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  1. 2009 Nov 02

    Husker Monday Review: Baylor


    By HuskerLocker

    Right after Bo Pelini was hired to coach Nebraska in 2007, a good helping of Cornhusker fans, well-versed in both modern and historical college football, pointed to this upcoming week as an early mid-term, if you will, on NU's progress under Pelini.

    A home game vs. Oklahoma, the standard-bearer of the Big 12 in the 21st Century, coached by Pelini's old buddy, Bob Stoops. If Pelini had a grace period of, say, 20 games – he's coached 21 thus far – OU, with its balance, talent, speed and reputation, would be an apt measuring stick for how far the Huskers had come – and how far, still, they had to go.

    As we stand here now, with both fighters bruised and frustrated, it's harder to see that stick in the mist of injuries, offensive woes and close, painful losses.

    But it's still there. And all of Nebraska's goals are still there, too. The Huskers control their destiny. Win out and punch a ticket to Dallas and the Big 12 Championship vs. Texas. Win out, and NU, with its fan base and classy reputation, is guaranteed no worse than the Holiday Bowl to tangle with another of Pelini's mentors, Pete Carroll and his USC Trojans.

    Yes – win out, and a fairly cool prize awaits at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box.

    NU's 20-10 victory over Baylor isn't the kind you love to relive, aside from one particular performance. We'll do it anyway, with an eye on the big stick that Nebraska would very much like to carry into the final quarter of its season – after measuring up to it, of course.

    Five Players We Loved

    Defensive tackle Jared Crick: Opponents pay so much attention to Ndamukong Suh that Crick feasts on the single-blocker approach. But Saturday, he tossed those blockers aside and chased Baylor quarterback Nick Florence like a wolfman. Thirteen tackles? Absurd. Crick's small-town persona only adds to the appeal.

    Linebacker Eric Martin: He's been threatening to make a big special teams play all year; Saturday, he finally made it by setting up a blocked punt that was returned by Justin Blatchford for the Huskers' first touchdown. If Martin is able to make the leap defensive back Alfonzo Dennard made from his freshman to sophomore season, watch out.

    Quarterback Cody Green: Warts and all, Green ran hard, competed bravely and generally seemed in command. He's got some work to do, particularly on timing routes, but he's finally a position to do something about it on the field.

    Punter/kicker Alex Henery: Nailed two important field goals – Baylor's Ben Parks missed a chip shot of his own – and made a touchdown-saving tackle on a wild BU punt return right at the end of the game. Athlete first. Kicker second.

    Cornerback Prince Amukamara: One terrific interceptions with three more pass breakups to boot. Amukamara rebounded from a so-so game vs. Texas Tech with a strong performance here.

    Three Concerns We Have

    No Daylight: Nebraska ran the ball 19 times in the second half for 61 yards. How many teams is that going to beat? The beefy offensive line has to earn its keep.

    Going Horizontal: Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson laid off the sideways passes for the first half. Then, with a seemingly comfy 20-0 lead, he started getting cute again, trying to burn Baylor for loading the box by throwing 20 yards sideways, in the hopes of creating one-on-one situations on the perimeter. You all know what eventually happened. If Watson wants to go horizontal, here's a thought: Run wide receiver sweeps.

    Shaky coverage: Baylor was close on a couple kick and punt returns to busting one open for a touchdown. The Huskers have to keep lane discipline and learn to break down and tackle better, instead of searching for the killshot.

    Reviewing The Five Keys

    Play to win, not to dominate: Nebraska did just that with a modest offensive gameplan and a defensive strategy that called for maximum coverage and zero blitzes. The result? Seven sacks and three turnovers on defense. Safe to say the plan worked.

    Match up and move it: Dejon Gomes, Lance Thorell and Sean Fisher probably were exhausted by game's end, running in and out of the game as NU mixed and matched nickel, dime and dollar coverages, but the Huskers were rarely out of position, and almost always had double coverage on the deep receiver, which led to Gomes' interception. The Huskers were lucky that Florence wasn't more accurate on that skinny slant pattern to Kendall Wright, though.

    Neutralize the earth-movers: Baylor couldn't do anything against Crick and Suh, while Nebraska had initial success against the Bears' front four, with that success waning by the second half.

    Traye and Jay: Dontrayevous Robinson looked like Nebraska's best running option until he got hurt in the fourth quarter; Robinson, like Green, competes hard on every play. BU's Jay Finley was not a factor.

    Bo vs. Briles: Baylor head coach Art Briles threw the kitchen sink at Nebraska, and the Brothers Pelini dodged nearly every bullet and landed some haymakers of their own. NU won this coaching chess match with a big dose of help from Crick and Suh.

    Three Questions We Still Have

    Is Roy Helu anywhere near getting healthy? Why did he play Saturday? Repeat: Why? If Nebraska couldn't beat Baylor without Helu – and, just for the record, the Huskers pretty much did – then Nebraska had no business winning, period. Helu should have stayed home and nursed his injured shoulder.

    Where in the world is Mike McNeill, and how does Watson get him involved in the offense again? McNeill's too good to be wasted on well-covered tight end routes. Give the kid a chance to work on the edge and use his size advantage. He's a mismatch waiting to happen. Isn't Watson all about that?

    Can the Nebraska crowd find some inner resolve? And create a nightmarish atmosphere for Oklahoma this week? Memorial Stadium needs to be the toughest environment that OU quarterback Landry Jones has ever played in.

    Tags: husker monday review, baylor game, jared crick, ndamukong suh, prince amukamara, cody green, traye robinson, alex henery, bo pelini, mike mcneill, roy helu

  2. 2009 Oct 31

    NU/Baylor Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

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    Players of the game and grades after Nebraska's win over Baylor:


    OFFENSE: Cody Green. He provided exactly the kind of spark you'd hoped he would. He was poised in the pocket. He didn't waste a lot of time at the line. He scrambled and ran with authority and power. And he was called upon to throw a beauty of a deep ball, he did so with accuracy and perfect placement. The second half wasn't so pretty - but, really, who else deserves it?

    DEFENSE: Jared Crick. It was the kind of performance that reminded me of Danny Noonan and John Parrella, a display of power, tenacity, toughness and brute force. Ndamukong Suh made his usual array of plays all over the field; he's still one of a kind. But, on this day, Crick was that tough-nosed local boy that Nebraska used to ride to conference and national championships. Crick's a little nasty, too. We love it.


    QUARTERBACK: C Cody Green made some solid plays early in the game, and his two scrambles on third down help set up Alex Henery's 45-yard field goal. He also threw a beautiful pass to Niles Paul to set up a touchdown. But his second-half play? Not real pretty. Green has to watch those throws to the sidelines and try not to go airborne on, well, just about any running play, ever. It's a start. Not a perfect one. But a start.

    RUNNING BACK: B Given the Huskers' injuries, this bunch did pretty well with the holes they were given. Traye Robinson is a valid option at running back. Roy Helu is hurt. Lester Ward did OK in limited action, but runs too high. Austin Jones didn't have a prayer.

    WIDE RECEIVER: C A couple untimely drops were offset by two key catches by Niles Paul, who manned up and made some nice grabs. Cody Green missed a few receivers on top of everything else. The perimeter blocking, especially from Khiry Cooper, could have been better.

    TIGHT ENDS/OFFENSIVE LINE: D The shoddy blocking in the second half is unacceptable. When Nebraska needs two yards – the line needs to be able produce those two yards against a team like Baylor. The Huskers were stymied far too often in short yardage situations. Also a costly holding and false penalty when they weren't needed.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: A+ Seven sacks warrants a perfect grade in our book. Crick was spectacular. Baylor never got anything on the ground, either. This unit is scary good right now.

    LINEBACKERS: A Phillip Dillard and Sean Fisher snuffed out Baylor's junk plays all afternoon, and got after the quarterback when it matter. Nice job by both against the zone read. Fisher, who was running on and off the field all day, adjusted quite well.

    SECONDARY: B The Bears busted a couple big throws in the second half, but NU, for the most part, covered well. The Huskers could be a little more aggressive on the short routes, and the safeties could improve on laying out the receiver when there's underneath coverage. Terrific interception by Prince Amukamara; Dejon Gomes' pick was just a bad pass.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: A A defensive touchdown, a ton of touchbacks and Alex Henery's key tackle on a wild Baylor punt return – this unit helped save the Huskers bacon.

    GAME MANAGEMENT AND PLAYCALLING: B Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson got a little cute in the second half, but, for the most part, he called a tough-minded, simplified game that seemed to suit the Huskers' strengths. His presence on the sideline was helpful, even if it didn't always seem like it with NU's play. On defense, Bo and Carl Pelini kept the gameplan beautifully simple, and let the front four do what it does. No blitz calls on the day? Nice job, gentlemen.

    Tags: baylor game, report card, jared crick, cody green

  3. 2009 Oct 31

    COMMENTARY: Offense Still Under Siege


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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    WACO, Texas - Finally. Maybe. We think. We hope. Sigh.

    Yes, it's like that, right now, for Nebraska's offense. For Nebraska, period.

    NU seemed to locate its offensive identity Saturday in 20-10 win over Baylor. For a half, anyway. It's not fully-formed, it still remains trapped a bit in the inane intricacies of West Coast Offense, but it's a start. Maybe. We think. We hope. Sigh.

    Cody Green at quarterback, scrambling when necessary, running with poise and authority. A power offense designed to punish lesser teams and set up deep passes. A strong, forward-leaning running back in true freshman Traye Robinson. And, at long last, a compliment of big-bodied tight ends on the field – at the same time.

    Fireworks, it wasn't. Well – unless you count the ones that got shot off after Baylor intercepted and returned one of Green's two mistakes for a touchdown.

    What did you expect after a month of sideways passes, soft-bellied screens and tentative quarterback play from Zac Lee? Sixty points? Saturday was a modest step forward. Finally. Maybe. We think. We hope. Green had all the advantages - a special teams touchdown, a dominant defensive performance, a Baylor offense, set to the melt setting every time it ventured into Nebraska territory. And there were times – like most of the second half – where he didn't do anything with those advantages.

    But this is change we can believe in. Finally. Maybe. We think. We hope. It's an offense that, at long last, suits the kind of defense Nebraska has become. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson had to descend from his perch – physically and philosophically – for it to happen. Yes, that was Watson on the sidelines, in his trademark sunglasses, barking excitedly, getting in the faces of his linemen at key moments.

    “That was to help Cody,” Watson said. “We've got a freshman tailback (Robinson) that's playing a lot, we've got a freshman quarterback now. I wanted to be there with the guys. Something some of the older guys asked me about. I did that for them.”

    It was good to see. He took ownership Saturday. He didn't have much of a choice.

    Oh, Watson got cute again midway through the third quarter – and Green got lazy. Watson started calling the horizontal passes again, and Green locked onto receiver Khiry Cooper on a third-down play. The result: A Pick Six that might have had the last remaining members of the Zac Lee camp saying “I told you so.” A fourth-quarter fumble – when Green rather inexplicably left his feet on a quarterback draw – had them roaring a little bit louder.

    We think they're wrong. Maybe. We hope so.

    It really doesn't matter if NU can't run the ball. Once again Saturday, Barney Cotton's bunch did not deliver on its potential or responsibility. They played hard, but not in sync, and not as a smoothly-operating, confident unit. And head coach Bo Pelini was plenty vocal about it after the game.

    “It's a huge concern,” he said. “We've got to be able to run the football better. We didn't run the ball to my liking today.”

    This is the tone Pelini has to strike – the same kind of aggression and expectation he shows with his defense. He needs to show it weekly – heck, daily - with Watson, Cotton and that offensive line, which is too big and too experienced to make communication gaffes for the bulk of the second half. Watson tried pounding the ball with big sets, fullbacks, inside zones and the old-school Callahan stretch play. The offensive line didn't respond with enough gashes for Robinson, Roy Helu, Lester Ward and Austin Jones.

    Yes, I just named four running backs there. Marcus Mendoza played a couple snaps, too. If Helu isn't 100 percent healthy, the Huskers really have no bellcow. Robinson can only do so much with the time he's been given, and the rest of the backs are not consistently good runners. Baylor wisely took away Green's running lanes on the zone read Saturday, forcing Helu and crew to pick their way through narrow holes, just hoping to stay upright and healthy. Helu got dinged again. So did Robinson.

    Even if NU stumbled into success Saturday – even if it's a first step to something better – the Huskers have to healthy and confident enough to keep it going.

    Bo pulled the trigger on Green. It was a must. Lee might have given the Huskers some looks in the passing game. But, honestly, I doubt it. NU's receivers were again average. Baylor's corners mostly did stayed with them. The Bears brought two or three blitzes that Green stepped away from for positive scrambles, or withstood in the pocket to throw first downs. Lee wilted under those same blitzes in recent weeks. Green gives defenses an element to worry about. And right now, the Huskers need every element on the periodic table they can get.

    But now, Bo has to aim his sights on that offensive line. Whatever they've given already to the team – they've got to dig in and give a little more. The unit is not completely healthy – center Jacob Hickman is nursing a severely sprained ankle – but it's healthy enough.

    Time for Cotton – who is a tough, honest coach and a skilled teacher from this point of view – to drive that unit just a little harder, and get them to execute a little better. Oklahoma blows into Lincoln next week plenty ticked off – with a wicked defense to match. If NU can't dent that OU front line, the Sooners will eat Green – or Lee – alive.

    This is a unit fighting back the light, folks. The offense remains under siege from pundits and fans. Just one minute into Pelini's press conference, a fan clutching a white gate just feet away screamed a particular insult about Watson.

    His boss took it in stride at the moment, but after his media session was done, he walked over to that fence, shook hands with athletic director Tom Osborne, and looked into that crowd. He wanted to know – who had the big mouth? It wasn't the most politically correct moment, but it was vintage Bo. Loyal and tenacious to the last. Nebraska fans may not always like it. But it's what they paid Osborne to find, and Bo to do.

    Bo's in the thick of tough, grueling season. He knows it. This is the year that will forge his coaching character even more than he's already forged it himself. And he's fighting back with the best defensive front four I've seen at NU in years.

    Now that offensive front five has to do their part.

    Can it? Finally?

    Maybe. We think. We hope. Sigh.

    Tags: baylor game, cody green, shawn watson, barney cotton, bo pelini, traye robinson

  4. 2009 Oct 31

    BAYLOR GAME: Crick, Blackshirts Save Huskers' Bacon in Waco


    By HuskerLocker

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    WACO, Texas - A special teams touchdown. A home crowd on the road. A day without rain, boos or clouds. Plenty of sacks and turnovers. And the starting debut of a Nebraska freshman quarterback who seems to have the skills and poise to go as far as his long, powerful running strides can take him.

    His arm may be another question.

    But after two stunning home losses in a row, Nebraska's football team captured a needed rebound victory, beating Baylor 20-10 Saturday afternoon.

    Bo Pelini's bunch, now 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the Big 12 Conference, inserted themselves back into the Big 12 North race in front 31,702 at Floyd Casey Stadium that included a reporter-estimated 15,000 Cornhusker fans.

    “It was real important,” Pelini said. “We needed a win. We got a win. We got a lot of work to do yet. A win's a win. It's No. 5.”

    Many of those raucous fans – silenced for whole portions of the second half - were from Texas, and took the opportunity to watch true freshman Cody Green – a native of Dayton, Texas – make his first start at quarterback. The decision was made on Thursday, Pelini said, because “you gotta go with your gut.”

    Initally, Green didn't disappoint. His first-half performance – 6-of-9 passing for 85 yards, 25 yards rushing – was a portrait of efficiency. With offensive coordinator Shawn Watson calling plays on the sidelines and simplifying the attack, Green operated mostly out of multiple tight end, power formations. He ran only four times, but two of them were scrambles of ten and six yards on a drive that led to Alex Henery's 45-yard field goal.

    All but one of his completions were of the short, controlled variety, but he did hit wide receiver Niles Paul on a 45-yard fade route, Green placing the ball perfectly on Paul's outside shoulder. Two plays later, true freshman Traye Robinson skied into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown. That gave NU a 20-0 halftime lead.

    “In the first half, things were rolling pretty good,” Green said.

    But the freshman made a giant mistake midway through the third quarter, locking in on receiver Khiry Cooper, only to see Baylor safety Cliff Odom step in front of the pass at NU”s 45-yard line, pick it off and return it for an easy touchdown. Later, Green fumbled right after the Nebraska defense had forced BU to turn it over.

    “It was just a late throw on my part,” Green said. “If I had thrown it a second earlier it would have been a completion, but I threw it a second later...one thing you have to do is go back on the next drive and just forget about it. You have to have a memory like a goldfish.”

    For the game, Green completed 12 of 21 passes for 128 yards and rushed for 43 yards.

    “He had some rough spots,” Watson said. “He did some things freshmen sometimes do first time out. He's got a lot to get better at, but, no doubt – he competed. He gave us some nice runs and did some good things. We didn't ask him to do much. We just asked him to kind of manage us. He had the one pick. Gotta get that fixed.”

    Fortunately, Green had plenty of help.

    NU got on the board quickly, as another true freshman – linebacker Eric Martin – bulled his way through Baylor's punt protection and partially blocked Derek Epperson's punt. The ball floated sideways and was caught by backup defensive back Justin Blatchford, who darted hard to his left, tip-toed down the sideline, and leaped into the end zone just before he fumbled.

    “I just hit (the blocker),” Martin said. “I didn't even know it was blocked until I hear the crowd yelling and I look around, and Blatchford is taking the ball back.”

    Just 90 seconds into the game, the Huskers had a bigger lead – 7-0 – than they had enjoyed since the waning moments of the Missouri game.

    NU's Blackshirts – particularly defensive tackle Jared Crick, who had a record-breaking game – made sure the lead held up. Tested again and again, the Huskers' defense held up. Cornerbacks Dejon Gomes and Prince Amukamara both notched interceptions of Baylor quarterback Nick Florence in Husker territory. Nebraska chased Baylor's fast receivers and running backs sideline-to-sideline, throwing them down for short or no gain.

    And then there was Crick, who benefited from the Bears choosing to double-team All-American Ndamukong Suh. Crick, just a sophomore out of Cozad, had a school-record five sacks.

    “It could have been anyone today with all of those stats,” Crick said. “It is just a group effort.”

    The final one of the first half, in which Crick bulled through two blockers and engulfed Florence in a massive bear hug, was as impressive as any play Suh's made this season. NU had seven sacks overall.

    “Is that a monster game by him, or what?” defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said. “He just plays his tail off. He's strong, he's fast. Offenses? I don't know – they've just got to deal with him, because they started the game putting the center toward Suh, and it just makes them look foolish.”

    Said Bo Pelini: “Jared's too good of a player if they're gonna do that.”

    For the game, Baylor amassed 270 total yards, but ran 11 more plays than the Huskers did. The Bears (3-5 overall, 0-4 in the Big 12) thrice invaded NU territory after cutting the lead to ten. Once, kicker Ben Parks missed a field goal. On the second foray, Baylor turned the ball over on downs. The game clock ran out on their final charge, which occurred after a bizarre punt return that included three laterals and a touchdown-saving tackle by punter Alex Henery.

    “We had plays at the end and we didn't do it,” BU quarterback Nick Florence said. “We fought hard in the second half, it was valiant effort, but it does hurt when it is so close.”

    NU was left concerned with its running game, which produced just 145 yards and failed to deliver on several third down situations in the second half.

    “Absolutely,” Pelini said when asked if he was concerned. “It's a huge concern. We've got to be able to run the football better. We didn't run the ball to my liking today.”

    Said Husker center Jacob Hickman: “It was just missed communications that caused that. The effort was there.”

    Tags: baylor game, jared crick, cody green, bo pelini, eric martin, alex henery

  5. 2009 Oct 30

    Five Keys to Baylor


    By HuskerLocker

    The 11-hour drive to Waco goes through Dallas. The road to Dallas, home of the Big 12 Championship game (Arlington if you prefer, at the Cowboys Stadium) goes first through Waco. And then OU, Lawrence, Kansas State and Boulder. One foot in front of the other.

    The talk this week has been of quarterbacks and big offensive changes. As it should be. But the game itself, to quote Al Davis (who doesn't know much about the mantra lately) boils down to this: Just win, baby.

    The keys.

    Play to win, not to dominate: Saturday isn't about style points. It's about putting one foot in front of the other, grinding out a win against a lesser team, and doing it with as little fuss as possible. It's about trusting the defense and taking field goals if you're range instead of taking unnecessary chances toward the goal line. On kickoff and punt coverage, NU has to be safe before it's sorry. It doesn't mean NU should play not to lose. Rather, it should trust its advantages along the offensive and defensive lines and ride its trench soldiers to a victory. Saturday is not about the quarterback. We think it'll be Cody Green, as it should be, but he just has to get Nebraska's motor running. He doesn't have to shoot for the moon.

    Match up and move it: Baylor's one real chance on offense is to attack Nebraska's secondary with long passes to its swift receivers. Given busts in the Virginia Tech and Iowa State game – it's a risk worth taking. NU's defensive backs need to locate BU's biggest threats before the snap, lock up and cover their tails off. The interceptions will be there for the taking; that's for sure.

    Neutralize the earth-movers: For Baylor to have any chance of running the ball – which would help set up those long passes head coach Art Briles like so much – it has to account for Ndamukong Suh and Jared Crick. Quick hitting plays used by Texas Tech and Florida Atlantic (remember those days?) work better than long developing zone read plays. As for Nebraska – center Jacob Hickman and guard Ricky Henry and Keith Williams will have the task of trying to unseat giant Phil Taylor (6-foot-4, 355 pounds) from his position. Taylor isn't as good as Terrence Cody – yet. But he could be a real impediment to any power game Nebraska would like to establish.

    Traye and Jay: Two very key players in the game will be NU true freshman Dontrayevous Robinson and Baylor's Jay Finley, who should be recovered from an early-season injury. Robinson will likely get the bulk of the carries if Roy Helu is too hurt to contribute; after last week, we won't be surprised if Nebraska is a little more cautious with Helu. Finley, meanwhile, leads the Big 12 in yards per carry. Granted, he did that while having quarterback Robert Griffin as a terrific decoy, but the point still stands – he can break a long one or two.

    Bo vs. Briles: Excellent match-up here, as Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini – who also calls the Huskers' defenses – will pit himself against Briles, one of the most innovative, tricky playcallers in the Big 12. Briles likes to sneak wide receivers and running backs onto the field at the last second, he freely calls trick plays, and he likes misdirection and playaction. Pelini will have to match those tactics with a smart game plan that keeps his players disciplined and their assignments based on athleticism instead of cuteness.

    See also: Guess The Score NU-BU!

    Tags: baylor game, five keys

  6. 2009 Oct 30

    Guess The Score! NU vs. Baylor!


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    We're back again with another installment of guess the score! We've yet to have anyone hit the nail on the head, but when someone does - they'll win a Husker Throwback Poster!

    Give us your predictions for this week! A score, an offensive MVP and a Defensive MVP.

    Fire away!

    Tags: baylor game, guess the score

  7. 2009 Oct 29

    LP Prediction Podcast: NU-Baylor


    By HuskerLocker

    Our take on who starts at QB, RB and WR and WHY. Does Nebraska's offense get untracked? Can the defense stay strong? We reveal ALL in our exclusive Locker Pass Prediction Podcast! Check it out with a 14-day free trial to Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: baylor game, podcasts, locker pass prediction

  8. 2009 Oct 29

    Podcast 10/29: Grueling Slate for NU Baseball


    By HuskerLocker

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    Tags: baseball, mike anderson, baylor game, art briles, volleyball

  9. 2009 Oct 29

    Baylor: Speed To Burn


    By HuskerLocker

    When Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin last year darted around the end of Nebraska's front four on a fourth-and-short play, then accelerated past all of the Cornhusker defenders for a 47-yard touchdown run, a low murmur went up in the Memorial Stadium press box. And at least some of that murmur was formed by the words “Vince Young.” That No. 10 never took a snap in Lincoln. But Griffin, wearing the same number, seemed to be an heir apparent.

    That's a threat NU doesn't have to worry about in 2009. Griffin underwent season-ending knee surgery after tearing ligaments in a blowout win over Northwestern State. With the quarterback's injury likely went the Bears' bowl hopes; since starting Big 12 play, they haven't been particularly competitive, especially in the running game where Baylor, now 3-4, has gained just 138 yards on 57 carries in three games.

    BU coach Art Briles isn't exactly holding his breath on establishing a running game against Nebraska's front four, which he called the best in the Big 12.

    “It's important,” Briles said. “It's more important to make first downs and put points on the board. We'll have to take what they give us and be productive with it. They're good up front, without a doubt. Doesn't mean we can't run the ball. Just means we're going to have to be precise in our execution and intelligent in our schemes.”

    So an offense that once posed more of a balanced threat to Nebraska's Blackshirts is now, primarily, a passing attack led by strong-armed true freshman Nick Florence, who's filling in for Blake Szymanski, still nursing a shoulder injury from the same game that sent Griffin to the shelf.

    One-dimensional as it may be, it still has Husker defensive coordinator Carl Pelini plenty concerned.

    Why? One word.

    “Speed,” Pelini said. “Big speed. They've got speed all over the place. They've got receivers who can fly, running backs who can fly.”

    Because of that, Pelini said, Baylor will try to spread out NU's defense and “take shots” downfield five or six times a game. One-on-one. Man-on-man. And the Bears will mix and match their skill players in various formations and positions to create mismatches.

    BU's most dangerous receiver, sophomore Kendall Wright, will occasionally line up in the backfield, motion to a wide receiver position, and try to match up on linebackers – presuming they're still in the game. Baylor's tight ends are faster than most, Pelini said, so Briles, who also serves as offensive coordinator, will try to test defenses that way. Running backs Jay Finley and Jarred Salubi are home-run hitters who need only a crease to break a big play.

    It's a “risk/reward” strategy, Pelini said, that keeps a defense on its toes – even if the Bears aren't scoring many points.

    “Probably more than any team we face this year, they're willing to take those deep shots downfield,” Pelini said. “So you always have to be accountable for that...they complete 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 of them per game and they're always big plays for them. They've done a nice job recruiting offensive speed.”

    Baylor tries to switch its “big” and “little” personnel right before the snap, Pelini said, to catch an opposing defense in base or nickel defenses when they're prefer to switch to dime or dollar coverages. Nebraska tries to match up coverage more than most Big 12 teams – dime/nickel backs Dejon Gomes and Eric Hagg never stray too far from Pelini's side – so it needs to match BU's personnel.

    NU struggled with it in last year's 32-20 win, especially in the first half, when officials weren't giving Carl and Bo Pelini enough time to counter Baylor's formation. Carl Pelini said the issue was addressed in the offseason, and the Big 12 has designed the rules to give the Huskers time to adjust before the ball is put in play.

    “That's what the rule states,” said Pelini, wary anyway. “How each group of officials interprets it, it's going to be a little bit different. So we just have to get handle on that early in the game, and then adapt to it. We'll be fine.”

    Tags: baylor game, art briles, carl pelini

  10. 2009 Oct 28

    Scouting Report: Baylor


    By HuskerLocker

    The best scouting report on the Web reveals the secrets to Baylor's multiple, spread offense, unlocks the way to beat the Bears' defense and shows you a couple hidden weapons the Huskers have to watch out for. Check it out with a FREE 14-day trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: baylor game, scouting report, art briles, kendall wright

  11. 2009 Oct 27

    A Great Tribute to Husker Troops


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Forget, for a minute, touchdowns, quarterback debates and even the extraordinary play of Ndamukong Suh. Here's one of the best stories of Nebraska's 2009 football season. One that cuts through the games, the controversies, the media, the penalties, the polls and the nonsense to get right to the communal spirit of this thing we call Husker Nation.

    It's July, and one of NU's biggest alumni chapters, North Texas Nebraskans, comes up with an idea: Honor and reward troops from Nebraska by getting them a ticket to the NU-Baylor game this Saturday. By August, the chapter had decided to draw those troops from a pool of 53,000 soldiers and airmen at Ft. Hood, 60 miles from Waco, in Killeen, Texas. The base is one of America's primary suppliers of troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    “We thought it'd be a great tribute for everything they do for us,” said Jill Simpson, NTN president.

    NTN contacted Ft. Hood's Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation office shortly after that. Public relations coordinator Monty Campbell put out the word to the base. More than 100 soldiers and airmen put their names in.

    “They responded very favorably,” Campbell said. “Anytime they can go any event they love it. They're very appreciative of what North Texas Nebraskans are doing for them.”

    Baylor had the tickets available. NTN had to raise the money.

    Guess how long it took them?

    “We put the vibe out there to do the fundraising and we literally raised our money in two weeks,” Simpson said. “We have far exceeded what we needed.”

    Two weeks. NTN passed around hats at its three giant watch parties in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and raised $3,000. Two Husker fans collected $1,100 at Sidetracks Bar in Lincoln the Friday night before a home game. Two NTN members headed to Virginia Tech and raised money there. A few individuals gave $1,000. That's 20 free tickets per donation.

    “It just ballooned,” Simpson said. “We weren't even sure we were going to get people to donate, and we have had donations from across the nation.”

    More than the donations, Simpson said, were the emails and letters her group received. Even after they shut off the donation, more came pouring in. More queries. More offers to help.

    So NTN raised even more cash to pay for the troops' transportation to and from Ft. Hood and a tailgate party with food and T-shirts. Baylor will recognize the troops during the game and furnish a soda and popcorn. Simpson said at least 400 people will be in attendance at the tailgate party.

    “That's the absolute minimum,” Simpson said. “We're expecting a lot more...(the soldiers and airmen) would have been thrilled with just the tickets.

    “I had no idea that we would get this response. It's an awesome feeling knowing we're gonna take 100 soldiers to the game on Saturday and they're going to have something else to do for four or five hours.”

    NTN plans on making a habit out of it. Next year: Texas A&M. After that, Texas.

    It can be easy, in the fog of message boards and raucous student sections, to lose track of stories like these. But this story – much like our 50 Husker Fans, 50 States series – hints at the larger culture borne out of Husker football Saturdays. Name another fan base doing this. Not a university – a fan base. What NTN is doing – what other alumni groups will do, if they follow this example – is bloom beyond the game into something more: A communal character.

    Tack a story like this onto the 300th sellout as another small, good reminder of who the program's backbone really is.

    Check out our North Texas Nebraskans group! Join and tell them thanks!

    Tags: ft hood, baylor game, north texas nebraskans

  12. 2009 Oct 25

    MONDAY KNOWLEDGE: How NU Rebounds After An Upset


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The devastating upset visits every program now and again. It just happens to visit Nebraska a little less often. Here's five dramatic upsets over the last 30 years – and how NU responded after...

    Tags: monday list, baylor game

  13. 2008 Oct 25

    Nebraska-Baylor Game Photos


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Related photos

    Here's our photographer's take on the NU-Baylor game. Highlights include a number of big plays from Marlon Lucky and a number of big hits from the Nebraska defense.

    Not a member? Join now! It's free and it's fun!

    Tags: nebraska baylor game photos

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