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  1. 2011 Nov 07

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Evolution of The Nebraska Way


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brian Towle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. 2011 Jul 29

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Predicting the Blackshirts – Strong Safety


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    A Bo Pelini-led defense is salty and vicious. Only a select few can call themselves starters and are rewarded by being part of a Nebraska tradition that spans over four decades. A simple black practice jersey denotes some of the nastiest young men in the country. We look into the crystal ball and see what's to come for the 2011 Blackshirt unit.

    Strong Safety

    Some of the most dynamic athletes on the entire Nebraska football roster are at the cornerback position. In Bo Pelini’s defensive schemes, while a player still has to be athletic to play safety, it’s more important to play smart.

    Football IQ is an aspect of the game that’s consistently overlooked. While Pelini’s MIKE linebackers make adjustments for the entire defense, his safeties are the quarterbacks of the secondary. Not only does a safety have to be focused, if he’s going to play at the strong spot then he has to be physical. When asked about hard-hitting defensive backs from the 2010 season, Courtney Osborne’s name was brought up repeatedly.

    Osborne grabbed the starting role against Missouri last season and never looked back. Fans fondly remember the lick he laid on Blaine Gabbert that caused the former Missouri quarterback to brace for impact. Osborne’s ability to blitz effectively is a valuable skill that gives him a mile’s head start in the 10K marathon towards wearing a black practice jersey.

    Challenging him will be the likes of redshirt freshman Harvey Jackson and freshman Bronson Marsh. While talented, they simply don’t have the blend of ability and experience that Osborne possesses. He’ll be an excellent tutor for the both of them, but he’ll be back in black for another year.

    Projected Blackshirt: Courtney Osborne

    Other Predicted Starters:

    Strongside Defensive End, Strongside Defensive Tackle, Weakside Defensive Tackle, WILL Linebacker, MIKE Linebacker, BUCK Linebacker, Cornerback No. 1, Cornerback No. 2

    Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker

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    Tags: courtney osborne, harvey jackson, bronson marsh

  3. 2011 Jul 02

    The OFFICIAL Husker Locker Podcast 7/2: B1G Red Fans United


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    On the docket:

    A podcast featuring ONLY questions asked by you, the Husker Locker fan base.

    - How will Nebraska fare in 2011? We run down the entire schedule
    - Will the offensive line live up to expectations?
    - Who will play opposite Courtney Osborne at safety?
    - Prince's replacement
    - Will the pistol remain an offensive staple?
    - Rex returns in the Wildcat and brings others with him
    - Big 12 reminiscing
    - Favorite current Big Ten moments

    Have a topic or question that you'd like to hear discussed? Send us an e-mail or a message to any of us on Twitter.

    Follow the roundtable on Twitter:

    Brandon: @HuskerLocker
    Brian: @btbowling
    Brett: @BigRedinTejas
    Erin: @helloerinmarie
    Greg: @thehooch36

    More info on the Husker Locker intro voice:

    Rob Kugler's Profile

    Like us on Facebook: The Official Husker Locker Facebook Page

    Tags: schedule, barney cotton, offensive line, courtney osborne, prince amukamara, pistol, rex burkhead, big 12, big ten, big 10, podcast, podcasts

  4. 2011 Jun 03

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Key Husker Matchups vs. Wisconsin Badgers


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Despite the loss of several members of a very dominant squad, the Badgers are going to have a very hostile environment behind them in Madison. If Nebraska wants to walk out of Camp Randall Stadium with a victory, they’re going to need to play as close to perfect as is humanly possible.

    Wisconsin’s Key Threats:

    RB Monte Ball
    RB James White
    WR Nick Toon
    DT Jordan Kohout
    DT Patrick Butrym
    CB Antonio Fenelus

    The problems:

    Ball and White are the most dangerous threats to Nebraska’s defense as they will be the first Big Ten power game that the Cornhuskers will face as a member of the conference. Nebraska struggled at times versus the inside run last season, so Bell and White may be able to bust the game wide open if the Cornhuskers can’t tighten the screws.

    Toon is likely going to be the Badgers’ best receiving threat and if Nebraska needs to clamp down on any receiver, he’s the guy. He was second only to St. Louis Rams 2011 second round draft pick Lance Kendricks in terms of production last year. Toon checked in with 36 catches for 459 yards (12.75 YPC) and three touchdowns in 2010.

    Defensive tackles Kohout and Butrym are going to be one of the most difficult inside defensive combos that Nebraska is going to face all season. The Cornhuskers are going to get a very good look at just how their offensive line can open lanes for both quarterbacks and running backs to find room to accelerate. A big problem arises if Wisky is able to stretch out too many running plays.

    Cornerback Antonio Fenelus looks to be the worst enemy for Nebraska’s passing attack. No matter who takes snaps for the Cornhuskers, there are question marks surrounding overall accuracy. Fenelus’ ability is capable of picking apart a quarterback’s confidence. A well-rounded defender, he tallied 56 tackles (43 solo), four interceptions, seven pass breakups, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in 2010.

    The Solutions:

    Ball/White: This is where MIKE linebacker Will Compton may be able to make a new living aiding defensive tackles by plugging up the middle thanks to his size. If Wisky’s running backs can be forced to run sideline-to-sideline, while their power will remain it gives faster linebackers like Lavonte David or a very physical safety such as Courtney Osborne an opportunity to clean up the play.

    Toon: If there’s one thing that Nebraska isn’t concerned about, it’s pass defense and while Toon is likely to be the Badgers’ top receiver at least initially, he’s going up against one of the best secondaries in the nation. Regardless of if he draws Alfonzo Dennard or Ciante Evans, he’s going to have his hands full and likely not because he’s cradling a football.

    Kohout/Butrym: These two are somewhat lighter than your typical defensive tackle at 285 pounds, but that’s going to afford them a bit more speed. Nebraska’s attack will attempt to wear them down with a bruising running game. If the pocket holds and the Husker quarterback can make proper reads or take off when necessary, the Badger duo could find themselves gassed. This is when Nebraska busts out Aaron Green or Ameer Abdullah to take off if they can get past the line.

    Fenelus: He’s going to be one of the most difficult challenges and taking him out of the game is going to require some excellent blocking on running plays coupled with a passing game that’s found a groove. If Nebraska’s quarterback is struggling or wide receivers aren’t running crisp routes, Fenelus is going to take advantage. If he can be knocked on his butt by the Cornhuskers’ blocking, he might become a non-issue. Unfortunately, Nebraska can only do so much to ensure Fenelus won’t spoil their trip to Madison.

    Other teams: Michigan, Penn State

    Follow us on Twitter: @HuskerLocker

    Tags: monte ball, james white, nick toon, jordan kohout, patrick butrym, antonio fenelus, jared crick, lavonte david, alfonzo dennard, ciante evans, courtney osborne, aaron green, ameer abdullah

  5. 2011 Mar 25

    50 HUSKERS TO KNOW: No. 10


    By HuskerLocker

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    The 50 Huskers to Know returns for the 2011 spring season! We count down the players you absolutely have to watch heading into spring football, culminating with No. 1 during NU's spring break.

    The spring list, remember, is about players who are currently in the program, with an emphasis on redshirt freshmen and sophomores who might not have played much yet; in the fall, you'll see a list with more projected starters and incoming contributing recruits.

    Not included on this list is wide receiver Khiry Cooper, who spends the spring with the Husker baseball team.

    No. 10 Safety Courtney Osborne

    Before last season, several pundits – including us – wondered if either of the Osborne twins would significantly contribute – beyond being great recruiting hosts – in their time at Nebraska. Courtney certainly made a big impact on the defense during the last half of the season with his aggressive tackling and sharp blitzing ability. Not only did Osborne fit in to one of the nation's best defenses – he was a playmaker in it.

    Now he just needs to smooth out some of the rough edges in his pass coverage. Osborne already is a valuable run support guy. Now, it boils down to not biting on playaction fakes – more frequent in the Big Ten – and making sure speedy slot receivers don't slip behind him.

    See all 50 Huskers!

    No. 50, No. 49, No. 48, No. 47, No. 46, No. 45, No. 44, No. 43, No. 42, No. 41, No. 40, No. 39, No. 38, No. 37, No. 36, No. 35, No. 34, No. 33, No. 32, No. 31, No. 30, No. 29, No. 28, No. 27, No. 26, No. 25, No. 24, No. 23, No. 22, No. 21, No. 20, No. 19, No. 18, No. 17, No. 16, No. 15, No. 14, No. 13, No. 12, No. 11

    Tags: 50 huskers to know spring 2011, courtney osborne

  6. 2011 Jan 24

    YEAR IN REVIEW: S Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

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    Our report card for the Nebraska safeties and their position coach, Marvin Sanders. Eric Hagg A Stellar season for the senior Peso, who won Team MVP from his teammates. Terrific, good-natured...

    Tags: year in review, report card, eric hagg, dejon gomes, courtney osborne, austin cassidy, pj smith, rickey thenarse, marvin sanders

  7. 2011 Jan 10

    YEAR IN REVIEW: Defensive Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's our season report card for Nebraska's offense. Stay tuned for position-specific report cards, available via a 30-day free trial with Husker Locker Pass!

    Two key things to remember about the report card:

    *Grades take into account all players at a given position.

    *Greater weight was given to “big games” and the performances in them.

    Defensive Line: B

    Final combined stats: 20 sacks, 44 tackles for loss, 38 QB hurries, three forced fumbles

    NU's front four – Pierre Allen, Jared Crick, Baker Steinkuhler and Cameron Meredith – was still among the best in college football, and arguably the finest group in the Big 12. The quartet generated decent heat on the quarterback during certain points of the season. At other times, they disappeared, or needed help from Bo Pelini's blitzes Against the run, they missed Ndamukong Suh's ability to shuck offensive linemen and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. A solid year – but not 2009.

    Crick heated up toward the end of the season, having his best game in the Big 12 Championship vs. Oklahoma. But he struggled in the Holiday Bowl. He still needs to improve as a run stuffer. As a pass rusher, the Brothers Pelini need to cut him loose more often to make big plays, instead of insisting on collapsing the pocket methodically.

    Allen played hard all year, anchored against the run, and did a fine job of collapsing the pocket from his end position. He was perhaps Carl Pelini's favorite player on the line because he executed his job so well and played through one painful injury after another. Nevertheless, Allen wasn't an elite pass rusher off the edge. It's been awhile since NU had one.

    Steinkuhler shot out of a cannon to start the year, then wore down as the season progressed, becoming less and less effective. He'll be back and more seasoned in 2011. A DUI arrest in December shouldn't be an ongoing issue.

    Meredith became a versatile chess piece for the Brothers Pelini, playing some “spinner” outside linebacker in some rush formations. A better pass rusher than Allen, Meredith will more of an impact next season. His best days are still ahead of him.

    Terrence Moore spelled Steinkuhler more often in late 2010 and started for him in the Holiday Bowl. The light finally seems to have blinked on Moore, a very good interior pass rusher. Thad Randle played inside for Crick on occasion; he held his own, but buckled a bit against the run. Josh Williams and Jason Ankrah need to get better this offseason; one of them will likely have a starting job next season.

    Linebacker: A

    Final combined stats: 17 tackles for loss, six sacks, 10 pass breakups, 7 QB hurries

    Is there another grade to give Lavonte David, the man responsible for most of that stats, plus a school-record 152 tackles? The kid had four weeks to learn one of the most complex defenses in college football, surpassed Will Compton on the depth chart before Compton's injury, then had to play practically every snap, all year, against a bevy of no-huddle, speedy offense. And do it with a smile.

    David is some kid, really. He saved NU's bacon against the run, improved in his pass coverage, and was unquestionably the Huskers' best blitzer. Along with being our defensive MVP, he earns his position an A grade. He played arguably his finest games in two losses – Texas A&M and the Big 12 Championship – when he strafed and chased and hit all over the place. The odds-on favorite for the Butkus next year still has weight to gain and room to grow, too. Part Terrell Farley, part Barrett Ruud, David was a thrilling player to watch in 2010.

    After suffering a broken foot, Compton starting playing midway through the season, and while he's good – he's no David. Compton thinks when David reacts. If Compton can ever stay healthy and turn the corner on trusting his instincts, he'll be a key cog in the wheel next year, as playing in the Big Ten will require NU to use more than one linebacker.

    Alonzo Whaley played in goal-line situations as a run stopper. He needs another spring learning the defense. The physically and “want-to” is there, though.

    Eric Martin flew around for half the season before moving to defensive end. He has all the ability David has – plus size – but he often put himself in bad spots to make tackles. He's a bit like Rickey Thenarse in that way.

    Sean Fisher got hurt before the year. Where will he play in 2011? Hard to say.

    Secondary: A-

    Combined stats: 19 interceptions, 4 defensive TDs 36 pass breakups, four sacks, 7 tackles for loss

    We grade on a curve around here, but NU's stellar pass defense still gets an A- from us. Simply spectacular for most of the season against the pass, the Huskers' safeties struggled at times making tackles – Texas, Oklahoma, Washington, Part 2 – on the second level, which led to big plays. But that was more than offset by the slew of big plays from the country's most talented secondary.

    Prince Amukamara enjoyed a Darrelle Revis-type season, rebuffing almost every challenge that came his way except a few plays against Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon. He's the nation's best corner.

    Alfonzo Dennard – cocky, physical, competitive – is pretty darn close. Dennard was nails at the beginning of the year, like glue on receivers. He was outplaying Amukamara, in fact. He slowed down a bit during the middle of the season, suffered a concussion in the Missouri game, missed the Iowa State contest – and immediately came back with a big play in the Kansas game. He was our MVP for the Holiday Bowl, too.

    Eric Hagg was valuable in all kinds of ways – as a linebacker, as a safety, as a corner – and his absence next year will be sorely felt. His athleticism allowed him to matchup with all kinds of players.

    Our favorite player, Houdini Gomes, wore down a bit as the season closed, but he's still one of NU's best pure playmakers in recent memory. Smart in coverage, ahead of the game, tough for his size – Gomes has a place in the NFL.

    At safety, P.J. Smith and Rickey Thenarse played the first half of the season, while Courtney Osborne and Austin Cassidy essentially played the second half. NU sacrificed pass coverage for better tackling, and while that worked well in wins over Missouri and Colorado, it hurt in the Big 12 Championship. We'd like to see Smith back in the lineup to start 2011; his hook and benching seemed a little premature.

    Ciante Evans spelled Dennard for a game or two and filled in well. He reminds us of Ralph Brown. He'll be just fine next year.

    More Year In Review Features
    The Best in Pictures, Part 1, Highlights and Lowlights, Ten Best Defensive Plays, Ten Best Offensive Plays, Offensive Report Card

    Tags: year in review, prince amukamara, alfonzo dennard, eric hagg, dejon gomes, courtney osborne, pj smith, rickey thenarse, austin cassidy, ciante evans

  8. 2010 Dec 20

    Husker Heartbeat 12/20: DUI Sidelines Rickey T for Holiday


    By HuskerLocker

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    Welcome to Husker Heartbeat - a sampling of links and quick wit to start your morning! Keep checking each morning, Monday-Friday, for new links! We look for the offbeat as well as the straightforward - so don’t just think of us as a typical link farm!

    A quick abbreviation key FYI: OWH=Omaha World-Herald, LJS=Lincoln Journal-Star, CN=Corn Nation, BRN=Big Red Network, HI=Huskers Illustrated, BRR=Big Red Report. If we need to add more - we will. Others, like ESPN, are self-explanatory.

    *NU safety Rickey Thenarse gets suspended for the Holiday Bowl after picking up a DUI ticket - among others - after he graduated Saturday.

    Sayeth Bo: "It saddens me to announce that Rickey Thenarse will be suspended for the Holiday Bowl due to a violation of team rules. Rickey is a young man who has faced and overcome as much adversity and tragedy in his life as any person I've known. But he also understands that he's accountable for his actions. Rickey made an unfortunate decision the same night that he reached one of his greatest personal goals by earning his college degree."

    *Mavin Sanders says Courtney Osborne can do more than just tackle and hit. You're kiddin? Slow month at the LJS, apparently.

    *3,900 tickets remain for the Holiday Bowl, so NU is trying a military bowl blitzcampaign. Patriotic guilt. Clever move. I mean, if a terrific promotion, but it ought to be a first resort, not a last one - and the university should gladly send soldiers to the game without asking its fans to do it. Right?

    *LJS Steve Sipple tells you to go see Doc Sadler's crew during the holiday break. Thus far, fans aren't really listening.

    *Former Nebraska wrestler Rulon Gardner will be on NBC's Biggest Loser.

    *Former Nebraska gymnast Burkett Powell died at 38 over the weekend.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, rickey thenarse, courtney osborne, marvin sanders, bo pelini, harvey perlman, ljs sipple, rulon gardner

  9. 2010 Nov 02

    Bo On Big Hits: What Are You Gonna Do?


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    A greater scrutiny of certain helmet-to-helmet hits is “so blown out of proportion” that it's “hard to coach” aggression and technique, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said at his Tuesday presser.

    “You're damned if you do, damned if you don't,” Pelini said. It's “not realistic,”he said, for defenders to guard against hits that look worse if an opposing player ducks, or occur on a bang-bang play.

    “Sometimes you look and it's just a flash coming into your eyes,” Pelini said.

    The Big 12 suspended NU linebacker Eric Martin last week for such a hit on an Oklahoma State special teams player. Monday, Missouri submitted for review to the league Husker safety Courtney Osborne's sack of Mizzou quarterback Blaine Gabbert.. Pelini doesn't expect Osborne to be suspended.

    “We would have heard something if that was an issue,” he said.

    Although Big 12 coaches, officials and administrators do their best to empathize player safety, Pelini said, a trickle-down affect from the NFL – which cracked down three weeks ago in the wake of three vicious hits on high-profile skill players – is a difficult burden on college football players, who rarely intend to hurt an opponent, They also don't make any money, and thus can't be fined.

    “The NFL dictates so many things now that I'm getting a little tired of it,” Pelini said.

    Pelini played safety at Ohio State in the late 1980s. He delivered and received his share of head-rattling blows.

    “I got hit in the head too many times,” he joked..

    The game is no more violent now than it was then, Pelini said. Players aren't any faster, either.

    “This has been happening in football for a long, long time,” Pelini said.

    But media coverage of these hits has changed. Pelini cited ESPN, among other news entities, that blows such plays out of proportion. During the telecast of NU's last two games, ESPN/ABC analyst Ed Cunningham has railed at length about the illegality of Martin and Osborne's hits.

    Tags: mizzou game, big 12, dan beebe, courtney osborne, eric martin, bo pelini

  10. 2010 Nov 01

    'This is Football, It's Not Golf'


    By HuskerLocker

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    Nebraska defensive end Cameron Meredith isn't a big fan of the seemingly sudden crackdown on certain kinds of hits in college football.

    “This is football,” Meredith said Monday. “It's not golf.”

    The Big 12 last week suspended NU linebacker Eric Martin for what commissioner Dan Beebe called an intentional act of targeting an Oklahoma State player's chin on a kickoff return. Monday, Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel confirmed that he asked the league to review Husker safety Courtney Osborne's fourth-quarter sack of Blaine Gabbert in Nebraska's 31-17 win over the Tigers.

    "I don't think there was malice involved there," Pinkel said. "We would like them to review it and give us their opinion."

    Neither Martin nor Osborne's hit drew a flag on the field.

    Meredith's own sack of Gabbert did get a referee's attention – and a 15-yard penalty.

    “I was just surprised,” Meredith said. “I didn't think I hit with my head. When he's ducking down, what am I supposed to do? I'm coming full speed, I'm not going to lead with my chest and tackle him.”

    Head coach Bo Pelini played down the incident. Pelini submitted in the same play to the Big 12, in fact, because a fumble clearly occurred. Officials ruled at the time that Gabbert's “forward progress” had been stopped in the split-second it took for Osborne to hit Gabbert and dislodge the ball.

    Pelini called Osborne's hit “a good tackle.”

    “(Gabbert) ducked a little bit at the last second,” Pelini said. “It was a good hit. The Big 12 is going to do what they have to do. I can't control that.”

    Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda declined comment to the Associated Press earlier in the day.

    After practice Monday, Martin spoke to reporters for the first time since news of his suspension broke.

    “We took it personal,” he said of the one-game benching by the Big 12.

    While the sophomore joined teammates in pre-game warm-ups Saturday, he had to leave the field before kickoff. His primary worry was that Mizzou would make a big special teams play in his absence.

    “I would have felt like it was my fault,” Martin said.

    NU was mostly stellar on special teams, especially in kickoff coverage. Senior Adi Kunalic booted all seven of his kickoffs out of the end zone for touchbacks.

    Not that Martin agreed with his suspension. He struggled to find a teaching point from it.

    “I didn't really learn anything, but 'Don't hit somebody too hard when they're defenseless' – supposedly – 'on a kickoff,'” Martin said. “ That was my thing I learned. Just don't play too aggressive, I guess. I'm kind of made my name as an aggressive person and it's something I like to do. That's just how I play...I'm still going to continue playing the way I do. That's just something that has to be there for me.”

    Of Osborne's hit on Gabbert, Martin said: “After he made that hit, I already knew he did it for me. Right after the game I was the first person he ran up to...if they do send that up to the Big 12 and they do that to him, too, there's nothing we can do.

    “It's just taking the football out of football. It's contact sport. You can't say the quarterback was defenseless. Or the kickoff guy was defenseless. You're out there – you know that's something's bound to happen. You can't be defenseless if you're in the play. If you know the play's going on, there's nothing defenseless about it.”

    Tags: mizzou game, courtney osborne, cameron meredith, eric martin

  11. 2010 Nov 01



    By HuskerLocker

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    Bo Pelini followed one of the worst losses of his coaching career – the increasingly hand-to-figure setback to Texas – with his two best wins as a Nebraska head coach.

    And he just might have the 2009 goat – offensive coordinator Shawn Watson – to thank for it.

    One year ago, some Husker fan clung to a metal fence in the bowels of Baylor's Floyd Casey Stadium and screamed to no one in particular how much Watson stunk. Pelini still conducted his post-game presser, but when he finished, he went looking for that joker, who, of course, got the hell out of Waco several minutes before.

    No such jeers this Halloween. Watson's offense saved the Huskers' bacon at Oklahoma State two weeks ago, and his superior plan produced 256 yards and 24 points against a top-tier defense in just one quarter Saturday.

    Yes, Missouri adjusted to Nebraska's new formations, and NU struggled to move the ball against the wind. But when the Huskers needed a third-quarter touchdown, they got it. When Watson needed to bleed almost nine minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter, he called the right combination of plays, and trusted Roy Helu and his offensive line to do the rest.

    Nebraska is No. 17 in total offense. No. 12 in scoring offense. No. 6 in rushing offense. No. 25 in passing efficiency. And those numbers – with four games against poor defenses coming up – are bound to rise.

    Some of that is Taylor Martinez. The kid's special as a runner, and a good enough passer.

    But Watson had to coach him up, too, showing Martinez the ropes – and how to stay off of them - in a single spring, summer and fall camp. While also revamping the running game. Juggling two other quarterbacks. Managing a confident, hungry, but inconsistent group of wide receivers. Dealing with what has amounted to, thus far, season-ending injuries to offensive linemen Mike Smith and Marcel Jones. And facing the inevitable criticism that comes his way every time Nebraska's offense falters just a little bit.

    Think about the job that Watson's done so far in 2010. Is it worthy of a few more looks from BCS-autobid conference programs for head coaching jobs? Yes. But Watson may be waiting it out with some his colleagues - especially defensive coordinator Carl Pelini - for some of those openings.

    On with the review:

    Five Players We Loved

    Defensive tackle Jared Crick: With eight tackles, a hurry and a sack, he flashed some real potential as a 3-4 defensive end Saturday, if you ask me. Crick is a better outside rusher because he can set up a tackle with that quick first step, then blast back inside with a strong bull rush when the tackle overcompensates. NU may not use that 3-2-6 defense again this year – or ever – but Crick gave NFL scouts something to chew on. He could still use one more year in college.

    Cornerback Ciante Evans: He needs to fight off blocks a little better when a quarterback is loose and scrambling, but Evans is a cold-blooded baller as a cover corner. He rarely allowed his man to fight back across his face on deep routes, and his positioning took away that back-shoulder throw, too. Evans has learned Marvin Sanders' lessons quickly, using the sideline as an extra defender.

    Safety Dejon Gomes: He was everywhere and did a little of everything against Missouri's spread offense. He's a keystone of NU's defense; take him out, and the Blackshirts just aren't the same.

    Running back Roy Helu: He now owns the school's rushing record and he's about to eclipse 3,000 career yards. And yet Helu is likely to leave NU without ever being first-team all-conference. One of the most underrated players in Husker history. His big runs Saturday were more than just the beneficiary of good blocking – especially that third score from 53 yards. That's not a cut many backs can make, and even fewer can accelerate so quickly out of it.

    Kickoff specialist Adi Kunalic: Seven kickoffs, seven touchbacks. Rotten field position for Missouri all afternoon. Kunalic's best game in a big moment. Kudos.

    Three Concerns

    Taylor Martinez's injury: Perhaps it goes away immediately and Martinez is leading touchdown drives at his dad's old stomping grounds in Ames next week. In fact, I'd guess Martinez wouldn't miss that game for anything. But how effective will he be? So much of his talent is based on his explosive running ability. If he can't accelerate to top speed is his usual blink of an eye, how does that affect NU's offense while he's out there?

    Horrible Big 12 officiating: I'd expect an apology of some sort from Big 12 coordinator of officials Walt Anderson this week, as the zeebs plum missed Blaine Gabbert's fourth-quarter fumble by pretending that his forward progress had been stopped. Gabbert was never moving forward on the play; NU safety Courtney Osborne blasted the kid into next week – I heard Full House Dad Ed Cunningham didn't like that – and Gabbert fell backward until his shoulder blades met the turf.

    Why doesn't the crew just make up words along with the calls? After further review, the play is a blooney blup blarhar, first down Missouri.

    Trap Games: Nebraska has two in the next three weeks. First NU heads to Ames, where Cyclone fans will be plenty fired up for one last shot at the Huskers. On Nov. 20, watch out for that game at Texas A&M. Aggie coach Mike Sherman is rolling the dice with a quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-back-to-quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and it's working. I give A&M a puncher's chance at beating Oklahoma this week. If so – watch out.

    Three Questions

    Does Nebraska risk resting Martinez for two weeks to get him ready for the stretch run? If Martinez' dad, Casey, hadn't played at Iowa State years ago, and I'd say yes. As it is, Martinez will want a game inside the Jack Trice wind tunnel, and this will be his only chance. But if NU grabs a comfortable lead – sit the kid and turn it over to Zac Lee, and perhaps some Rex Burkhead Wildcat.

    Do Osborne and Austin Cassidy keep their starting safety jobs? And if so, do Rickey Thenarse and P.J. Smith lose the Blackshirts they earned? For folks who know the program, Osborne has the physical talent and hitting ability to be a stud. But he doesn't know the scheme like Smith does. Cassidy, meanwhile, probably gives the Huskers less in pass defense, but more than Thenarse against the run. If only Thenarse had truly learned how to tackle.

    Could a one-loss Big 12 champion actually face Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl? Well, somebody has to play the Big East champ, and Pitt has the inside track. The Fiesta Bowl has the last pick of all the Bowl Championship Series sites, and pundits widely believe that the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls will want no part of the Big East, which routinely lays an egg in the BCS.

    The Big 12's best hope is Nebraska, which could shimmy its way to No. 2 with an unlikely sequence of dominoes toppling just so. The biggest obstacle, frankly, is Boise State stumbling along the way. It just doesn't seem likely.

    Tags: mizzou game, husker monday review, ciante evans, dejon gomes, roy helu, jared crick, adi kunalic, courtney osborne, austin cassidy, taylor martinez

  12. 2010 Sep 30

    Non-Conference Report Card - DB


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The Huskers' finest unit gets sparkling grades from HL's Samuel McKewon. Who's the standout? Find with a 30-day free trial from Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: report card, prince amukamara, alfonzo dennard, dejon gomes, rickey thenarse, eric hagg, pj smith, anthony west, austin cassidy, andrew green, courtney osborne

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