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  1. 2009 Sep 07

    FAU VIDEO REVIEW: More Standouts and Mistakes


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    One last look at the FAU game through the lens of replaying all four quarters again. Go inside the numbers!

    Tags: fau game, fau week, video review

  2. 2009 Sep 07

    Husker Monday Review: Florida Atlantic


    By HuskerLocker

    Driving home Saturday night from Nebraska’s blowout 49-3 win over Florida Atlantic, I couldn’t help but think of another blowout win to kick off a season: NU’s 52-7 romp over Nevada in 2007.

    In both, the opponents’ reputations far exceeded their actual gameplans and execution. And both teams wilted in the second half against bigger, stronger NU.

    Nevada just stunk on offense, and admitted as much after the game. Florida Atlantic was more of a quandary.

    The Owls were supposed to be athletic and exciting; instead, their quarterbacks, Rusty Smith and Jeff VanCamp, played hot potato with the football, firing wild darts before their receivers even had time to look for the ball. Nary a trick play, or even a trick formation, from FAU. Smith looked jittery, nervous and slow. His backup was mysteriously inserted in the second quarter and just as mysteriously removed. Apparently FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger likes Smith to see a drive from the sidelines.

    At any rate, it was hard to get a read on Nebraska Saturday night. That’s part of the trouble with “directional” – or in the case of FAU, “oceanic” – opponents. Expect a better, stiffer test from FAU’s Sun Belt counterpart, Arkansas State.

    On with the review:

    Five Players We Loved

    Junior running back Roy Helu: A big back who still knows how to pick his way through holes and burst out the other end pulling away from defenders. If he can stay healthy, Helu’s big ride in 2009 is just beginning.

    Senior left guard Derek Meyer: The native Husker with a great story just moved to left guard a few weeks ago after working at right guard and right tackle for spring ball. Meyer wasn’t perfect, but he held up well, especially in pass protection. NU lacks great depth along the line, but Meyer was blue collar as advertised.

    Redshirt freshman linebacker Will Compton: He played nearly every defensive snap in the first three quarters, and fit right in. Compton had a busy night around the ball. He’ll only get smarter and better.

    Sophomore wide receiver Curenski Gilleylen: Two of his three catches were adventures, frankly – but he caught them. Gilleylen’s best play of the night, though, was a bone-crushing block to help spring Menelik Holt on his 28-yard touchdown catch-and-gallop.

    Senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh: Quick tackle for loss on the first drive, and he later saved a first down by peeling back on a screen pass and taking down FAU fullback Willie Rose one yard short.

    Special Mention - true freshman linebacker Eric Martin: His energy and enthusiasm on the game’s opening kickoff is precisely what that unit needs.

    Three Concerns We Still Have

    Again With The Penalties: Nine more to open the season, for 86 yards. Two personal fouls, two holding calls, a couple false starts. Sloppy.

    Not Enough Niles: Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson and wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore spent fall camp talking up the junior from Omaha. Well, fine: If he made plays in the practice, give him a chance to make them in the games. A reverse. A go route. Something. Gilleylen and Holt got most of the choice looks.

    Blocked Punt: Not the best thing to see two weeks before Virginia Tech.

    Reviewing the Five Keys

    KIDS: Watson tried to go right at FAU, but Helu found the corners of the defense an easier go. And if Roy can make it work, so be it.

    Truthfully, NU nicely blended some running staples of the West Coast Offense with some new counters, sweeps and even a veer play. The Huskers ran two options near the goal line. Neither worked very well, but Cody Green did score a 1-yard touchdown on his effort.

    36 inches: FAU’s quarterbacks spent the entire night avoiding Suh and the rest of NU’s front four, and got nothing in return for their cowardice. You get out what you put in, and the Owls didn’t physically or strategically challenge Nebraska’s defense.

    Attack Zac, Zac Attack: Once again, FAU was pretty tame in its blitzing of Lee. When the Owls did take a chance, Lee burned them with the touchdown pass to Gilleylen and a nice scramble for a first down. Lee wasn’t counted upon to win the game, but he held up nicely anyway.

    Young Guns: The youngsters on offense and defense were terrific. Big thumbs up to Compton and Sean Fisher, plus redshirt freshman Cameron Meredith, who played a lot at defensive end, and recovered a fumble. On offense, Cody Green and Rex Burkhead both had their moments.

    The Specials: Net wash here. Even with the blocked punt, NU’s net punting average was only one yard worse than FAU’s The Huskers did well on kickoff returns and kickoff coverage. Adi Kunalic booted two touchbacks, and a couple more bombs into the end zone were unwisely returned.

    Three Questions We Still Have

    Can NU get its goal-line package honed for game two? The Huskers used a couple fourth-down plays for touchdowns, but it shouldn’t have taken that long. Was Watson holding off on his pass packages to pound the ball on the ground? Probably.

    How much better is Nebraska’s defense against the spread? We’ll find out when Arky State rolls into Lincoln. FAU’s pro-style attack wasn’t much of a problem.

    Does Keith Williams return soon? Nebraska’s most skilled offensive lineman helps especially in the running game.

    Tags: husker monday review, fau game, fau week, ndamukong suh, derek meyer, eric martin, will compton, roy helu, shawn watson, niles paul

  3. 2009 Sep 06

    RECRUITING: Texas DB Commits to NU


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    An official visit for Nebraska’s season-opening win over Florida Atlantic was enough to convince one Texas defensive back to verbally take a spot in NU’s 2010 recruiting class.

    Harvey Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound safety from Missouri City, Texas, selected NU over a host of Big 12 schools, Arizona and Arizona State, two recruiting services confirmed Sunday. Jackson had offers from Missouri, Oklahoma State and Baylor, among other schools.

    Jackson was recruited primarily by Mike Ekekler. He is the sixth verbal commitment to NU’s 2010 class, which figures to be small – possibly no bigger than 15 players.

    What do we think of Harvey Jackson? Click here.

    Tags: recruiting, harvey jackson, fau game, fau week

  4. 2009 Sep 06

    NU/FAU Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

    Offensive Player of the Game: Roy Helu. A dazzling third quarter performance. Helu makes for a challenging interview – eccentric and mercurial are two words that come to mind – but he’s quicksilver on the field. He gained more than 100 of 152 yards pretty much on his own.

    Defensive Player of the Game: Will Compton. No Husker had more stacked on his shoulders for Saturday’s game than Compton, who essentially played every snap for the first three quarters. He responded effectively and instinctively, and spent much of the night prowling around the ball.


    Quarterback B+ Zac Lee managed the Huskers well after a shaky first-quarter start; he made several excellent throws downfield...and also one he’d like to take back. Let’s see what he does against a real pass rush. He didn’t look as composed or calm as Joe Ganz last night. But he did look more athletic. Cody Green's 49-yard run on a zone read was the best quarterback run we’ve seen around here since Jammal Lord.

    Running back B+ Helu and Rex Burkhead got the bulk of the carries, and while they missed a hole here or there, you can’t argue with the overall body of work. Tyler Legate logged significant snaps at fullback, but didn’t blow us away with his blocking at the goal line.

    Wide receiver B A couple drops by Meno Holt and Mike McNeill (who is essentially functioning as a wide receiver) but a nice breakout night Curenski Gilleylen. Where was Niles Paul? If he's making plays all over in practice, you have to actually throw him one or two deep balls in the game. That's how good wide receivers earn their bacon.

    Offensive Line/Tight Ends C+ Not having Keith Williams available hurt, and Derek Meyer filled in with effort and toughness. But the Huskers, frankly, missed some blocks, had some false start penalties and loafed a little to the line of scrimmage. Their pilot light needs to go on at opening kickoff, and stay lit.

    Defensive Line B+ Better than the numbers might indicate. FAU wanted no part of that front four, and its quarterbacks spent most of the night running away, or throwing off their back foot. Ndamukong Suh made a lot of little plays, including a downfield tackle on a screen play that saved a first down – and possibly a touchdown.

    Linebackers A Given their inexperience, what an excellent night for Compton, Sean Fisher and Blake Lawrence. They covered well, pursued well and tackled well. A proper, effective debut.

    Defensive backs B A pretty fair night on the back end, with two interceptions and a glut of tackles. The Huskers didn’t let much get behind them. It was the best the secondary has looked since the Iowa State game in 2008.

    Special teams C A partially blocked punt was a disappointment, and Paul took a pretty big injury risk on a punt return, drawing a penalty for his courage. We still don’t think much of Paul as a kickoff returner. Nebraska needs to get a little more daring with its return choices.

    Coaching/Game Management B Some sloppiness in getting to the line of scrimmage and getting set on defense is to be expected, we suppose. The offense got a little cute at times with the shifts and audibles. Bo Pelini wisely kept the defense vanilla and let a cautious, conservative Florida Atlantic play itself out of contention. Which it did in the third quarter.

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    Tags: fau game, fau week, roy helu, will compton

  5. 2009 Sep 06

    FAU GAME: Cody Green Audio


    By HuskerLocker

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    Post-game audio from Nebraska backup quarterback Cody Green

    Tags: cody green, locker pass, podcasts, fau game, fau week

  6. 2009 Sep 06

    FAU GAME: Shawn Watson Post-Game Audio


    By HuskerLocker

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    Tags: locker pass, podcasts, shawn watson, fau game, fau week

  7. 2009 Sep 06

    5 Best Defensive Plays


    By HuskerLocker

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    The five best defensive plays of the game. Access with a Locker Pass! A 30-day free trial!

    Tags: fau week, fau game, locker pass

  8. 2009 Sep 06

    5 Best Offensive Plays


    By HuskerLocker

    Check out the five best offensive plays of the game with a 30-day free trial of the Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: fau game, fau week

  9. 2009 Sep 06

    FAU GAME: Owls Suffer 'Trip to the Woodshed'


    By HuskerLocker

    Howard Schnellenberger, never at a loss for words, had plenty of them to describe Nebraska’s 49-3 win over Florida Atlantic.

    But his most pointed comment might have been aimed at NU.

    “I think it's a team that has about the best coach that I've been around lately,” Schnellenberger said of Bo Pelini. “I think they have some very good players, but I don't think they're overly talented.”

    The FAU coach, who spent much of last week hyping up the Cornhuskers, found them in person to be a “sum of the parts that is a lot greater than the individual talent they have.”

    “And that’s a compliment,” Schnellenberger said. “It's not to take anything away from them. They play hard, they run hard, they block hard, they tackle hard, and they're a very physical football team.”

    The 0-1 Owls, meanwhile, did not and were not. They withered toward the end of the first half, and came out dead flat in the third quarter.

    “It's a very bitter loss for us,” Schnellenberger said. “It's the first one that I've had with this program that is tougher to handle than others, because I expected more out of this football team at this juncture.”

    FAU’s secondary couldn’t tackle. There was virtually no quarterback pressure on NU’s Zac Lee. The Owls’ experienced receiving corps didn’t sufficiently challenge Nebraska’s secondary, resulting in drops and rounded-off routes.

    “The ball hits you in the hands, you’re on scholarship to catch the ball, catch it,” said quarterback Rusty Smith.

    Smith wasn’t any easier on his performance. He finished 15-of-31 for 164 yards and two interceptions.

    “I’d give myself an F,” Smith said. “Two interceptions, completely unacceptable. One of them was a bad decision. The first one I threw was a jump ball. I should never have even thought about throwing that football. To be honest with you, I don’t know why I threw it. I just know that I’m better than I played tonight.”

    To negate the Huskers’ pass rush, FAU turned to quick passing plays and designed rollouts. But rarely were Owl receivers open two plays in a row, and Smith often fired wide or high of his target. His second interception, caught by NU’s Prince Amukamara, was thrown five yards inside of his intended receiver.

    And while Florida Atlantic occasionally had success running the ball – Alfred Morris banged out 85 yards – NU shut it down inside the red zone.

    The defensive players were slightly more optimistic – defense at FAU is more of a pastime than a passion anyway – but Schnellenberger estimated that 300 of NU’s 490 yards came after contact, a sign, to him, of toughness. Smith blamed the offense for leaving the defense out there too much.

    In the fourth quarter, NU nearly added injury to insult when Schnellenberger was knocked down on the sidelines. Schenellenberger said he became a “rag doll” and played “possum,” and thus wasn’t too badly hurt.

    In fact, he was in strong enough spirits to ensure reporters there’d be some element of hell for FAU’s players and coaches to pay for such an ugly performance.

    “So we go back to Boca, get in there about five or six in the morning,” he said. “I've instructed them to go home and get sleep, that's going to be their day off. My staff and I will go back and get enough sleep to carry us through the next two days, because the next two days are going to be very difficult for our football program.”

    Tags: fau week, fau game, howard schnellenberger, rusty smith

  10. 2009 Sep 06

    FAU GAME: NU Win Mostly Sweet, A Little Sour


    By HuskerLocker

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    If you could draw up an ideal season-opener for Nebraska’s football team, well, you got it. A romp over Florida Atlantic. Plenty of excitement on offense - most of it courtesy of junior running...

    Tags: fau game, fau week, will compton, sean fisher, zac lee, cody green, rex burkhead, bo pelini, barney cotton, shawn watson

  11. 2009 Sep 06

    FAU GAME: Helu, Huskers Hammer Owls


    By HuskerLocker

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    For one game, at least, the kids are all right. And Roy Helu, Jr. is nothing short of electrifying.

    Nebraska’s young, relatively untested football team took its occasional lumps in the first half of its season-opener vs. Florida Atlantic. But the 1-0 Cornhuskers delivered twice as many early blows in forging a 21-3 halftime lead over the Owls.

    And then they turned it over to Helu, the junior running back who thrilled the 85,719 fans at Memorial Stadium Saturday night with a five-carry, 95-yard, two-touchdown flurry early in the third quarter.

    The result was a 49-3 win that left the Nebraska fans fat and happy, the youngest pups flush with a full quarter of experience and head coach Bo Pelini with a list of improvements before playing Arkansas State next Saturday.

    “We got to play a lot of guys, but I also found that out we have a lot of work to do,” Pelini said. “We were sloppy at times and not real crisp, but that’s to be expected in the opener.”

    FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger called the game “a trip to the woodshed.” He intimated that his team would be taking its day off on the plane ride home.

    “(Nebraska) put it into overdrive, and I asked our guys to put it into overdrive, and we didn't have enough juice in the tank,” he said. “So it's a very bitter loss for us. It's the first one that I've had with this program that is tougher to handle than others, because I expected more out of this football team at this juncture.”

    Junior quarterback Zac Lee held up nicely in his first start, throwing for 213 yards and two touchdowns. Helu finished with 152 yards and three touchdowns on just 16 carries. Both of them warmed up in the second quarter, as the Huskers’ offensive line – missing starting left guard Keith Williams - found more rhythm. Nebraska also struggled, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said, with “breaking huddle,” a problem that was resolved at halftime.

    Although NU only outgained FAU by 41 yards in the first half, it capitalized on good field position, hit one big play – a 51-yard touchdown pass from Lee to sophomore Curenski Gilleylen - and executed one old-school, back-breaking drive late in the second quarter to ice the game. Lee engineered the 15-play, 82-yard, seven-minute touchdown match, which Helu finished off with a one-yard dive on fourth-and-goal.

    “Roy was saying ‘We got them, we got them,’” Lee said of the touchdown. “It was good to pound the ball in. “Our line did a great job there blowing them out.”

    Helu was the star of the second half diving for one seven-yard score, then cracking off runs of 14, 28 and 44 yards, almost out of thin air, the last of which was a dazzling touchdown to put the Huskers up 35-3. Helu started on a counter to his left, jab-stepped back to his right, ran back around Lee, darted upfield and outran every FAU defender the goal line.

    “I misread the block,” joked Helu, decked in a post-game Panama hat and three giant candy leis of taffy and Tootsie Rolls. “…then Zac Lee was in the way, so I ran past him. And just ran, I guess.”

    NU tacked on two more touchdowns, an eight-yard run from Rex Burkhead and one-yard run from Cody Green. In total, the Huskers amassed 490 yards and went 4-for-4 inside the red zone. The offense also converted two fourth-and-goal situations. Lee threw an interception midway through the third quarter.

    “The type of offense we’re trying to become, you saw in the third quarter,” Helu said.

    Nebraska’s defense got a spirited, if uneven, performance from its linebackers and secondary, which caused three turnovers and allowed only a field goal despite giving up 358 yards and 22 first downs.

    The linebackers, led by junior Blake Lawrence and redshirt freshmen Will Compton and Sean Fisher, spent much of the warm evening around FAU ball carriers.

    “That linebacking corps, it’s like they were veterans,” said defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who finished with seven tackles.

    The preseason All-American didn’t sniff a sack, and the secondary got plenty of work, as Florida Atlantic quarterbacks Rusty Smith and Jeff VanCamp threw the ball so quickly – and often errantly – that NU’s front four had little chance to get pressure. But senior Matt O’Hanlon and junior Prince Amukamara both scored picks off of Smith, who completed just 15 of 31 passes for 164 yards. O’Hanlon had another nullified by a roughing-the-passer penalty, and the Huskers dropped at least two more.

    “I’d give myself an F,” Smith said.

    Tags: fau game, fau week, roy helu, zac lee, bo pelini, howard schnellenberger, matt ohanlon

  12. 2009 Sep 04

    RECRUITING: Weekend Visitors...Monday Commits?


    By HuskerLocker

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    Two NU visitors might just say yes after seeing the Husker game experience. Who are they, and what do we think of them? Find out with our recruiting podcast!

    Tags: recruiting, podcasts, locker pass, fau week

  13. 2009 Sep 04

    Guess The Score! NU-FAU!


    By HuskerLocker

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    Our weekly guess-the-score feature returns for the football season! Yah!

    OK, so we're expanding the game a little bit this year, and asking for you to predict three things:

    1. The Score
    2. Offensive MVP
    3. Defensive MVP

    Our prediction:

    We weighed two factors in arriving at a score:

    Just how well do Bo Pelini defenses typically fare against straight pro-style offenses? Pretty well, especially if the quarterback is forced to stay in the pocket. Only Oklahoma's Sam Bradford really picked NU apart last year without being mobile or in a classic spread offense, and he did that behind a terrific offensive live, at home, with no huddle, and the benefit of three straight turnovers. Rusty Smith has few, if any, of those advantages.

    How conservative will NU keep the gameplan? We think it'll stay pretty vanilla after the first quarter. Nebraska should be able to run right at FAU. That'll eat yards in smaller chunks and the clock in larger ones.

    As a result, we think the game will be a little lower scoring than predicted, much like last year's New Mexico State game. The score there was 38-7. We'll take 34-7 Nebraska in this one.

    Our offensive MVP: Roy Helu
    Our defensive MVP: Barry Turner

    If you haven't signed up and want to play, just sign up here for free! It only takes a few seconds!

    Tags: fau week, guess the score

  14. 2009 Sep 04

    FAU WEEK: Five More Keys


    By HuskerLocker

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    More in-depth keys zeroing in on the crucial touchpoints of the NU vs. FAU tilt. Analysis you just have to have!

    Tags: five more keys, fau week, locker pass

  15. 2009 Sep 04

    FAU WEEK: Five Keys


    By HuskerLocker

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    Here come the Hooters.

    (And if you didn’t think that was coming, you don’t know our Five Keys very well).

    In roughly the last 20 years, Nebraska has chosen to make its season opening opponent, with a few exceptions (1994, 1996, 2002 and 2003 among them) soft, fruit-filled pastries to enjoy on a late summer day. The names – San Jose State, Western Illinois, Maine, Florida Atlantic – change, but the games they inspire do not.

    Oh, there is this nugget of fear right until kickoff. Is this the year the Cornhuskers come out flat? Then the Memorial Stadium crowd leans in, the opponent makes a bonehead play, and it’s time to look for the kid selling Runzas. Even the Fallen Team of 2007 knew how to cut a pound of flesh from Nevada.

    Take last year. First quarter. Western Michigan sets up a perfect trick play, WMU quarterback Tim Hiller steps to throw the easiest touchdown pass he’ll ever toss, and he forgets the ball. Just plum slips out of his hand. You couldn’t dream it up.

    But this is what happens to non-major conference programs at the beginning of the year. By midseason 2008, when Illinois had already been beaten down a little by injuries and losses, and Western Michigan had some confidence, the Broncos rolled into Champaign and scored an upset.

    Six weeks from now, FAU would be a more dangerous team than it is today. As it stands, we call the Owls a funny name. Beyond that, we preach respect. And, as such, a full, in-depth five keys to kick off 2009.

    KIDS: That’s short for: Keep It Downhill, Shawn. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson is much smarter than we are at this playcalling gig, so we figure he can already tell that Florida Atlantic’s defense will eventually crack under the weight and strength of Nebraska’s physical offensive line. Maybe not on the first drive. Maybe not even in the first quarter. But eventually. FAU can only stunt and guess its way into the right defense so many times, right?

    Quentin Castille would have been a perfect fit for a game like this, because smaller defenses loathe tackling a load like Q. In Castille’s permanent absence, might NU use some heavier sets, some double tight end packages? Can Nebraska so easily vacillate between power and shotgun spread? We’ll see.

    Our long-term concern is the durability of Roy Helu. He’s never been in better shape, and he’s not the kind to beg out of a game. But he has been the kind who’s had to miss a practice or two the following week because of a pull, strain or tweak. There hasn’t been a running back alive who didn’t play with little hurts after the first game, for the rest of a given season. But Nebraska’s coaches need to give their prized junior just enough of a break to keep him away from nagging problems.

    If that means a little more Rex Burkhead in weeks one and two, so be it. Burkhead could use the work. Know this: Helu’s money time is in October and November. September is the rehearsal.

    36 inches: That’s about the distance separating the facemask of FAU quarterback Rusty Smith from the helmet of Nebraska nose tackle Ndamukong Suh. At least when Smith is under center.

    If Florida Atlantic has any chance Saturday, Smith must win the battle between those two players. Yes, between them.

    Good quarterbacks don’t hide behind an offensive line all night. Smith can’t and won’t expect his center to stuff Suh every time; it won’t happen. He can’t expect double teams all night, either. Smith and his coaches have to develop a quick rhythm passing game that stares right into the face of the Big 12’s baddest man and throws right over his head. If the Owls spend all night trying to scheme away from Suh, or run around him, the plan will fall to pieces.

    As for Suh – if he makes a blowup tackle or a big sack on the opening series or two, the Memorial Stadium crowd will lose its collective head and suck much of the energy out of the Owls. One memorable quality about Grant Wistrom, the last NU defensive lineman of this magnitude: He knew how to say hello on the first drive.

    Attack Zac, Zac Attack: When a defense is overmatched, as FAU’s most certainly is, the coordinator is wise to narrow down the number of players who can beat his crew.

    If the Owls’ strength is coverage, for example, and NU has relatively inexperienced wide receivers catching passes from a very inexperienced quarterback, the logic flows like this: Put eight guys in the box, dare NU quarterback Zac Lee to throw deep balls into one-on-one coverage, and dare the Huskers’ receivers to do something about it.

    "He's new and we want to test him, but to do that we have to make them put it in the air," FAU cornerback Torvoris Hill said.

    Western Michigan tried that last year, and Joe Ganz smoked the Broncos with a 61-yard touchdown bomb to Nate Swift that put away WMU for good. Baylor tried the same strategy to nullify Nebraska’s quick WR screen game. Once again, Ganz found Swift behind the coverage for a 60-yard backbreaker of a touchdown.

    Just because it burned Western Michigan and BU, doesn’t mean FAU shouldn’t try it. After all, Lee could crumble under the pressure. We doubt it – he’s got more physical skills than Ganz - but he could. Or Nebraska’s receivers, unaccustomed to running deep routes, might not be up for the challenge.

    Either way, Nebraska should expect an eight-man box. An option game can loosen it up. A properly timed zone read can, too. Or perhaps, when FAU picks its poison, Lee turns out to be more toxic than the Owls expected.

    Young Guns: Great movies, weren’t they? No, they weren’t, but Lou Diamond Phillips was in both of them. Lou also made a movie called “Sioux City,” set in, you guessed it – Nebraska? Apparently “South Sioux City” didn’t make the cut as a title.

    We digress.

    Nebraska’s roster is stuffed with freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores, many of whom are “Bo guys” he either recruited, or found toiling as walk-ons (Lance Thorell and Mathew May fit this bill).

    The youngest of these will make mistakes Saturday. That’s not a specific indictment on them. That’s the nature of football. New guys screw up in their first handful of games, and hopefully they’re athletic enough to adjust on the fly. There probably hasn’t been a more dominant true freshman in NU’s history than Ahman Green, but the prevailing opinion upon his arrival was “Well, he’s no Lawrence Phillips.” Even though, two years later, he was most certainly was.

    The Specials: We tend to harp on special teams quite a bit around here, and it’s for reason: It’s a hidden, often misunderstood component of the game that should be won, game in and game out, by the bigger, deeper program.
    In the NFL, of course, mandatory roster sizes balance it out. But in college, home teams – especially home teams in major conferences – have the distinct advantage of using athletic specialists (talented redshirt freshmen like Alonzo Whaley and P.J. Smith, useful walk-ons like Wes Cammack, gunners like Rickey Thenarse) where Sun Belt teams are forced to use starters.

    So, fatigue, execution and field position becomes an issue. Throw in Nebraska punter/kicker Alex Henery, and NU should be able to create 7-10 points (directly or indirectly) off of this advantage alone.

    See also: Guess The Score!

    Tags: five keys, fau week, zac lee, bo pelini, ndamukong suh, rusty smith, alex henery, roy helu, rex burkhead, shawn watson

  16. 2009 Sep 03

    LP Practice Report 9/3: Depth Chart Notes


    By HuskerLocker

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    Notes and takes as we wind up the week heading into Florida Atlantic: *If Nebraska can get away with not playing Keith Williams on Saturday, look for Williams to sit. He’s too important to lose...

    Tags: locker pass, fau week

  17. 2009 Sep 03

    FAU WEEK: 'Pretty Crisp'


    By HuskerLocker

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    After a slow start to this week’s slate of practices, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini Thursday declared the last half of them quite successful as NU gears up for Saturday’s game vs. Florida Atlantic.

    “Pretty sharp,” Pelini said. “Pretty crisp. The communication was good. Thought we finished off the physical aspect of the week well…it’s about time we find out how far we’ve come, and move on from there.”

    That’s a contrast to Monday and Tuesday, when the Cornhuskers “reverted back to our old ways” in terms of our mental execution. After holding a few extra sessions in Tuesday’s practice, Pelini said Nebraska got it cleaned up significantly on Wednesday and Thursday.

    Friday’s walk-through will be more of a “mental day,” Pelini said. And the 6 p.m. kickoff Saturday gives NU plenty of time to wait around and watch football before heading to the stadium.

    “I’m not a real big fan of the early, early kickoffs,” Pelini said. “But it doesn’t matter. Some of those things aren’t in our control.”

    With the release of Nebraska’s depth chart having a ton of “ORs” on it, expect a number of Huskers to play on Saturday, as competition throughout fall camp has been strong, Pelini said.

    “Our intention is to play a number of guys, especially in the area where we don’t have a lot of experience,” Pelini said. “And find out who the guys are. We kinda rep the guys equally. It’ll be fun to watch Saturday.”

    Also worth watching: Whether junior left guard Keith Williams is able to play with an undisclosed injury. Williams was not in half pads on Thursday.

    “Maybe, maybe not,” Pelini said. “I would think so. I expect he’ll be ready to go.”


    *Pelini said NU kicker Alex Henery will be NU’s punter for the first game. “He won the job,” Pelini said.

    *The coach had no idea whether Nebraska would shake the hands of Florida Atlantic’s players before the game, as recommended by the American Football Coaches Association for the purpose of sportsmanship.

    Not that Pelini is against sportsmanship. He sounded Thursday as if the issue hadn’t crossed his mind. Why would it for any coach?

    “I’ll shake hands with them after the game,” Pelini said. “I don’t know. I always shake hands – I haven’t thought about it, to be honest with you.”

    *Other than losing, what’s Pelini’s biggest fear for Saturday?

    “That I get kicked out of the game,” he said. He was joking – sorta. “Then I’d have trouble at home.”

    Tags: fau week, bo pelini

  18. 2009 Sep 03

    FAU WEEK: Lead Owl


    By HuskerLocker

    Quarterbacks get cocky. Even in the Sun Belt Conference.

    That’s where Florida Atlantic’s Rusty Smith found himself at the beginning of last year. That’s where all of the Owls were, frankly. Coming off its first bowl win in 2007, the bunch coached by Howard Schnellenberger – who never lacked for confidence himself – were ready to take a bite out of college football and crash the BCS party.

    Sound ridiculous? Oh, it was.

    “A lot of us were probably way too arrogant, way too cocky,” Smith said. “We stuck our foot in our mouths a couple times.”
    FAU promptly lost to Texas 52-10, Michigan State 17-0 and Minnesota 37-3. Smith separated his non-throwing shoulder against the Horns. The Owls were rudely tossed off BCS property, and Smith, who’s been on the NFL’s radar for nearly two years, completed just 45 of 112 pass attempts in those three games, playing “the worst game of my life” in the Metrodome, throwing four interceptions.

    “That’s something we definitely learned our lesson about,” Smith said. “I really don’t want our team to experience that again.”

    Smith, who enters his third season as FAU’s starter, speaks like a man hardened and improved by tough experiences. In his short session with the media, Smith is reflective and honest, with a deep, philosophical voice like his head coach. He sounds like a man who’s learned things.

    He’s the “Jim Kelly” of the Owls’ program, Schnellenberger said, referring to the NFL Hall-of-Famer who kept the Hurricanes’ program alive in the late 1970s. Smith is just as ready, too, as Kelly, or Bernie Kosar, for the next step.

    “I expect him to be as well prepared to be a quarterback in the NFL as anybody will be,” Schnellenberger said.

    The 6-foot-5, 212-pounder was “ignored” by larger programs out of high school before Schnellenberger found him. He spent a year on the scout team. He led FAU out of Division 1-AA and into the Sun Belt. He learned in his first start at Clemson – a 54-6 loss – to make sure he doesn’t pack his IPod and headphones for any game, home or away.

    “I psyched myself out,” Smith said. He walked on the floor of Death Valley and let that noise and energy of 80,000 folks in orange zoom right to his spine. “It got to me a lot. I won’t lie.”

    Smith and his favorite receivers – Cortez Gent, Jason Harmon and Jamari Grant – have “grown up together.” Smith can fondly recall the game, in 2007, when he and Gent – whom Smith calls “Snoop” – first had that sixth sense near the goal line. Smith saw the coverage. Gent saw it, too. With just a look, Gent worked the route and Smith threw the touchdown.

    I knew you were going to do that, Gent told Smith. And I knew you were going to do that, Smith told Gent.

    And yet, in 2008, the machine wasn’t clicking. Gent, and others, dropped passes. FAU’s all-league tight end, Jason Harmon, missed the season with injuries. The normally-strong running game was slow to kick start. The Owls were on the wrong end of the turnover battle.

    In a way, it girded Smith and his teammates for the Sun Belt slate. The Owls became “blue collar” again, Smith said, a team that “earns everything it gets.” The offense turned a corner. Smith healed, and started locating receivers again.
    It culminated in a nifty run at the end of 2008; after a 1-5 start, FAU finished 6-1, with a 24-17 upset win in the Motor City Bowl over Central Michigan. For the year, Smith threw for 3,224 yards and 24 touchdowns.

    “It was a really bad first six games,” Smith said. “For me, now, looking back on it, I can see what I was doing wrong. Just the experience of being down and not playing real well, and being able to overcome it.”

    So even though the Owls burned NU’s “N” flag at a pep rally last week – a fairly common annual routine for the program - they’ve kept a much lower profile before this season-opener.

    For Smith, that’ll be hard to do once he takes the field Saturday. NFL scouts, on hand in part to watch NU defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, will also be there to assess Smith. Nebraska’s defense will be one of the best he faces in 2009.

    “I’ve never really thought about it, so thank you for putting more pressure on me,” Smith said, half-joking, half-not. “It’s something I’m just going to have to handle. Try not to think about it.”

    Tags: rusty smith, fau week, howard schnellenberger

  19. 2009 Sep 03

    LP SCOUTING REPORT: Florida Atlantic


    By HuskerLocker

    Here’s our weekly in-depth opponent scouting report. The best around. Concise, accurate and definitive. Because you don’t need every name. You need to the essence of the game. And we give it to you!

    Tags: fau week, howard schnellenberger, rusty smith, alfred morris, willie rose, chris bonner, cortez gent, jamari grant, tavious polo

  20. 2009 Sep 03

    Podcast 9/3: The Talented No. 94


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    Tags: podcasts, jared crick, ndamukong suh, carl pelini, fau week

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