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  1. 2011 Dec 04

    COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Knee-Jerk Reactions - Championship Week


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - No one should suggest that Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin’s head was in the CUSA Championship Game. Feel kinda bad for Case Keenum if no one else.

    - LSU is the epitome of sportsmanship. What other team spots their opponent two scores before smashing their skulls in?

    - It was impressive how Oklahoma State took down Oklahoma with the subtlety and grace of a Viking raid.

    - If you told someone that the ACC Championship Game would be 10-10 at the half before one team outscores the other 28-0, they’d likely believe you. If you told them it would be Clemson instead of Virginia Tech, you’d likely be 100 dollars richer.

    - Despite the heart-breaking loss to Kansas State, Paul Rhodes is the best thing to happen to Iowa State since the Morrill Act of 1862.

    - Thought Wisconsin would get revenge on Michigan State. Didn’t think the score would be so close.

    - Badgers running back Montee Ball for Heisman

    - Baylor is 9-3? Clearly college football has ripped open time and space allowing the sport to be swallowed by a separate time rift in which Waco demands only the finest of athletic specimen.

    - Seriously, quarterback Robert Griffin III for Heisman (RG3 if you’re nasty)

    - Still lobbying for the MAC to get a BCS berth over the Big East. You know it’s the right thing to do.

    - Final Bowl Prediction of the Week: Outback vs. South Carolina

    Follow Brandon on Twitter: @eightlaces
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    Tags: houston, lsu, oklahoma state, clemson, virginia tech, kansas state, iowa state, paul rhodes, wisconsin, montee ball, heisman, baylor, robert griffin, south carolina

  2. 2011 Oct 21

    COLLEGE FOOTBALL: A Look Around the Nation - Week Eight


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brian Towle

    Week eight has arrived with the Halloween season (and Christmas decorations BAH HUMBUG), and everyone’s conference season is in full tilt. The BCS standings are out, and bowl bids are starting to be sized up. Lets take a look at the ups and downs from last week -


    Michigan State: A nice little upset at home versus the Wolverines. Can’t say that anyone needed to be punched, though.

    Oklahoma State: Did a good job taking care of business against Texas. Keep working towards Bedlam.

    Clemson: What a comeback against Maryland! The Tigers can’t afford to live on luck every game, though.

    Oregon: No LaMichael James and a hurting Darron Thomas? No problem! However, the quicker they can get healthier, the better.


    Indiana: A bad loss to Wisconsin, and just a hint of advice: Don’t kick punts into the butt of your personal protector.

    Michigan: Live by Denard, die by Denard. The defense lived up to expectation, but the offense…meh!

    Georgia Tech: a loss to Virginia? Really?

    Kansas: Congratulations, you covered the spread! A moral victory!

    Texas, Maryland, Iowa State, Arizona State and Florida:

    And now here’s something we think you’ll really like (all times Central):

    No. 20 Auburn at No. 1 LSU – (2:30 PM Saturday, CBS)

    The LSU/CBS network carries the Battle in the Bayou between Gene Chizik’s Tigers against Les Miles and his Ragin’ Cajun Tigers. As for Auburn, they earned a well-fought victory against Florida last week, while LSU decapitated Tennessee in Knoxville.

    The main focus of this game is the suspension of three LSU players, most notably starting Safety Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu. Even with one of their better safeties out, the Bayou Bengals shouldn’t have an issue with the anemic Auburn offense. Look for Les’ group to have the most fun between the two Tiger teams on Saturday afternoon.

    No. 6 Wisconsin at No. 16 Michigan State (7:00 PM Saturday, ESPN)

    Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson and the high octane Badger offense (that’s odd to type, to be honest with you) roll into East Lansing for a primetime night game. They’ll face the best defense on their schedule thus far as Sparty tries to ride a wave of momentum after defeating Michigan.

    This is the first time all season that Wilson will be tested outside the friendly confines of Camp Randall. He has to pass this test to get people to believe in both the Badgers as true national title contenders and himself as a legitimate Heisman contender. Something has to give between the FBS’ highest scoring offense and the No. 4 scoring defense.

    Don’t forget that the team which plays the most complete game usually wins these high-profile affairs. Michigan State can’t score enough points to outdistance Wisconsin, but don’t be surprised if the final score is much closer than you think. Over The last few years, Michigan State has made a living by winning nighttime Big Ten games at home that most think they shouldn’t

    No. 25 Washington at No. 8 Stanford – (7:00 PM Saturday, ABC)

    It’s "Sark Week" in Northern California as the Huskies go down to Napa Valley to take on Andrew Luck and the undefeated Cardinal. Luck has been rolling along this year, while Keith Price has been a pleasant surprise as Jake Locker’s replacement for Washington. The only loss of their season was in Lincoln earlier this year.

    Stanford is the most complete team in the Pac-12 right now with both the offense and defense ranking No. 5th in the FBS, a model of efficiency. Washington has been good on offense, but they give up 28 points per game. That’s not what you to throw at Andrew Luck. Stanford takes this one in a high-scoring bout.

    Other games to keep an eye for this week include:

    No. 4 Oklahoma State at Missouri – A big time upset alert. That said, Mizzou can’t even sell this game out?

    No. 9 Arkansas at Ole Miss – Bobby Petrino’s gang wants more blood and the Rebels are hemorrhaging it.

    No. 22 Georgia Tech at Miami (FL) – The Yellow Jackets were embarrassed by Virginia. They’ll be going against a Miami squad that can fall asleep at times.

    No. 10 Oregon at Colorado – How will the Ducks fair in the altitude minus both LaMichael James and maybe Derron Thomas?

    Tennessee at No. 2 Alabama – The Crimson Tide needs to find consistent some offense before LSU, and if you don’t think so, Saban could give…well, he doesn’t care.

    Coaches on the Hot Seat:

    Bob Toledo, Tulane - WHOOPSIE. Apparently when you’re 15-40 over your career with the Green Wave, it’s time to call it a legacy (if you can). It’s hard not to feel for Tulane.

    With the effects of Hurricane Katrina still taking their toll on the school’s athletic department, there’s not much that can be done. Barely getting 10,000 people per game in the Superdome and having LSU/Louisiana-Lafayette winning doesn’t help either.

    Turner Gill, Kansas and Houston Nutt, Ole Miss – We put these two together not because they are joined at any coaching hip, nor do we think that either school will win this week.

    We're putting them together because no matter how many losses Houston or Turner will end up with this year, there is a good possibility that both coaches will not be fired at the end of the year.

    Both have buyouts that are pretty hefty and it will take a lot of money being ponied up to get them to hit the road. For Gill, this saves him for another year. Kansas has shown time and time again they don’t know how to run a football program. However, for Ole Miss, there’s a far better chance that some wealthy booster can put up the money necessary.

    Nutt only has one year left on his deal after this season, though. For the Rebels’ program, it’s simply a question of if they want to pay the penalty as opposed to lose one more season to a guy that has shown he has no clue.

    Jeff Tedford, Cal – Utah is pretty similar to the Golden Bears and has the same record. That does mean Cal can beat them...right?

    Rick Neuheisel, UCLA – A two game stretch against Arizona and Cal. Welp, good luck against the Golden Bears.

    Tom O’Brien, North Carolina State - Good luck against Virginia, a team that should be easier than you thought after the euphoric win over Central Michigan last week.

    Follow Brian on Twitter: @btbowling
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    Tags: michigan state, oklahoma state, clemson, oregon, indiana, michigan, georgia tech, kansas, texas, maryland, iowa state, arizona state, florida, auburn, lsu, wisconsin, stanford, bob toledo, turner gill, houston nutt, jeff tedford, rick heuheisel

  3. 2011 Sep 14

    COLLEGE FOOTBALL: A Look Around the Nation - Week Three


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brian Towle

    That’s right. We both know what time it is. Again, before we look at this week, let’s take a moment to remember last weekend’s winners and losers.


    Michigan – Opening the “new” Big House at night was a rousing success with a comeback win against Notre Dame. The Wolverine defense needs to improve, but overall a great experience.

    Iowa State – A great win to win the paper mache Cy-Hawk trophy. Make sure to use Gorilla Glue while putting that thing back together.

    South Carolina – Congrats on pulling out a tough win in Athens. The Gamecocks now have the upper hand on the SEC East. (CLICK-CLACK)

    Arizona State – A good win on a national stage for their program. Since the Pac-12 crown is somewhat up for grabs, Mizzou was great preparation for the conference schedule.


    Notre Dame – Maybe Brian Kelly is this year’s Gerry Faust. Cursed? Who knows.

    Missouri – Another big game for the Tigers, more questionable decisions by Gary Pinkel.

    North Carolina State – How is Russell Wilson playing fo.... oh, yeah. He was told to pack up and split.

    Georgia, Louisville, Memphis, Iowa - Here’s your sign:

    Now, on with the show! All times CST, of course.

    No. 3 LSU at No. 25 Mississippi State – (7 PM Thursday, ESPN/ESPN3/ESPN 3D, etc.)

    Thursday night SEC football comes at us with Les Miles and the Tigers heading to in Starkville to face Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs. Last week, the Tigers took care of business against Northwestern State, while Mississippi State was shafted out of their game thanks to bad officiating at Auburn (Look at the tape). While Jarrett Lee’s stats aren’t very good, he’s been what Miles needs - an efficient game manager that keeps the Tigers out of in-game ruts.

    Mississippi State’s playmakers were discussed last week, and while quarterback Chris Reif put them in some bad situations, Mississippi State running back Vick Ballard is the real deal. Since Les Miles hasn’t had an appendectomy to remove Mr. Ed’s horseshoe out of his spleen, LSU should do well enough to squeak out a win on the road before get a beignet by Friday morning.

    No. 15 Michigan State at Notre Dame (2:30 PM, NBC)

    Notre Dame has very little time to lick their wounds before Mark D’Antonio brings his savvy Spartans into the confines of South Bend. While Michigan State has been alright offensively, the defense has been stout, giving up only six points in two games.

    This is already a make-or-break game for Brian Kelly. Starting 0-3 with a schedule that should probably have resulted in an 2-1 start at worst could spell doom for him in a hurry.

    Sticking with Tommy Rees at quarterback is Notre Dame's best option. Rees made some great throws last week. The defense...well…Kirk Cousins should have his first 300-plus yard passing game of the year. The Spartans will win in South Bend, making the soft howls for Kelly’s job even louder.

    Tennessee at No. 16 Florida (2:30 PM, CBS)

    Derek Dooley marches into The Swamp for an afternoon romp with Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators. Tennessee surprised a lot of people last week with their borderline convincing win at home against a decent Cincinnati team. For Florida, this will be the first test after warm-ups against Florida Atlantic and UAB.

    Muschamp has the defense operating well, while Charlie Wies has done a fine job with John Brantley. Which Tennessee team shows up this week? The Vols are still young, but Dooley makes them grind out tough games, and obviously this is no exception. Florida has enough defensive ability to keep Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and running back Tauren Poole quiet enough for Florida to pull away late.

    No. 17 Ohio State at Miami (7 PM, ESPN)

    Dolphins Stadium gets stunk up and unfilled again for a Miami Hurricanes home game, this time against THE Ohio State University. Jacory Harris and his talented, arm-punting ways make their debut after a one game suspension and Ohio State gets a few players back themselves. Many nicknames are being used for this game, but how about “a rout”?

    Al Golden pulled plenty of effort out of the Canes in Maryland, but Luke Fickell gets more out of his Buckeyes. Ohio State’s Joe Bauserman seems to be the man at quarterback, even with the talented Braxton Miller on the sidelines.

    Miami will be ready to play, but the Buckeye defense should give Harris fits. Jacory is either money or counterfeit, there’s no middle ground. The Bucks should win easily, but if Bauserman struggles, the calls for Miller will get louder.

    No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 5 Florida State (7 PM, ABC)

    The game of the year: this week’s version will come from Tallahassee as Big Game Bob brings his loaded Sooners to take on Jimbo Fischer’s hyped yet virtually untested Seminoles.

    Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones and wide receiver Ryan Broyles will be ready to test a defense that had what were essentially paid scrimmages from Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern thus far.

    Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel has been stellar so far this year, completing passes at a 66-percent clip. However, the most alarming thing for the Seminoles is their running game, or lack thereof. With only 262 yards total through two games, Florida State will have to do much better on the ground to challenge the Sooners.

    This game comes down to attitude. Oklahoma breathes this type of big game air all the time, while Florida State hasn’t had a reason to feel the nerves yet. Jones should have a good day, and the Sooners should win this one, but a close score won’t truly tell the story.

    Coaches on the Hot Seat:

    Brian Kelly, Notre Dame: As mentioned above, sitting at 0-3 would not be a good thing. Yes, you are close to making hay with this team, and you more than likely won’t be getting fired any time soon, but you need this game against MSU.

    Mike Riley, Oregon State: We all knew your team had no chance against Wisconsin. Negative four-yard punts didn’t help, but let’s accept it and move on. You have two weeks to prep for UCLA which may or may not get a skull-kicking by a pissed off Texas team. Get better fast, sir or start looking up moving companies.

    Mark Richt, Georgia: Again, your Bulldogs played pretty well against a better team. However, you again came up short. The Dawgs are playing well, but they just need to put together four quarters of good football. Your game against Coastal Carolina is a paid scrimmage, so use it wisely.

    Mike Stoops, Arizona: That beating you took in Stillwater was harsh, yet was seen a mile away. Don’t breathe easy just yet, because Andrew Luck is coming to town. Lose this one badly, and things could turn ugly.

    Larry Porter, Memphis: This is one of the few jobs in America where you seriously have no chance before your nameplate is put on the door. The school has shown they don’t care about the program and the warnings that Tommy West issued when he was fired haven’t been heard. Few expected you to get clobbered by Arkansas State, though. Is it possible to keep things close against Austin Peay?

    Follow Brian on Twitter: @btbowling
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    Tags: michigan, iowa state, south carolina, arizona state, notre dame, missouri, north carolina state, georgia, luisville, memphis, iowa, les miles, dan mullen, lsu, mississippi state, michigan state, tennessee, florida, will muschamp, al golden, miami, ohio state, oklahoma, florida state

  4. 2010 Jul 23

    Husker Heartbeat 7/23: Dr. Tom to the Windy City


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

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

    *Five potential breakout players for NU in 2010.

    *Iowa State’s best player - David Sims - is under investigation for allegedly stealing and using some woman’s credit card.

    *A stat-laden preview of Nebraska’s offense.

    *Tom Osborne will head to the Big Ten meetings.

    *Can John Brantley take over for Tim Tebow at Florida without missing a beat?

    *Looks like Vanderbilt has a fun new head coach.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, big 12, big ten, florida, tom osborne, iowa state

  5. 2010 Jul 19

    Husker Heartbeat 7/19: Big 12, Big Ten or SEC? Plus - Alex's Secret


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

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

    *The LJS runs down the Big 12’s offensive and defensive players

    *The Big Ten has to prioritize when choosing to break up rivalries.

    *A nice story about how Alex Henery is able to concentrate so easily on the football field - and the golf course. No quotes from Alex, though.

    *Darin Erstad can share plenty about the MLB with NU’s future draftees.

    *Another story about why the SEC is so good.

    *Iowa State’s 2010 football poster.

    *AP voters almost never, ever get the preseason No. 1 right.

    *A vicious review of Pete Carroll’s new book.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, big 12, big ten, sec, pete carroll, darin erstad, iowa state, alex henery

  6. 2010 May 27

    Husker Heartbeat 5/27: The Mayor, The Mess at Kansas, and Phil Steele's Bold Prediction


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

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

    Cool? Cool!

    *What a mess at Kansas, where a major ticket scandal has rocked the athletic department, and the highest-paid AD in America, Lew Perkins, was apparently clueless about it.

    *Excellent piece from Lee B recounts how ISU basketball coach Fred Hoiberg almost went to NU - to play quarterback. He’s the grandson of a former Husker basketball coach, too.

    *Sean Yost wants to prove he can pitch after a rough 2010.

    *After a terrible year of prognostications in 2009, Phil Steele takes a wild flyer on Oklahoma as No. 1- allegedly.

    *Just because NU’s softball season is over doesn’t mean Rhonda Revelle stops coaching.

    *Texas has had conversations about becoming independent in football.

    *AOL’s John Walters writes a compelling piece about the brokenness of college football, and whether it can be fixed.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, baseball, softball, lee b, iowa state, phil steele

  7. 2010 May 24

    RECRUITING: Around the Big 12 North


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    HL's Samuel McKewon looks at which Big 12 North teams are making moves in spring football recruiting - and which ones have really yet to start. Insight you won't find anywhere else!

    Tags: recruiting, podcats, kansas, kansas state, missouri, colorado, iowa state

  8. 2010 May 21

    Husker Heartbeat 5/21: Big Ten, Bama and Baseball


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

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

    Cool? Cool!

    *ESPN’s Pat Forde - a Mizzou grad - still favors Nebraska as that one team the Big Ten should most consider inviting.

    *Nothing of any - and we mean any - import occurred at the Big Ten meetings in Chicago, but OWH’s Tom Shatel still filed a 1,200-word column about his conclusions from it. Our favorite line:

    “It's going to be a long, hot summer of Big Ten speculation. It's probably smart and safer to refrain from speculating. But what fun would that be?”

    Probably not much. But we’re not sure “fun” is the appropriate threshold for whether something newsworthy. (Yes, of course, Shatel is mostly kidding.)

    *BRN reviews the meetings, too. And the LJS crew, too.

    *Alabama focuses on building the offense in the offseason.

    *Husker recruit Tyler Evans looking to finish with a bang in track and field.

    *Nebraska baseball seniors vow to play hard vs. Texas Tech. Boy, howdy!

    *An Iowa State starting offensive lineman was dismissed for violation of team rules.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, big ten expansion, tom shatel, baseball, alabama, tyler evans, iowa state

  9. 2010 Feb 09

    RECRUITING: Inside the Big 12: Iowa State


    By HuskerLocker

    Did Iowa State capitalize on a surprisingly good season with a decent recruiting class? Samuel McKewon says yes. But there are weaknesses that ISU must shore up in future years. What are they - and which player does Rhoads think will bring "oohs and aahs" to Cyclones fans over the next four years? Find out with a 14-day free trial to Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: recruiting, big 12, iowa state, paul rhoads

  10. 2009 Oct 26



    By HuskerLocker

    The next installment of homemade chalktalk video breaks down how Iowa State was able to fool Nebraska with play action and flood routes to create its one big-play opportunity of the game - and then capitalize on it.

    Good play design + solid blocking + a mental error in the NU secondary = Monday's chalktalk! Check it out today with a FREE trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: iowa state game, chalktalk

  11. 2009 Oct 26

    Podcast 10/26: Giving Credit to ISU


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    Tags: iowa state game, volleyball, soccer

  12. 2009 Oct 24

    ISU-NU Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

    Grades and Players of the Game from Nebraska's 9-7 loss to Iowa State

    OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Traye Robinson, running back. His fumble was the most understandable of the bunch, and he ran with forward lean and toughness. Robinson wasn't worried about picking through holes – he wanted to gain yards. Novel idea, huh?

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Ndamukong Suh and Barry Turner, defensive linemen. Both spent a lot of time making tackles and making life difficult for Iowa State quarterback Jerome Tiller when he did choose the pass. Phillip Dillard and Sean Fisher had strong games as well.


    QUARTERBACK: C Zac Lee stayed on rhythm in the first half and threw a whale of a deep ball to Niles Paul – which should have been the touchdown that broke the game wide open – but that confidence disappeared in the second half. So did his accuracy. Lee is a below-average quarterback right now, and has been for a month. He can't roll out, he can't run the zone read and he can't locate receivers over the middle without throwing behind them. Shawn Watson and Bo Pelini are apparently comfortable with that.

    RUNNING BACK: D Robinson played pretty well; Roy Helu, who looked hurt, really did not. Two costly fumbles from NU's best offensive player – when he's healthy. Marcus Mendoza made a token appearance. It would seem Nebraska's fortunes rest on getting Helu healthy and Robinson holding on to the ball.

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: D Drops, bizarre fumbles, so-so perimeter blocking, an inability to catch anything that isn't in stride – this stuff gets old. Lee doesn't help these guys much, and they don't help him much, either.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: B There were moments where the big boys dominated up front. But, once again, when Nebraska claimed it would trust the line to plow open some holes, it kept retreating to the passing game whenever it had the chance. Mike Caputo subbed nicely for Jacob Hickman, at first glance. This game wasn't on the line. It could have played better, but it was, in many ways a clean game.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: B+ Iowa State gashed a hole here and there, especially on drives near its own goal line, but the Cyclones found little daylight on many plays. Suh and Turner were outstanding, while Cameron Meredith subbed in well for an injured Pierre Allen. But Jared Crick has to stay on that fumble.

    LINEBACKERS: B+ Phillip Dillard, Sean Fisher and Will Compton all played quite a bit – and quite well. Dillard was a bit tardy once or twice on the zone read, as was Fisher, but it was a physical, hard-hitting effort. Now – cause a turnover, will you?

    SECONDARY: C Iowa State only tried one long pass all game. It worked for a touchdown. No matter what else the secondary did in the game – ultimately, for better or worse, it gave up the winning touchdown on a poorly thrown jump ball. A shame.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: B Alex Henery redeemed himself with two excellent punts downed inside the 10-yard line. ISU's fake punt obviously hurt, but the Cyclones just made a good call and executed it nicely Niles Paul and Tim Marlowe were OK on kickoff returns.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PLAYCALLING: C- Cody Green should have started. Should have played, at the very least. By not even giving him the opportunity to win the job on Saturday, offensive coaches are essentially requiring him to outlearn and outperform Lee in a practice lab environment. Which he probably can't do. Beyond that decision, we thought's Watson original plan – quick throws on screens and stop patterns – was a good one. The switch to power football seemed to work, too. Then, in the fourth quarter, he ditched it. Why? Nebraska was not good in the two-minute drill, either, for either half. Defensively, Bo wasted another blitz midway through the third quarter, when he brought heavy pressure on ISU QB Jerome Tiller, who simply rolled out and found an open man.

    Tags: report card, iowa state game

  13. 2009 Oct 24

    ISU GAME: Commentary: The Buck Stops...With Bo


    By HuskerLocker

    Smaller, slower and not as talented. With less depth. And a head coach without the pedigree, personality and national championship ring of Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. Plus – one hand tied behind its back without a starting quarterback or running back.

    You know what Iowa State had Saturday that Nebraska didn't? Momentum. Confidence. Trust. Positive energy. Luck. The first four produced the fifth. ISU hit harder, played smarter and stuck to its minimalist plan of zone read and the occasional rollout, playaction pass. It was boring. It was plain. It didn't do much more than eat up some clock.

    But the Cyclones won, you see, by asking its defense to be scrappy – it was – in hopes of making the Huskers so sloppy – they were – that they'd eventually melt. Which Nebraska – with the game absolutely in reach – most certainly did.

    Nebraska had something going in the third quarter. A downhill power game. Center Mike Caputo, subbing for Jacob Hickman, looked good. Nebraska was finally starting to get under ISU's pads. And the Huskers were not running horizontally, but vertically. Then, while fighting for extra yards, Traye Robinson had the ball torn out by ISU defensive tackle Nate Frere. That's what Iowa State does. Heck, the Cyclones did it last year with a different head coach. They're good at it.

    But just after that fumble, NU's fifth turnover, the Huskers abandoned that power game, headed back to the shotgun, and gained 25 total yards on the next four drives, with three turnovers. At the moment Nebraska needed to keep leaning on the Cyclones, it pulled off, and tried throwing the ball downfield into the wind.

    Why? Why did Nebraska do that? Why is NU's ball security among the wide receivers shaky for the second year in a row? Why is Nebraska's offensive line leaky vs. ISU's unit of future haberdashers and carpet salesmen?

    And what's Bo Pelini going to do about it? I repeat: What's he going to do?

    Fans need to stop demanding these answers from the offensive staff. I mean, they'll answer how they answer. They're entrenched in their philosophy, like most of us would be, and bound, to some extent, to circular logic. Coaches are proud. Most of us are.

    Ted Gilmore will continue a rotation of players looking for courage first, good hands second. Tim Beck is forced to juggle around Helu's shoulder injury and deal with the very real consequences of Quentin Castille's dismissal. Ron Brown is ever the dutiful soldier, even if his unit is criminally underused. Barney Cotton will be habitually under fire, as he always is, although it's becoming clearer, to me, that Nebraska doesn't run an offense that caters to his or the line's strengths. Shawn Watson will remain an artful dodger who really is capable of running a great offense, but doesn't want look backward (the early 2008 offense) to go forward.

    It gets old, holding them accountable every week. After all, they work for Bo. And, as he ever so forcefully put it last week, the buck stops with him.

    Bo knows defense, clearly. Nobody debates that.

    But if Bill Callahan had to be responsible for Kevin Cosgrove's defense, then Pelini has to answer the bell now. There's no real pleasure in trotting out those two names, beleive me, but that's what the $2 million is for, right? Now - Bo can provide any answer he wants to, or he can provide none at all. But they're his answers to provide. He's got to solve it.

    Zac Lee isn't Watson's quarterback. He is Bo's. Cody Green isn't ready? Fine. It's Bo's decision to let Lee continue to incompetently run his part of the zone read. If NU wants to leave Antonio Bell on the sidelines for better blockers like Menelik Holt and Curenski Gilleylen – who are absolutely not useful in the two, four or six-minute drill – that's Bo's call. If Watson wants to start out with a short-passing game that works, shift to Power O, then screech into a shotgun passing gear in the fourth quarter against the wind, then Bo can explain it.

    And Bo will account for it. That's the kind of guy he's shown himself to be. It'll be the account itself that merits examination.

    We've spent two weeks whaling away at Watson. Enough of it. Let's not turn him into some misuse of a scapegoat like we did Cosgrove. Let's not relive that. Bo can hold Watson responsible, and fans can and should hold Bo responsible for Watson.

    Bo tried adjusting intangibles after the loss to Texas Tech. He tried circling the wagons, casting the media and the fans as a horde who turned on the Huskers. He took the green jerseys off the quarterbacks. In a show of unity, the team locked arms during the Tunnel Walk. It was the Huskers-against-the-world.

    To quote Ndamukong Suh, that's all “good and gravy” until the world forces eight turnovers. The button was pushed, and a cataclysmic upset came out of the ticket dispenser. A hardened heart doesn't win necessarily football games.

    Which button is next? Tougher practices? Heart-to-heart chats? All-night fumble games? A media freeze-out? Personnel changes? All of them? None of them? Something else?

    "It's coaching," he said to explain eight turnovers. "It's coaching and want-to and we didn't get it done. We got beat."

    That's all up to Bo.

    The buck is on his desk, awaiting instructions.

    Tags: iowa state game, bo pelini, shawn watson

  14. 2009 Oct 24

    ISU GAME: Fumbled Away


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    A program-making win for Iowa State. A full, dark shudder for Nebraska, especially its offense, which came unglued with a school-record eight turnovers in every awful way one can imagine.

    ISU – without its starting quarterback and running back, with just 239 total yards – stunned NU 9-7 Saturday afternoon in front of crowd of pale, grim faces, who hadn't seen the Cyclones beat the Cornhuskers in Lincoln in 32 years. Who hadn't seen Nebraska commit eight turnovers in 37 years. Who had to settle with themselves, for that particular moment in time, that Nebraska had just suffered one of the more deflating, infuriating losses in its recent history.

    “I'm disappointed in our football team,” a subdued head coach Bo Pelini said. “I'm disappointed. We didn't – I'm disappointed. And it starts with me...we were our own worst enemy.”

    Said tight end Mike McNeill: "We knew coming in. It's something we talked about before the game. They like to try and take the ball away, they like to try and rip the ball. They did a good job of it."

    Ten nightmarish Husker blunders stood out. Some were mental errors, some were excellent plays by the Cyclones, and a few were total flukes. But all of them counted against Nebraska just the same:

    *A fumble by Roy Helu on the game's first play that became a 52-yard field goal by ISU's Grant Mahoney.

    *An underthrown pass from Zac Lee to Mike McNeill near ISU's goal line turned into a tip drill and a Cyclone interception, snuffing out a probably Alex Henery field goal.

    *Iowa State punter Mike Brandtner waited until Nebraska's punt return unit had cleared the left side of the field. Then he took off, ball clutched in his left arm, for 20-yard gain on fourth down. On the next play, Tiller froze the linebackers with a playaction fake to Jeremiah Schwartz and lofted a deep ball to Jake Williams, who beat Eric Hagg on a fly route. Hagg turned the wrong way, and Williams caught the ball in the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown.

    *After receiver Niles Paul caught a long pass from Lee and seemed headed for the end zone, he fumbled while trying to stay in bounds, recovered the ball briefly at the three, then fumbled it again into the end zone, where it was recovered by Iowa State's James Smith.

    *Jared Crick failed to cover a fumble late in the second half that would have set NU up in Henery field goal range.

    *A second Helu fumble inside ISU's five-yard line recovered by the Cyclones in the end zone. Officials originally ruled Helu down, but reversed the call.

    *True freshman Traye Robinson accounted for NU's fifth turnover when ISU defensive tackle Nate Frere ripped out the ball, again, at the Cyclones' 5. Robinson was chewed out by left guard Keith Williams as he left the field.

    *Menelik Holt fumbled on a inside screen pass for the sixth turnover, marking the first time since 1976 that Nebraska had lost five fumbles in a game.

    *The seventh turnover. Lee threw slightly behind Curenski Gilleylen on a post route, Gilleylen tipped it, and the pass was intercepted by Michael O'Connor.

    *The final Lee interception, thrown directly to ISU linebacker Jesse Smith, the best player, along with NU's Ndamukong Suh, on the field Saturday.

    Lee finished 20-of-37 for 248 yards and three interceptions – two on Nebraska's last two drives. He completed 14 of his first 16 passes, but hit only 6 of 21 thereafter. Pelini said said it was an “easy decision” to start Lee over true freshman Cody Green - “Cody's not quite ready yet” - thought Lee played well despite the interceptions.

    “Zac Lee was the least of our problems today,” Pelini said. “We didn't play well around Zac.”

    Tags: iowa state game, zac lee, roy helu, ndamukong suh, niles paul

  15. 2009 Oct 23

    Guess The Score! NU-Iowa State!


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

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

    Last week, only Bootlegger predicted a Texas Tech victory, so he gets the nod. No one had Nebraska scoring less than 21 points, by the way.

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

    Fire away!

    Tags: guess the score, iowa state

  16. 2009 Oct 23

    Commentary: After Hickman, Who Fills the Leadership Vacuum?


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    There are no quick fixes, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini likes to say. There are probably no instant leaders, either.

    But after two lackluster performances, NU's offense stand to get a few more..

    The consensus, really, is that Huskers' O has one who's up front, center Jacob Hickman, and two supporting players behind him. We'll get to them in a minute.

    “Hick's the guy who really captains all of our calls,” offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. “He's a real leader.”

    It's not necessarily common for a center to fill that role, although Dom Raiola and John Garrison did that years ago. But Hickman - a senior who's sampled nearly every offensive line position and thus knows the scheme as well as anyone – has been up to it.

    A cerebral type, mature, already married, Hickman's a certain kind of leader, a strong, thoughtful hub of the Husker community. Ndamukong Suh happens to be that guy, too. Suh calls himself a “silent killer.” The phrase fits Hickman, to some extent, too, even if he's talking quite a bit during the game, calling out defensive line shifts.

    But Hickman is not a red rump. I'd use another choice word, but we're still, you know, read by families and stuff. At any rate, he's not going to crawl down your skin. He's the good cop, the “calm down” guy.

    “I get more annoyed when people yell at me than anything else, so I'd feel hypocritical if I got too riled up,” Hickman said.

    But sometimes, he said, it's been necessary. Hickman stepped on the emotional gas pedal at Missouri, he said, getting the intended response in the fourth quarter. He did it again vs. Texas Tech, to no particular avail.

    “I got a little frustrated,” Hickman said. “I got a little talkative.”

    Who else?

    “I don't really think we've had anyone stepping up and say “I'm the one taking control of this offense,'” tight end Mike McNeill said. “Hickman's done a good job, but I don't think we've had one guy who just stands out and says 'this is my offense, and I'm running it right now.'”

    Said Hickman: “It really helps sometimes to have a guy get riled up like that.”

    You already know Nebraska had that in 2008 with quarterback Joe Ganz.

    “Nobody was quite as vocal as Joey,” Hickman said.

    But the Huskers had Nate Swift, Todd Peterson and Matt Slauson, too. None of them had Ganz's swagger and personality, but each of them carried authority and experience.

    Is the latter of those two traits always necessary for leadership? Not for head coaches, right? There are tons of first-timers, - Pelini included – who just have the “it” factor when it comes to commanding a group of men. They don't need to prove it at every level of football before they arrive in college.

    With players, though – that's a leopard with different spots. For every Peyton Manning and Tommie Frazier, who just walks with an air of authority and confidence, there are thousands of guys who haven't properly paid their dues yet.

    At a top five program, that's probably how it should be. For Nebraska, which aspires to get there again, a transformative leader wouldn't hurt. No matter what class they're in.

    Besides Hickman, two names popped up from several sources for co-leaders: Roy Helu and Niles Paul. Paul does it, Hickman and Watson said, with his work ethic in practice. Helu's leadership skills are evident when you visit practice and talk to his teammates, but the junior, publicly modest, deflects all attention. Nebraska's best offensive player – the best Husker running back in a decade, from this vantage point – is thoughtful, lighthearted and sometimes deadly serious in the span of three minutes.

    Is he healthy enough to put the team on his back?

    “Roy's been hurt lately, which is tough,” Hickman said. “It's hard to be really in the forefront of leading when you've been hurt.”

    Of course, Hickman was sick and a little hurt, too. Maybe not as much as Helu, but this season hasn't been sundaes and rose petals for No. 67.

    Zac Lee was also establishing himself, Hickman said, but he's in the midst of a quarterback competition again.

    “It's tough when you don't have many seniors out there,” Hickman said. “It's the nature of the game sometimes.”

    Tougher still when you don't have many red rumps.

    Tags: iowa state game, jacob hickman, roy helu, niles paul, mike mcneill, bo pelini, shawn watson

  17. 2009 Oct 23

    Five Keys: Iowa State


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Quarterbacks and boos and media and questions and turnovers and rankings and sound bytes and fans and -

    Oh, yeah. Breakfast with Iowa State.

    The Cyclones are playing with house money. Free as the bird that serves as their mascot. At 4-3, ISU doesn't have much to lose other than the health of its two best offensive skill players, quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson.

    Iowa State can pull out the stops, or play it cool to keep it reasonably close.

    Nebraska, meanwhile, needs to win, and look good doing it.

    Head coach Bo Pelini preaches high standards. That's good. He's not satisfied with nine-win seasons. He asks for perfection because, in his words, “you get what you ask for.” He coaches a tenacious, active game in search of execution and mental toughness. And he's good after a loss - better, maybe, than after a win.

    The man was in his element this week. He's got his team buying into an us-against-the-world mentality. Bo served as point guard on Monday with his “buck stops here” comments, and as bookend on Thursday with a similar statement. Fans may perceive Pelini as angry. Not precisely. He's trying to use a difficult loss – a stunning loss, really – as a rallying point to quickly reverse course.

    Pelini doesn't believe in a panic button. It doesn't mean he isn't pushing some other buttons.

    On to the keys.

    Playing Harder and Smarter: Nebraska's offense has been a little too cute over the last two weeks. Power football out of a shotgun spread, four-wide set? Oh, sure, you can do it. But defenses have to respect the quarterback and the receivers. And, right now, that's not happening. Both Texas Tech and Missouri left linebackers on the field to cover NU's wideouts, confident that quarterback Zac Lee either couldn't or wouldn't find open guys.

    That hunch was right. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson often talks about taking what a defense gives. But what Tech gave wasn't a schematic advantage. It was an athletic challenge. And the Huskers weren't up to it.

    Watson's gameplan was in the right place. But the troops couldn't execute it. Which means – find something they can.

    Maybe that's straight power stuff. Maybe that's the zone read with Cody Green. Nebraska can't stray too far from its original design, but it may need to shed a few play pounds to get to the core of its success.

    And the offensive line? Well, you already know – don't you? So do they.

    Steep incline: If Big 12 defenses were a treadmill, ISU is about to hit a massive elevation change. The Cyclones have not faced a defense as complete as Nebraska's since the Iowa game, and the Hawkeyes' front four is a notch below the Huskers. Throw in a motivated Memorial Stadium crowd – they'll be back Saturday, with a vengeance – and this is toughest game that Iowa State has had this year. If NU can pounce early, ISU won't put up too much of a fight.

    Wounded Clones: Arnaud and Robinson won't be 100 percent on Saturday, and how the game progresses may determine the length of time they're in the game. Again – that's why the quick start is so important. ISU coach Paul Rhoads isn't going to worsen Robinson's groin injury by running him while down 21 points.

    Arnaud will test that throwing hand early. He's not a great passer to begin with, and his backup, Jerome Tiller, is more of a big-play runner than he is passer.

    Where's Mike? Nebraska tight end Mike McNeill has played roughly 50 percent of the snaps in each of the two previous games, and most of those were in the second half. McNeill wants to win more than anything – but he'll never turn down the ball.

    “I've ran pretty good routes this year and I'm moving pretty well,” McNeill said. “I think I'm open sometimes. But I'm not always in the quarterback's progression, or maybe he's got another throw he's got to make. It's not like I'm running down the field and no one sees me.”

    It's just that Lee hasn't been throwing him the ball very much.

    Ditto for the rest of the tight ends. What's happened here over the last several weeks? NU tries to throw the ball to Kyler Reed two times a game, and calls it good. Ben Cotton, Dreu Young and Ryan Hill – all pretty capable receiving options – rarely get their names called. McNeill catches just about everything in the vicinity, but it's like he's one of the fallow parks on the edge of the Lincoln city limits. What gives?

    The Specials: Iowa State has some return and kicking weapons that could account for field position and/or a touchdown. Nebraska has to find the vibe it had going before the Missouri game. Even punter/kicker Alex Henery's been a little off.

    Tags: iowa state, five keys, zac lee, cody green, alex henery, mike mcneill

  18. 2009 Oct 22

    Scouting Report: Iowa State


    By HuskerLocker

    The best scouting report on the Web reveals the one key weakness of Iowa State's team, and the one ISU player Nebraska can't afford to overlook.

    Check it out with a FREE 14-day trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: iowa state, scouting report, lockerpass

  19. 2009 Oct 22

    ISU's Bruised - But Dynamic - Duo


    By HuskerLocker

    It stung. Then it swelled. Then it went stiff.

    Yeah, Austen Arnaud's throwing hand was in a bad spot during Iowa State's 24-10 win over Baylor last week. The junior quarterback thwacked his hand on the helmet of a Bear defensive lineman on the fourth play of the game. He played through the second quarter.

    “Then the cold got to it,” Arnaud said. “And it started to stiffen up. It got to the point where I couldn't get a grip on the ball.”

    The inconsistent-yet-athletic straw that stirs the Cyclones' drink should be fine for Saturday's 11:30 a.m. game with Nebraska, in part because he sat out the fourth quarter with a rare condition, at least in Ames: Iowa State was actually comfortably ahead. Alexander Robinson, the Big 12's leading rusher who fights a chronic groin injury every game, took a seat, too.

    The two of them – along with dynamic backup quarterback Jerome Tiller – help power an ISU running attack that averages 213 yards per game – and only has one senior on the offensive line. Robinson - an undersized (5-9, 187) slasher whose cutback style fits Iowa State's new zone blocking scheme to a T - has 737 yards. Arnaud has rushed for 434, almost three times the amount of any other quarterback in the Big 12.

    “You've got to stop the run to beat these guys,” Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said. “They're very committed to it. They're very patient with it.”

    The Cyclones – a surprising 4-3 when most observers expected three wins for the whole season – balance that spread rushing offense with a play action passing game that's equally potent, Pelini said.

    “You've got to shift from that run-stop mentality on the fly,” Pelini said.

    Part of what's tricky, Pelini said, about ISU no-huddle approach is how it's using Arnaud in a variety of run packages. He'll run power plays through the middle, or designed sweeps toward the sidelines. Sometimes Iowa State replaces its wide receivers with tight ends for a power spread formation. Other times, the Cyclones will empty the backfield and throw on rhythm.

    Robinson compliments that approach by being one tough cookie. He's battled through the groin injury much of the season, still enjoying a 152-yard game vs. Kansas and 100 yards vs. Iowa's stingy run defense. It was Robinson who accounted for ISU's only big play of NU's 35-7 win in Ames last season: A 67-yard touchdown run right through the heart of the Husker defense. His relative absence in a 24-23 loss to Kansas State – Robinson carried just four times, but gained 47 yards – was one of the reasons the Cyclones lost.

    “He's been playing with a bad wheel for awhile now and he's still gaining yards for us,” Arnaud said.

    Robinson said he evaluates his pain level pretty much every day. ISU coach Paul Rhoads joked that the staff has to hide Robinson's helmet to keep him from re-entering games.

    “I'm just being smart about it,” Robinson said. “And they're helping me be smart about it. Sometimes I feel it, sometimes I don't.”

    Tags: iowa state, carl pelini, austen arnaud, alexander robinson

  20. 2009 Oct 22

    Coming Into His Own


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    Ndamukong Suh didn't smile much during his time with the media during Tuesday's press conference. During the week after a loss, Nebraska's football team tends to shift into shoulder chip mode.

    But the do-everything defensive tackle busted out a grin when asked about one of his favorite subjects: sophomore linemate Jared Crick, who had a sack and three more quarterback hurries in the 31-10 setback to Texas Tech.

    “Jared is a helluva player,” Suh said. “I'm excited to see how much more he can grow. He's just a young pup. He's got a tremendous amount of potential.”

    And that talent is coming into view, a train driving closer to the station. Look at the last four games, Suh said, and Crick's improved with each one. Last Saturday, he frequently beat his offensive blocker, including Tech guard Brandon Carter, a preseason All-Big 12 candidate. The Red Raiders were not able to double-team Suh nearly as much because Crick – and defensive ends Barry Turner and Pierre Allen – were winning their one-on-one matchups.

    It reminded Suh of the end of last year, when Ty Steinkuhler and Suh formed a formidable pass-rushing duo during a four-game winning streak. Like Stein – and Suh - Crick channels his fire inward.

    “He's kind of a silent killer,” Suh said. “He celebrates but he's not too over-excited. He keeps himself in perspective.”

    An example: Crick said Tuesday NU probably had its best pass-rushing game of the season – we constantly had pressure all day,” he said – but Tech's ability to run the ball in the fourth quarter, and near the goal-line, gnawed at him.

    “Some of it we weren't expecting,” Crick said. “And down by the goal line, they beat us up front. Can't really say much more about that.”

    A handful of plays aside, Crick said, the front four's confidence is higher than ever, especially against the pass. Don't want the blitz. Don't need it.

    “We know we have the talent level to get to the passer without any blitz,” Crick said.

    Now, Suh said, throw in a turnover. NU's All-American candidate would have gladly handed back all of Nebraska's five sacks on Tech quarterback Steven Sheffield for just one of them.

    “We got after the quarterback pretty well, but we were just tackling him,” Suh said. “We can obviously strip the ball, get some turnovers. A turnover in that game would have been huge. It would have sparked us...it allows things to snowball in a good way.”

    Tags: jared crick, ndamukong suh, iowa state game, carl pelini

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