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  1. 2008 Nov 17

    Way to go, Joe!


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    (Josh Wolfe/Husker Locker)

    Joe Ganz sure does like playing Kansas State.

    The senior quarterback picked up the second Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week award for his play against the Wildcats. Ganz totaled 365 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in NU's 56-28 win over Kansas State.

    Last year, Ganz won the award after passing for 510 yards and seven touchdowns in a 73-31 win over KSU.

    Tags: joe ganz, kansas state gane, kansas state week

  2. 2008 Nov 16

    NU-KSU Report Card


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Photo above courtesy of Huskers.com)

    Player of the game: Joe Ganz. Has to be. Ganz was terrific on read option plays, patient on traditional option runs, and accurate on the sideline routes any quarterback struggles to complete. A total performance, the early interception aside.

    Best offensive play of the game: Roy Helu's awesome 24-yard run for a touchdown. Helu sidestepped a defender at the line scrimmage, jutted hard to the sideline, and hugged it while he sprinted past KSU defenders. That's a special run. An NFL run.

    Worst offensive play of the game: Ganz's pick six to KSU defensive back Courtney Herndon

    Best defensive play of the game: A wicked cool blitz on third down from head coach Bo Pelini, in which he crossed the linebackers, dropped a defensive end and brought cornerback Armando Murillo from the edge. Kansas State responded by letting Zach Potter free to hammer KSU quarterback Josh Freeman. A perfect pick-your-poison scheme from Pelini.

    Worst defensive play of the game: KSU's 63-yard touchdown pass on third-and-long was a tactical error by Pelini (for not blitzing) and a execution error by Anthony West (for misreading Ernie Pierce's route, then timing his jump for the ball a little too early).


    Quarterback: B+ Can't give out a top grade just because of the pick six. Ganz, obviously, played well otherwise. Backups Patrick Witt and Zac Lee both played in the fourth quarter, and we're just going on read options, which is practically all they ran, then Lee is better at it. He's fast out there.

    Running back: A- A really good day for these guys, maybe their best work of the season. Helu, Quentin Castille and Marlon Lucky all ran with purpose and confidence. Castille in particular showed of some attitude and power. Still - the class of this bunch is Helu. He has an instinct for the zone read, an understanding of just how long to wait before he hits the hole.

    Offensive Line/Tight Ends: A No argument here, especially when you consider that starting tackles Lydon Murtha and Jaivorio Burkes were both out of the game after the first drive. Ganz's mobility helps, of course, but the line plowed out some good holes on zone and toss plays, while the tight ends caught everything that was thrown their way. Micke McNeill and Dreu Young aren't great blockers. But they are good targets.

    Wide receivers: A- Check out two things from this unit if you watch this game again: The perimeter blocking on toss plays; and the yards after catch by Nate Swift. It'll give you a good sense of why this unit's played so well in 2008. It's also fair to say Nebraska might miss Swift a little bit. He's got a real shot at 1,000 yards, you know.

    Defensive Line: A- Dominant again. Kansas State didn't really try to run the ball; not that it worked when the Cats did try. Zach Potter and Ndamukong Suh were no match for their blocking partners. Potter, in particular, played like a beast.

    Linebackers: A Considering who was out there, and the work guys like Tyler Wortman, Colton Koehler, Matt May and Blake Lawrence did - bravo. Really truly one of the better efforts of the season.

    Secondary: B Better. Still got burned once, but generally kept Brandon Banks hemmed in, which is important, and the Huskers took away those short routes Freeman likes to use so much. Nebraska was determined to make Freeman progress through his reads to find open receivers, and he rarely had time to do that.

    Special Teams/Kickers C- The Huskers did force and recover a fumble on a punt return, which turned into seven points two plays later. And Nate Swift had one nifty punt return that set up Nebraska at KSU's 35-yard line. Outside of that, it wasn't great, especially Adi Kunalic's kick to Banks, who returned it up the right side of field untouched, because Kunalic kicked the ball to the wrong side for the coverage play. As we've pointed out before - Kunalic can boom them through the end zone about half of the time. Unfortunately, he can't do much else, which is why the Huskers give away squib kicks, because Alex Henery has to come in and execute them.

    Playcalling/Game Management B+ Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson called a beauty of a game, taking the running plays to the perimeter to counter KSU's man-to-man run defense. The option plays were well-timed and well-executed. The zone read plays - especially Ganz's willingness to keep the ball on them, which is why the play works so well in the first place - were a mixture of art and brute force. Nice use of Todd Peterson, too, on those inside screen. For his part, Bo Pelini dialed up some aggressive blitzes, most of which worked. Penalties remain a concern, as does ball security, but those are issues not likely to go away in 2008.

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    Tags: kansas state game, kansas state week, report card

  3. 2008 Nov 15

    Huskers Roll Over Wildcats


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    The trap game turned into a cakewalk. Then it turned into a showcase for Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz.

    Ganz threw for two touchdowns, rushed for two, broke the season record for total yards and ran the zone read option like a magician as Nebraska beat reeling Kansas State Saturday afternoon. NU jumped out to a 35-14 halftime lead and coasted – maybe a little too much - to a 56-28 win.

    Aside from a rash of penalties and two mistakes that directly led to KSU touchdowns, the Cornhuskers‘ efficient offense (603 total yards) and smothering defense dominated the Wildcats and delighted the patches of NU fans spread throughout the 48,444 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

    Much of the Cat contingency, meanwhile, headed for the exits before the sun set behind the press box. They missed an exciting second half, in which KSU cut the lead to 14 twice. Ganz engineered two touchdown drives – finished both with touchdown runs – to answer as NU improved to 4-3 in Big 12 Conference, and 7-4 overall.

    After an early interception of his was returned for a touchdown, Ganz was terrific, throwing for 270 yards, running for 95 more and doing it all against an aggressive, pressure KSU defense.

    The newly-minted Blackshirts certainly lived up to the honor, bottling up Kansas State’s potent offense and thoroughly harassing quarterback Josh Freeman, who spent much of the game trying escape a relentless pass rush. He didn’t have much success, completing just 7-of-18 passes for 101 yards before leaving the game midway through the third quarter. Nebraska sacked him four times for a loss of more than 40 yards.

    Using a variety of toss plays and option runs, Nebraska’s running game controlled KSU’s small defense. Roy Helu, Jr., Quentin Castille and Marlon Lucky all had their moments, although Castille’s 37-yard touchdown romp on fourth down and Helu’s Rozieresque 24-yard score were the most memorable. Another was a 14-yard gain in which Castille knocked two Wildcats out of the game – because he ran over them.

    Still, the Wildcats stayed within striking range in the second half, thanks to a 95-yard touchdown drive midway through the third quarter and a 97-yard kickoff return by speedy receiver Brandon Banks at the beginning of the fourth. Ganz squelched all thoughts of a comeback, however, with two touchdown drives that largely featured his running skills on the zone read play. He scored one touchdown from 25 yards, and the second from 14 yards. Marcus Mendoza added a late touchdown for the final margin.

    Kansas State scored first on Courtney Herndon’s 57-yard interception return for a touchdown, as he caught a wild pass from Ganz, sprinted down the left sideline and carried Lucky into the end zone.

    The Huskers answered, quickly. Ganz found tight end Mike McNeill for 29 yards, Helu gained 17 on a toss play and Ganz gained eight yards on a zone read play to set up NU at KSU’s 1-yard line. Helu finished off the drive one play later to tie the game 7-7. After forcing a Wildcat three-and-out, Nebraska put together an 81-yard touchdown drive, culminating in Castille’s 37-yard touchdown run on fourth down and inches. Castille broke two tackles at the line of scrimmage, stiff-armed a third defender and galloped down the sideline toward NU fans. The Huskers led 14-7.

    KSU then hit its second big play, a 63-yard touchdown pass from Freeman to Ernie Pierce who beat NU cornerback Anthony West on the play. Kansas State tied the game at 14, and promptly went into a shell for the rest of the first half.

    The Huskers’ Prince Amukamara forced a fumble on Deon Murphy’s punt return, Niles Paul recovered it, and Helu scored two plays later on a dynamic 24-yard run, in which he made a cut seconds after getting the handoff, jutting hard to the outside, and accelerating as he hugged the sidelines. Nebraska scored on its next drive, as well, as Ganz hit Peterson for a five-yard touchdown. The Huskers tacked on a fifth touchdown just before halftime when Ganz, executing the two-minute drill, found McNeill for an 18-yard score.

    Tags: kansas state week, joe ganz, blackshirts

  4. 2008 Nov 14

    Guess The Score! NU-KSU!


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Who do you love in this game? Are you for sure?

    We at Husker Locker like Nebraska, 30-14, for a couple reasons:

    1. The Huskers understand that KSU is vulnerable against the run. KSU understands that, too. Nebraska will exploit that mismatch with the playaction pass that takes the Wildcats off guard for big plays at least twice in this game.

    2. Bo Pelini actually picked a pretty good time to pull out the Blackshirts, as it help NU's defense to focus against a dangerous Kansas State offense.

    3. Kansas State expects to lose. As hard as the Cats might play - and we think they'll play hard - they - and their fans - still expect to lose.

    Still, expect this game to be close - very close - for a half. Don't be surprised if Kansas State gets a big play or two. Remember: These two teams don't like each other. They haven't for 15 years. Nothing has changed. It'll be a hard-fought game. Just see.

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    Tags: kansas state week, guess the score

  5. 2008 Nov 14

    Still Battling for a Blackshirt


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Tuesday’s practice had just ended for Nebraska’s football team, and 11 Cornhuskers walked off the Hawks Center field sporting the most prestigious threads any NU defender can hope to have.

    They were the Blackshirts, the men who wear the so-named practice jerseys as a sign of being the toughest, hardest-working, most-respected defensive players in the program. Some of them, like middle linebacker Tyler Wortman, were still in a little shock. Others, like sophomore nickel back Eric Hagg, were a little rusty on the history of it, but just as happy. Many of them were surrounded by reporters and cameras. How does it feel? When did it happen? What does it mean to you?

    In the midst of that scene was junior Matt O’Hanlon. Despite starting nine games and being fourth on the team in tackles, O’Hanlon wore his red No. 33. He’s locked in a late-season battle with now-healthy junior Rickey Thenarse for the starting free safety spot, and that battle, according to O’Hanlon and secondary coach Marvin Sanders, is what keeps either player from earning a Blackshirt.

    “I’ve worked hard and to not get one, it’s tough,” O’Hanlon said. “I guess it’s for a good reason. Me and Rick still have to compete. I’m sure eventually one of us will get one. They’re trying to motivate us.

    “It’s still a competition, and nothing’s clear cut, so we don’t really deserve them.”

    It’s been some ride for O’Hanlon, a walk-on who played high school ball at Bellevue East. Made the squad in the Bill Callahan era by acing a February tryout. Banged around on the scout team. Found himself at the top of the free safety heap – before Thenarse got hurt – because he picked up Bo Pelini’s defense quicker. Earned a scholarship and gained an extra year of eligibility to boot.

    When the New York Times – Callahan’s favorite newspaper, you might recall - came to Lincoln one day before the Missouri game to report on the revamped walk-on program at NU, O’Hanlon was the focus of the story, reliving his struggle and rise.

    He could have changed his name to Matt O’Feel-Good Story

    Except that Thenarse’s injury, and Nebraska’s lack of depth at safety, put O’Hanlon in the position of having to play nearly every snap against progressively better offenses. He learned right there, with live bullets, as Pelini likes to say.

    And the Big 12 is not the easiest spot for on-the-job training.

    He got burned on some playaction passes. He took bad tackling angles. He missed a key tackle of Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin on Mizzou’s third play from scrimmage. Because of it, Maclin darted to the house for a dramatic touchdown. So much for the New York Times.

    Maybe it’s moments like that drive fans to message boards where they hurl unfair insults at O’Hanlon. He’s heard about a few, of course, aware that he’s one of the unofficial scapegoats for NU’s struggles on defense.

    “A lot of the fans don’t know what schemes we’re doing,” O’Hanlon said. “Sometimes it looks like my fault when it’s not. That’s how it is. You can’t really do anything about it. You just got to buckle up your helmet and just keep playing.

    “I try not to read too much of that stuff, but I’ve heard rumblings. It’s gonna bother anyone who hears their performance isn’t up to par.”

    Oddly, being a former walk-on probably doesn’t help. It’s new age in Nebraska football, a post-Callahan age, where walk-ons, even smart, talented ones like O’Hanlon, are eyed suspiciously, or used as a symbol for what’s wrong with a given unit.

    “Some fans, they see the guys getting recruited and they want to see those guys on the field. Guys like me who don’t get recruited and don’t have the big stars, if we screw up they automatically think ‘Oh, why aren’t we playing the guys we recruited to get here?’”

    Funny, isn’t it? What helped build NU football is now an object of scorn in some – not all – fan circles. Recruiting services are wrong to blame, they’re just the messenger, and they don’t claim to be infallible or completely exhaustive. On paper, Thenarse really is the better safety. If he stays healthy and ever figures out how to play the position the way Pelini and Sanders want him to, he’s probably better on the field, too. Thenarse is a dynamic, risk-taking player. He creates turnovers. He gives NU a jolt of energy.

    That doesn’t mean that O’Hanlon is worthy of derision. Fair criticism, sure. Every Nebraska player is open to that. But phony “please, please, please” prayers that O’Hanlon never again see the field?

    Remember, he arguably saved a touchdown in a tight game against Baylor when he snuffed out a reverse. He’s been decent in run support. Because of injuries and strange spread offenses, he and strong safety Larry Asante have had to work with a revolving door of linebackers, many of whom were learning on the job, too.

    Now that he’s likely in a rotation with Thenarse, O’Hanlon’s game might actually improve. Competition helps. An occasional view from the sideline can, too.

    Not that O’Hanlon will be stuck there. He’s a cog in the Husker wheel now, and will be in 2009, too.

    “I don’t understand some of it,” O’Hanlon said. “I mean, we’re all on the same team.”

    It’s a thought.

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    Tags: matt o, hanlon, kansas state week, blackshirts

  6. 2008 Nov 13

    Five Keys to Kansas State


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    It’s been ten years – almost to the day - since The Sign. Since the “losers turn here” placard some Kansas State fan placed at the “turn” in Marysville, Kan., as the Nebraska football team headed for home after a 40-30 loss. Since the uncalled facemask penalty so awful that it seemed like a magic trick. Since old, officially impartial men wept in the Kansas State press box. Since KSU celebrated its greatest win in history by tearing down the goalposts and parading them through Aggieville in Manhattan.

    Nov. 14, 1998. A dark, dramatic day for Husker fans. A joyous night for Every Man A Wildcat. It looked like a stone cold lock for a blood rivalry. NU didn’t like KSU. KSU didn’t like NU. And both teams were good enough – and similar enough – to make this thing a good ten-year prairie war. I recall a guy on my dorm floor, storming up and down the halls that night, threatening to kill Travis Ochs if he ever met him in person.

    What happened in the last decade?

    Kansas State fans watched legend Bill Snyder retire. Nebraska fired two coaches. KSU fired one of its own. Missouri and Kansas decided to stop dithering around and get with the times. And Oklahoma put the wheels back on its formidable schooner. Mostly, NU got a little behind the curve and Kansas State found itself where it remains still: scrapping for four-year talent, relying too heavily on small, inexperienced junior college players with bad habits to break.

    So no, it’s not the same. Even with Nebraska’s 73-31 win last year, in which then-coach Bill Callahan turned into a mercenary and intended to show a disapproving Memorial Stadium just how lethal his system could be, it isn’t the same.

    And yet, this game has a feeling to it. It’s in the late afternoon, in that little pit of a stadium – now named after Snyder - where Nebraska’s won just once in the last five tries. The line in Las Vegas is conspicuously low. NU’s qualified for a bowl game, but wants more. KSU still thinks it can qualify for one by playing for its pride, its seniors and its deposed coach, Ron Prince.

    “You’re playing a desperate football team,” Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said. “You’re playing someone with nothing to lose. We’re gonna get their best shot. I promise you. I know that. The team knows that.”

    On with the keys.

    Always Be Closing: In the world of Glengarry Glen Ross, coffee was for closers. So, too, should it be when it comes to bowl games. While Nebraska has already qualified for a bowl game, the Insight Bowl, stuck on the NFL Network against some low-grade Big East team is no prize. The Gator Bowl, with its New Year’s Day pedigree, looms. The Sun Bowl, which enjoys a good history and happens to be near the great football teams of West Texas, looms too.

    As promising as win over Kansas might have been, a strong follow-up on the road might be even better. And if Colorado gives Oklahoma State fits this weekend (and we think it might) it would set up a pretty terrific showdown two weeks from now, the day after Thanksgiving.

    “We need to go out there and make a statement,” NU defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “We’re not done. Although their team is in tough situation, we’re not going to lay off. We’re going to put our foot on the pedal and go.”

    The Specials: It’s a factor again this week, as Nebraska faces a coach and a team as committed to excellence in the third phase as Virginia Tech. The Wildcats haven’t enjoyed the same success this year as the Hokies – KSU is merely average in a lot of the return categories – but their kicker, Brooks Rossman, is serviceable and Deon Murphy is a dangerous returner. While Nebraska’s punt coverage has generally been good, NU has struggled, at times, against speedy kick returners. It’s important that kickoff specialist Adi Kunalic have a good game against a team looking for energy from the special teams unit.

    “There’s a heightened awareness of how well they’ve done,” said defensive ends coach John Papuchis, who works closely with the special teams units. “They’re good, on all their units. They make big plays…they execute well, but they’re very fundamentally sound. Everything they do is technique based, and they do it well.”

    Prince of the JUCOs: It’s well known that Kansas State left the fate of its awful defense in 2007 in the hands of junior college transfer linebackers in 2008. The results have been even uglier, in fact; most teams can run on Kansas State’s 110th-ranked defense at will. While KSU has a decent secondary, its linebackers just aren’t big enough to handle 60 minutes of punishment from offensive linemen. Laterally, they’re not bad. But if Nebraska plows right at them?

    “From the games I’ve seen, Kansas and Oklahoma, it was the backs hitting the holes hard and their offensive lines blocking well and (the running backs) making people miss,” sophomore back Roy Helu, Jr. said. “(The Wildcats) are fast though, so you have to get them going one way and split them the other.”

    Freeman Factor: Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman might always be a sore subject with some Husker fans – especially if KSU were to upset NU’s apple cart this weekend. The immensely gifted, slightly aloof giant – he’s six-foot-six and, by the looks of it, well north of the 250 pounds at which he’s listed - gets a bit of a bad rap – from NU fans, and Wildcat fans – for his play; he has no running game to support his rocket arm, and when he overthrows receivers, it’s good to remember that two of them, Deon Murphy and Brandon Banks, are about as tall as your average eighth-grader. Aubrey Quarles isn’t much bigger.

    Freeman is no Joe Ganz; you wonder if the kid makes a joke, or even knows how. For two years he’d sit quietly on the bench, talking to almost no one, when the offense wasn’t on the field. He’s graduated to standing on the sidelines, talking to almost no one. If Freeman is a team leader, he’s not a conventional one.

    Still, Freeman shows flashes of what caught Bill Callahan’s eyes three years ago. Same stuff catches Pelini’s eye now.

    “When he’s hot, he’s pretty good and he’s hot most of the time,” Pelini said. “He’s a good football player. I think he runs the offense well and makes good decisions. He’s got the arm strength to make any throw.”

    Freeman’s got just enough mobility, too. Coupled with his size, he makes a tough load to bring down in the open field – although NU did a good job of it in 2007, sacking him six times.

    “We’ve faced a lot of mobile quarterbacks this year,” Papuchis said. “He just happens to be a little bigger than some of them…you have to make sure you wrap up and tackle him high.”

    A Bolt from the Purple: Last year in Lincoln, some fans held out hope that Nebraska might beat Kansas State in a close game. But no one expected 73-31. No one imagined that NU, having limped through the season, had a performance like that in it – especially from a moribund, unmotivated defense that harassed Freeman all day and forced two interceptions. And no one imagined that Nebraska’s offense, and Ganz, would have a game for the record books. Ganz’s great game - 510 yards and seven touchdowns – was inconceivable. But it happened.

    “It was just one of those days where everything came together,” Ganz said. “The play calls we’re perfect for the defenses that they were going to give us. Guys executed well. The protection was amazing. I don’t think we had one drop.”

    It provides a lesson for this Saturday. KSU hasn’t played anything near its best game this year. It may not, either, given the turmoil in Manhattan. But NU ought to be prepared for the possibility.

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    Tags: kansas state week, josh freeman, ron prince of the jucos

  7. 2008 Nov 12

    Desperate HouseCats


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    A lame duck coach. A potential bowl berth. A team wanting payback for last year’s 42-point loss. Senior day.

    Moribund Kansas State has the recipe for a classic trap meal when it hosts Nebraska’s 6-4 football team at 2:35 p.m. Saturday. The Cornhuskers are aware of it, and have no interest in sampling any revenge dish.

    “The way this team’s prepared each and every week, we haven’t looked forward to Colorado, or the bowl game or something like that,” senior defensive end Zach Potter said. “Our whole focus right now is on Kansas State. It’s a trap game, but I don’t think we’re going to let that influence us at all.”

    Said NU head coach Bo Pelini: “They could throw the kitchen sink at us.”

    KSU (4-6 overall, 1-5 in the Big 12 Conference) fired head coach Ron Prince last week, but are allowing him to finish the season.

    In the first game of Prince’s lame-duck regime, the Wildcats arguably played its best game in a month, hanging with Missouri for nearly two quarters before Jeremy Maclin busted a few long touchdowns in a 41-24 Mizzou win. Saturday’s game represents a chance for KSU to keep its bowl hopes alive and a chance to honor its seniors

    Potter figured KSU’s seniors would want to play hard for Prince.

    “Probably a lot of their younger guys are trying to figure out what they want to do, who’s going to be here, who they need to talk to keep their heads on straight,” Potter said. “The older guys, their seniors, will keep playing hard for this coach.”

    Said Pelini: “I expect them to play hard. They’ll play hard, and I think they are going to play hard for their coach and the guy that recruited them. I know there is a loyalty there. Coach Prince is a good coach, he’ll have his team ready to play and we’ll get their best shot.”

    But there’s a more evident motive pushing the Wildcats: a 73-31 loss in Lincoln last year, a game in which Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz threw for 510 yards and seven touchdowns and then-coach Bill Callahan noticeably tried to run up the score.

    “I don’t know if you ever forget anything like that,” Campbell said. “They beat us pretty handily. It is the worst loss from pretty much any standpoint for me and about anyone else on this team and that is something you don’t forget about. It was a long day and there is no question about that.”

    NU exorcised the demons of a 76-39 loss at Kansas in 2007 with a 45-35 win over the Jayhawks this year. Although the Huskers downplayed the vengeance factor before the KU game, their post-game comments reflected stronger emotions about it.

    “I guarantee in their locker room they’re a little fired up about it,” NU quarterback Joe Ganz said of Kansas State. “They have pride, too. We had pride when we got beat by Kansas by that much and we came out and played really well.”

    Tags: kansas state week, ron prince

  8. 2008 Nov 11

    Commentary: Suh's One Tough 'Ducky'


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    He’s arguably the most dominant Nebraska defensive lineman in nearly a decade, and here’s junior Ndamukong Suh, getting stuck with a goofy nickname, courtesy of third-string quarterback Zac Lee.

    “Ducky,” the team calls him. After that dinosaur in the “Land Before Time” cartoon. Apparently Suh and the green reptile resemble one another. If you’re wondering how in the world Lee dreamed up that comparison, well, use your imagination. Obviously Lee did.

    When Suh enters the game on for goal line offense, it’s called “the Ducky formation.” When Suh celebrated after his two-yard touchdown reception against Kansas, he performed the “Ducky dance.”

    “Suh’s gonna kill me,” starting quarterback Joe Ganz says, relaying the story behind the name.

    Only if Ganz were on the opposing team. Suh might lead the Huskers with 60 tackles 12.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks – almost an unthinkable trio for an interior defensive lineman - but off the field, the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder speaks softly and smiles easily. He hangs around for interview request – every interview request – tackling each question with sincerity.

    Last Monday, when most of the Husker players had walked to the locker room during the scout team scrimmage, it was Suh who returned from the bowels of Memorial Stadium to talk about the Oklahoma game. He was one of two starters, along with Armando Murillo, to do that.

    So he’s a good guy. A smart guy. An introspective guy. At times he dials his voice down to almost a whisper as he explains, in depth, why he bought into Bo and Carl Pelini’s new defense.

    “I was on the sideline in the spring and watching and seeing how the defense was coming together in a mental aspect,” Suh said Tuesday. “That’s when I really thought, ‘I’m going to be in love with this defense.’ Because it’s not predicated to one individual person, one individual group, whether that be the secondary, linebackers or defensive line. It’s a collective thing. Everybody has their opportunities to make their plays and take their shots. Collective.”

    This is the thoughtful, friendly Suh. There’s a different side, as there must be with every good football player. A violent, physical, relentless side. The side that’s picked up a couple personal fouls this season. The side that got caught in the middle of Chase Daniel’s ridiculous spitting accusations. The side that stoned KU’s center so hard on one play that the Jayhawk shivered and stood as if the edge of a giant coin was being dragged up his spine. The side that would, in the heat of moment, plant a facemask in some guy’s earhole at the very mention of name “Ducky.”

    Suh doesn’t crawl into that persona until he boards the team bus on gameday. On the bus, he doesn’t talk to his teammates. They don’t talk to him.

    “No cell phones, no nothing,” he said. “It’s all focus. Listen to your headphones. If you wanna look at your playbook, look at your playbook. It’s total focus. No joking around.”

    And the switch stays on, he said, “until 00:00 of the fourth quarter.”

    Then, he’s that guy who wore a giant grin and a goofily perched stocking cap to the KU post-game press conference.

    He’s the guy who expresses surprise at his own play this year – “Sixty tackles? That’s linebacker numbers to me.” - even though he’s had the physical tools from the day he stepped on campus.

    What he lacked was the kind of coaching in fundamentals he’s now getting with Carl Pelini. Each day, the NU defensive line works on technique and footwork. If the line botches a play in the practice script, they’ll return to it at the end.

    “Day in, day out, getting underneath the cage and hitting our sled - that continually imprints it on your brain,” Suh said. “It makes it second nature.”

    Suh could always blow up a lineman or two and make a dramatic tackle against the run; what he’s added is a second rush move to go along with his bull technique, and a knack for separating from his blocker and pursuing a runner down the field. Those skills, coupled with a natural on-field nastiness make the kid a NFL prospect right now.

    Will he test the waters this year, the last in which rookies can expect super-lucrative contracts?

    “Obviously (the NFL) is one of my goals,” Suh said. “I’ve thought about it. Am I thinking about leaving? No. I have another year to play. I’m going to take my options and play another year.”

    Would there be an exception to that plan? Sure –if Suh’s draft stock skyrockets to a position where the money would be hard to ignore, it might change. He’s healthy and his body is NFL-ready. And there’s no guarantee that, with Zach Potter and Ty Steinkuhler gone, Suh would have a better year in 2009 than he has in 2008.

    Bo Pelini’s been here before with Glenn Dorsey at LSU. For his part, Pelini was pragmatic when asked about it Tuesday. It’s a premium position, he said, and most of the great teams in NFL have a interior stud eating up blockers and ball carriers. But NFL guys might be a little wary since Suh’s only produced big numbers for one season. Plus, he said, scouts tend to focus on seniors at that position more than underclassmen.

    Dorsey, for example, was a projected first-round pick when he was graded after his junior year. After his senior year, he was a top-five pick. That’s a wad of prestige and money Dorsey gained by returning to LSU.

    “We’ll do what’s best,” is Pelini’s summary. For Suh, he meant.

    As for Nebraska? Enjoy Suh now, Husker fans. A “Ducky” like this doesn’t come around often.

    Like what you see? Join now - it's free!

    Tags: suh, blackshirts, kansas state week

  9. 2008 Nov 11

    The Blackshirts Are Back!


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Tyler Wortman called it “the best thing that’s ever happened in my life.”

    The senior Nebraska middle linebacker was one of 11 NU defenders to receive Blackshirts Tuesday before practice as the Cornhuskers prepare for Kansas State Saturday. Yes, 10 games into the season head coach Bo Pelini actually handed out the practice jerseys meant to honor Nebraska’s best defenders.

    “I’m shocked,” Wortman said. “I don’t even how to describe it. It’s such an honor to be part of something like this. All the coaches were walking up to us and congratulating us.”

    The current Blackshirts are: Wortman, middle linebacker Phillip Dillard, defensive ends Zach Potter, Pierre Allen and Clayton Sievers, defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Ty Steinkuhler, and defensive backs Armando Murillo, Anthony West, Eric Hagg and Larry Asante.

    Just 11, and it’s not solely based on starters, as backup Sievers and Hagg, who’ s not officially No. 1 on the depth chart, both got them, while safeties Matt O’Hanlon and/or Rickey Thenarse did not. Weakside linebacker Cody Glenn was indefinitely suspended Tuesday by head coach Bo Pelini.

    “The coaches told us the number is 11,” Allen said.

    Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said the staff decided in a Sunday meeting following NU’s 45-35 win over Kansas to hand out the Blackshirts on Tuesday.

    “We thought the physical nature of the play on Saturday, the great effort our guys made running sideline to sideline, we felt like that was a performance where they earned the Blackshirts,” Pelini said. “So we put them in their lockers today and when they came out of meetings, they were waiting for them.”

    Carl Pelini called NU’s following practice “the best of the year.”

    “There was a certain level of excitement there and a certain level of our guys feeling a sense of achievement.”

    Bo Pelini doesn’t talk after Tuesday practices, and he did not mention the Blackshirts in his Tuesday press conference.

    Join our Blackshirts group!

    Tags: blackshirts, kansas state week, cody glenn

  10. 2008 Nov 11

    Joe The OC


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz isn’t exactly drawing up plays in the dirt as he prepares each week. But he is working them out in his mind, designing one or two calls per game that NU offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has at his disposal.

    “I’ll be sitting there studying and a play will pop into my head or something,” Ganz said at Tuesday's press conference. “I’ll see something on film and it usually just me and Wats coming up with plays.”

    Ganz said he’s been designing plays since he was a freshman, and could see himself “doing that for a living later on.”

    “It’s fun to do it on the field and actually see it called and have it work,” Ganz said. “It’s just cool to come up with a different play that works.”

    That very thing occurred in Nebraska’s 35-30 loss to Virginia Tech earlier this season, when a play Ganz designed resulted in a 46-yard pass to receiver Nate Swift.

    Usually, Ganz said, he and Watson work on them on Tuesdays, when the offensive plan is being installed. Backup quarterback Beau Davis tries to get in on the fun, too.

    “But his are just awful,” Ganz joked. “He doesn’t know what he’s looking at, he’s begging me ‘it’s gonna be wide open, I guarantee you.’”

    Tags: kansas state week, joe ganz

  11. 2008 Nov 10

    Monday Practice: Scout Teamers Shine


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Another Monday practice for Nebraska’s football team, and another scout team scrimmage for the Cornhuskers, who began preparations for Kansas State with a practice inside the Hawks Center.

    NU head coach Bo Pelini called the workout a “good go” and singled out freshmen receivers Steven Osborne and Khiry Cooper, freshman quarterback Kody Spano, junior offensive guard Ricky Henry and freshman defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler as standouts.

    Nebraska redshirted almost its entire freshman class – and will seek medical redshirts for Sean Fisher and Cameron Meredith – with the idea of developing the class for 2009 and beyond.

    “It’ll make us stronger for the future. It’s a good group,” he
    said.  “It’s a talented group (of guys) who have a good attitude and work hard and are physical guys. I think it’s going to turn out to be a good class.”

    Give our trivia a try!

    Tags: kansas state week

  12. 2008 Nov 07

    Thirty Bucks for NU-KSU, please.


    By SMcKewon

    Blog post image

    Nebraska will again be on pay-per-view for the Kansas State game next Saturday, as it wasn't picked up for telecast by any network. Iowa State was picked up - this week and next. Not NU.

    That'll be a stunning fifth game this year that's gone on pay-per-view. Gotta be some kind of record, right?

    Here's the whole skinny on it.

    Tags: kansas state week

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