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  1. 2010 Nov 29

    Husker Monday Review - CU


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    OK, so the next Husker fan who even thinks about threatening Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe or his family – or even emails the guy with a minor complaint – needs to understand the following:

    *Cops can and will find you, genius: Not so much fun in court, huh? You'd think people would learn from the Big Red doof who tried to smear Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Landry Jones a few years back.

    *If you're that guy impersonating a Husker fan to make Nebraska look bad: Your alter-ego called. You forget to cut the crusts of his tuna-fish sandwich and buy the Strawberry Quik.

    *Dan Beebe is not your Congressman: You can't vote on his job. He is not compelled to respond. His authority is limited to the edges of his creative intelligence – you know what I think of that – and minor pigskin-political decisions under his purview. He is, in short, a functionary. Not a particularly powerful one with extraordinary reach or vision, either.

    *Nor is he really the scapegoat: If you want to trace the real source of animosity for Nebraska football, it sure isn't some guy who hung out in the OVC for years and hails from Walla Walla. It's not even Texas, an appropriate, more-respectful-than-you-think adversary of NU. You can always trust Texas to be Texas, which is trust enough for me in the world of competitive sports and high-finance.

    The real scapegoats are the Huskers' “mates” in the Big 12 North - Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and, to a lesser extent, Colorado – who sided with Texas on key decisions in the genesis stage of the league and took Nebraska's brief decline in football as an opportunity to slag on the North's true cash cow team in the cash cow sport of college athletics.

    That doesn't mean you threaten or cajole the chancellors and athletic directors of those schools, either. But it might mean – and I stress “might” - that when your kids or grandkids reach a certain age, you think twice before sending your or their hard-earned money to an institution that, when the chips were down, didn't think twice about sticking it to Dear Old Nebraska U.

    Especially since NU will be gaining significant academic strength – and contacts - with its entrance into the Big Ten.

    And I'm not condoning Beebe's no-show in Lincoln. Part of leadership is showing some sense of equanimity and a sliver courage. Beebe blew it. It wasn't as if Husker fans would have been looking for the guy, either; of the hundreds of emails I received from Husker fans and critics last week, not a single one mentioned the Big 12 North trophy presentation.

    Enough of this. On to the review:

    Five Players We Loved

    Cornerback Prince Amukamara: Stuck like glue to his intended receivers. He still can't buy an interception, but his anticipation skills are the best in the nation – considering he plays for the best pass defense, bar none, in the nation.

    Running back Rex Burkhead: His only big mistake was a first-quarter drop. Otherwise, Burkhead filled his role of Wildcat extraordinaire perfectly. And his two touchdown passes were as good as any Taylor Martinez has thrown this season. Excellent job, Superman.

    Quarterback Cody Green: Let's not get too ahead of ourselves here. Green wasn't brilliant. But he was steady, smart and under control. A start in the Big 12 Championship would, of course, be a whole different animal than beating worn-out Colorado on Senior Day. Oklahoma's pass rush alone is more dangerous than CU's entire front seven.

    Safety Dejon Gomes: Kid just has a nose for the ball. One interception, one more fumble recovery, a slew of nice tackles. Nebraska will sorely miss his versatility.

    Guard Ricky Henry: Steamrolled one Buffalo after another with his pancake trap blocks. When Nebraska wants to run pure power, the Henry's ready to roll all day.

    Three Concerns

    Defending Oklahoma's no-huddle: The Blackshirts didn't fare so well against Oklahoma State and Iowa State's version of the offense. OU runs a quicker, more polished version of it than either team. Now, that said, NU stoned the Sooners last year in Lincoln. But Nebraska won't have the advantage of the best Memorial Stadium crowd in several years to throw off communication.

    Kick coverage: When Adi Kunalic doesn't blast one his kickoffs through the end zone, NU's coverage – for whatever reason – has been a little vulnerable this year. Oklahoma has the speed to exploit some of the Huskers' mistakes.

    Big-play outage: A half-speed Taylor Martinez and no Niles Paul means the Huskers have officially cut in half its number of big-play guys in half. Who remains? From our view: Roy Helu and Kyler Reed. Helu needs to fully recover from a gimpy calf while NU's quarterback – whoever he is – has to find Reed on those one or two plays per game when he gets a clean release and gets to beat a safety on a post route.

    Three Questions

    Who wins - young talent or senior experience? We'll explore this question again later in the week, but Oklahoma relies more on redshirt and true freshmen – at key skill positions – more than any team still in BCS contention. It's led to a share of breakdowns for the Sooners, yes – but OU creates big plays out of thin air. That's part of why Bob Stoops' bunch is so streaky. Nebraska has its strongest, deepest senior class in arguably a decade. You'd like to think, on the biggest stage, that experience counts for something?

    Can NU and the Big 12 kiss and play nice in this final week? If “NU” includes Husker fans, no we'd guess not. It'll be on Tom Osborne and Bo Pelini – Ice and Fire if there ever was a name for this duo – to set the right tone. They'll do it – but swallow hard and keep their tongues in the process. It helps that Oklahoma is the opponent. Puts a sunny spin on things.

    Could Nebraska really fall to the Insight Bowl – and play a better team than it would in the Fiesta Bowl? If NU lost the Big 12 title and played Michigan – a 30-10 winner over Big East leader and presumed Fiesta favorite Connecticut – then, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause. What a system! Gotta love it!

    Tags: husker monday review, cu game, dan beebe, prince amukamara, ricky henry rex burkhead, cody green, taylor martinez, big 12 championship, dejon gomes

  2. 2010 Nov 26

    CU GAME: Cody or Taylor?


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Man, is it going to be Bo Pelini's kind of week.

    The guy fuels his motor with animosity. If Husker fans supplied a healthy dose last week, they'll fall in line behind him this week, as the Big 12, in its infinite impotence, chose not to stage a North Division trophy presentation at Memorial Stadium – with its fans who applaud the opposing team – because league members didn't feel safe here..

    Suitable family-friendly words don't truly exist for the foolishness of such a decision, but it plays squarely into Nebraska's hands. Bo excels at trying to create an outside enemy against which his team can wage war. This week, the Big 12 and its commish, Dan Beebe, sticks out its chin and says “well, all right, go ahead, hit me.”

    The Big 12's had a pretty rotten fall, by all accounts. Big Bevo took a big 5-7 dump (though, yes, it did take a bite out of NU). Oklahoma failed to provide the league with its preferred national title contender. The three best league games of the year all involved the Huskers. The officiating crews still don't know their rumps from their elbows, and the startling penalty disparity in Nebraska's 9-6 loss to Texas A&M makes it seems as though Beebe is The Judge from “The Natural,” some till-keeping skinflint who hides from the sun behind dusty Venetian blinds.

    The league couldn't let the Huskers go quietly, could they? You'd think – I mean, most sentient beings would – that presenting harmony at all costs is in the Big 12's best interests. Why not bilk the Big Red on its way out the door, smiling the entire time while you pat down the Bugeaters for loose change?

    But the Big 12 apparently sees it differently. It would prefer, through Olympian efforts of passive aggression, to suggest NU is a villain to be blackballed and punished, indirectly, as if a scandalous character in a Edith Wharton novel. Chasten me for the bizarre analogy – although, hey, Wharton was there before “The Hills” ever was - but, let's face it: The Big 12 and Beebe have been trying to put a moralistic, “family values” spin on things every since the conference nearly blew up over the summer. Talk of “shared sacrifice” and a “stronger unity” - as if these schools were sovereign nations coming together over something more than a Texas power play. Are we negotiating a nuclear treaty here? Is Beebe suddenly the president? Does he need protection to cross Nebraska's state line?

    It's the sheer cheese that the Big 12 slathers on the meat of its existence that offends my sensibilities. Safe? Safe? What is this – Hillsborough Stadium? It's just a sports league. We live harsh times, folks. Angry times. But what use is it indulging such garbage as nasty e-mails, increating fractious, knee-nibbling nonsense out of the equivalent of a drunk dial? I'd like to work myself up into a equal, disproportionate-to-reality lather over this latest snub, but there's North and South Korea, the economy, unemployment benefits about to tank, immigration, health care and Bristol Palin to worry about. Nebraska and its fan base, certain to walk around in a kind of trance this week, gobbling up every morsel of Big 12 hate it can find, will, I'm sure, more than compensate for my relative demurral.

    In the midst of this sure-to-burn-your-ears-and-salt-your-tears soap opera is a football decision for Nebraska to make in the wake of its 45-17 win over Colorado. There is a week to make it.

    Does head coach Bo Pelini – and it's undoubtedly his call – give the starting nod to a healthy Cody Green at quarterback or a semi-healthy Taylor Martinez? Which offense does he pick? Pure power or zone read? Spread pass or playaction?

    Maybe Martinez won't recover quickly enough for it to be a choice. If he looks anything like he did in the second half at Texas A&M, he doesn't belong on the football field. He's too good to play so mediocre. He needs his right foot to push off when he runs and to anchor his base when he throws.

    But if he can do both of those things reasonably well – does Pelini go back to his well one more time? Does the opponent – whether it's Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Texas A&M – make a difference?

    Should the Aggies slide into the game – only possible if OU beats OSU, and ends only one spot above A&M in the BCS standings – then, yes, Green gets the nod for certain. NU can slow down Mike Sherman's bunch.

    But the Cowboys? The Sooners? The two best offenses in the Big 12? Can the Blackshirts realistically keep either of those teams down for four quarters?

    Green played his best game Friday. He wasn't explosive or dynamic. Those two adjectives belong to Rex Burkhead. But Green was steady. And he's been surprisingly good – in three games – on third down. Green took a bad sack once against a CU rush, but he otherwise made smart reads, delivered the ball on time, and looked better, frankly, than Martinez did vs. Kansas or A&M.

    Based on the formations used today, Green clearly has more access to the playbook. What he lacks, of course, is playmaking ability with his feet. He's not a great runner because he can't change direction quickly. But he's every bit Martinez's equal as a passer. Can he keep his cool? In a pressure situation Friday – a win vs. the surging Buffs was no cinch – Green managed the offense without much trouble. Cowboys Stadium is a cavernous place, a neutral site. Noise won't be much of an issue. Green can operate in there without getting too rattled.

    And Burkhead is finally getting hot. He's not a breakaway runner like Roy Helu, but he churns those legs and burns up first-down markers. Remember, folks – Texas didn't want him. Rex got caught in the “numbers crunch” for the Longhorn elites. I'm sure Mack Brown, from that double-wide burnt-orange leather chair I imagine he reclines in, enjoyed watching Burkhead, then Oregon's Lamichael James – also a Texas native – deliver their own “number crunches” in Lincoln and Eugene.

    Martinez, as always, remains a wild card. Nobody doubts his physical toughness around here. He's playing through pain. On the field, in the moment, he seems mentally tough enough. The question becomes: Is he healthy enough to win a Big 12 title? Can NU afford to waste a whole half figuring that out?

    It's one hot week coming up in the Big 12 fighting pit. We hacks and scribes will sharpen our pencils and fling rhetorical barbs at one another. But Nebraska's hopes – and ultimate redemption for a mucked-up final year in this mouse-trap league – rests on which Husker quarterback can throw the best darts.

    See also: More analysis on Beebe

    Tags: big 12, cu game, dan beebe, rex burkhead, cody green, taylor martinez, bo pelini

  3. 2010 Nov 26

    NU-CU: Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Here's our report card after the Nebraska-Colorado game!

    OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Running back Rex Burkhead. Since Taylor Martinez's injury, he's become, in many ways, the focal point of Nebraska's offense as a runner, blocker – and now thrower. It's pretty hard to believe that some teams in Big 12 South were skeptical about Burkhead's durability and toughness. When the chips were down this year, he's been NU's offensive MVP.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Safety Dejon Gomes had an interception and returned a fumble to the CU 3-yard line. He remains one of the headiest players in the Big 12 – as do his mates in the secondary.


    QUARTERBACK: B Cody Green was steady. He only let the play clock run down a single time, the fumbled snap wasn't his fault, and during money time – on third down – Green threw for two touchdowns and two more first downs. He still doesn't give Nebraska much in the running game – and he took a bad sack that pushed the Huskers out of field goal range – but, if needed to win the Big 12 title game, Green can do just enough with his arm to Oklahoma or Oklahoma State pause. A solid effort. Zac Lee came with eight minutes left and handled mop-up duty with class. He even completed two passes. That shoulder/elbow/whatever is healthy enough for that, I guess.

    RUNNING BACK: A Burkhead was very good, making two terrific passes for touchdowns and gutting out one tough run after another until it became clear that Colorado was ready to say “uncle.” He's such a versatile weapon, and patient runner, that he helps an offense make yards even when the execution isn't perfect. After a slow start, Roy Helu chugged out 75 yards for his final home game as a senior. He was nursing an injured calf, so some of the burst was missing, but Helu still busted a 21-yarder. Tyler Legate's lead blocks were fair-to-good. In the second half, Tray Robinson did a fine job in mop-up duty. He'll be of more use in the Big Ten, when a power running game is a must. Austin Jones got a few carries, as well.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: B+ Better! The big boys consistently paved open gaps for the three running backs; a gameplan heavy with inside counters and power traps certainly helped. First-half penalties gave way to a more focused, physical unit in the second half, when NU just lined and plowed away. You'd still like to see the Huskers punch it in from the 1-yard line, though. Pass protection was good, even against the blitz; of course, NU didn't throw it much, either.

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: B+ Excellent blocking from Ben Cotton from his tight end spot, and Kyler Reed caught two more touchdowns to continue his successful season. At receiver, Joe Broekemeier filled in capably for Niles Paul, catching two important third-down passes that kept alive touchdown drives. Brandon Kinnie caught two touchdown passes, although both were well-thrown balls. Perimeter blocking was just so-so, but NU tried to keep its game mostly between the hash marks.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: C+ Against a pretty solid CU line, NU's front four struggled some to get a push on pass rushes, although they did deflect a few Cody Hawkins passes. Colorado had some success in the running game but had to abandon it when the score got out of control. Nebraska will get a much stiffer test next week from the Cowboys or Sooners, whichever team emerges from the Big 12 South.

    LINEBACKER: B LaVonte David and Will Compton – who played extensively – filled their gaps well, for the most part, only letting Stewart out of the pen a few times. Both flowed to the ball without too much trouble. David made a nice play in pass coverage, breaking up a pass and nearly intercepting it.

    SECONDARY: B+ Gave up two long touchdowns and kept alive a drive with a defensive holding penalty, but also set up three Husker touchdowns with second-half turnovers. Prince Amukamara may have had his finest game of the year on Senior Day – but still no interceptions. He remains one whale of a player.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: A Nothing bad happened, so a clean grade. Alex Henery made a 42-yard field goal against the wind, NU fielded punts well, Henery punted well. Overall – fine.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PLAYCALLING: B Penalties are still a major problem for the Huskers, and they didn't go away in this game, with 8 for 79. Fortunately, Colorado committed a few costly ones of their own. On offense, Shawn Watson called a smart, clean game. He saw that Colorado was struggled to adjust to NU's shifts, so he loaded up on them throughout the game. He put enough wrinkles into the Wildcat to keep CU off balance, and his “toss” package, complete with a halfback pass, was a very smart installation. Ditto on the fake jet sweep action to Tim Marlowe. When Taylor Martinez understands the playbook as well as Green and Lee do, Watson will be a more effective playcaller. On defense, Nebraska didn't try to get too fancy, nor did Carl Pelini have to. He kept it smart and simple. Nice call by head coach Bo Pelini to go for it on fourth down; he's becoming more willing to do that in recent weeks, and it's a good idea.

    Tags: report card, cu game, dejon gomes, rex burkhead

  4. 2010 Nov 26

    CU GAME: Burkhead Bucks Buffs


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Just seconds after he'd caught a perfectly-thrown pass from a running back for a 26-yard touchdown, Nebraska wide receiver Brandon Kinnie located Rex Burkhead and posed him a simple question: Why are you so good at everything?

    Naturally, the best answer that a modest Burkhead could give in the post-game press conference after NU's 45-17 romp over rival Colorado was his usual fare: “I don't really know what to say to that.”

    He preferred to let his performance – 101 yards and touchdown rushing, 30 yards and two scores passing – stand for itself and help punch the Huskers' ticket back to Dallas for their second straight Big 12 Championship. Nebraska (10-2 overall and 6-2 in the Big 12) Oklahoma-Oklahoma State Bedlam game played Saturday night, although Texas A&M has an outside shot the Big 12 South's place in Cowboys Stadium Dec. 4.

    “Rex ran like a man possessed,” said NU quarterback Cody Green, who subbed for Taylor Martinez.

    Head coach Bo Pelini, fresh off a tumultuous week – he and his brother Carl had to apologized for their behavior during and after the Texas A&M game while rumors swirled that Martinez might have left the team – said his team earned a night to enjoy its North division crown in the face of “ a lot of people who tried to tear this team apart.”

    “They better enjoy it,” Pelini said. “It's all about those kids. They won ten games and won the North doing so. People don't appreciate it? Fine. I appreciate it. I know they appreciate it. And they appreciate each other.”

    Aside from a few white knuckle moments in the first half, the game hardly match the drama of this past week in Huskerville, as Burkhead's toss to Kinnie gave Nebraska a 17-3 lead late in the first half, upon which NU quickly tacked on two more touchdowns early in the third quarter after CU quarterback Cody Hawkins threw back-to-back interceptions.

    One of those scores was Burkhead's improvisational encore to the first touchdown. Out of the Wildcat formation Burkhead rushed forward to throw a pop pass to Ben Cotton, who was covered. He then scrambled hard to his left, drawing a Buffalo cornerback away from NU tight end Kyler Reed. Burkhead calmly flipped the ball to Reed, who clutched it to give Nebraska a 31-3 lead.

    “I reversed field and tried to make a play out of it,” Burkhead said. “I can't really explain anything else. I was just hoping there wasn't a guy coming backside.”

    Burkhead, a native of Plano, Texas – not far from Arlington - put an injured offense – missing starters Martinez and Niles Paul – on his back along with Green who, getting his fourth start in two years, delivered a steady performance, completing 10-of-13 passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he kept alive four of the Huskers' touchdown drives with big plays on third down.

    Green knew he'd start on Monday of this week, and Nebraska's offense reflected it in some of the playcalling. NU stuck to a power running game, repeatedly pounding Colorado's front seven with counters and power traps. Green passed frequently out of three-and-four wide receivers sets, much like he did in high school. A 16-yard touchdown toss to Kinnie was a textbook throw, as Green pump faked to the corner and hit Kinnie on a skinny post route.

    “We just did the things we were good at,” Green said. “We filed down the excess stuff that we didn't need and just went to the basics, to what we were good at. We don't want to be the jack of all trades but the master of none. We really stuck to the plan. That's what we did. And we had fun.”

    Said Pelini: “We've had confidence in him, but I know one thing: It's got to give him a jolt of confidence, playing in this kind of situation and stepping up the way he did.”

    Martinez didn't play, but was available as an emergency third-string. Senior Zac Lee played in mop-up duty, completing 3-of-4 passes for 32 yards. Pelini declined to say whether Martinez would be healthy enough to start next week, but if he, he'll be the guy, said offensive coordinator Shawn Watson.

    “Now's not the time to worry about that,” Pelini said.

    For the game, NU racked up 407 yards to Colorado's 262. The Blackshirts gave up two long touchdown passes in the third quarter, but also forced three second-half turnovers that led to Husker scores, as well.

    “They outplayed us,” said CU interim head coach Brian Cabral. “They made more plays and we didn’t. We didn’t make the plays we needed to make, so my hat is off. They rebounded from their loss in great fashion.”

    Cabral said the Buffaloes “ran out of gas” after two emotional wins following the firing of Dan Hawkins, who actually watched the game, in a bit of a surreal scene, from the Husker press box, surrounded by reporters.

    Nebraska drew first blood on its second drive of the game,using runs of 13 and 15 yards from Burkhead to set up a 42-yard Alex Henery field goal into the wind.

    After forcing a three-and-out from the Buffaloes, NU rode Burkhead again – this time to a touchdown. He had runs of 11, 7 and 13 yards to help up his 2-yard plunge out of the I-formation. Green converted a crucial 3rd-and-11 in CU territory with a 12-yard pass to senior walk-on Joe Broekemeier, who replaced the injured Niles Paul. Broekemeier, who left the Husker baseball team to walk on the football squad, had not played in a football game since 2002 – his freshman year at Aurora High School.

    “It's kinda surreal just the way it happened,” he said.

    Colorado answered with a field goal drive of its own, paced by a 25-yard trick play double pass and a Rodney Stewart 24-yard run. CU drove the ball to the Husker 6, but Nebraska forced an Aric Goodman field goal by stuffing Stewart one yard short of the marker on third down.

    Burkhead set up his first touchdown pass by gaining six yards on 4th-and-1, and three yards out of the Wildcat on 3rd-and-3. NU led 17-3 at halftime.

    NU safety Dejon Gomes intercepted Hawkins on CU's opening drive, returning the ball to Buffaloes' 43. Five plays later, Green laced a touchdown pass to Kinnie, who was running a post route, for a 24-3 lead.

    Eric Hagg intercepted a deflected Hawkins pass on the following drive and rambled to the Colorado 4. Burkhead did his best Mike Rozier impression – plus a pass – on the next play.

    Colorado (5-7, 2-6) cut the lead to 31-10 on its next drive when Hawkins hit Paul Richardson for a 50-yard touchdown. Richardson beat NU corner Alfonzo Dennard with a double move. The Buffaloes' onside kick try rolled out of bounds, and Green led a nine-play touchdown drive, spurred by his 17-yard pass to Broekemeier on third down. NU led 38-10. Hawkins then became CU's all-time leading passer on his next touchdown drive, capped by a 29-yard pass to Will Jefferson.

    NU ended scoring after safety Dejon Gomes recovered a fumble forced by NU corner Alfonzo Dennard and returned it to the Buffalo 3-yard line. Green scored on a 1-yard sneak from there.

    After the game, Memorial Stadium fans were treated a highlight video of Nebraska's stint in the Big 12. In ended with a image of Cowboys Stadium and the words “one last time.”

    The Huskers have been thinking about making the return trip since a 13-12 heartbreaking, controversial loss in 2009. Now, they simply await the opponent. Many Huskers copped to watching the OU-OSU game Saturday night, if only as football fans.

    Not Pelini.

    “I'll see that on film on Sunday,” he said. “You guys can watch it. I'll see if there's a good basketball game on.”

    Tags: cu game, rex burkhead, cody green, dejon gomes, eric hagg, brandon kinnie, kyler reed

  5. 2010 Nov 26

    Podcast 11/26: Weekend Preview


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: podcasts, cu game, volleyball, mens hoops, womens hoops, wrestling

  6. 2010 Nov 25

    Guess The Score! NU-CU!


    By HuskerLocker

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    Put your score and potential offensive and defensive MVPs in the comment box below. Get the score correct and win $20 gift certificate to Lincoln's BBQ4U and a Locker pass subscription through January!

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: guess the score, cu game

  7. 2010 Nov 25

    Five CU Players to Watch


    By HuskerLocker

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    Five Colorado players to watch in Friday's NU game:

    Quarterback Cody Hawkins:
    He never should have been CU's full-time starter, but a sheer lack of depth and ineptitude at the position forced him into the spot for the better part of four years. Now, with starter Tyler Hansen out with a ruptured spleen and his dad, Dan, fired, Cody Hawkins is playing the best football of his career, making the right reads, delivering the ball on time.

    Running back Rodney Stewart: The smallest starting running back in the Big 12 at 5-6, 170 is also one of the best with 1,230 yards. He's very good between the tackles because he's hard to find and he always keeps those legs churning.

    Wide receiver Scotty McKnight: Hawkins' safety blanket. He makes a lot of plays on third down, and he's not afraid to test defenses over the middle, which opens up some of underneath routes for the Buffaloes.

    Linebacker/end Josh Hartigan: The blitz specialist for Buffaloes, with seven sacks already this year, he mostly plays on third down and attacks the quarterback with a hard, outside speed move. He'll be a test for whichever Husker tackle he lines up against.

    Cornerback Jimmy Smith: Hasn't had much of a season for the Buffaloes, but his 6-2, 210 frame is similar to that of Nebraska's Prince Amukamara. Smith is a talented guy who can make an impact in a hurry if a pass is off target.

    Tags: cu game

  8. 2010 Nov 25

    Five NU Players to Watch


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Five NU Players to Watch in Friday's Colorado game:

    Quarterback Cody Green: The much-heralded sophomore has yet to deliver on the hype he enjoyed before coming to NU. Whether he ever gets another shot, this could be his moment vs. Colorado. Green has to do three things: 1. Don't turn it over. 2. Manage the clock and tempo well so NU doesn't have to burn timeouts. 3. Settle those feet in the pocket and make smart throws downfield.

    Wide receiver Brandon Kinnie: With Niles Paul's foot injury, Kinnie becomes the unquestioned No. 1 receiver for the Huskers. He'll get more attention, but if Nebraska is forced to throw, he'll be the guy who gets the looks. Kinnie hasn't dropped many passes this year; he can't start now.

    Linebacker LaVonte David: One week after his finest game as a Husker, David will find himself tested once again by a CU offense that tries to fool linebackers with a playction passing game. David will be asked to cover tight ends and running backs alike, and on ground plays he'll be charged with trying to find diminutive Buff back Rodney Stewart.

    Defensive tackle Jared Crick: More of the same is needed from Crick, whose game has come on in the last month. Getting a rush on CU quarterback Cody Hawkins is the one certain way to get inside his head and force costly turnovers.

    Running back Rex Burkhead: He'll be the punt returner, the running back in on passing plays, and potentially the Wildcat quarterback, as well. Burkhead should be the Big Red's busiest offensive player Friday.

    Tags: cu game, cody green, rex burkhead, jared crick, brandon kinnie, lavonte david

  9. 2010 Nov 25

    Five Keys: CU


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

    -Robert Frost, “The Death of the Hired Man”

    And so it boils down to this: After arguably the toughest week of his short career in Lincoln, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini must deliver a Big 12 North title on Senior Day without two of his biggest offensive weapons - Taylor Martinez and Niles Paul - amidst feelings that the Big 12 badly wants NU to fail against a suddenly hot, motivated Colorado team.

    A game that looked like a shoo-in two weeks ago suddenly seems like a “please don't blow it” moment.

    The biggest advantage Bo will have: That Memorial Stadium crowd.

    He won't find the Husker faithful “dead” on Friday, that's for sure. The fans feel threatened on all sides – by the league, by injuries, by the press – and they'll respond, I have a hunch, with one of their ear-ringing efforts on a blustery cold day. Home has been a relatively unkind joint to NU at several points in the last two years, but it'll be a primary advantage vs. the Buffaloes, who haven't played on the road in three weeks.

    It doesn't have to be pretty on Friday. Husker fans can still have their pitchforks ready for whatever offensive coach they'd like to blame for an ugly performance. It just has to count toward Dallas.

    On to the keys, quickly on this Friday morning:

    Green team: No smoke, mirrors or whispers: Cody Green is the guy on Friday. Indisputably. And whatever offense best suits his talents, those are the plays that offensive coordinator Shawn Watson should call. This isn't about Green fitting into a long-term template of Bo's “vision.” This isn't about trying to show off Green's talents for next year, either. This is about calling plays that gain yards, make first downs and score points. Period. If that means putting Green in the shotgun and running a spread offense, do it. And don't flirt with putting Martinez or Zac Lee in there, either. Those guys are both well below 100 percent. Bottom line: Nebraska needs to win with its backup.

    Trenches: In size and athleticism, Colorado's offensive and defensive lines actually match up favorably with the Huskers. It's not a battle Nebraska's going to automatically win just by showing up. Can NU's offensive line carve out some early holes in the Buffaloes' defense? Can the defensive hold off getting gashed by CU's power running game?

    The Specials: Asking some of the seniors this week for their favorite memories this week, Alex Henery's 57-yard field goal to help beat Colorado in 2008 frequently came up. And why shouldn't it? Henery, a senior himself, is one of the most popular and toughest-minded Huskers on the team. CU kicker Aric Goodman, who's missed 22 field goals in his career, is, shall we say, not. NU has a huge advantage in this department that will be hard for the Buffaloes to overcome.

    Heat: CU quarterback Cody Hawkins may be playing the best football of his career, freed from the onus of having to win for dear old Dad, but he's still susceptible to a pass rush. While the Buffaloes' offensive line can protect him, Hawkins still needs to move the pocket to see receivers. Look for the Brothers Pelini to get creative with their blitz packages. Forcing Hawkins into the mistakes he's made throughout his career is the quickest way to an easy victory.

    Electric Zoo: Memorial Stadium will be bubbling with energy and excitement, in part because Bo issued the challenge two weeks ago, in part because athletic director Tom Osborne issued another one this week via letter, and in part because the crowd can actually have a division title to celebrate afterward. Plus – since when did Nebraska fans have any lost love for Colorado?

    Tags: cu game, five keys, cody green, alex henery, memorial stadium, shawn watson

  10. 2010 Nov 25

    We're Thankful for Wireless Zone!


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Who provided the free tickets for our Nebraska-Colorado giveaway!

    The winner of our tickets is Lincolnite Larry Link, in the center of this picture. To his left is David Slattery and to his right is John Slattery, both owners of Wireless Zone, at 1138 P Street in Lincoln.

    Wireless Zone is Lincoln's only locally-owned and operated Verizon retailer, and they'll be running terrific deals through the weekend and all the way until Christmas. If you're going to support one Verizon retailer in Lincoln, this is the one!

    Thanks to Wireless Zone and congrats to Larry Link!

    Tags: cu game, contests

  11. 2010 Nov 24

    Scouting Report: Colorado


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The best scouting report on the Web breaks down just how Colorado might upset Nebraska. Check it out with a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: cu game, scouting report

  12. 2010 Nov 24

    11 Memorable NU-CU Games


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The Nebraska-Colorado series has traveled through its various stages over the years. A clash of titans. The upset specials. The blowouts. Here's 11 we remember.

    1966 Nebraska 21 Colorado 19: One of the great NU comebacks ever, as Husker QB Bob Churchich threw for a school-record 236 yards while erasing a 19-7 deficit with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. This was one of Bob Devaney's early great teams that didn't lose until the final regular season game vs. Oklahoma.

    1986 Colorado 20 Nebraska 10: The Buffaloes punked one of the Huskers' finest defenses with a reverse and a halfback pass, both for touchdowns, while NU's high-powered offense never found its footing in the mountain air, rushing for just 123 yards, its lowest total in eight years. Most Husker fans trace the rather unkind treatment they received at the hands of the Buff faithful back to this game.

    1988 Nebraska 7 Colorado 0: Flying toward the end zone untouched for the game's first touchdown, Colorado running back J.J. Flannigan did a funny thing. He fumbled. And while he recovered the ball at the NU 19-yard line, a botched reverse two plays later left the Buffaloes out of field goal position. That meant Ken Clark's third-quarter touchdown stood up as the game's only score in another defensive scrum.

    1989 Colorado 27 Nebraska 21: The finest game in the series, really, with the most at stake, two undefeated teams, No. 2 and No. 3, battling on a gorgeous day in Boulder. NU struck on its first offensive player, a 51-yard pass from Gerry Gdowski to Bryan Carpenter. Colorado answered back with two quick touchdowns, and the game settled in from there, an old-fashioned, back-and-forth affair. NU's pass to the end zone on the game's final play was knocked down. Nebraska outplayed the Buffs, but a controversial pass interference penalty on the Huskers – plus two key punt returns by Jeff Campbell, was the difference.

    1990 Colorado 27 Nebraska 12: NU was on the right side of this equation in 2009, when the Huskers overcame a 12-0 deficit at Missouri on a rainy night with 27 straight points in the fourth quarter. On this day in 1990, CU continued its march toward the national title with a series of clutch runs and throws from quarterback Darian Hagan. Eric Bieniemy overcame four lost fumbles to rush for as many touchdowns in the fourth quarter to go with his 137 rushing yards. Nebraska failed to convert two fourth-down plays in the fourth quarter that helped facilitate CU's points.

    1991 Nebraska 19 Colorado 19: Perhaps the coldest game ever played in the series– the kickoff temps were well below zero and snow was packed into the bleachers at Folsom Field – ended in a tie thanks to two CU blocks of Byron Bennett kicks – one an extra point that Greg Biekert returned for a 2-point conversion, the other a field goal at the gun. On the field goal, Buff students were hurling snowballs at Bennett's feet. Surprisingly, the option-heavy teams combined for more passing yards (321) than rushing yards (272).

    1994: Nebraska 24 Colorado 7: CU's finest team expected to roll into Lincoln and continue its drive for a second national title in five years. Not to be – as Nebraska continued its drive for its first in 24 years. Quarterback Brook Berringer, frustrated after hearing that he wasn't much of a threat to beat the Buffaloes, hammered Colorado with his arm, completing a series of short passes to tight ends in the first half before putting in the dagger with a 30-yarder to Eric Alford in the third quarter. NU's defense, meanwhile, turned Kordell Stewart into mincemeat, sacking him four times and limiting him to just 150 yards passing.

    2000 Nebraska 34 Colorado 32: Aided by perhaps the worst squib kick in the history of them, NU won thanks to a last-minute Eric Crouch drive that set up a 29-yard field goal by Josh Brown as time expired. The Huskers appeared ready to run away with the game after taking an early 14-0 lead, but the Buffs, behind freshman quarterback Craig Ochs, fought back to take an 17-14 lead in the third quarter. From there, both teams traded haymakers, with Colorado appearing to win the game on a late touchdown and 2-point conversion with 44 seconds left. But head coach Gary Barnett called for a squib on the ensuing kickoff, and CU screwed it up, kicking directly to NU running back Dahrran Diedrick, who returned the ball nearly to midfield. Crouch found Bobby Newcombe on two passes to get NU in field goal range and Brown made the chip-shot for the win. Colorado's response, seen here, is fairly priceless.

    2001 Colorado 62 Nebraska 36: The Day After Thanksgiving Massacre. The Buffaloes ran that power counter over and over and over up and down the field – and threw for 202 yards to boot. CU took a 35-3 lead before the Huskers started to make their move, closing the gap to 42-23 by halftime and 42-30 in the fourth quarter. A third-quarter fumble by NU running back Dahrran Diedrick stung deeply. Some argue the Huskers have never really recovered their dominance after so clearly losing it in that game. Nebraska still headed to the BCS national title game over the Buffaloes one week later.

    2007 Colorado 65 Nebraska 51: Also known as Bill Callahan's final game, where Kevin Cosgrove's defense was buried for good, never to R.I.P. The two teams combined for 1,128 yards and 116 points, as CU used a 21-point third quarter to wrest the lead from the Huskers and never relinquish it again.

    2008 Nebraska 40 Colorado 31: The Kick Heard Round Nebraska. Alex Henery's 57-yard boot to give NU a 32-31 lead – followed by Ndamukong Suh's interception return for a touchdown just moments later, is the loudest Memorial Stadium's been in years. Good thing Henery made that kick, too, because the Huskers were about to give an easy one away to the Buffaloes.

    Tags: cu game, ndamukong suh, alex henery

  13. 2010 Nov 24

    Podcast 11/24: NU's Latest Academic All-American


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Tags: austin cassidy, carl pelini, tom osborne, cu game, baseball, bubba starling

  14. 2010 Nov 24

    Niles Paul Out for CU Game


    By HuskerLocker

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    Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini released a statement Wednesday morning confirming whispers that senior wide receiver Niles Paul hurt his foot in practice and will miss Friday's Colorado game.

    “Niles Paul suffered a foot injury in Tuesday afternoon’s practice," Pelini said. "He will be out for Friday’s game against Colorado. His status for the rest of the season will be evaluated."

    The impact:

    *WR: Nebraska has options, although not very many proven ones. The Huskers could slide Brandon Kinnie over to Paul's old spot, put Mike McNeill in Kinnie's and stick freshman Quincy Enunwa in the game. Or the Huskers could put Paul's backup, Will Henry, in the game. Henry, a senior, has played sparingly in his career. Other possibilities include Tim Marlowe, Khiry Cooper (who's virtually disappeared this season after a solid redshirt freshman campaign), and Curenski Gilleylen (who's also disappeared.).

    *KR: Marlowe and Kinnie probably become the top two guys, unless coaches want to protect Kinnie and take him off the unit. In that case, you could see another receiver acting as Marlowe's lead blocker.

    *PR: Rex Burkhead has already been filling this role in recent weeks. We don't expect it to change.

    Tags: niles paul, cu game

  15. 2010 Nov 23

    Practice Report 11/22: Diminishing Returns on Offense


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    After he addressed many of the problems that occurred on Nebraska's sideline in Saturday night's loss to Texas A&M, NU head coach Bo Pelini looked at an equally-pressing concern on the field: The rapid disappearance of the Huskers' offense in the last two games.

    Nebraska mustered just 20 points against a Kansas team that hadn't given up less than 28 during the Big 12 season, and just six points to a Texas A&M squad that surrendered 30 points and more than 400 yards to Baylor the week before.

    What's wrong?

    “We left some plays out on the field,” Pelini said. “We left some situations out on the field. We need to play better and execute better more consistently.”

    Pretty vague stuff. And the remedy?

    “You play with confidence and you play fast,” Pelini said.

    After practice Monday, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson honed in on a more specific problem as NU prepares for Friday's game vs. Colorado.

    “You've got Taylor (Martinez) down and that's a big part of us,” Watson said. “Taylor's a big part of a run game, obviously...when that happens, it takes away a big chunk of you, so you've just got to find other creative ways to do your business.”

    The redshirt freshman quarterback didn't practice Monday because of a sprained right ankle and a stubbed left toe, housed in a walking boot. Both injuries occurred on the same play, as NU center Mike Caputo accidentally stepped on the ankle and the foot at the same time.

    Watson didn't know if Martinez would practice Tuesday; in his absence, sophomore Cody Green took snaps with the first team, while redshirt freshman walk-on Ron Kellogg III worked with the second team. Senior Zac Lee, recovering from a variety of injuries concerning his right arm, was throwing more Monday than he had in recent weeks, and could be ready to play Friday.

    Martinez's initial ankle injury, incurred in the first half of the Missouri game, has considerably slowed him down and Nebraska's running game along with it.

    Prior to the injury, NU averaged 295 yards per game and 6.77 yards per carry.

    After it – even with a hobbled Martinez in the lineup at times – the Huskers' averages drop to 214 and 4.57.

    NU gained 142 rushing yards vs. A&M Saturday on 37 carries. Take away two second-half runs of 33 and 31 yards, and the Huskers rushed 35 times for just 78 yards.

    Despite good field position throughout the first half, Nebraska made nothing of it with Green, who threw for 65 yards and one interception, at the helm.

    “(Green) can manage some of the same things in the run game,” Watson said. “It's just not the same impact that you would get out of Taylor.”

    As Green's relative lack of production has shown.

    “He continuing to grow,” Watson said. “There's nothing wrong with Cody.”

    A&M further complicated matters by running an aggressive, blitzing 3-4 scheme that didn't allow NU to run trick plays, Watson said.

    “We tried to keep it simple and fast for our guys,” Watson said. “Trick plays? It depends if you can manage the pressure. If you can manage the pressure, then yeah. You're talking about blitz. And that's the hard thing. In my opinion, no.”

    The Huskers also struggled to get off plays in times, having to burn several timeouts because the play clock was winding down. Crowd noise at Kyle Field messed up communication in the huddle.

    Asked if he'd consider coming down from the press box – as he did for a whole chunk of 2009 – Watson said no.

    “I would never do that,” he said.

    On with the report:

    Particulars: Nebraska conducted a two-hour practice inside the Hawks Championship Center in shirts and shorts

    Coach Quote: ""It's been a good match up. I think both programs and states have taken (to it), because of the relationship, being side by side. The things that happened in the 90's with Coach Mac (Bill McCartney), and Colorado's resurgence on the national scene. It's a very significant game and it's been a very spirited rivalry for about 20 years, and probably beyond than that, I just haven't happened to be a part of it in that time during my coaching career. It has been a great rivalry and that's what happens when change happens." Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson on the NU-CU rivalry.

    Player Quote: “I don't think there's anything wrong with us. We were moving the ball well on those drives and we just ended up shooting ourselves in the foot with those penalties, with missed assignments, stuff like. Our attitude isn't any different on offense. It just comes down to that attitude to finishing drives.” Tight end Ben Cotton on offensive woes

    Next Practice: Tuesday

    Win Tickets to the Nebraska-Colorado game!

    Tags: cu game, practice report, shawn watson, ben cotton, bo pelini, taylor martinez, cody green

  16. 2009 Nov 27

    CU GAME: Watson: I'm THE Ohio State University


    By HuskerLocker

    Apollo 13. Ego diet. And now - three yards and a cloud of those little rubber pellets.

    Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has a new analogy to describe his playcalling.

    "Trust me - I feel like Woody Hayes," Watson said after his offense produced 217 total yards in a 28-20 win over Colorado.

    Watson was referring to Nebraska's power-heavy design and play selection of 40 runs and 14 passes.

    Nebraska did put together touchdown drives of 56 and 80 yards. In between; NU punted six times, fumbled once, missed a field goal and let time run out of the first half.

    It's not pretty, Watson said, but it is "managing a win." He used another Ohio State coach as a comparison in Jim Tressel, whose Buckeye teams consistently win the Big Ten crown, often with offenses that are less-than-dynamic. OSU is 69th in total offense this year, and 105th in passing offense.

    "It's such a fine line," Watson said. "It's a hard situation. We're young. You don't want to put the game in a quarterback's hands or the receivers' hands right yet."

    Just a true freshman named Rex Burkhead, who rushed 18 times for a career-high 100 yards vs. the Buffaloes. Burkhead was particularly crucial on NU's final touchdown drive, a 13-play, 80-yard march in which Burkhead carried the ball nine times for 55 yards and consistently fought for extra yards.

    "We determined to get it in," Burkhead said. "We needed it. It felt great. When the offensive line's doing a tremendous job up front, you're seeing the holes better. It feels good. Everyone was upbeat. The offensive line - they were focused. You could see the fire in their eyes."

    This, from a kid who broke his foot Oct. 12 and missed five games. Experience? Not much. Certainly less than most of NU's receivers or quarterback Zac Lee. Burkhead just delivered.

    "He's running really well," Watson said. "He's giving us a lot more thump. He's such an explosive runner. He finds holes. He finds seams."

    Burkhead's specialty on Friday was an inside zone run, a power play where the running back squeezes through a hole between the the guard and tackle, or cuts back into hole between the center and guard, or center and backside guard. Burkhead planted confidently on his previously broken foot, often choosing the cutback lane. Until his seven-yard touchdown run, that is, where he had a giant hole through which to blast.

    "It's a confidence booster," Burkhead said.

    Tags: shawn watson, rex burkhead, cu game

  17. 2009 Nov 27

    CU GAME: Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

    Players of the game and a report card from the Nebraska-Colorado game Saturday:

    OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Running back Rex Burkhead and Wide receiver Niles Paul. Burkhead ran much harder than the mercurial Roy Helu, and was rewarded with the game's clinching touchdown drive. Hopefully, Helu is bothered by that, and plays a little tougher vs. Texas. Paul, meanwhile, had two key grabs and a punt return for a touchdown. He's made big plays four of the last five games.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle. Took his game to “that” level in the second half; only a couple holding penalties kept Suh from two more sacks. When he decides to get relentless, he's pretty much unstoppable.


    QUARTERBACK: B- Nothing too offensive here, but Zac Lee botched the option play where he hurt his ankle, and overthrew Niles Paul on a sideline route. He manages the game OK, but he still takes some bad sacks. He doesn't escape very well – despite his speed. Can you imagine how good NU would be with even Tyler Hansen?

    RUNNING BACK: B Helu didn't play well. He lost a fumble, ran slow, and generally looked tenative. Burkhead, on the other hand, look every bit the bluechip recruit he was touted to be when arrived from Plano, Texas. Now you know why he was rushed back.

    WIDE RECEIVER: C Paul blew an easy reception for a first down. Otherwise, the unit wasn't that involved. Paul – and only Paul - played most of the game. Brandon Kinnie caught a pass. Those receivers must just be loving this offense.

    OFFENSIVE LINE/TIGHT ENDS: C+ Frankly, the offensive live did not play well until that key fourth-quarter drive. Penalties, missed blocks, a complete ignorance to the blitz, and now Jacob Hickman fudging on snaps. This is a hurt unit, true – but it's not a great unit. The tight ends were OK. Ben Cotton made a touchdown grab. He blocked well. Mike McNeill was mostly a non-factor.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: B This grade takes into account poor officiating, which missed two or three bad holding calls against Ndamukong Suh, Pierre Allen and Barry Turner. Generally, they battled OK, and chased Tyler Hansen around the park. Suh stepped up his game in the second half. Turner saved a first down in the first half by tackling Hansen. Crick deflected a pass that Suh should have intercepted.

    LINEBACKERS: D Sean Fisher overran several plays, while Will Compton and Phillip Dillard sometimes seemed to be attacking the same spot. CU should have isolated its running backs on NU's backers' more. They did play the screens fairly well.

    SECONDARY: C Hot and cold. Three interceptions, after all, is nothing at which to shake a stick. But they got burned for a few big plays, didn't tackle that well, and gave up the touchdown at the end of the game, too, Unacceptable.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: A Outstanding. The difference in the game. If Alex Henery makes the 50-yarder, it's an A+.

    COACHING/PLAYCALLING: C- Just wasn't “getting” the offense today. NU never tried to attack CU's safeties, rarely tried playaction, never rolled the pocket, never dared to do anything. Nebraska made Colorado's defense look much better than it really is. And with Shawn Watson's long explanation at the end of the game, you get the sense he's either apologizing for it or rationalizing it. The game management was OK.

    Tags: cu game, report card, ndamukong suh, rex burkhead

  18. 2009 Nov 27

    CU GAME: Not Ready to Mess with Texas


    By HuskerLocker

    Since we're still in Thanksgiving mode, go fetch that leftover gravy from the fridge, grab a juice glass, and pour the gravy to the halfway point.

    You already know the question, don't you?

    Do you view Nebraska's 9-3 season as a story of warts and imperfections on offense, amidst a Big 12 North bereft of consistency?

    Do you view it for its defensive triumphs, timely big plays on special teams, and the sudden emergence of Niles Paul as a clutch player?

    In other words: Should Nebraska be 7-5? Or 11-1?

    Or are you waiting to decide until after NU play Texas in the Big 12 Championship?

    I have a hunch that, during Nebraska's 28-20 win over Colorado, the first view prevailed. After all, that was Bo Pelini's point of view.

    “I thought we took a step back today,” he said.

    Bo's prone to fits of displeasure, though. (After all, NU played worse – and Bo coached a lemon – against CU last year.)

    But sometime Saturday afternoon, when you see ABC/ESPN pimping the Big 12 title game to death and you've seen the NU score scroll across the screen for the 100th time, the second emotion will kick in.

    And right about the time Mack Brown starts flapping his gums in a kindly-but-slightly-patronizing way toward NU, and Jordan Shipley's strumming his guitar, that third instinct will kick in.

    That's the life of a Nebraska fan. Frustration. Optimism. Motivation. Followed by visualization; that is, of NU somehow hoisting that trophy next Saturday night, right next to the lovely mug of TCU coach Gary Patterson, lobbying for a spot in the BCS National Championship game.

    Cornhusker fans typically find themselves above playing the spoiler. But, considering all the pain Texas has inflicted on this fan base since 1996, and considering the stranglehold the Longhorns hold on the league – wouldn't it be sweet rum?

    Yeah, thought so.

    Until then - seriously – which are you?

    The CU game – which never fails to irritatingly drag on into the night, often with the Buffaloes scrambling points – served as an excellent microcosm of the whole season. Sweet, sour, sweet and an ohjustgetitoverwith as a topper.

    Sweet: When it comes to field position, Nebraska has the best kicking duo in the country. Kicker/punter Alex Henery lives down the road in Moneyville. Kickoff specialist Adi Kunalic has shut down one good kickoff returner after another during the Big 12 season.

    Sour: Great teams don't typically count “kicker” as one of the team's MVPs. Henery is a terrific weapon; you simply wish Nebraska didn't have to use him so much.

    Sweet: NU's coverage schemes and techniques genuinely frustrate opposing quarterbacks. The Brothers Pelini force them to make excellent decisions on the fly. Most of them can't do it consistently.

    Sour: Colt McCoy, of course can. And he's mobile. And there's still too many penalties by the back seven. Larry Asante needs to watch it.

    Sweet: Ndamukong Suh battled double teams all day, played hard, and made several nice stops in the run game. Also had a sack. Can't argue with the play of the whole front four on Friday, really. A couple holding calls were missed.

    Sour: As run defenders, the Huskers pursue too aggressively, getting gashed as a result. In back-to-back weeks. Nebraska's linebackers, especially Sean Fisher, need to break down better when tackling.

    Sweet: When Nebraska needed a scoring drive, the offense delivered. NU put away Missouri, Kansas, KSU and CU in just this fashion.

    Sour: Watson has become stubbornly uncreative. The guy will not run a trick play. No reverses. No halfback passes. No wide receiver sweeps. He's stopped splitting out Roy Helu on pass patterns. He's stopped throwing screens to Helu or Rex Burkhead. No waggles. No rolling the pocket. No Wildcat. Zip. Bubkis. And no – it is not creative to line up in a “toss” look and then pull Ben Cotton toward the backside defensive tackle for a trap block.

    Hey - if you want Ron Brown to call the offense, then hand him the headset. At the very least, he'll dust off a few of TO's gadgets. Otherwise, design an offensive attack for the Texas game that does more than take up time. NU will need it. Texas is not Oklahoma.

    Ohgetitoverwith: Nebraska's defense, excellent as it is, tends to lose a little focus with a double-digit lead. To the Blackshirts' credit, they generally regain it around the goal line, but Colorado benefited from too many busts, too many easy yards, and poor discipline on blitzes and quarterback containment. The second half was a mess of mistakes.

    So – should Nebraska fans be satisfied with suitable progress? Or should they be like Pelini, grim and unhappy with anything less than perfection?

    Just be careful putting too many eggs in the Texas basket.

    Tags: cu game, shawn watson, bo pelini, niles paul, alex henery, adi kunalic, ndamukong suh, sean fisher

  19. 2009 Nov 27

    CU GAME: Huskers Escape Black Friday


    By HuskerLocker

    Two days before Nebraska was to play at Colorado, head coach Bo Pelini was blunt about his hopes for a result.

    “Get out of there with a win,” he said.

    And that's just about all the Cornhuskers did in a 28-20 victory over the Buffaloes that remained in doubt until the game's final four minutes, when NU cornerback Prince Amukamara picked off CU quarterback Tyler Hansen at the Huskers' goal line on fourth-and-20.

    Nebraska now heads to the Dec. 5 Big 12 Championship game to get its shot at undefeated Texas, which looked equally troubled in a 49-39 win over Texas A&M – a team, it's worth remembering, that Colorado beat 35-34.

    “A win is a win,” safety Larry Asante said. “We're not happy with how we won the game, but a win is a win. We just look forward to Sunday and getting the corrections in.”

    Yes 9-3 Nebraska gave 3-9 Colorado plenty of chances to overcome a 21-7 halftime deficit. CU sliced the lead to seven with a third-quarter touchdown, then politely declined the rest of NU's offers, missing two second-half field goals,succumbing to several penalties on the offensive line. The second miss from kicker Aric Goodman came with just over 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, as the Buffaloes trailed 21-14.

    The Huskers' early cushion – earned through Niles Paul's 59-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 20-yard interception return from Matt O'Hanlon – held up thanks to the ensuing drive, the Huskers' best of the day, a 13-play, 80-yard march that finished with a seven-yard touchdown from freshman Rex Burkhead, who carried the ball nine times for 55 yards on the drive, in relief of starter Roy Helu.

    Burkhead, who returned from a foot fracture last week, had the best game of his young career – 100 yards on 18 carries.

    Before that, Nebraska's offense was anemic, failing to punch much of a hole in Colorado's mediocre defense despite enjoying terrific field position throughout. It did score one first-half touchdown – a 24-yard toss from Zac Lee to tight end Ben Cotton – but offensive coordinator Shawn Watson stayed in ultra-conservative mode, running of out three and four-tight end sets, often the same plays, especially after Lee tweaked his ankle on an aborted option run. While NU chewed a good chunk of clock with that strategy, Alex Henery also had to punt six times.

    Fortunately, three of Henery's first four were beauties, and helped set up two of the Huskers' scores. He downed three punts at CU's 2, 7 and 13-yard line. On those three possessions, the Buffs punted twice – Paul returned one of them for the touchdown - and Hansen threw the pick to O'Hanlon.

    Hansen - who completed 21-of-44 passes for 269 yards, including a 56-yard hail mary to Scotty McKnight for a touchdown on the game's final play – frustrated NU's pass rush with his mobility and quick reflexes. He also threw the Pick Six, two more interceptions, and took an 18-yard intentional grounding penalty. Two of his 21 completions – the bomb to McKnight and a throwback to Markques Simas for 58 yards – accounted for nearly half of all Hansen's yards. For the game, CU outgained Nebraska 403-217.

    “It was attention to detail,” said Asante, who was flagged for another personal foul Friday. “We lost focus as a defense.”

    The success of CU's running game was an even greater concern. Running back Rodney Stewart (110 yards) gashed the Huskers' front seven several times, while Hansen got loose a few scrambles and zone read plays. NU played more base personnel – three linebackers, four defensive backs - than it had during the Big 12 season. CU's ability to run the zone read portends well for Texas, whose rarely-used rushing attack is almost solely comprised of that play.

    Oh yes – the Longhorns, who now stand at 12-0 after their narrow, sloppy win over the Aggies Thanksgiving night, when UT's normally excellent defense gave up more than 500 yards to a team that lost by 55 points to Oklahoma and 48 to Kansas State.

    Based on Friday night's performance, Nebraska isn't ready. But, then, NU and Texas aren't playing for a week.

    “We have to our best football we've played all year,” Asante said. “We have to play perfect defense, we have to play perfect offense. There can't be any mental lapses. We have to play our best football all year.”

    Tags: cu game, alex henery, niles paul, zac lee, matt ohanlon, bo pelini, tyler hansen

  20. 2009 Nov 27

    Podcast 11/26: Just Get Out of Boulder with a Win


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    Tags: podcasts, volleyball, bo pelini, cu game

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