putrid performance by Martinez in Nebraska’s Red-White Spring Game. Then came the summer and he grew. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck worked with him and organized an offense that afforded Martinez the opportunity to think less and react more.

    Beck Ball has been rough to watch at times as the sophomore signal-caller has looked uncomfortable at times on option runs. There’s no argument that he’s improved, however. Using short to intermediate strikes, Martinez’s passing won’t make many highlight reels. His throwing motion has even been ridiculed on national television.

    Regardless, he’s effective and those small to medium chunks of yardage build up. Less zone read and reliance on those around him appear to have injected new confidence in Martinez. He’s not the only one who believes a play can be successful with the ball in his hands. The 10 others on the field wearing the same colors do, too.

    Martinez’s trust in himself and those around him has helped him flourish. If he continues to grow at this rate, Nebraska will be afforded the opportunity to begin developing those behind him in the same fashion. If Brion Carnes, Ron Kellogg and the incoming Tommy Armstrong can benefit from the same tutoring, the quality of the Cornhusker quarterback depth chart will skyrocket.

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    Tags: seung hoon choi, kenny bell, ameer abdullah, brett maher, taylor martinez

  16. 2011 Nov 14

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against Penn State


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    Fans were unsure of what to expect as last Saturday's kickoff drew nearer. At the final whistle, a 17-14 victory was more than sweet, as Nebraska handed Penn State their first conference loss of the season. It was still bitter though, as fans witnessed a program struggling to move past one of the biggest scandals in college athletics.

    1. Pressure on Matt McGloin/An Absent Rob Bolden

    Penn State often starts sophomore Rob Bolden against opponents. Bolden never saw the field as junior Matt McGloin took the reins of the Nittany Lions’ offense. However, Bolden’s lack of time under center is a mystery, as he is easily the better runner of the two.

    The logic here must have been that McGloin is a better decision-maker and would be able to handle a situation like the 17-0 deficit Penn State found itself staring at.

    Nebraska fans were told to look for the junior starting first, with Bolden coming in as a backup, a reverse from what Penn State usually does. However, enough pressure from the defense (and efficient scoring by the Husker offense) kept McGloin in the game.

    It was oddly reminiscent of Nebraska’s trip to Wisconsin, except this time, it was Penn State trying to keep up. Big passes taught McGloin a fast lesson about not throwing anywhere near Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. Had he continued, Dennard would have had a pick or two.

    The Nebraska defense still showed weaknesses, but the improvement is there. Penn State’s refusal to remove McGloin was proof enough of that.

    2. The Ability to Adjust

    There were not a lot of adjustments to be made. However, when the Husker wide receivers were dropping passes, offensive coordinator Tim Beck started calling more plays for I-Back Rex Burkhead.

    When he wasn’t finding room to run, it was back to the air. This kept Penn State’s defense moving constantly, and it was clear the Nittany Lions were worn out by the fourth quarter.

    Once again, Beck showed that he is able of calling a crisp, near-perfect game. Improving his play-calling consistency is going to be vital for the first-year offensive coordinator. If he can find a rhythm, this offense is primed to be unstoppable.

    3. Game Management by Taylor Martinez

    Sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez is on a campaign to silence all those who have doubted him. When given a solid playbook from Beck, the Californian quarterback becomes next to unstoppable. Quick passes are clearly his strong suit. His throwing form may be bizarre, but it’s working. Why fix what’s not broke?

    It’s clear that Martinez is growing up. His leadership skills are becoming stronger with each game as are his game management skills. As the clock ticked down in the fourth quarter, Martinez made Husker fans nervous by snapping the ball with one or two seconds left.

    However, fans are seeing that this is what he intends to do, instead of the confusion of years past. Martinez is shaping into a quarterback that, while still frustrating at times, knows how to make the offense produce. For a sophomore, that’s a huge step.

    4. The Lack of Young Running Backs

    Head Coach Bo Pelini should have considered keeping a redshirt on one of his three talented true freshman backs. At this point in the season, it is clear that the young guys are not going to be making too many appearances.

    Whether it is a lack of confidence in them, or too much in Burkhead, Beck and Pelini have made up their mind as to who will see the field and who will not.

    Fans can continue to wish for use of the three young backs, but it’s doubtful this will happen. With Burkhead back at ‘Superman’ status and another 100-yard game, the workhorse will handle the remainder of the season.

    It doesn’t hurt that Burkhead and Martinez clearly get along very well. Fans should expect to see a similar game plan to Penn State’s against Michigan and Iowa, with Martinez and Burkhead running the ship.

    Ameer Abdullah, Aaron Green and Braylon Heard are just going to have to wait.

    5. Team Composure

    Bo Pelini didn’t think the game in Happy Valley should have been played in the first place. The team was surprised by the amount of security they were surrounded by. National media was camped outside of Joe Paterno’s house in State College. The day was poised to be a spectacle.

    However, Nebraska did exactly what they needed to do – Stand united. The Huskers weren’t just united with one another, but also held a friendly hand out to Penn State.

    Players from both sidelines earned a great deal of respect for one another last Saturday. For what is intended to be Nebraska’s great “cross-division rivalry,” it appears Nebraska and Penn State players, coaches, and fans look forward to playing each other perhaps more than anyone else.

    From the pre-game prayer on the 50-yard line to the shaking of hands at the end, Nebraska and Penn State showed a great deal of respect for one another. It was a proud moment for Husker fans. It showed that no amount of media frenzy would faze this group of young men.

    Overall, fans saw a game full of promise for Nebraska. It was a proud day for Husker Nation, who wanted to see nothing more that a clean, fair game.

    A note to Bo Pelini: Don’t think that the fans didn’t notice you wearing red, even when athletic director Tom Osborne told fans not too. That red jacket said a lot more than many may have noticed – It was a salute to Husker fans everywhere.

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    Tags: penn state, joe paterno, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, matt mcgloin, rob bolden, ameer abdullah, aaron green, braylon heard, tim beck, bo pelini

  17. 2011 Nov 12

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things to Watch For Against Penn State


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    It’s hard to believe that the scandal at Penn State broke only one week ago today. With the firing of longtime head coach Joe Paterno, Penn State’s football program has been in a state of severe disarray.

    Discussions of forfeiting today's game cropped up. As game day grew closer, it was apparent that the show must go on. Nebraska walks into a situation this morning that no team has experienced before. What will the Cornhuskers need to be prepared for?

    1. Pressure on Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden

    For the second week in a row, Nebraska faces a dual quarterback rotation featuring junior Matt McGloin and sophomore Rob Bolden.

    Penn State has made a living off of starting Bolden first with McGloin coming in later. However, Husker fans should be looking for the upperclassman to start against Nebraska today. Why the switch-up?

    The Nittany Lions' best decision-maker when passing is McGloin. While running is not his strong suit, he can pick apart a team’s secondary. With Nebraska’s defensive backs struggling, this presents an opportunity for the Nittany Lions to get ahead early. Don’t expect to see Bolden on the sidelines too much, though.

    With Nebraska’s inability to stop the run against Northwestern, Penn State likely will have an opportunity to run through some big holes. The front seven Blackshirts are going to have to play lights-out to guarantee Bolden goes nowhere.

    Husker fans should expect to see a much tougher defense against Penn State, though. If the defense plays to the level that they did against Michigan State, Nebraska fans should know this: That was Bo Pelini’s defense, not Carl’s.

    Depending on today’s plays, it will be quickly apparent who was in charge the last week. For the sake of this game, the Nebraska faithful better hope it’s Bo.

    2. The Ability to Adjust

    Offensive coordinator Tim Beck is a stubborn man. He’s said as much. When a play isn’t working, Beck has a tendency to call the play again hoping for a different result.

    In some cases, he works with a limited playbook as he did against Northwestern. By the end of the first half, I-Back Rex Burkhead had far more carries than he should have, yet the offense kept running similar plays.

    Beck needs to be able to adjust against Penn State. If running the ball isn’t working, it’s time to let Martinez throw quick passes to Brandon Kinnie. If the fast strikes stop working, go back to the ground game.

    The ability to adjust will be a key factor yet again. It’s been a rollercoaster ride with Beck so far. It is time he starts to level things out.

    3. Taylor Martinez’s Game Management

    Martinez played one of the best games of his career against Northwestern, if not the absolute best. Unfortunately, a poor defensive showing and a loss overshadowed it.

    The positive is that he silenced many critics one pass after another. Proving he could keep a level head, Martinez made a campaign for a comeback. Had the defense held up their end of the deal, the sophomore quarterback could have pulled it off, too.

    Against Penn State, Martinez needs to mirror his game management skills from the Northwestern game. Staying stable and keeping a level head against a defense that will be gunning for him yet again is vital.

    He needs to be a leader once more and is poised to be just that. If he can block out the pressure of this game, Martinez can build on his successes against Northwestern.

    4. The Use of Young Running Backs

    Hopefully Rex Burkhead got a lot of rest over the last week, because he will be carrying a big load over the next two away games.

    With both Penn State and Michigan to face, Burkhead’s strength, speed, and leadership will all be tested. However, it is not crucial to run him ragged. Beck should take advantage of his three young running backs at times.

    All three are capable of making big plays and a few extra rotations will not kill the offense. In fact, a little extra resting time for Burkhead might give him the ability to produce bigger numbers.

    While Superman will never say he’s tired, Beck needs to understand he can’t run his workhorse to death. Nebraska has the depth. Using it would not be a bad idea.

    5. Team Composure

    It has been nothing short of an interesting week for Nebraska. As Penn State’s world crumbled, Husker players and coaches have tried to tune everything out.

    While Pelini was quick to say his team was not going to focus on the issues at State College at all, it would be ludicrous to believe the team has absolutely no idea what they’re walking into. It is clear from their Twitter statuses alone that they know.

    Security is heightened and Tom Osborne has asked fans not to wear red. The environment will be surreal, to say the least. This is a time for Nebraska to stand together as a team like no other. When kickoff comes, we will watch as a group of young men attempt to battle intense media frenzy by playing football.

    The outcome of this game will be a telling one as Nebraska needs to win to keeps its chances at a Big Ten Championship alive. A loss would practically guarantee that a trip to Indianapolis will not happen.

    The Huskers need to find it within themselves to win a game in front of many who are not necessarily watching for the right reasons.

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    Tags: penn state, joe paterno, matt mcgloin, robert bolden, tim beck, bo pelini, carl pelini, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, ameer abdullah, aaron green, braylon heard, brandon kinnie, tom osborne

  18. 2011 Nov 12

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Penn State Game Day Thoughts


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The Husker Locker staff will be presented a number of questions addressing various aspects of each week's game all season long.

    This week:

    Do you think Tim Beck will open the playbook up more against Penn State?

    Brian: I could tell say yes and, “Man, we could be looking for Jamal Turner's breakout day, and Aaron Green and Ameer and Braylon and yeah!”

    However, every time that it seems inevitable for this to happen, this offense goes into a shell and plays more conservative than necessary. Again, I could say that it will happen, but until I see it, I won't believe it.

    Erin: I really hope so. The game plan against Northwestern was very disappointing. Whatever Tim Beck does, his playbook needs to resemble what he used against Washington and Michigan State. No stubbornness today, either.

    No. I think Bo and Tim will end up keeping the gameplan conservative. Penn State doesn't have elite talent, and Nebraska should be able to defend them similarly to how they defended Michigan State.

    This will starve the Nittany Lions of points, and Nebraska will look for opportunities to strike. The biggest thing Bo doesn't want the offense to do is make a mistake that will give the Penn State free points.

    As the game progresses, you'll see the playbook open up as Beck understands the scheme, and as Nebraska tries to take control in the second half. This will be Michigan State Part Deux.

    Ryan: No, I think the play-calling will stay conservative. With what is sure to be a rowdy, deafening crowd, the Huskers will keep it mostly the ground and call a pass play here and there to mix it up. I imagine a grind-it-out game in which the Huskers bleed the clock and the Nittany Lions in the process.

    Brandon: I doubt it. That’s unfortunate, too, because while Penn State hasn’t played the most difficult schedule, they are stopping teams from putting up points.

    While the Nittany Lions have the No. 3 scoring defense is likely a by-product of their softer schedule, it’s still a big indicator of what they can do against a team that’s not firing on all cylinders.

    Perhaps what’s most concerning is that if Nebraska doesn’t utilize more formations that have proven effective in the past, specifically the Diamond, I don’t think they win this game.

    PSU limits their opposition to less than 112 yards per game on the ground and 170 through the air. Perhaps more importantly, they’ve picked off 14 passes this season and are ranked No. 3 in pass efficiency defense.

    Beck needs to keep with the short/intermediate passing game with Taylor and spread out Penn State’s defenders or it’s going to likely be a long day.

    We saw the defense take a conservative approach, risking Northwestern’s wide receivers getting space against the Blackshirt defensive backs which obviously worked. How do you feel the defense should shift for Penn State’s attack?

    Brian: Penn State can run very well which is helpful as the defensive line, as mangled up as it seems to be, is much more serviceable than a secondary that has been torched time and time again. Even if the Lincoln Journal Star tells me that they have been solid.

    Ciante Evans and Lance Thorell could be better. Let's hope they play out of their minds, because to beat Penn State, you have to dare Matt McGloin and Robert Bolden to throw on you.

    Erin: Today's defense will be Bo's again. It will be similar to what we saw against Michigan State, you can count on that. The defense doesn't need to shift, as much as the coaching does.

    There is talent on that side of the ball and we've seen it. With proper guidance, they should be able to contain Penn State.

    James: Nebraska will play it's typical cover 2 scheme. They will stay conservative, block the deep routes, and not allow the receivers to beat them.

    You'll see more of the four-standing-defensive-linemen look that we used against Michigan State, and you'll also see the offensive line attacking the quarterback.

    Expect David/Compton to be the run support guys. Nebraska should be able to keep Penn State from executing long drives for scores.

    Ryan: The defense needs to tighten up in the middle as Northwestern gashed Nebraska between the tackles and Penn State will attempt the same thing.

    A strong middle presence with eight or nine guys in the box is the appropriate shift as Penn State does not do well through the air and will rely on Silas Redd to pound the rock.

    Brandon: Penn State’s offense isn’t anything to write home about, but it can be effective against a defense in disarray.

    Running back Silas Redd is averaging over 111 yards per game, so if Lavonte David and Daimion Stafford can’t help support the run defense, that’s going to be an area of major concern.

    Honestly, a better approach may be to sell out to stop Redd and focus on forcing PSU’s quarterbacks to make mistakes. Matt McGloin is no Dan Persa, only competing passes at a 55 percent clip.

    He can make throws if he isn’t facing pressure, and if the secondary can’t keep wide receiver Derick Moye under wraps, that spells trouble.

    The good news is that McGloin is about as mobile as Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins. If Baker Steinkuhler can mirror his performance from last week while Cameron Meredith and Eric Martin are released off the edge, Nebraska’s got a good chance to fluster PSU’s signal-callers.

    Do you feel that the Nittany Lions will be distracted by the massive scandal?

    Brian: Oh...maybe? They will be distracted, but at the same time they will be galvanized to play well for Paterno and themselves.

    The game can go one of two ways very early: Either Nebraska jumps on top of them and puts them into a submission move or Penn State gets the momentum and rides it for 3-plus hours as State College forgets about what has been and will be happening.

    Erin: Yes, I do. Everyone keeps making these comments about how they will be more fired up, which I could not disagree with more. I can only imagine how our team, let alone entire state, would be feeling if something like this happened to us.

    Penn State will be shaken. It's not a big shock. These are young men who are trying desperately to brave a major storm they had nothing to do with. You can't tell me for a second it won't affect them.

    James: They can't help but be distracted, but as we've seen earlier this season with Mike Stoops' termination at Arizona, sometimes the team can rally and "win one for the gipper."

    This is an 8-1 team, at home on senior day, wanting to win for their coach and move within a game of securing their berth in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game. I think Penn State comes to play, and wins in spite of the scandal.

    Ryan: Absolutely, but not in the way some think. They will band together and use an "us vs. the world" mentality in this game. I think the scandal may improve their performance on the field.

    Brandon: I can’t see how they won’t be. At the same time, it’s Senior Day and these guys love Joe Paterno. They want to go out and win one for him if nothing else. Whether this will affect them negatively or not is the big question mark.

    This scenario appears to be black and white. Either Penn State rallies behind the JoePa banner and overwhelms Nebraska or the Huskers get to McGloin/Bolden early, stuff Redd and the Nittany Lion balloon deflates.

    At this point, Rex Burkhead has to be hurting averaging around 25 carries per game over the past four games. Will this finally be the game where he can get some rest?

    Brian: Refer to the first question for what I think about this. We have ponies in the stable that are begging to be released, yet for some reason Tim Beck and Bo Pelini think that a Rex Burkhead at 60 to 75 percent at best is better then a 100 percent Ameer Abdullah, Braylon Heard, or Aaron Green.

    If we refuse to use these young guys, it’s a wasted season for at least Aaron and Braylon who could've used redshirts. Ameer has been used well on kick returns, but Aaron and Braylon seem lost in the shuffle.

    Erin: Sorry, but Rex's resting week was against Northwestern. We made a mistake playing him too much. He will be too valuable against Penn State and Michigan.

    Here's hoping he healed up over the last week because we'll need him. Can the three freshman rotate in too? Sure, they can. Rex will still carry the heaviest load.

    James: If it wasn't apparent last week, Bo and/or Beck don't trust the three-headed freshman I-Back monster. Burkhead was supposed to get rest last week, and he's the most "power" back of any of the I-Backs on the roster.

    I don't really expect to see him get much of a rest. It sure would be nice to see Aaron Green out there though. How will we know how good our new I-Backs are if we don't give them a chance to shine during actual game time?

    Ryan: Not at all. Rex goes for 25-30 as Nebraska knows they must rely on Ol' Dependable No. 22 in a tough road contest. Rex gets no rest at all.

    Brandon: I’d love to say yes, but with the insistence that we’ve seen to get Rex the ball, I don’t see it happening. If Burkhead keeps racking up as many carries as he has been, that's a horrible decision.

    He’s not just tired, he’s hurt and the more he grinds out, the more damaged he’s going to be and the less effective he’s going to be running down the stretch.

    There’s absolutely no reason Abdullah, Green and Heard shouldn’t be seeing significant time. Hopefully, I’ll be proven wrong and Rex gets an opportunity to give himself a rest while coaching the young guns from the sidelines. I’m not holding my breath, though.

    Follow the panel on Twitter:

    Brandon: @eightlaces
    Brian: @btbowling
    Erin: @helloerinmarie
    James: @jamesstevenson
    Ryan: @digitalryan

    Follow Husker Locker on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: penn state, aaron green, ameer abdullah, braylon heard, tim beck, bo pelini, matt mcgloin, robert bolden, rex burkhead, ciante evans, lance thorell, lavonte david, will compton, daimion stafford, dan persa, kirk cousins, cam meredith, eric martin

  19. 2011 Nov 10

    Husker Heartbeat 11/10: T-Magic's Passing Fancy, Burkhead Under Close Watch and a Key Husker Returns


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    A daily dose of what's new in Husker Nation from Monday through Friday:

    - Quarterback Taylor Martinez happily spreads the ball around in Tim Beck's attack strategy

    - Husker coaches are keeping a close eye on I-Back Rex Burkhead

    - Meanwhile, they tell the freshman backs to remain patient

    - NU's volleyball team will likely have Lauren Cook back on the court this weekend

    - Former Husker wrestler Josh Ihnen is setting his sights on an All-American honor

    Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, ameer abdullah, aaron green, braylon heard, lauren cook, josh ihnen

  20. 2011 Nov 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Evolution of The Nebraska Way


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brian Towle

    Fans toss the term around like crumpled pieces of paper that eventually find their way to the bottom of a wastebasket. A constant reminder that how things are done at the University of Nebraska are carried out differently or are unique to our state and school.

    Included are: How to treat players, the media, those who to cheer for and how to adhere to it. This is “The Nebraska Way.”

    Somewhere along the line, one very important aspect was lost: How to win using The Nebraska Way. Saturday’s 28-25 loss to a Northwestern team that had far inferior talent than the Big Red (at least on paper) was a glaring example of the issues this team has. The more maddening, almost incomprehensible, other issue is the acceptance of performances like this.

    Some Nebraska fans say that a national championship wasn’t a realistic goal with this team, which is fair. However, with the loss to Northwestern, we made sure that two years are still relevant to Cornhusker football history:

    1999: The last time Nebraska fans bought conference championship shirts. In San Antonio, the Huskers took care of the Texas Longhorns and earned a Fiesta Bowl appearance.

    2002: The last time Husker fans paid for tickets to a BCS bowl game. Even though that team was arguably undeserving of appearing in the national championship game, Nebraska was in the national spotlight.

    The Nebraska Way includes excellence in player recruitment and development. Where has this gone? Ask yourself that as you see Ciante Evans whiff on defending a slant route resulting in an 81-yard touchdown scamper by the visiting team.

    Ask this again as Lance Thorell is torched time after time, and wonder why players such as Corey Cooper, Courtney Osborne, or Stanley Jean-Baptiste sit on the sidelines. Using your depth to maximize your attack on offense, this is The Nebraska Way.

    Where has this commitment gone? It seems a fair question to ponder as Ameer Abdullah, Jamal Turner, Braylon Heard and Aaron Green sit on the sideline as an obviously hurting Rex Burkhead gets bulldozed into a line that provided no daylight. Why is Tyler Moore not logging minutes as Yoshi Hardrick plays on a busted wheel?

    The Nebraska Way also includes taking every game seriously and to strategize accordingly. To be out-schemed, out-coached, and embarrassed on your home turf by a team that quite honestly had no business being on the same field with Nebraska is simply appalling.

    Don’t discredit Northwestern entirely, though. Pat Fitzgerald realized that Nebraska was to be had, kept his foot on the gas pedal and did what Mike Krzyzewski‘s Duke basketball teams are famous for: Running plays that work until the other team proves they can stop them.

    There were bright spots for Nebraska, of course. Taylor Martinez’s passing was a pleasant surprise, as was the play of defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler. However, there are no truly great performances in losses.

    That’s a shame, because the quarterback that several call a liability (author included) was an asset last Saturday, and his performance will be nothing but a random statistic as time rolls on.

    There should be rage over this loss. The defeat in Madison brought screaming, berating, and other rants to sports talk radio, message boards, and social media outlets. However, the tepid, melancholy response to this past weekend’s results is wide-spread.

    This, my friends and enemies, is the scariest thing of all. A sign that after years of expecting conference titles, bowl games played in January and double-digit win totals every season, the Nebraska Cornhusker fan base has come to a point where we’re alright with it.

    Much like we’re alright with a Blackshirt “tradition” that has gone from 11 black practice jerseys hanging in lockers two weeks before the season opener to 20 being handed out come Halloween.

    There was much talk about a Big Ten title in July and early August. That has changed to hoping the Capital One Bowl still is interested in a team that may get one more loss in the next three weeks. However, the feel good crowd will point out that if 2011 ends with nine wins, that result was good enough for Tom Osborne.

    Tom Osborne would have made this 2011 squad realize that there cannot be a single game taken lightly. Even against a team with their sights set on the Pinstripe or TicketCity Bowl. Coach Osborne would have also taken ownership of what happened in front of 85,000-plus first and foremost.

    Then there’s the matter of several students demanding better or even more seating from Osborne that couldn’t make a 2:30 PM kickoff or be bothered to stay around with ten minutes to go as their team needed them.

    How will the Take Back Game Day movement address that little matter? Can’t be beat? Won’t be beat? Do they know if their team was beat in the first place?

    Finally, Osborne would have realized the issues with this team over the last two years. The inability to stop dual-threat quarterbacks, an offensive line and play calling that can easily be liabilities, and the steadfast refusal to start playmakers who, while young, still give Nebraska the best chance of winning.

    There’s no reason to hold anything back in November. Teams that win constantly put the best 11 out on the field. Does anyone think the 1995 national championship season happens if Ahman Green is held back at all?

    Imagine that happening now and you see the frustration some have with Turner, Ameer, Braylon and SJB among others riding the pine.

    Welcome to the new Nebraska Way where losing games that should be afterthoughts are tolerable. Where handing out 20 Blackshirts eight games into a season, three or four losses, and a late December bowl game is considered a successful campaign. Where wins are a team effort, but losses are under-addressed, excuses are made and promptly accepted.

    For the foreseeable future, get used to your surroundings, Husker fans. Take in the atmosphere, and accept it for better or worse.

    Do you feel that The Nebraska Way has been watered down? Discuss it in the new and improved forums: Husker Locker Forums

    Follow Brian on Twitter: @btbowling
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    Like us on Facebook: Official Husker Locker Page

    Tags: the nebraska way, bcs, ciante evans, lance thorell, corey cooper, courtney osborne, blackshirts, capital one bowl, tom osborne, ahman green, stanley jeanbaptiste, ameer abdullah, jamal turner, braylon heard, aaron green, rex burkhead, tyler moore, yoshi hardrick, northwestern, pat fitzgerald, taylor martinez, baker steinkuhler

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