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  1. 2012 Jan 27

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The State of the Walk-On Program


    By HuskerLocker

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    By James Stevenson

    Many fans often get caught up counting four and five-star prospects when measuring a team’s recruiting success. One of the frequent “advantages” for Nebraska isn’t its ability to bring in the most highly-coveted prospects, but rather the tradition and utility of the vaunted walk-on program.

    While debates rage about the appropriate class size and correct usage of the walk-on strategy, no one can deny that they contributed heavily at Nebraska this past season. These two-star (or less) prospects dot the roster and many eventually earned a scholarship.

    Key players such as offensive linemen Mike Caputo and Spencer Long along with defensive backs Austin Cassidy and Lance Thorell are among these numbers. Of course, there was the immediate impact of walk-on kicking specialist Brett Maher.

    The Huskers walk-on effort is led by Assistant Athletic Director for Football Operations Jeff Jamrog. While some questioned Jamrog’s coaching ability when he was hired in 2007, he has proven himself a solid administrator, receiving high marks for his coordination and handling of several aspects surrounding the football program. One of these is the recruiting of the Cornhuskers’ walk-ons, which is appropriate given that Jamrog was one himself.

    Nebraska looks across the state to find some of the best athletes who either didn’t get an FBS offer or didn’t receive one they felt comfortable accepting. It’s likely that most of these players won’t contribute, but the idea is that if one out of ten each year contributes substantially over two or three years, the Huskers have some extra scholarships in their back pocket.

    Sometimes it’s a matter of convincing these players to stay home instead of heading to a lower division school where they might receive a full or partial scholarship. Nebraska continues to build a substantial walk-on class even this year.

    A great example is Grand Island QB Ryker Fyfe. Ranked as a two-star pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com, Fyfe shined as one of the best quarterbacks in the state during his senior year, and had some light interest from mid-major programs.

    He ultimately decided to walk-on at Nebraska, shunning a scholarship from Nebraska-Kearney. Fyfe brings depth and a unique skill set to the roster. He completed 120 of 204 passes for 1,921 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushed for 746 yards and 15 touchdowns while leading Grand Island to a 9-2 record in 2011.

    Fyfe’s favorite target, two-star wide receiver/safety Sam Foltz, turned down scholarship offers from South Dakota State, South Dakota, and North Dakota to walk on at Nebraska. Some would argue Foltz is a better athlete than Fyfe, and it will be interesting to see which side of the ball he eventually contributes on.

    Other key walk-ons include players like three-star running back King Frazier from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, who also turned down the Dakota Schools. He’s joined by Omaha Burke running back Jordan Nelson, Elkhorn running back Graham Nabity, Omaha Burke fullback Carson Collins, Oakland fullback Taylor Hoffman and Gretna fullback Andy Janovich.

    Perhaps the highest expectations surround the Nebraska walk-on kicking legacy. Kearney kicker Spencer Lindsay was recruited by Barney Cotton and John Papuchis, and will hope to get a transfusion of the ice-cold blood that flows through fellow walk-on Brett Maher veins much like Alex Henery’s before him. Papillion offensive guard Dylan Utter and Aurora center Gerret Johns look to join the group of walk-on offensive linemen that Nebraska either played or started in 2011.

    With 16 total commitments, Nebraska currently has more pledged walk-ons than future scholarship players. The quality of the athletes is impressive despite what their lower-tier offers might suggest. It’s not hard to imagine several of these players making an impact at some point in their careers.

    However, these prospects are walk-ons for a reason. Regardless, Nebraska’s staff has done a fantastic job in locking down this tier of in-state talent and convincing them to forgo other opportunities. While fans and pundits may question the Huskers’ scholarship recruiting, when it comes to walk-ons, Nebraska’s class is five-star quality.

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    Tags: walkons, mike caputo, spencer long, austin cassidy, lance thorell, ryker fyfe

  2. 2012 Jan 15

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Knee-Jerk Reactions (1/15)


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - Don’t really see much that Austin Cassidy or Marcel Jones could do at the Shrine Game to raise their NFL stock, but both might get invites to camps. Jones fights through injury, but he’s pretty badly banged up as it is.

    - Damned if you do, damned if you don’t: Nebraska basketball beats Penn State like it was assumed they would, yet it’s likely few would be surprised if they didn’t. Admittedly, it stinks for Doc.

    - Connie Yori’s squad is impressive to watch. If you haven’t gotten the chance yet, check out the one-loss Lady Huskers as they climb the AP poll.

    - That’s what happens when you invite the 844-time national champion Iowa Hawkeye wrestling club to visit.

    - Slightly dated, but Mohammed Seisay looks to be a stud and Jared Afalava is incredibly underrated. 17 days left until Signing Day.

    - The idea of Nebraska having alternate football uniforms seems pretty cool. You wouldn’t even need to touch the helmet to come up with a design that would be pleasing. For those who suggest it’s a waste of time to consider, one has to wonder how much money Adidas/Nebraska made off of selling those gloves that the Cornhuskers never ended up wearing in 2011.

    - Hearing Dennard to the Cowboys and the Lions as of now. Crick’s name comes up with the 49ers often.

    - Some NFL defensive coordinator’s going to get a raise once he works Lavonte David into his scheme properly.

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    Tags: austin cassidy, marcel jones, basketball, mohammed seisay, jared afalava, alfonzo dennard, jared crick, lavonte david

  3. 2012 Jan 12

    Husker Heartbeat 1/12: Third Down's Tea Leaves, Shrine Game Representatives and What PSU Means for Doc


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - What Nebraska's third down conversion rate says about the 2011 season

    - Marcel Jones and Austin Cassidy will be representing Nebraska at the East-West Shrine Game

    - Doc's boys finally topple their first Big Ten foe in Penn State

    - The victory over Penn State buys Doc some time

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    Tags: marcel jones, austin cassidy, doc sadler, basketball

  4. 2011 Dec 13

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Top Husker Tweets of the Week (12/13)


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Erin Sorensen

    Every week we'll be tapping into the heart of social media, Twitter, to find the best Husker tweets of the past week. This week's highlights:

    @SharpeGreg (Greg Sharpe): Excited to see all the Husker fans in Orlando to ring in the new year with a Husker victory! #huskers

    @jestyr7 (Christopher Peters): The Pinnacle Bank Arena was originally going to be called the Rex Burkhead arena. But that was too much swag for one place. #FactsAboutRex

    @Kspeeeed25 (Kyler Reed): Thanks to all my bros on the team spreading #ATB I dont personally know him, he is from KC and I was contacted to help via twitter.

    @BoPelini (Bo Pelini): Just interviewed M. Nobler for the D-Coordinator position... Very impressive to say the least!

    @AFRO_THUNDER80 (Kenny Bell): The roads are so much better today..... someone must have asked #Rex to plow. #1800-TheManCanDoAnything

    @JrodVCrick (Jared Crick): Congrats to Coach Carl for getting the FAU job! I wouldn't be in this position without him. Those FAU cats are very lucky to have him

    @PJ_Mangieri (P.J. Mangieri): If I can change one persons life for the better while I'm here then it's all worth it

    @NUequipment (Nebraska Equipment Crew): Excited for a good morning bowl practice #GBR. @CapitalOneBowl

    @FonzieDennard15 (Alfonzo Dennard): CONGRATS TO COACH SANDERS FOR GOING WITH COACH CARL BEHIND Y'ALL 100% #believedat

    @Joebro9 (Joe Broekemeier): Love it @D_Gomes24 and Roy blasting off today!

    @acass8 (Austin Cassidy): The Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow are the best drama on TV.

    @BRASKA_4 (Lavonte David): Some ppl ask me if I make it to da top would I forget about them? I ask them same ppl, if I never make it to da top will you forget about me

    @BKinnie84 (Brandon Kinnie): They say your senior year flies bye! Smh! So true!

    @_willcompton (Will Compton): Damn proud to b getting my degree!! College wouldn't b a success w out it!! #ClassRing #HuskerGrad #Business pic.twitter.com/H7fQ2GAp

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    Tags: kyler reed, bo pelini, jared crick, pj mangieri, alfonzo dennard, austin cassidy, lavonte david, brandon kinnie, will compton

  5. 2011 Dec 09

    Husker Heartbeat 12/09: Burkhead Shines Again, Nebraska's New Linebacker, and Pelini's Exit Effects


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Nebraska adds another linebacker after losing Deion Jones to LSU

    - Rex Burkhead, Sean Fisher and Austin Cassidy were named Academic All-Americans

    - Carl Pelini's departure is bittersweet for Husker players

    - Ladies' Nebrasketball takes down Creighton

    - We're giving away a flat screen TV and other great prizes when you sign up for FREE on the Husker Locker Forums

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    Tags: thomas brown, rex burkhead, sean fisher, austin cassidy, carl pelini, basketball

  6. 2011 Nov 14

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Press Conference Notes (Post-Penn State)


    By HuskerLocker

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    - This week, redshirt freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell kicked off the press conference. He spoke first about quarterback Taylor Martinez’s growth and ability to get the ball to the receivers. Bell did point out that, “A drop can be the same as a fumble, a turnover, or an interception.” He reported that there were four drops.

    - He also gave a lot of respect to Penn State’s players, saying they responded well to the scandal.

    - Bell on playing at the Big House: “I want to win. It’s another football game.”

    - However, Bell did say, “It’s been a dream of mine to play in these stadiums.”

    - He pointed out that it is a challenge putting together four quarters of terrific football.

    - How long does Bell wish the football season went? “I’d play football until the middle of May.”

    - Head coach Bo Pelini said that early games are nice for the team: “We landed around 7:30, so our kids had a good night off on Saturday.”

    - Pelini on Martinez: “He’s only a sophomore. It feels like he’s been around here for five years, but he’s only a sophomore.”

    - “The more you do it, the better you get at it,” Pelini said about running the option.

    - Pelini touched on Penn State: “Our team has a lot of character, and a lot of ‘want to.’ I give them a lot of credit. I said this after the game, I give the kids of Penn State a lot of credit.”

    - “I don’t know if you ever have normalcy around here,” Pelini said over a laugh.

    - When asked about how Nebraska prepared for Penn State, Pelini said, “There was the sense of the unknown going in, but I don’t think our team approached it any differently.”

    - Injury report from Pelini: Ben Cotton will not be practicing and it is doubtful he will play on Saturday but he won’t need surgery. Khiry Cooper is day-to-day.

    - Pelini on Alfonzo Dennard: “I think he’s as good as any corner in the country. I wouldn’t trade him for anybody.”

    - “Well, you got about an hour?” Pelini said when asked about how to stop Denard Robinson.

    - More from Pelini on Robinson: “He’s quick, he could beat you and do a lot of different thing. You watch him on film and he’s fun to watch.”

    - Pelini talked about how he felt about Michigan when he played for Ohio State: “You always had respect for Michigan, but you wanted to beat them bad.”

    - Rex Burkhead spoke about his experience under center: “It was fun, it was a lot of fun. Act like you’re the quarterback every now and then. You get to show your versatility.”

    - Burkhead on returning to full-strength: “It was a great week of preparation.”

    - Michigan has forced 19 fumbles this season, Burkhead stressed the importance of ball management: “Yeah, it’s huge. It could turn a game around in an instant.”

    - “It was something I’ve never been a part of and something that was really cool,” Burkhead said about the pregame prayer with Penn State.

    - Will Compton spoke about “all the drama” from last week and said the team did know about what was going on. He was quick to say though that being at Penn State was “awesome.”

    - Compton said of Penn State: “Nothing but good things to say. The prayer in the beginning was first class, which it was. Nothing but respect for Penn State and I hope everything works out for the football program.”

    - Austin Cassidy talked a little about what games he has been most looking forward to: “When the schedule came out, these were the two games I was the most excited for.”

    - He had one thing to say when asked about the critique the defense receives: “People say all kinds of things about our defense.”

    - Cassidy also spoke about the pregame prayer: “I thought it was really cool. I said after the game that not too many people would remember who won that game, but people would remember what happened before forever.”

    - Taylor Martinez was asked about Michigan’s quarterback quite a few times. He said he has never spoken with him but said that, “He’s a great quarterback, an awesome player, and great athlete.”

    - Martinez on big games like Penn State and Michigan: “I play college football for big games like this.”

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    Tags: press conference, bo pelini, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, kenny bell, will compton, austin cassidy

  7. 2011 Nov 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Press Conference Notes (Post-Northwestern)


    By HuskerLocker

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    - Head coach Bo Pelini kicked off the presser by talking about Rex Burkhead. Pelini said that while beat up, “Rex is a guy that’s not always going to tell you how he’s feeling.”

    - Pelini plans to rest Burkhead this week and will reduce his workload as much as possible.

    - When asked about why he chose to continue playing Burkhead over the younger backs when Burkhead couldn’t break through: “I don’t think we blocked very well up front.”

    - “At the end of the day, you’ve just got to play and we didn’t,” Pelini said about the team’s performance. “We didn’t take advantage of some plays and it cost us in the end.”

    - Pelini on Penn State head coach Joe Paterno: “It takes a lot of energy and hours. It wears on you. To be doing it at his age, it’s a pretty amazing thing.”

    - Pelini was asked about how he handles a loss like Saturday’s: “The way I’m wired, I take it hard, really hard. But you have to move past it.”

    - Many wondered why Pelini continued to keep Jamal Turner out of the receivers’ rotation. Pelini answered that by saying Turner was ill last week, and Marlowe has practiced well and taken snaps away from Turner as well.

    - Tim Marlowe spoke about quarterback Taylor Martinez: “People doubt his passing but I think he silenced that this week.”

    - “I think that I have a little bit of speed at times too,” Marlowe said about his abilities versus other receivers.

    - Tyler Legate first spoke about the effect the loss has had on him personally: “I know I’m down. Haven’t been able to sleep too much. But we need to move on.”

    - “It wasn’t his fault. There’s 11 of us out there,” Legate said about Burkhead putting the loss on his shoulders.

    - When asked about how the team was feeling, Legate said, “I believe everyone is fatigued right now but everyone in the country is fatigued right now.”

    - Austin Cassidy talked about Big Ten play versus Big 12 play: “Football is football. It’s physical no matter where you play it.”

    - Cassidy on Paterno: “When I was little and he was coaching, he seemed really old then. Hopefully I catch a glimpse of him. He’s a legend.”

    - Taylor Martinez talked about how important the upcoming away games are: “It’s going to be a great challenge and hopefully we come away with two wins.”

    - Martinez also dodged questions on Joe Ganz coaching him, much like Pelini. Settled for, “We’re really good friends.”

    - Martinez said Northwestern figured out the play calls and knew what plays were coming. His reasoning? “It’s Northwestern. They’re a smart school.”

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    Tags: bo pelini, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, austin cassidy, tyler legate, jamal turner

  8. 2011 Nov 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against Northwestern


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Erin Sorensen

    “Maybe we overlooked Northwestern for Penn State.”

    These brutally honest words were uttered by Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez following last Saturday’s 28-25 loss to Northwestern. For fans, the game was a shock. Just before kickoff, Nebraska controlled its Big Ten destiny.

    With a tiebreaker over Michigan State, Indianapolis didn’t seem so far away. By 6:00 PM, things had changed in Memorial Stadium. Fans saw a very different team than the one seen against Michigan State. There were five main areas Husker fans needed to keep an eye on. What did they end up seeing?

    1. Stopping Dan Persa, But Not Kain Colter

    One of the most important things Nebraska’s defense needed to do on Saturday was stop Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa. While the Wildcats use the dual-quarterback approach, it was clear Persa was going to play most of the game as backup Kain Colter watched from the sidelines.

    Things changed in the second quarter when Eric Martin delivered a big hit to Persa, injuring his left shoulder and removing him from the game. It was a very similar scenario to when Ohio State’s Braxton Miller was injured during Nebraska’s recent heroic victory over the Buckeyes.

    However, while familiar, this scenario played out much differently. Colter, a good friend of Nebraska’s Kenny Bell, stepped in and ran like the wind. He proved to be too much for the Blackshirts’ front seven as Northwestern picked up chunks of yardage play after play. It wasn’t pretty and Nebraska showed once again that its defense is a weak link.

    2. A Shaky Secondary (For Some)

    It would be unfair to call the performance of Nebraska’s secondary last Saturday a big flop. In fact, most of the secondary played well.

    The standout player was clearly Austin Cassidy, who intercepted a pass and ran it back for a huge momentum swing in the Huskers’ favor. It was a shining moment for a senior safety that has been battling adversity throughout the season.

    However, the rest of the secondary overshadowed Cassidy’s big plays, and not in a positive way. Through the struggles, Stanley Jean-Baptiste was noticeably absent, while Lance Thorell continuously got scorched.

    Even more surprising, Alfonzo Dennard played a little softer than usual. After such an emotional win against Michigan State, fans saw defensive backs that were clearly worn out. On a positive note, the heart and determination is still there.

    3. Poor Clock Management

    By the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, quarterback Taylor Martinez was poised to make another comeback. He was throwing perfect short passes that were resulting in big gains.

    He then dug down deep and scored two fourth quarter touchdowns. If Martinez had more time left on the clock, he could have scored again, but time was a luxury that Nebraska did not have.

    Northwestern managed the clock phenomenally well on Saturday. The Wildcats knew that the more time they used on offense, the tougher it would become for Nebraska to score.

    With the way the Blackshirts were playing, it was far too easy for Northwestern to run down the clock. As for Nebraska, too much time was wasted. Whose shoulders does this massive error fall on? Unfortunately, this was an issue for the entire team, both offense and defense.

    4. Continued Pressure on Rex Burkhead

    I-Back Rex Burkhead had 15 carries by the end of the first half on Saturday. It was essentially a consensus among the Husker Locker crew's game day thoughts that Burkhead should only have had 15 carries by the end of the game.

    However, it was immediately clear in the first quarter that the game plan mirrored the one against Michigan State: Give the ball to Burkhead.

    While effective against the Spartans, this strategy was ineffective for a couple of reasons. The first being that Burkhead was still tired coming off a 35-carry game against Michigan State.

    It was imperative that Burkhead received a week to rest. Nebraska has three true freshman running backs that easily could have stepped in and taken on more responsibility. All three would watch from the sidelines for the most part.

    The second reason handing the ball to Burkhead was ineffective was due to the offensive line's struggles. With both offensive tackle Yoshi Hardrick and center Mike Caputo limited by injuries, the line often found itself allowing Northwestern big holes that forced Martinez to scramble or Burkhead to get hit.

    There was no room for Nebraska’s stud I-Back to run, who even uncharacteristically fumbled the ball for the first time since the 2010 Holiday Bowl.

    It was at this point that fans saw offensive coordinator Tim Beck’s stubbornness rear its ugly head once again. The game plan was ill-advised and Northwestern took full advantage. With a quarterback throwing a perfect game, the need to hand the ball to Burkhead was baffling.

    Many still point to the fact that it is Beck’s first season as offensive coordinator, but fans will only buy that for so long. Beck needs to stick to what works and go with it. It may not always be what was envisioned originally, but Nebraska saw an offense that can adapt when given the opportunity last Saturday. It simply wasn’t.

    5. An Active and Involved Crowd

    Regardless of last Saturday’s outcome, Nebraska fans were loud and active throughout the game. Constant “Husker Power” chants filled the walls of Memorial Stadium and fans were often on their feet. It was a positive moment for those continuously criticized for not being involved enough.

    The Big Ten is filled with stadiums full of tradition and fans that love their home-field advantage. While not quite on the same level as some, Nebraska fans are starting to find their footing.

    With the help of “Take Back Gameday,” the Cornhusker faithful are taking steps in the right direction. Given the way the crowd reacted against Northwestern, it would be hard to believe Memorial Stadium won’t be rocking against Iowa.

    However, a large criticism would be the amount of fans that chose to leave early based on the score. Those individuals missed an amazing touchdown pass from Martinez to Kenny Bell. It may not have given the Huskers a win, but it was a sight worth seeing. It is unfortunate so many missed it live.

    Nebraska fans are now the biggest Iowa Hawkeye-backers for one week. With a Michigan State loss to Iowa, it could put the Cornhuskers back in the driver’s seat for a Legends division title.

    While a challenge, it is far from impossible. If there is anything Nebraska fans have learned about the Big Ten so far, it is that there are no guarantees. Any given week, a new team could be at the top. Will Nebraska find its way back? As always, time will only tell.

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    Tags: taylor martinez, kenny bell, dan persa, kain colter, northwestern, eric martin, blackshirts, austin cassidy, alfonzo dennard, lance thorell, stanley jeanbaptiste, rex burkhead, yoshi hardrick, mike caputo

  9. 2011 Oct 29

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


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    Things looked much different in the Big Ten’s Legends division just one month ago. Then Michigan State upset Wisconsin. With Nebraska’s loss to the Badgers, a large amount of weight has been put on today’s game. Will the Huskers head to Indianapolis and compete for a Big Ten title? The opportunity is still there, but fans will need to see a few key things today for that to happen.

    1. Confidence from Taylor Martinez

    Martinez has had an interesting season thus far. Between a rough showing at Camp Randall and a second half comeback against Ohio State, Martinez’s confidence has been all over the board. With the media and fans piling on, it has been tough for the young quarterback to keep focus at times. While it is easy to say he should just tune everything else out, this has proven to not be a simple task for him.

    When Nebraska and Michigan State face off, it will be the ultimate test for Martinez as Nebraska's quarterback. A game against the Spartans should not be one worth getting worked up over. To this point, a lot of the buildup for Michigan State is just hype.

    Martinez needs to focus on the fundamentals that helped in Nebraska’s wins against Washington and Ohio State. An interception may happen from time to time, but Martinez needs to remember that he is the leader of this team, and they will follow his lead.

    2. Continued Growth on the Offensive Line

    The 41-14 win over Minnesota was a strong one for the Husker fans, yet it was still disappointing for players and coaches. In what many called, a “so-so” showing, the Cornhuskers still managed to improve on many of the season’s weak areas. One such area that has continued to get stronger is the offensive line. However, there are still some big concerns that the men up front have to work on.

    The holes that were allowed against the Golden Gophers cannot happen against the Spartans. A much tougher defense, Michigan State will run right through those openings and sack Martinez every time.

    Offensive tackle Yoshi Hardrick will have to step up as a leader and bring his unit together. The offense is going to rely heavily on the offense's big bodies to wear down the Spartan defense. If they can do that, Husker fans should not be disappointed.

    3. More Stability in the Secondary

    The game in Minneapolis showed promise for a struggling secondary. Senior safety Austin Cassidy even provided a defensive touchdown, something that Nebraska has not seen much of this season.

    It was a small moment in the big scheme of things. However, it still carried a big impact. The secondary hasn’t lost its fight, but what will they show against Michigan State?

    With the Spartans having a running game statistically worse than Minnesota’s, fans can expect to see the football put in the air as much as possible by Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins.

    This means the secondary will have to be ready. Making smart decisions and reading the offense more precisely will be essential. If the secondary can mimic their focus from last week, fans should see more stability and growth from this group.

    4. Team Composure

    Saddled with the 11:00 A.M. ESPN time slot, this game doesn’t seem very meaningful nationwide. Contrary to how that appears, it’s very much a make-or-break deal for both teams. The winner will most likely head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship. Nebraska fans want nothing more than for that to happen during the Cornhuskers’ first year in a new conference.

    This team needs to find a balance of composure among the individual units. While this is a big game, it doesn’t need to be overhyped. Nebraska faced a very similar situation last year when Missouri walked into Memorial Stadium after a big win over No. 1 Oklahoma. By the end of the Huskers’ face-off with the Tigers, the Cornhuskers had won in grand fashion.

    It was a big moment, and one many of the current players remember. This time, Michigan State comes to Memorial Stadium after a big win over Wisconsin. While the stakes are high, the attitudes should not get too worked up.

    If fans can take anything from head coach Bo Pelini this week, it is that this game is just as important as any other. We’ll see if that mentality holds true.

    5. A “Big” Win

    It will be a big win for Nebraska if the they Michigan State by one point. The Cornhuskers have not beaten a team ranked in the top 15 since 2001 (Oklahoma).

    This statistic alone is alarming for fans that want to see Nebraska back in the top tier of national exposure permanently. With that said, this game’s outcome provides more than a win or a loss.

    A win of any kind for the Huskers will be big. Fans don’t expect to see a blowout, but they are dying for a win. Come the end of the game, Nebraska will have a pretty good idea of its fate. A bowl game is already in the cards, but a Big Ten title is still on the line. Will the Huskers keep their dreams alive? As always, the fans will be watching.

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    Tags: michigan state, taylor martinez, yoshi hardrick, austin cassidy, kirk cousins

  10. 2011 Oct 26

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Top Five Things the Huskers Must Do To Be Big Ten Champs - No. 4


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Ryan Donohue

    - Find Leaders and Make Followers

    Alfonzo Dennard made waves when he said some teammates were taking plays off during the Wisconsin debacle. If there is leadership, you won’t see players going through the motions.

    You see more discipline, camaraderie and intense competition. All of this benefits the overall performance of a team.

    Leaders are vocal, but bust heads when they need to. It’s unfortunate that coaches only have so much influence, but it’s true. If they can’t get through to a player, the only immediate option is the bench.

    If there isn’t enough depth, that’s not even a choice. Players can coach teammates in a different way. It’s not necessarily a senior’s responsibility to focus on helping others, but true leaders do just that as upperclassmen.

    Yes, NU has a small senior class, but they and a number of special underclassmen can provide a blueprint for how others should carry themselves.

    Rex Burkhead is becoming more vocal. He’s the anchor of the offense. Who will join him? How about offensive veterans like Mike Caputo or Ben Cotton? How about Will Compton or Austin Cassidy on defense?

    It’s always concerning when players are off doing their own thing – The “Me First” approach. Players that serve as leaders exist to eliminate this behavior and instill the team-first mentality to all.

    Try as they might, this isn't something coaches can do alone. Nebraska badly needs this component if they hope to compete for, and win, a conference crown this year or any other.

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    Tags: alfonzo dennard, rex burkhead, austin cassidy, mike caputo, ben cotton

  11. 2011 Oct 24

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against Minnesota


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    A common sentiment by Gopher fans before kickoff last Saturday was, “Nebraska is going to destroy us.” Minnesota fans had already thrown in the towel before the game had even began. For Husker fans, confidence wasn't so easy to muster. Even though Nebraska was a 24.5-point favorite going into Saturday’s game, fans had a number of worries.

    Could the defense survive without senior Jared Crick? Will quarterback Taylor Martinez make big plays, or will he revert back to old habits? Questions plagued Husker fans. What did fans ultimately see Saturday?

    1.) A Step towards a Dominant Defense

    The defense had one mission last Saturday and that was to stop Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray from running. They managed to do just that, but some major question marks remained.

    One of the biggest head-scratchers was why there was never any real pressure put on Gray. While Minnesota's running game was stopped, there were no sacks against the Gophers. Gray also never appeared rushed to make a decision. This alone is worrisome, considering that many Nebraska’s remaining opponents will be much more dominant on offense.

    There were still bright spots for the defense on Saturday. Lavonte David continued to be a strong, vocal leader, the secondary stepped up and Nebraska held Minnesota scoreless until halftime. It wasn’t a perfect game and it wasn’t a completely dominant performance, but it was a step in the right direction.

    2.) Defensive Line Unity without Crick

    While Jared Crick’s presence on the field will be missed, Saturday afternoon proved that the senior is not the only necessity for the defense’s success. The leadership Crick provided during his playing days at Nebraska gave way to a new group of men who will be more than capable of holding down the fort up front. Between Chase Rome and Terrence Moore, the talent is there.

    Minnesota helped to provide experience that the line will need before facing the Michigan State Spartans this Saturday. While the Gophers’ offense isn’t the toughest, it gave this unit an opportunity to work out the kinks left by Crick’s absence.

    With No. 94 on the sidelines as a player coach, the line should have no issues adjusting. It’ll take a little time, but with some confidence under their belts, they have an opportunity to be stronger as each game passes.

    3.) Stability in the Secondary

    While the secondary still has a lot of work to do, Saturday breathed some life into the cornerbacks and safeties. TCF Bank Stadium was a good testing ground for a struggling secondary to find their footing once again. It was not pretty during the whole game, but their efforts showed a step in the right direction.

    Lance Thorell got a chance at cornerback on Saturday and played arguably one of his best games. Austin Cassidy picked up a fumble and ran it into the end zone for a defensive touchdown, something Nebraska fans have seen little of this season. Harvey Jackson even saw some time at safety, collecting four solid tackles in the fourth quarter.

    Again, the performance wasn’t always crisp, but it showed far more stability. For a secondary that has been plagued by poor play all season, this contest was a good one to build confidence and get back on track before Michigan State.

    4.) Continued Growth on Offensive Line

    Despite the fact that a group of Nebraska’s offensive line was stuck in an elevator for nearly 45 minutes Friday night, the frustrating situation had little affect on the unit's play. Led by senior offensive tackle Yoshi Hardrick, the offensive line was dominant and united. This group continues to grow each and every week, making the offense more efficient and stable.

    For quarterback Taylor Martinez, the big men up front are providing more time to make decisions. It is no surprise the Nebraska offense managed a time of possession advantage over Minnesota (31:52-28:08). As the line continues to play with confidence , the offense will improve week by week and play efficiently, which will help against stout teams like Michigan State.

    5.) A Convincing Win

    Nebraska fans were able to walk away from Minneapolis feeling good for two reasons: A big win and a dominant crowd. Looking around the stadium, it was easily half-red and “Go Big Red” chants drowned out the Gophers’ attempts at crowd noise. What some are calling “Memorial Stadium 2.0” took on a bigger meaning for Cornhusker fans: Nebraska is on its way back.

    While it would be somewhat of an exaggeration to call the 41-14 victory over Minnesota “big,” it was definitely a performance worth applauding. Martinez played a very smart game that resulted in long drives.

    Even if every series didn’t result in points, proper ball management made Saturday’s win so convincing. While Nebraska’s wide receivers did drop a number of potential catches that could have resulted in more scores, 41 points on the board isn’t a stat worth being upset over.

    With Minnesota now behind Nebraska, it is time to look forward to Michigan State. With the Spartans’ win over Wisconsin, this weekend’s contest may the biggest of the year thus far for Nebraska. Will the Huskers be able to keep up? If Saturday’s game against the Golden Gophers proved anything, it’s that Nebraska has the will to win and the talent to do so. When they can properly execute, that is.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: taylor martinez, jared crick, marqueis gray, lavonte david, chase rome, terrence moore, michigan state, harvey jackson, austin cassidy, lance thorell, yoshi hardrick

  12. 2011 Oct 23

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Most Valuable Huskers vs. Minnesota


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By James Stevenson

    The Cornhuskers disposed of Minnesota with little drama as Nebraska dominated not only the field at TCF Bank Stadium, but also the stands. The Big Red didn’t face a challenge from the worst team in the Big Ten in their 41-14 win, but there were still multiple efforts which stood above the rest and deserve recognition.

    Offensive MVP: The rout was on when redshirt freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell took a pitch on a reverse, then navigated down the sideline with perfect balance and speed for an 82-yard touchdown run. The scoring scamper was the longest touchdown run for a freshman in school history, and was Nebraska’s longest run since 2004. Bell also snagged four passes for 25 yards.

    Defensive MVP: Aside from leading the team with six tackles, senior safety Austin Cassidy made the biggest play of the day for the defense-that-is-yet-to-receive-their-Blackshirts. When Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray fumbled at his own 20-yard line, Cassidy, in his attempt to recover the ball, accidentally kicked it nine yards to the Gopher 11-yard line before scooping it up and returning it for a defensive score.

    Special Teams MVP: After looking at everything, from kickoffs, to field goals, to returners to that made tackles, there wasn’t a standout performance on special teams Saturday. Honorable mention to Brett Maher for scoring 10 points on two field goals and four PATs, but hard to give him the award after a rough day with his punting duties and missing a 52-yard kick in the third quarter.

    Minnesota MVP: MarQueis Gray accounted for 189 of the Gophers’ 254 yards of offense. He threw for 122 yards, and his 67 yards on the ground included a 30-yard rush and a touchdown.

    Workhorse: Despite being banged up during the bye week, junior I-back Rex Burkhead was still the workhorse for the Husker ground game. His fourth time breaking the century mark this season, Burkhead gained 117 yards on 23 carries and rushed for a touchdown,

    12th Man: An announced crowd of 49,187 consisted of an estimated 25-30,000 Nebraska fans. Early in the game, the “Go Big Red” chants drowned out the Minnesota marching band. Husker fans neutralized the road advantage, creating more of a high school or scrimmage atmosphere.

    Missing in Action: After the game, senior offensive tackle Jermarcus “Yoshi” Hardrick joked about several Husker players who found themselves stuck in a Minneapolis elevator on Friday.

    That’s one plausible explanation as to why junior tight end Kyler Reed didn’t see the field on Saturday. One of Nebraska’s most dangerous deep threats, he was sorely missed when the Husker wide receiver corps dropped multiple deep passes from quarterback Taylor Martinez.

    The Cornhuskers will need all of its offensive weapons against a salty Michigan State defense coming off of a historic win against Wisconsin.

    Welcome Back: After not playing in nearly a month due to a leg infection, true freshman I-back Braylon Heard helped run out the clock, averaging six yards a carry on seven totes of the football with a long of 22 yards.

    Follow James on Twitter: @jamesstevenson
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    Tags: kenny bell, austin cassidy, brett maher, marqueis gray, rex burkhead, yoshi hardrick, kyler reed, braylon heard

  13. 2011 Oct 22

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Top Five Things to Watch For Against Minnesota


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    After a record-breaking comeback win over Ohio State, the Nebraska Cornhuskers couldn’t have headed into a bye week at a better time.

    The opportunity to rest was sorely needed for a Nebraska team that had faced plenty of scrutiny from both media and fans alike just one week before. The Cornhuskers took the time off as an opportunity to go home, bond with each other, and relax.

    With the mini-vacation over, it is time for Nebraska to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers. While many fans views today’s game as a “second bye week”, it is important to never overlook the underdog. With a 24.5-point spread in Nebraska’s favor, what should fans be looking for today?

    1.) A Dominant Defense

    Before anyone touts Nebraska’s defense over Minnesota’s too much, it is important to note that the Gophers are actually ranked one spot higher in rushing defense nationally (No. 74).

    For the Cornhuskers, this means that the defense needs to step up big time following the loss of Jared Crick. Today’s game is not going to be a cakewalk. It is going to take a fair amount of dominance to keep the Gophers from scoring much.

    With Lavonte David settling in as the defense’s primary leader, it is key that the Huskers rally behind him. A group that has often been lacking a spark is set up to prove themselves against a weaker Minnesota offense.

    With David’s leadership, Nebraska fans will be looking for overall dominance throughout today’s game. It is up to the defense to determine how good they want to look following the bye week.

    2.) Defensive Line Unity

    The loss of Jared Crick was a huge shock to both the Nebraska team and fans. A strong leader, Crick’s season-ending injury is one that brought about immediate concern from fans about the future of the 2011 defensive line. While his loss is notable, the talent to remain competitive despite Crick's absence is there.

    With the likes of Terrence Moore and Chase Rome, the line has enough depth and experience to easily fill Crick’s void. While the outstanding senior will be missed on the field, his presence will still be felt on the sideline as he is allowed to travel with the team for the rest of the season.

    What is important for the defensive line against Minnesota is for them to show unity. The linemen need to prove they are just as much of a unit today as they were two weeks ago to both themselves and the fans. With Crick stepping up as a leader on the sidelines, the rest of the line has the opportunity to show they are not only strong, but united as one.

    3.) Stability in the Secondary

    It has been no surprise to see the Nebraska secondary struggle against opponents each week. While Alfonzo Dennard’s return was positive for the secondary, he is still rebuilding confidence on the field thanks to the late beginning to his senior year.

    Regardless, Dennard’s leadership is prominent. When Stanley Jean-Baptiste checked into the game against Ohio State, Dennard made it clear to him that he had only one thing to do and that was to play hard. Jean-Baptiste took those words to heart and came up with a huge interception for Nebraska late in the fourth quarter.

    Going into today’s game against Minnesota, the secondary doesn’t need to do anything other than find stability. The little things are what will ultimately make the biggest difference for the remainder of the season. Safety Austin Cassidy will be looking to make better reads and improve his play.

    Expect to see Jean-Baptiste rotate in and out with Andrew Green. It won’t necessarily be pretty for Nebraska every time Minnesota opts to put the ball in the air, but as long as the secondary finds stable ground, this outing should be much more positive than many were in the first half of the season.

    4.) Continued Growth on Offensive Line

    The first half of the season caused a spotlight to be shined on a major strength of this Nebraska team – the offensive line. Led by senior Yoshi Hardrick, this group has proved it is a force to be reckoned with.

    They need to continue to prove just how dominant they are against the Golden Gophers. At this point in the season, it would not be too much to expect near-perfection from this bunch.

    The offensive line has spent the first half of the season finding its identity, which they’ve clearly found. Bringing down opponents while giving quarterback Taylor Martinez time to throw has been incredibly valuable for Tim Beck’s new offense.

    While the Gophers’ defense should not provide too much of a threat, the linemen still need to grow. As this unit surely knows, the perfect never rest until their better is best.

    5.) A Convincing Win

    While Minnesota should not necessarily be overlooked, it is unlikely the Gophers beat Nebraska. With another away game dominated by traveling Husker fans, TCF Stadium will feel like a second home for the Nebraska faithful. A convincing win would sit well with the expected turnout.

    Even after the comeback win against Ohio State, Nebraska still seems to be lacking an overall identity. A big win over Minnesota will bring back the confidence that may have been lost on the road against Wisconsin. While the rest of the Big Ten has room for potential upsets, one won’t happen in Minneapolis. Look for a big win today against the Golden Gophers – The Nebraska Cornhuskers are ready for one.

    The bye week was a nice break for both the team and fans, but it is time to get the second half of the season underway. How will the Huskers finish out the season? Today will be a big first step in answering that question.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: jared crick, lavonte david, terrence moore, chase rome, stanley jeanbaptiste, alfonzo dennard, aaron gren, austin cassidy, yoshi hardrick, tim beck, taylor martinez

  14. 2011 Oct 22

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Minnesota 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 does Nebraska need to work on versus Minnesota both offensively and defensively?

    Brian: Offensively, the Cornhuskers need to do what they have done so far. Let the line earn their ribeyes and stuffed baked potatoes on this one.

    Defensively, get better in base formations and find out if SJB is what the other side of the secondary needs.

    Erin: Offensively, Nebraska just needs to work on playing consistent football. If the offense can replicate the second half of the Ohio State game for an entire game, they will be a force to be reckoned with. For me, it's not about improving the talent or play ability, it's about improving the consistency.

    On the defense, it's going to be all about the secondary. I'm aware Jared Crick is out, but our line will be just fine. Guys like Terrence Moore and Chase Rome will fill the void nicely. The secondary is where the improvement needs to be focused.

    With Stanley Jean-Baptiste's new role at cornerback, it will be crucial for the secondary to rotate players around and find the right fit. Minnesota shouldn't give the defense too much of a struggle, so the secondary needs to take this as an opportunity to grow.

    Greg: Create turnovers on defense. This game gives the Huskers the opportunity to dominate, and they need to do more than just claim a moral victory on defense. From the offense, let's see a perfect game from the offensive line. If they are solid, the offense will have a good day.

    James: Offensively, the biggest opportunity for Nebraska is to continue working on its passing game. Getting Taylor more comfortable in the pocket, going through his progression, and hitting his dump off man will be critical for offensive success against Michigan State and Penn State's strong defenses.

    Defensively, containing and sacking Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray will be the main thing I'm looking for. Nebraska's defensive line hasn't always done the best job in contain against quarterbacks like Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson.

    Furthermore, both the defensive line and linebackers have missed plenty of tackles either in the backfield, or after the quarterback has taken off. Limiting those mistakes will be important with perhaps the most dangerous dual-threat quarterback in the country still on the schedule in Michigan's Denard Robinson.

    Brandon: On offense, the Cornhuskers need to work on their rhythm and basic fundamentals. Starting with ball-handling and crisp blocking to effective short and long-range passes, Tim Beck needs to call a game that gets these guys clicking heading into next week.

    On defense, the obvious answer is finding a replacement for Crick whether it’s a lone individual or by committee. What’s more important is strengthening the defensive line as a whole. Nebraska’s going to be facing some punishing rushing attacks including Michigan State’s next week. They need to find a way to at least slow opponents' ground games down.

    Another obvious statement is the secondary, but not just getting Stanley Jean-Baptiste live game action. It would be advisable to work other safeties in as this is going to be the final game on the schedule where Carl and Bo can experiment.

    Will the number of Taylor Martinez's passes outnumber Rex Burkhead's carries?

    Brian: It should, but at the same time, the number of carries by Green/Abdullah/Heard should out number Rex's. Keep Burkhead healthy for the upcoming stretch.

    Erin: I hope not. I have my fingers crossed that it is a nice balance. The ball should only go in the air when it needs to.

    Greg: The only way that happens is if Rex has a massive first half and Bo opts to spell his legs in the second half. Otherwise, all running backs should have a field day.

    James: Yes. From the coach and player comments during the bye week, Rex was pretty nicked and bruised up from being Nebraska's workhorse. The Huskers will need him against stiffer competition, and will utilize the three freshman running backs to carry some of the load and gain experience.

    To further lock this in, Minnesota has one of the worst passing defenses in the conference and country. If there was ever a time to give Taylor Martinez additional reps in the passing game in live game action, this is it.

    Nebraska will need balance against the better defenses they have yet to play, and its borderline criminal how few touches Jamal Turner and Kyler Reed have been getting.

    Brandon: Honestly, I believe so. Minnesota’s a poor football team and if there’s any defense for Taylor to practice his passing against, it’s the Golden Gophers'. I’d look for every range of pass from short out routes to heaves over the Minnesota secondary to Kyler Reed.

    This is also a game where Rex can afford to get some rest. You’ll see him out there, but it’s hard to think that Abdullah, Green and Heard won’t see time, especially if Heard is fully recovered.

    What are three things that Nebraska needs to have seen as a result of this game?


    1.) 400-plus yards rushing. Let the big dogs on the line eat.

    2.) Memorial Stadium North. Revive the memories of Notre Dame Stadium in 2000.

    3.) A good ol' behind the woodshed stomping. Minnesota is not good at all. There’s no reason that past the first 10 minutes of action that this game should be close. These are the games before the Callahan era that we’d just look at them and say “My decent is better than your better."

    Nebraska needs to put their foot on the Gophers' throats, run them out of the building, and get that swagger back before Michigan State comes to down. Put something in Sparty’s head.


    1.) An offensive showing similar to the one against Ohio State. Can the Huskers keep improving? This week will show us.

    2.) A powerful defense. Our defense has been lacking its luster and spark. Someone like Lavonte David has to be tired of it. Can he get the team fired up for good? Let's hope so.

    3.) A big win. I don't think anyone wants to see this game be a close one.

    Greg: I'll let Erin tackle these in her "5 Things to Look for" column.


    1.) Nebraska needs to see Brion Carnes get plenty of playing time in the fourth quarter. He's still just an ankle injury away from being the starter, and he needs more playing experience. This also means Nebraska needs to put Minnesota away early.

    2.) The defense beginning to gel by holding Minnesota to their season average of points, or less. Minnesota benefits from the return of a healthy Gray, but has been averaging 18 points a game thus far. Nebraska is averaging giving up 21. I'd like to see the Huskers hold a team UNDER their season average. This Minnesota team scoring in the high 20s would concern me.

    3.) A set rotation on defense. It's been a merry-go-round in the defensive backfield. Daimion Stafford has played safety and corner, Eric Martin's been at linebacker and defensive end, and Stanley Jean-Baptiste is now playing cornerback.

    Nebraska needs some stability on the defensive roster to help this unit come together and trust each other. The loss of Crick probably hurts this though, as Nebraska will now be tinkering with a defensive line that hadn't blown anyone away even with Crick.


    1.) Confidence on Defense: There needs to be a sense that there is improvement no matter how small. Some momentum will do this unit a world of good. That said, if Minnesota covers the spread, that should be considered a red flag.

    2.) An Effective Passing Game…From Two Quarterbacks: There’s absolutely no reason that Brion Carnes should be on the sidelines in the fourth quarter of this game. There’s no logic in having Martinez under center if Nebraska leads by 35, especially when Carnes needs live action badly if No. 3 goes down.

    3.) Jean-Baptiste Solidify Himself: This could be filed under No. 1, but there needs to be a solid No. 2 opposite Dennard. Even if SJB can be the primary cornerback in a rotation, it would be a step up from the current status quo.

    What is your prediction for Nebraska's final record including any post-season play?

    Brian: If this team can get to 9-3, it’s a successful season. After all we have seen, unless something changes, running the table isn't realistic. There will be one, maybe two losses somewhere down the line.

    Erin: Nebraska will go 9-3, and will be in Indianapolis facing Wisconsin again. I'd even say Nebraska has a post-New Years bowl game to look forward to such as the Capital One Bowl on January 2nd.

    I would be willing to change my overall record depending on whether or not the defense can find its swagger. If they can ignite that spark, our team could be lethal. Until I see that, I'll stand by 9-3.

    Greg: I don't think this team, the way it stands now, is a one-loss team. If they were to face Wisconsin again in Indianapolis, I don't see where enough improvement has been made to beat the badgers. 11-2 with a bowl win.

    James: 10-3 - Without some improvement defensively, I think Nebraska splits the Michigan games, and drops one more to the trio of Northwestern/Iowa/Penn State. They miss the inaugural Big Ten Championship, but a nice trip to the Gator Bowl and a surprising win over an SEC team like Florida is just what the Huskers will need to finish out the season.


    At this point, Michigan State appears to be a toss-up, but the combination of quarterback Kirk Cousins and running back Edwin Baker along with a stout defense doesn’t bode well.

    Northwestern’s Dan Persa is hobbled and the Wildcats’ leading rusher is out. Michigan’s Denard Robinson will be difficult to be kept in check, but if he can be forced to pass, Nebraska has a solid chance. Penn State’s best weapon is Beaver Stadium and Iowa…well, is Iowa.

    I think the Cornhuskers drop two of those games. If I had to guess, I’d say Michigan State and Michigan simply due to Sparty’s defense and Robinson’s speed. That puts Nebraska at 9-3, but missing out on the Big Ten Championship Game which we may be seeing a preview of this evening with Wisconsin at Michigan State.

    Expect Nebraska to go to the Gator Bowl to face Georgia ending on a 9 or 10-win note.

    Follow the panel on Twitter:

    Brandon: @HuskerLocker
    Brian: @btbowling
    Erin: @helloerinmarie
    James: @jamesstevenson
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    Tags: stanley jean baptiste, alfonzo dennard, jared crick, terrence moore, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, aaron green, ameer abdullah, braylon heard, austin cassidy, jamal turner, kyler reed

  15. 2011 Oct 17

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Press Conference Notes (Post-Bye Week)


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    - Bo Pelini started the press conference off by giving an update on Jared Crick, stating that he had a successful surgery this morning on his torn pectoral muscle. Pelini also spoke about losing Crick: “I feel horrible for Jared. He’s a good football player.”

    - Pelini also made a point to say the injury happened on the spot during the Ohio State game and that it was a freak injury.

    - Pelini plans for Crick to stay as involved as possible saying, “The worst thing that can happen is a guy can get hurt and then drift away from the team.”

    - Crick will remain around the team, helping to coach up the younger guys. He will also be allowed to travel with the team and not be counted as a part of the 70-player limit.

    - Pelini spoke about how his team approaches every game: “I hate to wear you guys out with this but we do talk about the process. We’re very black and white.”

    - As for Rex Burkhead after his performance against OSU, Pelini said they have been giving the I-back rest. However it’s tough to get Burkhead to take a break: “If it was up to Rex, he’d take every snap.”

    - Pelini also gave an update on Braylon Heard. He said he is back at practice, the infection is gone and he is feeling good.
    Rex Burkhead spoke about the bye-week and its’ positive effect for players: “It’s the perfect time to get recovered, clear up and bumps and aches.”

    - Burkhead also watched a lot of football over the weekend, including the Alabama game. He said he likes to watch other running backs in the country and see how they are doing.

    - Burkhead on Minnesota: “They’re a very good team. They have a good defense.”

    - Mike Caputo echoed Burkhead’s sentiment on Minnesota: “There is no room for taking anyone lightly.”

    - Caputo also said that he’s ready to get back to practice: “The bye-week was nice, but it’s time to get back to work and we all know that.”

    - Austin Cassidy spoke a bit about Crick, saying his leadership will not be missed, as Crick will still be around to lead.

    - “The focus is really on us. We need to do what we need to do this week,” Cassidy said about the secondary.

    - Cassidy also talked a little about the secondary’s performance to this point:” It’s disappointed and obviously we have had some disappointing performances. When we do play up to our potential, we’re a pretty good defense. I’m just thankful the offense has scored more points than most of the other teams.”

    - Stanley Jean-Baptiste said the transition to corner happened very fast. When asked about his familiarity with a secondary position, Jean-Baptiste said, “I’ve played safety before, but not corner.”

    - Jean-Baptiste also talked about teammate Alfonzo Dennard’s leadership and its’ positive affect on the former wide-out: “Alfonzo kept telling me to compete so I went out there and played hard.”

    - Taylor Martinez talked briefly about the bye week and how it allowed the team to rest their legs.

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    Tags: press conference, bo pelini, taylor martinez, stanley jeanbaptiste, jared crick, rex burkhead, austin cassidy

  16. 2011 Sep 20

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Laramie, Wyoming - It's a Trap!


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brian Towle

    This pesky offense. This upsetting defense.

    Somewhere in the midst of a 51-38 victory, the Nebraska football team showed the ability to not only weather a storm, but to put their foot down and play a quarter of football that can separate themselves from any team in the nation. However, they also showed that there is not only room for improvement on both sides of the ball, but also a need to cultivate the maturity to close out a football game.

    The offense was beyond outstading for most of the day. Taylor Martinez, Braylon Heard, Aaron Green, Kenny Bell, there were athletes making plays that needed to be made. Quincy Enunwa made some big blocks, and the much maligned offensive line had their best game of the season by far. Even without a Brandon Kinnie and Jamal Turner, playmakers were everywhere.

    The defense is Nebraska’s current liability. 274 yards of passing and a greater amount of yardage per play (6.2 vs. 6.1 for Nebraska) kept Washington in the game. Huskies head coach Steve Sarkasian had his team ready for a knockout punch early and often. The Nebraska defense's back seven were reeling for most of the game.

    There will be days where the offense bails out the defense (Stillwater last year, anyone?), but for two games in a row, there hasn’t been a knockout punch delivered by this team. After being on top 44-17 with a little more than 10 minutes left in the game, both sides of the ball went into a protective shell.

    Even Bo Pelini admitted that the calls on defense were a little lax in the post game presser. Pelini let the front four go after the quarterback, which is fine since Sarkasian and quarterback Keith Price were in four-wide sets. However, with the kind of day that Andrew Green and others in the secondary were having, that turned out to be a bad call.

    This secondary is young, but at the same time, they shouldn’t be having the same issues game after game. Giving the benefit of the doubt thanks to Alfonzo Dennard’s absence is like putting a small bandage on a huge wound. When Dennard returns, he can’t cover the whole field.

    Ciante Evans and Andrew Green have to be playmakers. Daimion Stafford, P.J. Smith, Austin Cassidy, all have room for improvement. It’s not time to call out secondary coach Corey Raymond, but when Fonzie returns, there will be no more excuses for this bad play.

    Nebraska did come away with a somewhat convincing win over a BCS school that should do some damage in the Pac-12 conference (it may be the Pac-16 by the time you read this). Wisconsin looked alright against a team they should have throttled, as did Michigan. Ohio State and Michigan State? Not so much.

    However, there is a game in Lariamie under a starry Wyoming night sky against a Cowboy squad that will fill the house and have fans ready. They've been ready for a long time, too. This is the ultimate trap game for Nebraska; between a revenge game and the Big Ten opener against a potential new arch-rival.

    It’s been said before that this team isn’t good enough to hit auto-pilot yet. The 2011 season has to truly be addressed on a week-by-week basis. Before Nebraska can win in Madison, or against the team from Columbus, there’s a tilt against a Mountain West team that won’t be scared of the Big Red at all.

    Get better, take care of Wyoming, and then worry about Russell Wilson.

    Follow Brian on Twitter: @btbowling
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    Tags: taylor martinez, braylon heard, aaron green, kenny bell, brandon kinnie, jamal turner, quincy enunwa, bo pelini, andrew green, keith price, steve sarkisian, ciante evans, daimion stafford, pj smith, austin cassidy, corey raymond, alfonzo dennard

  17. 2011 Sep 20

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Top Five Things We Saw Versus Washington


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    Nebraska and Washington had their final meeting for a good, long while last Saturday afternoon. Fans were unsure of the potential outcome, ranging from a blowout to a potential Cornhusker loss. Regardless, the atmosphere was tense and the game’s importance was obvious to all. By the last snap, Nebraska held off Washington and improved to 3-0. Let’s review what Husker fans were looking for this past weekend.

    1.) A Convincing Win

    Nebraska may have won 51-38, but the win felt very similar to both UTC and Fresno State. Stellar moments were shadowed by a slow fourth quarter when the Cornhuskers appeared to give up on the game. By the time Washington had added another 21 points to their total, Nebraska realized it wasn’t time to let up. Thanks to another touchdown from quarterback Taylor Martinez and an interception by safety Austin Cassidy, Nebraska was able to seal the victory.

    While a big win for the team, it still lacked the luster fans have been searching for. A solid offensive showing was weighed down by a less than ideal defensive performance. The Huskers are undefeated through three games, but the lack of a convincing triumph does leave fans unsettled. Once again, Nebraska fans will be looking to next week for the big win they are longing for.

    2.) Blackshirt Dominance

    The concerns from Fresno State were solidified against Washington. The defense allowed the Huskies to create too many opportunities that led to touchdowns. Nebraska safeties and corners were often left in the dust as Washington receivers flew by. Cornerback Andrew Green was also poor on tackling and rarely read plays correctly. It was a surreal experience for fans that are used to a suffocating defense from Bo and Carl Pelini.

    While work is clearly needed, big hits did shine light on the defense’s talent. That ability will need to be used more efficiently by October 1, or else Wisconsin will take full advantage of the openings they can create. Ultimately, the defense’s issues are not created by lack of talent, but instead by a lack of identity. They need to rediscover their swagger if they want to compete in the Big Ten.

    3.) Offensive Line

    Offensive tackle Yoshi Hardrick had his cast removed last Friday after dislocating his thumb against Fresno State. While Hardrick claimed his thumb was hurt, it never stopped him or the offensive line from making their presence known. They created a solid pocket for Martinez while also throwing their weight around on running plays. The young bunch no longer appeared inexperienced which is a very positive sign for Nebraska fans.

    Even more surprising, junior Seung Hoon Choi made his first collegiate start for Nebraska and dominated. Choi immediately showed why was made a starter as he added fierceness to his unit. While last Saturday’s showing may not have reminded fans of past Pipelines, it was a step in the right direction. Husker fans can now relax as the offensive line has found their groove and it doesn’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon.

    4.) Brandon Kinnie

    Senior wide receiver Brandon Kinnie didn’t receive much of an opportunity on Saturday to turn his fortunes around. He was often passed over for young receivers Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner and Quincy Enunwa. He also didn’t receive nearly as many on-field chances as in previous games. It’s easy to assume that Kinnie would be down on himself at this point. In reality, that's not true at all.

    “I love my team!” he tweeted Saturday night.

    For Kinnie, it’s about leadership and that hasn’t changed. The veteran receiver still made blocks that advanced the plays and created room to run, while cheering on the younger players. After one of Rex Burkhead’s big plays, Kinnie was one of the first Cornhuskers on the field congratulating him. The first three games of his senior year may not have been what he was hoping for, but the “Twitter King” is making the most of it by displaying the meaning of true teamwork and unity.

    5.) Offensive Drives

    Martinez looked more comfortable than ever against Washington. Confidence gushed from the previously timid quarterback and the once typical scrambler appeared more calm and collected. He set the stage early by throwing a long completion to Kenny Bell on the second down of Nebraska’s first drive. He went on to throw for two touchdowns, as well as running one in. The Nebraska offense played a more up tempo game, and it paid off.

    The Huskers also took full advantage of Rex Burkhead. He ended the game with 22 carries for 120 yards, pushing through the Huskies’ defenders play after play. It was a bright moment for the offense who has clearly found a groove. Nebraska fans saw that not only is the offense reliable, but it is also Big Ten-ready.

    Last Saturday was a day of redemption for those that left Memorial Stadium. While Nebraska still has Wyoming to think about this week, Big Ten play is just around the corner and fans are ready to see what the Huskers are capable of in their new conference. If Nebraska can continue to build upon each game, October 1 may not end up being the mismatch many think it will be.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, brandon kinnie, yoshi hardrick, seung hoon choi, austin cassidy

  18. 2011 Sep 12

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Winning Covered Up a Game That Still Stinks


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brian Towle

    John Madden once said, “Winning is a great deodorant.” If that’s the case, then Nebraska used up a lot of Right Guard last Saturday night. The Fresno State Bulldogs should have a decent season. Derek Carr is going to be a player that the Cornhuskers won’t look forward to playing in the coming years, especially in the Silicon Valley.

    Pat Hill had his bunch ready to go and it showed early on. However, the second half showed that this Nebraska team can come out and answer the call on both sides of the ball. Granted, there are still some kinks that need to be worked out for this team to head to Indianapolis in December, much less win the Big Ten’s first championship game.

    Husker fans knew that there were going to be offensive growing pains this year. Regardless of the redundancy in Tim Beck’s first half play calling, the second half showcased several playmakers. Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner, Kyler Reed and Quincy Enunwa demonstrated that they’re all studs.

    Ameer Abdullah likely saved the day with his 100-yard kickoff return. Many fans wanted to give this offense an identity off a 20-play script from the spring. Martinez is learning and continues to slowly improve. There were moments of clarity in the first half, but by game’s end, he had statistics that mirrored a performance from the first half of 2010.

    There needs to be trust in Tim Beck’s system. He did something that hasn’t happened in three years in Lincoln. He opened up the playbook and allowed the offense to create its own opportunities. Martinez always has and needs to be an option, not the only option for this offense. Burkhead’s a rock Ameer Abdullah’s stock is rising.

    Kenny Bell displayed a deep threat ability to compliment Kyler Reed and Quincy Enunwa. Jamal Turner is going to be electric if he doesn’t lose the ball in the lights. Those alone represents six other options that are available to help this offense. That doesn’t count Brandon Kinnie, who is certain to get back to his 2010 ways.

    The defense will improve. This season resembles 2008, when the staff and schemes were new. Sure enough, there were growing pains. Losing Alfonzo Dennard hasn’t helped, but the experience for Ciante Evans and Andrew Green will pay dividends. Derek Carr was a good test for this secondary, because Dan Persa and Russell Wilson are both accurate and are quick on their feet. Let’s not forget that Denard Robinson will likely be watching tape of last Saturday’s game.

    Some players need to improve, of course. Justin Blatchford needs to step his game up as does Damian Stafford. Stafford had flashes of brilliance, but needs to be more consistent, like former Huskers Dejon Gomes and Eric Hagg. Austin Cassidy had a few mental breakdowns, but he’ll rebound. Will Compton and Sean Fisher both played well, but not spectacularly.

    The defensive line also played at an average level. If Fresno State was a bad game by Pelini brothers’ standards, is the line in Vegas looking temping with a revenge game against Washington coming up? History encourages betting on Nebraska following a poor defensive performance from Pelini’s bunch. (Of course, this article mentions it for entertainment purposes only)

    Offensively, going against defenses that stack the line of scrimmage seems to be the main problem for this team, so why not use formations that take people out of the box? Perhaps installing play-action for Taylor or using misdirection? Regardless, the bottom line is that when the game clock read all zeroes, Nebraska won.

    It was a victory sparked by a stud named Ameer Abdullah, great second half work by Beck, and a Nebraska team’s realization that this they can’t look forward to anything other than the next play. A triumph that, while not 60 minutes of a Picasso, was better than Monet. Once the pads came off, a 2-0 record is all that mattered.

    Follow Brian on Twitter: @btbowling
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    Tags: fresno state, derek carr, pat hill, tim beck, kenny bell, jamal turner, kyler reed, quincy enunwa, ameer abdullah, taylor martinez, brandon kinnie, ciante evans, andrew green, alfonzo dennard, justin blatchford, daimion stafford, austin cassidy, will compton, sean fisher

  19. 2011 Aug 17

    Husker Heartbeat 8/17: NU Linked to Miami?, Cassidy Shining Bright and Madison Braces for Impact


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

    - Former Nebraska defensive end Benard Thomas implicated in Miami scandal

    - Safety Austin Cassidy embraces both his starting spot and his leadership role

    - Madison, Wisconsin is bracing for a Big Red invasion

    - Kicking contenders Brett Maher and Mauro Bondi are slugging it out in the battle to take over for Alex Henery

    Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: miami hurricanes, austin cassidy, wisconsin

  20. 2011 Aug 15

    Husker Heartbeat 8/15: Starling's Decision, a Defensive Duo and a Two-Sided Linemen


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

    - It's time for Bubba Starling to make his decision: Nebraska or the Kansas City Royals

    - Antonio Bell has been making the most of his switch to defense

    - Safety Austin Cassidy is proving his worth to the defense

    - Former Husker Henery makes a solid duo with former Florida Gator Chas Henry

    - The two sides of the NU line

    Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: bubba starling, alex henery, austin cassidy, antonio bell

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