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  1. 2011 Nov 28

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against Iowa

    1,717 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Erin Sorensen

    It was another early game for Nebraska, as the Cornhuskers faced the Iowa Hawkeyes in the inaugural Heroes Game. Roughly 8,000 Iowa fans were in attendance as the new rivalry was born.

    The Cornhuskers kicked the feud off exactly as they wanted to with a 20-7 win. There was a lot to pay attention to during the last game of the regular season. What did the fans in Memorial Stadium get to see?

    1. “Bounce-Back Ability”

    Nebraska needed this win. Having not lost consecutive games in 2011, Friday’s matchup was a big one for many reasons. Aside from being the start of a new day-after-Thanksgiving rivalry, it also pushed the Huskers' prestige high enough to be considered for some of the better non-BCS bowl games. The team showed their strength and remained focused, eliminating any major mistakes.

    Losing to Michigan was tough, but the Wolverines have proved to be a strong team in the Big Ten. Michigan’s toppling of Ohio State was a telling sign of the damage that Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson can deal out. Regardless, the win over Iowa should be celebrated. It proved this team knows how to bounce back from a punch in the gut.

    2. Defense, Defense, Defense

    If anyone deserves a Blackshirt after this season, it is Lavonte David. Alongside Alfonzo Dennard, the two senior defensive players left their mark (or marks) on the Iowa offense. Throwing was a dangerous option for the Hawkeyes, as Dennard was blanketing Iowa’s best receiver in Marvin McNutt, and was ready to pick the ball off if given the chance. If Iowa had kept throwing at him, he likely would have snagged it at one point as he came close several times.

    As for David, he made sure that running back Marcus Coker had one of his worst outings of the season. Considering that Iowa focused heavily on David in preparation for Friday’s game, it became immediately clear that no amount of planning would be able to make the Nebraska linebacker a non-factor. Needless to say, David’s NFL draft stock rose considerably last Friday. Dennard’s isn’t too far behind.

    3. A Strong Run Game

    Rex Burkhead was smiling on the sidelines on Friday, and with good reason. Not only did he break the single-game record for most carries with 38, but he also managed to take a seat and breathe more often. His numbers would lead one to think he was run ragged against the Hawkeyes, but he was repeatedly on the sidelines taking small breaks. During those times, some of the younger running backs got a chance to see the field.

    Nebraska is sitting pretty when it comes to the run game. If the offensive line holds up their end of the deal, the running backs are as good as any you’ll find. Burkhead held his ground in the race for the best Big Ten running back and could very well be rewarded for his efforts. Fans already see a very promising future for the junior I-back. Imagine what he will be capable of in 2012.

    4. Coach Competence

    After a rollercoaster season, Friday was a big moment for Tim Beck. While there is still a lot of growing for the new offensive coordinator to do, Beck once again showed promise. Quarterback Taylor Martinez has shown solid growth over the 2011 season. Whether that can be credited to Beck or not is unknown at this point.

    Many on Bo Pelini’s staff showed development as coaches this season. Beck has made his fair share of mistakes, but has also had moments of brilliance. Learning to be an offensive coordinator at the level he is at takes time, but 2012 looks promising. Under his direction, Martinez has become a more complete quarterback. Time can only help this situation improve.

    5. A Win For The Seniors

    During Wednesday’s practice, several seniors stood up and addressed the team in the football auditorium. They spoke about their final game at Nebraska and how it was important to walk off into the sunset as winners. Players that are known as team jokesters had tears in their eyes.

    The Cornhuskers played their hearts out last Friday, from Rex Burkhead’s flip for a first down to Kenny Bell laying out for a reception. It was clear the seniors were on their minds and they wanted to send them out the right way: Holding the Heroes Game trophy.

    While Nebraska won’t be playing for the Big Ten Championship, last Friday’s game helped soften that blow for fans and players alike. It became a pseudo-Big Ten Championship game, and fans saw a lot of promise for 2012. It is now up to the Huskers to take that momentum into the bowl game and win once more. Not just for the seniors, but for the future of the program.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, alfonzo dennard, lavonte david, bo pelini, tim beck, marvin mcnutt, marcus coker, heroes game

  2. 2011 Nov 27

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Most Valuable Huskers vs. Iowa

    1,848 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By James Stevenson

    Offensive MVH: Could it be anyone other than junior running back Rex Burkhead? The Huskers’ season-long workhorse carried the ball a school-record 38 times for 160 yards and a touchdown and snagged a catch for 12 yards.

    His sole rush for negative yardage was No. 38, when Nebraska handed the ball to Burkhead in the victory formation for him to kneel. Some may view it as backing into the record, but given the way No. 22 has carried the team all season (along with already nearly setting the record against Michigan State), it was only appropriate for “Superman” to take a knee.

    Defensive MVH: Nebraska has never had a two-year force on defense like senior linebacker Lavonte David. He led the team with eight tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

    He also played well in pass coverage, breaking up two passes. In just two years, David has ranks fifth on Nebraska’s all-time tackle list, and barring a bowl-game meltdown, will finish fourth place behind Husker greats Barrett Ruud, Jerry Murtaugh and Mike Brown.

    Iowa MVHawkeye: Husker fans haven’t seen the last of sophomore running back Marcus Coker. The sole highlight on offense for the Hawkeyes was Coker and his relentless attitude. He rushed for 87 yards on 18 carries (4.8 YPC) and walked in a touchdown.

    He also caught three passes for 39 yards, one of those being a 19-yard scamper early in the contest. One must wonder why Iowa didn’t stick with what seemed to be their most potent offensive threat.

    Stick 'Em Award: Freshman wide receiver Kenny Bell turned in his best game as a Husker. He came up with five catches for 93 yards. Four of his grabs resulted in Nebraska first downs. One of Bell’s catches was spectacular, as a he dove for a ball that was thrown low and away from him.

    Lockdown Award: Senior cornerback Alfonzo Dennard had a slow start to the season after sitting out Nebraska’s early games while recovering from injury. At his best when he’s not on the stat sheet, he only recorded three tackles, but his presence on the field is undeniable.

    In the last few weeks, Dennard has proven himself as one of the elite corners in college football, shutting down the Big Ten’s top receivers. He did it again on Friday, limiting junior Hawkeye wide receiver Marvin McNutt to just four catches.

    B1G Ten Rivalry Award: Nebraska won not only one, but two trophies on Friday. First, the Huskers took home the Heroes Game trophy that was commissioned by the universities.

    Second, the Big Red also laid claim to the Corn Bowl, a trophy commissioned by the Nebraska Innocents Society and Iowa’s President’s Leadership Society. In a league dominated by rivalry games and trophies, Nebraska one-upped everyone with a two-trophy rivalry game.

    Quick Recovery: A mere six days after getting blown out in Ann Arbor by a Michigan team that dominated time of possession, the Huskers’ effort was eerily reminiscent of the Wolverines last week. While both Nebraska and Iowa averaged 4.6 yards a play, Nebraska ran 83 plays to Iowa’s 59, and time of possession favored the Huskers by over 15 minutes (37:47 to 22:13).

    The Blackshirts were the biggest reason for this, holding Iowa to just to two successful third down conversions on twelve attempts. Until the fourth quarter, the Hawkeyes offered little scoring threat, and it looked as if Nebraska might record its first shutout of the season.

    Last Friday’s performance was an appropriate way to send off this year’s seniors, especially the ones on a defensive unit that underwhelmed fans with some very high expectations.

    Follow James on Twitter: @jamesstevenson
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    Tags: rex burkhead, lavonte david, marcus coker, barrett ruud, jerry murtaugh, mike brown, kenny bell, alfonzo dennard, marvin mcnutt, heroes game, corn bowl, iowa

  3. 2011 Nov 27

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Knee-Jerk Reactions - Iowa

    2,416 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - Call Rex Burkhead’s final tote of the rock what you want, but he deserved the record for carries after his day/season.

    - Speaking of Superman, he was responsible for over 72 percent of Nebraska’s rushing yardage and over 41 percent of the Cornhuskers’ entire offensive output.

    - The gameplan was vanilla, but when you have a weapon like Burkhead and an opponent that can’t stop him, why mess with a good thing?

    - Ameer Abdullah ran hard when he had the opportunity. Another year’s tutelage under No. 22 will only end in positive results for the young backups.

    - Taylor’s touchdown lob to Kyler Reed was awfully Tebowesque.

    - Martinez has improved over the season, but it’s been two steps forward, one step back.

    - Props to seniors on the offensive line. This is a unit that's pulled a 180.

    - Lavonte David plays like the entire opposing team has personally wronged him. In other news, the sun rose today.

    - Andrew Green looks remarkably different from game one. We might see brothers playing regularly on offense and defense come next season.

    - Wonder what five things Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt wishes he could’ve brought to Dennard Island.

    - Brett Maher had a 16-yard punt and still ended the game with a near 42-yard average on seven boots.

    - Bowl Prediction of the Week: Capital One vs. Arkansas.

    - Nebraska and Iowa should be playing for a six-foot-long bronzed pitchfork. There, it’s been said.

    Follow Brandon on Twitter: @eightlaces
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    Tags: rex burkhead, ameer abdullah, taylor martinez, kyler reed, lavonte david, andrew green, alfonzo dennard, marvin mcnutt, brett maher, capital one bowl, arkansas, heroes game

  4. 2011 Jun 04

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Blackshirts vs. The Big 10 - Part 4

    2,864 views

    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brian Towle



    Iowa Hawkeyes: Last year was such an odd season for the folks in Iowa City. There was the unpleasant visit to Tucson, the heartbreaking losses against Wisconsin and Ohio State and a 1-3 record during the last four games. What’s even worse were the health scares that put numerous players in the hospital. On the other hand, there was the thumping that the Hawkeyes gave to Iowa State, the way that Iowa just demolished Michigan State and the Insight Bowl comeback against Missouri.

    Kirk Ferentz returns for his 13th season as Head Coach making him second in tenure at Iowa only to Hayden Fry. He’s also the highest paid coach in the conference. Ferentz hasn't been the most successful or beloved Hawkeyes coach, but he’s always seemed to do just enough to keep his job. Pro teams and other schools have stopped calling for the time being and Ferentz needs to utilize the quiet time to rebuild his team into Big Ten contenders.



    Offensively, Iowa loses not only their biggest leader in quarterback Ricky Stanzi, but also both starting guards. James Vandenberg isn’t new to the starting role as he started for two games in 2009 while Stanzi recovered from a broken ankle. He almost led an upset of Ohio State before defeating Minnesota the next week.

    Running back Marcus Coker started the last five games for the Hawkeyes in 2010 whose running back depth was nearly eliminated after losing three starters due to a combination of injuries and off the field issues. Wide receiver Marvin McNutt is a first team All-Big Ten selection and deservedly so. After barely a year at the position, he led the school in receptions and yardage in 2010 and could very well be the best receiver that Iowa's ever seen by the end of his career.

    Defensively, there was no better team last year in the Big Ten. Giving up only 17 points per game, the Norm Parker-led defense was the best in the conference in pass defense and pass efficiency last year. Iowa’s been no worse than No. 12 in FBS scoring defense the last four seasons. Unfortunately, the Iowa defense did lose quite a bit of depth over the offseason.

    Gone are defensive linemen Adrian Clayborn, Karl Klug, Christian Ballard. Linebackers Jeremiha Hunter and Troy Johnson will be absent as will be safeties Tyler Sash and Brent Greenwood. Iowa does return preseason All-Big Ten cornerback Shaun Prater and safety Micah Hyde. This squad will be very green, especially up front



    The Hawkeyes have their work cut out for them this year. Vandenberg doesn't come off as being a great passer. During their spring game, the balls that he threw seemed to float pretty hard which led to his two interceptions that day. This team will have to stay on the ground as they try to coach Vandenberg into a true blue starter that can make all of the necessary throws. It's expected for Iowa's defense to drop off somewhat because of all the talent that they lost to the NFL.

    Ferentz is probably on one of the hotter seats in the conference given his pay rate and how he didn't finish well last year with all of the talent that he had returning. However, while there is pressure to win, those in Iowa City realize that there will be growing pains this year and will wait until next season for a good run at the Big Ten title.

    Since Iowa will be Nebraska’s new post-Thanksgiving rival, there will likely be something on the line when these two teams play in Lincoln. Iowa is good enough to worry about, but not enough to make you panic. If the Nebraska offense can score on the Hawkeyes regularly, it shouldn't be that much of a contest.

    Follow Brian on Twitter: @btbowling

    Tags: kirk ferentz, iowa, hawkeyes, ricky stanzi, marcus coker, marvin mcnutt, shaun prater, micah hyde

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