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  1. 2010 Oct 22

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Five Keys to Oklahoma State


    By HuskerLocker

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    Intermezzo in Stillwater. Nebraska's game at Oklahoma State lacks the drama of last week's Texas tilt and next week's blood match with Missouri – which, if the Tigers beat Oklahoma Saturday and NU beats the Cowboys, becomes the game of the year in the Big 12. But the stakes are up, NU's wagons are circled around this moment, and a fan base just now stumbling out of the fog of the UT loss wonders just which Husker team shows up for Saturday afternoon nachos.

    The keys, please:

    Chess Match: Nebraska may not face a coaching staff that's equal to its own expertise every week, but NU has a tough assignment in OSU's braintrust, led by head coach Mike Gundy, who's stepped away from the offense some to coach the mood the team during the game, but still remains an offensive mind as strong as any in the Big 12. The Cowboys' offensive and defensive coordinators, Dana Holgerson and Bill Young, have proven track records – Young coached Bo Pelini, in fact, when Bo was at Ohio State – and aggressive schemes. While Oklahoma State has developed a habit of struggling in these big games, the Brothers Pelini and Shawn Watson aren't going to run them ragged on schemes and plans.

    Polar-opposite Quarterbacks: An interesting side story of Saturday's game pits Nebraska redshirt freshman Taylor Martinez – a young, explosive runner who leads almost exclusively by example – against OSU junior Brandon Weeden, a 27-year-old former Minor League Baseball player who isn't much of a runner, but has a strong arm and an even stronger presence in the locker room. If you want to talk about two guys who come at the position from an entirely different point of view, here you have it.

    Who does the matchup favor? It could be a push. Martinez officially has a blueprint floating around out there to stop his running talents, while the book on Weeden is to get a pass rush in his face and make him throw interceptions. But if you give either quarterback some room to breathe – watch out.

    First quarter stumbles: In five of the nine Nebraska losses during the Bo Pelini era, NU has turned the ball over in the first quarter – against Oklahoma in 2008, it was several times - which directly led to points for the opponent. At home or on the road, Nebraska never seems to be a particularly fast starter; it can't afford to get behind against an explosive OSU team that also has the ability to control the clock.

    Head Hunter: While wide receiver Justin Blackmon – who leads the nation in receiving yards and touchdowns - earns the press clippings for the time being, it's senior running back Kendall Hunter who should attract more of Nebraska's attention. Equally skilled in between the tackles and darting around in the open field, Hunter is the kind of player who challenges NU's relative inexperience at linebacker. OSU can pound the ball on isolation and counter plays, but also send Hunter on quick shoot routes toward the sideline that forces LaVonte David or Will Compton to cover a ton of ground in a short amount of time.

    Nebraska's elite secondary can probably diminish Blackmon's contribution or take it away entirely. Hunter is a different matter.

    T. Boone Factor: Oilman T. Boone Pickens and his enormous wad of cash has transformed an erector set of a stadium into a polished, full-blown home field advantage that will come into play Saturday. While NU handled road trips to Washington and Kansas State with surprising ease, you just have to think that, somewhere during this season, an opposing crowd will get its claws into Nebraska a little bit. You hope, if you're a Husker fan, that it isn't Saturday.

    Win Nebraska-Missouri Tickets

    Tags: five keys, oklahoma state game, taylor martinez, kendall hunter, will compton, lavonte david, shawn watson, carl pelini, bo pelini

  2. 2010 Oct 21

    Husker Heartbeat 10/21: Connie's New Crew


    By HuskerLocker

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    Photo from US Presswire

    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.

    *Fresh off a historic season, Connie Yori talks about her new young Nebraska women's basketball team, including a "special" freshman in Jordan Hooper.

    *NU volleyball rolls again.

    *LJS Sipple looks at Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgerson, a Mike Leach disciple.

    *OSU's Kendall Hunter is the biggest, most versatile threat for the Cowboys' offense.

    *Brandon Kinnie's dropped pass haunted him for days.

    *Looking back at the few memorable Nebraska-Oklahoma State games.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, oklahoma state game, connie yori, brandon kinnie, kendall hunter

  3. 2009 Aug 29

    Big 12 Breakdown: No. 3 Oklahoma State


    By HuskerLocker

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    Husker Locker will be counting down and breaking down each of the teams in the conference. We hope you view this series as more interesting, comprehensive and definitive than what you may find elsewhere. Where we can make strong takes – we will.

    We rank the teams 12 to 1 in overall strength. Then we’ll provide for you the North/South breakdown – and the preseason All Big 12 team, as well.


    Today: No. 3 Oklahoma State

    Coach: Mike Gundy
    2008 Record: 9-4

    What’s Changed Since 2008: OSU opened its new Xanadu football facility, among the swankiest in college football. The Cowboys also went out and bought A Winston Wolf, so to speak, in defensive coordinator Bill Young, who’s supposed to come in and fix a defense that gave up 56, 61 and 42 points in three of its last four games. And the expectations changed. Super booster T. Boone Pickens projects a calm, friendly exterior, but he didn’t bankroll an overhaul of the program just so the Cowboys could guard a Taco Bell.

    2009 Non-Conference Schedule: Every game is at home, but the first two are challenging: Georgia and Houston. OSU is better than both, but it must clear the mental hurdle of Georgia’s name in week one and avoid a letdown in week two vs. the Cougars. The non-conference slate finishes with a rebuilding Rice team and Grambling.

    2009 Conference Schedule: Manageable, with road games at Texas A&M, Baylor and Iowa State before Bedlam at Oklahoma to end the season. Texas in Boone Pickens Stadium on Halloween. You won’t get a crazier night in Stillwater than that.

    Offense: Balanced Spread

    Coordinator: Mike Gundy – He calls the plays during drives, and gameplans - by himself, with his back turned to the field – while the defense is on the field. Gunter Brewer has the title, but it’s nominal. At any rate, Gundy is an excellent coordinator. He mixes spread and West Coast principles together for the league’s sturdiest offensive design; OSU can run downhill with two tight ends, or spread out with four wide receivers. Last year, the Cowboys rushed for an average of 245 and passed for an average of 242. Can’t beat that.

    Strength: Exceptional skill players. Seriously – exceptional. Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant are the nation’s best running back and wide receiver, respectively. Hunter is quick-footed, instinctive runner – think Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams – with a nose for the end zone and the patience to wait for blocking. Bryant, meanwhile, is a cross of Steve Smith and Lee Evans who’s deadly effective in the slot. A possession receiver blessed with good separation skills and takeoff speed. At quarterback, Zac Robinson benefits from the excellence around him, but his feet make him a dangerous dual weapon. Robinson gets a little… too courageous at times, and needs to avoid injury. Russell Okung is the nation’s best pass-blocking left tackle, too.

    Weakness:Not much, frankly. Bryant and Robinson can’t get hurt.

    Defense: 4-3 or 4-2-5

    Coordinator: Bill Young – Architect of Kansas’s one-year defensive renaissance in 2007. Worked with Miami last year. He’s a bit of a gun for hire, frankly. He’s here to win a Big 12 Championship.

    Strength: The linebackers. Andre Sexton moves from strong safety to a hybrid safety/linebacker role, and he’s the most active, disruptive player on the defense. Orie Lemon and Patrick Levine are complete players who handle pass coverage pretty well. Perrish Cox is a top-shelf cornerback and kick returner. Defensive end Ugo Chinasa could be ready to make the leap to all-conference caliber in 2009.

    Weakness: OSU couldn’t pressure the quarterback last year (only 15 sacks all season) and gave up 4.3 yards per carry. If a team had a good offensive line, the Cowboys were pretty sunk. OSU was badly exposed – beaten up, really – in the Holiday Bowl vs. Oregon, which amassed 565 total yards, 307 on the ground. OSU has to start with the front four, and go from there. Too often in recent years, the front just hasn’t been very good.

    Special TeamsExcellent. Dez Bryant and Perrish Cox are the best punt/kick return combo in America. Dan Bailey made 15-19 field goals. Joe DeForest was hired to solely focus on special teams, and it shows.

    Intangibles: OSU hasn’t beaten Texas or Oklahoma in five years, despite many chances, especially vs. the Longhorns. Gundy’s teams, in general, struggle in big games. For a couple years, that was related to talent, but that’s not the case now. The other intangible is Gundy himself. He’s part of pop culture thanks to his rant two years ago, and that both works for and against him. No matter what OSU becomes this year – national title contender or disappointing flop – he’ll be the story.

    Best-Case Scenario: 11-0 heading the Norman. It’s absolutely possible.

    Worst-Case Scenario: Dumping the first two games and struggling from there. It’s absolutely possible.

    Our Take: So much hinges on the first game vs. Georgia. We like OSU there, and vs. Houston (whom we’re picking to upset Texas Tech) but we still want to see the Cowboys beat Texas and Oklahoma when it counts. Until then, we must predict 10-2, with an outside shot at the BCS, depending on how OU fares with its difficult schedule. Otherwise, a Cotton Bowl tilt with old friend Les Miles and LSU.

    Tags: big 12 breakdown, mike gundy, oklahoma state, dez bryant, zac robinson, kendall hunter

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