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  1. 2012 Jan 04

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: 10 Huskers to Watch in 2012


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Guest Columnist Sean Berger

    10. Defensive Line Youngins: Chase Rome and Jason Ankrah

    Young blood on the defensive line. With all of their playing time this year, much was asked of these guys. The early injury to Jared Crick becomes a blessing in disguise for the short-term future of our beloved Blackshirts.

    9. Quarterback Taylor Martinez

    An obvious selection, the entire fan base expects improvement No. 1 signal-caller. We need to see him improve his focus on protecting the ball when running this pistol-option-hybrid thing that Tim Beck and Shawn Watson developed. This year he improved in checking down on routes. We couldn't have asked him to spread the ball around more. (Thank you, Joe Ganz?)

    He involved nearly every tight end and wide receiver on the depth chart. Throwing the ball away when necessary seems natural for this guy. He may get outplayed at quarterback in his final two seasons if he can't develop new passing mechanics, though. His current mechanics combined with his lack of arm strength for the deep ball are not a long term solution. They're a liability in the games that matter most.

    8. Wide receivers Quincy Enunwa and Kenny Bell

    Personal intuition tells me that Enunwa will plateau into a "nice" Kenny Cheatham, but we've only begun to see Bell's potential, of which the only ceiling becomes his 6’1” frame. Enunwa prove me wrong! Nonetheless, Nebraska finally has playmakers at wide receiver. Improving hands seem to be the priority, but these guys have speed, too.

    7. Offensive linemen Seung Hoon Choi, Jeremiah Sirles and Andrew Rodriguez

    Here's the beef that has to continue to get stronger. These are the underclassmen with playing time under their belts. For the read-option-pistol thinger to continue to evolve, these guys need to give Martinez the running room and the extra seconds of decision time for Beck to utilize his best athletes: Rex Burkhead, Taylor Martinez, Ameer Abdullah and Jamal Turner.

    6. Running back Ameer Abdullah

    All of his athletic capabilities — strength, agility and speed — points to this guy being a consistent No. 2 running back for 2012. He's an exciting player with game-changing capabilities on special teams.

    5. Linebacker Will Compton

    This guy becomes the anchor of the defense. During his last two games, he seemed to be more aggressive off the ball. He's a playmaker in his best moments. I think he'll be a strong leader for the defense because he's just as committed as the next guy to the team's desire to write chapters of championship legacy.

    4. Wide receiver Jamal Turner

    In my opinion, I think Tim Beck will give him a strong look at quarterback during the offseason this offseason. We saw flashes of his athleticism this season. He has the speed of a dangerous dual-threat quarterback. Does he have an arm that can unseat Taylor Martinez? Beck is just crazy enough to involve three quarterbacks (Burkhead, Martinez and Turner) if the need arises.

    3. Defensive lineman Cameron Meredith

    I have to believe he'll get some Mel Kiper talk following his senior year at Nebraska. Everyone loves the curly locks, right? They resemble the raw gutsy leader that he is on the field and off.

    2. Running back Rex Burkhead

    The best running back in the categories of muscle and heart, Rex Burkhead didn't miss a beat for a Nebraska running attack that experienced the loss of third-round NFL draft selection Roy Helu, Jr. Every carry by Burkhead featured No. 22 inching out tough-as-nails yards after contract and reminding every Husker fan why Lincoln is the Pittsburgh of the Midwest in the process.

    1. Safety Daimion Stafford

    A hard-hitting safety, Stafford had some great moments in coverage this year. With all of the problems in the secondary this year - the change in coaching, a transition of philosophies, the loss of Prince Amukamara, Dejon Gomes and Ricky Thenarse - there were almost too many holes to for the Blackshirts to fill in pass coverage.

    Nebraska will need two solid corners to compliment Stafford but there's no overlooking the fact that he was an answer amidst all of the questions. Stafford will be the heart of the defensive backfield in 2012.

    Follow Sean on Twitter: @bergrbergr
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    Tags: chase rome, jason ankrah, taylor martinez, quincy enunwa, kenny bell, seung hoon choi, heremiah sirles, andrew rodriguez, ameer abdullah, will compton, jamal turner, cameron meredith, rex burkhead, daimion stafford

  2. 2012 Jan 04

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: "We'll Be Just Fine" - A Season In Review


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Erin Sorensen

    “We’ll be just fine.”

    Haunting words, aren’t they?

    Spoken by head coach Bo Pelini as he made his way to the locker room before halftime last Monday, those four words hung heavy in the air.

    “We’ll be just fine.”

    Huskers across the country wondered, “Will we?” The score was only 16-13 at that time. There was plenty of game left to turn it around. Nebraska had already proven that they could overcome a far greater deficit against Ohio State earlier in the season. This would surely be much easier. “Yes, we’ll be just fine.”

    As the third quarter began, a rarity occurred - kicker Brett Maher missed a field goal, a 35-yarder at that. That kick should have been an easy hit, but on the most inconvenient of days, Maher missed.

    Then Alfonzo Dennard was ejected. The star cornerback spent the fourth quarter in the locker room, far from where his team needed him. South Carolina stud wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had tested him and Dennard snapped. Fans have always known that he plays with his heart on his sleeve. Jeffery finally got the better of him.

    Pelini’s words continued to ring through the minds of many as the game progressed. Would the Huskers be fine? Momentum never seemed to be in favor of Nebraska following Jeffery’s Hail Mary catch. Pelini focused on the previous drive, rather than look forward. ESPN called Nebraska’s head coach “volcanic” as he berated a referee. Unfair? Maybe, but that is who Pelini is – a wildly passionate coach with a surly reputation.

    How exactly did Nebraska get here, again?

    The Cornhuskers became an official member of the Big Ten this last summer. July 1, 2011 was a celebrated day in Husker Nation. Nebraska was touted as a strong contender for the Big Ten championship and a subsequent trip to Pasadena. Things were coming up roses for Nebraska (a little pun intended).

    September rolled by and Nebraska overcame its first challenge – Washington. That win seemed to nullify the embarrassing Holiday Bowl loss eight months prior. The Cornhuskers were going to be just fine.

    Then October 1 happened. Nebraska found themselves on the losing end of things, giving up 48 points to the Wisconsin Badgers. It was an unknown at the time, but this was only the beginning of a wild ride. On any given week, the Huskers were or were not leading the Legends Division of the Big Ten. Would Nebraska go to Indianapolis? Of course they would, why would they not? Everything was going to be just fine.

    The loss to Northwestern flipped the season. A team filled with so much talent dropped a 28-25 decision to the Wildcats. It was a big win for Northwestern, as Nebraska was ranked No. 9 at the time. Quarterback Taylor Martinez played an outstanding game, only to be overshadowed by the sting of losing the Legends Division crown. Everything that had once been easily in reach was now gone. Yet, Nebraska was still going to be just fine.

    Are you sensing a theme?

    Somewhere along the line, Nebraska began to settle for the idea that everything would be just fine. Concerns were often painted over by the promise that things would work out. “True” fans were called into question for voicing doubts. It became a toxic, self-destructing situation.

    The Cornhusker program has spent the better part of a decade accepting that things will be fine. What if they are not though? Is that really a tragedy? Admitting that the way things are progressing isn’t fine doesn’t show weakness. It also does not call for a coach to be fired or a player to be benched.

    No – it calls for improvement. Accepting that things are not going to be fine puts the wheels in motion to fix what’s broken. It’s maturity. Plenty of programs have had to take step backs and reevaluate. Again, that doesn’t require a new coach or an entire new set of players. It just requires a change of thought.

    By the time the game clock expired against South Carolina, Pelini’s words sat heavily on the minds and in the stomachs of many, including his own. A somber looking Husker head coach spoke about being the better team and deserving the win. Pelini was right, too. Nebraska has always had the opportunity to be the better team. Nebraska has also always had the opportunity to win. What will it take to make both happen?

    It will take finally accepting that no, we are not going to be just fine.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: bo pelini, alfonzo dennard, taylor martinez

  3. 2012 Jan 03

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against South Carolina


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Erin Sorensen

    30-13 - a score Nebraska fans were neither expecting nor hoping for. Well, maybe fans hoped the score was flipped in the Big Red's favor. Unfortunately, the Huskers landed on the bad end, recording their second consecutive bowl loss. The game was filled with plenty of game-changing moments. Fans were asked to keep an eye on five very important areas. How did they fare in the season finale?

    1. Connor Shaw Was Contained…For a While

    South Carolina’s quarterback saw the ground more than he was probably expecting yesterday. At times, it appeared as if the Blackshirts had the Gamecock offense more than figured out. At others, it was Wisconsin and Michigan all over again.

    The Blackshirts of the Michigan State game made various appearances during the game. It wasn’t consistent, but it was clear Shaw was getting tired of being run around. Had the Huskers been able to keep it up, Shaw could have been worn down.

    2. The Rex Burkhead Show (With a Supporting Cast)

    Everyone saw this coming a mile away including the Gamecocks, The Rex Burkhead Show made another appearance yesterday. However, Burkhead is a player than can break blocks and find holes where there are none, so this wasn't much of an issue. When it seemed impossible for him to run, he broke free. The month-long break was clearly good for his legs.

    Interestingly, Nebraska's offense wasn't a one man act this time. Thankfully, he had a supporting cast that did what they could when they could. Ameer Abdullah scored a touchdown, for instance. That more players were seeing the ball was a positive note for Tim Beck and his play calling. Again, this might not have been much but it was something worth noting.

    However, Abdullah also proved why the ball is often handed solely to Burkhead – he fumbled the ball on the Gamecocks' eight-yard line. Abdullah shouldn’t be vilified for one fumble, but this one was a momentum changer. Fans can expect to see Burkhead in an even bigger role come 2012, making sure his young backups learn to hold on to the ball.

    3. The Results of Team Preparation

    It turns out that “team preparation” wasn’t what should have been the biggest thing to watch for with the Huskers. No, it was “team discipline.” Calling this Nebraska team unprepared would be inaccurate. This team was prepared. You could see it in those several glimmering moments of hope. You saw the groundwork laid that resulted in Kenny Bell’s 30-yard touchdown catch. Unfortunately, you also saw the lack of discipline in the reaction to the following blocked PAT.

    More often than not, players were in it for themselves. The things they were coached to do went out the window. Emotions were worn on sleeves and frustration got the better of many. It overshadowed every bit of preparation the Huskers had. You can watch as much game film as you want, but without attention to discipline, none of it matters.

    The blame cannot rest fully on the players. While they did make mistakes, their lack of composure reflected their head coach who stood on the sidelines yelling at referees. This is a passionate team and fans know that. However, it’s time to start finding balance.

    4. Lavonte David’s Finest Hour

    As was said post-game, “Lavonte David is a freak.” He really is. David had a stellar game against South Carolina. Don’t agree? You might have missed it between every blown coverage and poorly read South Carolina offense. David held up his end of the deal by being where he needed to be, as always.

    If anything, he solidified himself as a desirable early-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. For his size, David is a tough player. When the going got tough, he kept playing. He was also the player to offer words of wisdom and comfort cornerback Alfonzo Dennard after he was ejected from the game. David is truly a special player through and through.

    It may not have been Nebraska’s finest hour, but it surely was one of David’s.

    5. Lack of Confidence by Taylor Martinez

    Taylor Martinez’s confidence level has been a rollercoaster this season to say the least. He has had extreme highs (Ohio State and Northwestern) along with severe lows (Wisconsin and Michigan). How he handles adversity has been a crapshoot each and every game of his career. Yesterday’s performance has been added to the extreme lows for the sophomore quarterback.

    Martinez is now a veteran. He has been the starting quarterback for two years. There are no more excuses in 2012. He has the talent. The confidence needs to be there, too. Here’s hoping Brion Carnes and incoming recruit Tommy Armstrong can provide some stiff competition in the offseason. Martinez feeds off of that competition. With enough coaching, the low-confidence days of 2010 and 2011 could be a distant memory. It’s time for him to be the CEO of the huddle.

    It really has been a wild ride. The SEC once again dominated the Big Ten. Nebraska must be feeling right at home among their conference brothers. The Capital One Bowl didn’t end as fans had hoped and it is sending the team into a long offseason with a bitter taste in their mouths…again. How will it ultimately affect the program? Husker fans have plenty of time to wait and see.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: capital one bowl, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, ameer abdullah, kenny bell, bo pelini

  4. 2012 Jan 03

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Knee-Jerk Reactions - South Carolina


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    - If Tim Beck figures out how to replicate a gameplan like the first quarter against South Carolina, cut him a check for whatever he asks.

    - If Tim Beck continues to be as predictable as the outcome of a Harlem Globetrotters game to any decent defensive coordinator, tear the check up.

    - Taylor Martinez made progress in 2011. Here’s hoping a legitimate quarterback competition takes place in the offseason to push him to do so even more.

    - Really wanted to make a joke about a Burkhead touchdown being brought to you by Norelco.

    - Tim Marlowe drops a pass and Brett Maher misses a 35-yard field goal. The Mayans were right.

    - While the officiating crew made some severe errors, they did not cost Nebraska this game. The Cornhuskers' worst enemy was themselves.

    - That said, it’s not surprising that Pelini nearly had a Texas A&M 2010-style meltdown. Glad he didn’t for a number of reasons.

    - Alfonzo Dennard deserved to walk into the sunset with his team, not after being on the winning end of a 10-9 decision against Alshon Jeffery

    - There are those who chastise others for being frustrated or even irate with Bo Pelini for losing three or four game per season. It’s not the losses anymore, but rather how embarrassing they’ve become.

    - 29 days until National Signing Day. This’ll be interesting.

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    Tags: tim beck, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, tim marlowe, brett maher, bo pelini, alfonzo dennard

  5. 2012 Jan 03

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Most Valuable Huskers vs. South Carolina


    By HuskerLocker

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    By James Stevenson

    Offensive MVH: This is one of those awards that’s really hard to give to anyone, but let’s pass it out to Nebraska’s workhorse running back, junior Rex Burkhead. He rushed for 89 yards on 23 carries and caught five passes for 35 yards.

    Burkhead was a bright spot early, and was criminally underused in the second half. It’s not a surprise Nebraska’s offense sputtered late. With Burkhead getting fewer touches, South Carolina keyed on him when he did get onto the field.

    Defensive MVH: Senior linebacker Lavonte David will be sorely missed in 2012. One of the best linebackers the team has had in recent years, David more than doubled any other Blackshirt’s output with 11 tackles on the day, 20 percent of the Cornhuskers’ total. He also accounted for two sacks and a forced fumble.

    Special Teams MVH: On a day where junior kicking specialist Brett Maher had a PAT blocked and returned for two points, and missed Nebraska’s first sub-40 yard field goal since 2009, this award can’t be handed out. Maher did have a decent day punting, but both Nebraska’s coverage and return units had below average days.

    South Carolina MVP: Senior receiver Alshon Jeffery caught four passes for 148 yards. His touchdown reception came on a Hail Mary pass to close the first half deflated the Huskers heading into the locker room. His constant sparring with senior Husker cornerback Alfonzo Dennard led to both players being ejected in the third quarter, robbing the Husker defense of one of its key contributors.

    Lost on the Stat Sheet: Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez had a solid day running the football as he gained 82 yards on 10 carries. Unfortunately, he was also sacked six times. The resulting loss of 45 yards put a severe dent in his final tally. Martinez looked as good on his feet against South Carolina as he did early in 2010.

    Red Alert Zone: The Huskers converted only one out of three red zone attempts, missing a short field goal and fumbling the ball away on two. In a game decided by 17 points (and a blocked PAT return being a three point swing), those missed opportunities loom large.

    DEFCON 1: Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini came dangerously close to losing his cool against the officials in the second half. He was shown by ESPN berating the officials on the sideline and screaming into his headset. What was disturbing was how the Nebraska football team itself seemed to reflect the lack of composure showed by its head coach. If Bo can’t keep it together, why should the team?

    Another Season, Another Slide: Remember when Bo Pelini was viewed as invincible in bowl games? His defeats of Michigan State, Clemson and Arizona had him viewed as a bowl game and defensive genius with extra time to prepare.

    After Nebraska’s 2010 season finished by losing three of its last four games including a Holiday Bowl rematch against Washington, the Huskers lost three of their last five games to close the 2011 campaign. To put that into even more perspective, the Huskers are only 10-7 in their last 17 games and that record drops to 7-7 in their last 14 games against BCS conference competition.

    Now What?: The Huskers will attempt to fill a small recruiting class with as many studs as possible before looking forward to spring practice. The big question: How will Pelini replace key seniors Alfonzo Dennard, Lavonte David and Jared Crick from a defense that underperformed in 2011 even with the star power?

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    Tags: rex burkhead, lavonte david, brett maher, bo pelini, taylor martinez

  6. 2012 Jan 02

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things to Watch for Against South Carolina


    By HuskerLocker

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    By Erin Sorensenn

    What a wild ride it has been. It's hard to believe that Nebraska’s season comes to an end today. Before it does, the Huskers have the potential to set up the off-season on a strong note. A win could positively affect recruiting and make life a little easier going into spring ball. What will it take for Nebraska to seal up a win against South Carolina?

    1. Contain Connor Shaw

    South Carolina's quarterback is going to provide a big challenge for the Nebraska defense. A dual-threat athlete, the Huskers will need to contain Shaw early and force him to put the ball in the air. His confidence will also be an obstacle for the Nebraska defense as the quarterback has settled in nicely to his role after Stephen Garcia was removed from the team.

    The Cornhuskers will have their hands full with Shaw, so look for the defensive line to put pressure on him to throw. While a good passer, his legs are of bigger concern. If Nebraska can force the ball in the air, Alfonzo Dennard can take care of the rest.

    Dennard will be matched up against Gamecock star wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey, who Shaw is guaranteed to be looking to frequently. If the Huskers can force this situation, Dennard should have no issue shutting Jeffrey down like he did Iowa's Marvin McNutt. A lot will rest on the back of the defensive line. If the Blackshirts of the Michigan State game can show up by kickoff, things will be looking up.

    2. Rex Burkhead, Rex Burkhead, Rex Burkhead (with a cameo of the younger backs)

    Here’s hoping Burkhead got plenty of rest over the last month, because his legs are going to be put to the test today. With South Carolina's outstanding secondary, trusting quarterback Taylor Martinez to throw often is a poor gameplan. The ball will be in Burkhead's hands more often than not and the junior I-Back will need to power through.

    Nebraska's offensive line will be relied on heavily to help Burkhead be successful. Yoshi Hardrick and Marcel Jones have both had stellar games and less than perfect ones, but they will need to be as close to perfect as possible against the Gamecocks. Holding blocks will be imperative, as South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will do anything he can to get to Martinez and Burkhead.

    However, running Burkhead into the ground isn't ideal, so expect to see brief appearances by the younger running backs. Their time with the ball will be short-lived, but enough to rest Burkhead before pounding the ball into the USC defensive line even more.

    3. The Results of Team Preparation

    Head coach Bo Pelini promised Husker fans in yesterday's pep rally that they would be proud of what they see on the field today. Hopefully the coach is right, as expectations are high. The Huskers have had a full week to prepare in Orlando, taking yesterday off to rest up before the big game. Practices were reported as "good," but no one will know for sure until it is seen on the field.

    Nebraska was unprepared for Northwestern. A loss that should not have happened, the Huskers learned a great deal by what happens when preparation is not there. It has been an interesting month with coaching changes, but fans should expect to see a focused Pelini-led team. Anything less and South Carolina will take advantage of the holes while running away with the game.

    4. Lavonte David's Finest Hour

    Lavonte David is walking into today's game with 122 tackles, an impressive feat for a linebacker that is being touted as a potential early-round draft pick. For David, the Capital One Bowl is a final chance to prove his value before the NFL Combine. A strong showing and David does nothing but improve his stock for the 2012 NFL Draft.

    South Carolina will try to take advantage of David's weak side and keep him from moving around the field quite as much, but he’s tough to contain. Expect to see David helping to stop the strong South Carolina receivers when necessary, while also holding down the defensive line when possible. David might be dead tired by the end of this game, but he won't show it.

    5. Confidence by Taylor Martinez

    Martinez needs a Michigan State-style performance today, not a Michigan repeat. This will require confidence, as well as support from his team. He’s has had a rough season, but when confidence is there, good things do happen.

    He needs to execute like he never has before. The Gamecock secondary will put even more pressure on his passing, which has potential for problems. If Martinez can keep a level head, he should be able to overcome many problems. It's ultimately about focus. How he handles the pressure will be very telling.

    Will the 2011 season end on a good or bad note for Nebraska? We’ll know soon enough.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: capital one bowl, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, yoshi hardrick, marcel jones, connor shaw, alshon jeffery, bo pelini, lavonte david, alfonzo dennard

  7. 2012 Jan 02

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Capital One Bowl Game Day Thoughts


    By HuskerLocker

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    The Husker Locker staff will be presented a number of questions addressing various aspects of each week's game all season long.

    This week:

    What's your confidence level heading into the Capital One Bowl?

    Brian: About the same as I have had the last half of the season. While the defense has gotten better, there is still too much inconsistency in the offense in both playcalling and execution for me to have any peace of mind that Nebraska will be going into this game with all guns blazing. Add on the rust of not seeing live action in over a month, and there is enough to worry about.

    Erin: It could be higher, but I always have faith in the Huskers. I believe this team has what it takes to win. I've felt that way all season, in fact. I genuinely believe that with a different game plan, Nebraska could have beat Wisconsin and Michigan (I'm choosing to ignore Northwestern though because they definitely could have - and should have - beat the Wildcats).

    The talent has always been there. We saw telling moments against Ohio State and Michigan State that proved this. Again, I'm always confident the Huskers could win. As long as they have confidence in themselves and Tim Beck provides a stellar game plan, my confidence is there.

    James: Marginal. It's pretty similar to how it has been all season - which Nebraska team shows up? If it's the team that dominated Michigan State, it could be an impressive win for the Huskers. If it's the team that got beaten by Northwestern, it could be another ugly SEC beatdown of a B1G team.

    I picked South Carolina in my bowl pick'ems, I unfortunately have to stick to that prediction. I think the issue will actually be Nebraska's offense, they won't score enough points to get it done against a strong SEC defense.

    Brandon: I’m cautiously optimistic about Nebraska’s chances. I think they can hang with South Carolina and considering the athletes they have and the final stretch of the regular season for the Cornhuskers, that’s impressive. You’ve got a number of factors playing into this game, but one of the biggest ones has to be last year’s Holiday Bowl.

    There’s been a number of reports coming out of practices about how focused the team is. Normally I’d brush this off as lip service, but I truly believe that following the Northwester-esque efforts given last season against Washington, these guys want to smack a quality SEC opponent in the mouth. I’m skeptical about the defense’s ability to contain Connor Shaw, but if Lavonte David’s his spy all game, No. 4 will have an easier time dealing with him than Dennard Robinson, for example.

    How much of an impact do you think a win or loss will have on the offseason?

    Brian: A win will get this team to that 10-win plateau that people should measure success in a season upon. 10 wins now is the new “nine-win season” that several Husker fans have fallen in love with. There are too many games now (this makes 13 for Nebraska in 2011) to say that nine wins is the standard. 10, even 11 wins should be the standard. However, that’s another argument for another time.

    A loss, on the other hand, will have people throwing out a lot of worry and questions during the winter months into the summer. It will have the stench of last year’s failed ending with the Big 12 title game and the Holiday Bowl debacle.

    If Nebraska plays well and loses, that will be one thing. If the Huskers stink up Orlando on Monday, there will be questions that need to be asked about the core group of leaders on this team.

    Erin: I don't know if a loss would be devastating, but it wouldn't be exactly how we would want to start 2012. A win would really motivate this team and may even seal the deal for some recruits that are still on the fence. Let's call it like it is: Nebraska needs to win, for a lot of reasons. Every fan, player, and coach has their own.

    James: A win over a solid SEC team would be a nice indicator of where Nebraska is going into 2012. Given that last season ended with a meltdown prior to and during the bowl game, repeating that performance with Bo looking for jobs and an underwhelming recruiting class would give Husker fans plenty to worry about heading into 2012. This is even more true thanks losing the three-headed monster of Crick, David and Dennard on defense.

    Brandon: We saw how much of an impact a bowl loss can have last season post-Washington, but I don’t feel that was because of the loss itself, but rather how the game was lost. Regardless, you’ve got to think that since they fell short of even competing for the Big Ten Championship, Pelini and the Huskers consider this an opportunity to prove they belong. Wins against the SEC are something that every Big Ten team wants to put on their resume.

    What's your take on Nebraska's latest hire, former Iowa defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski?

    Brian: Is “meh” a grade? It’s not like Nebraska did horribly here, but I don’t see how Kaz is such a great hire. Granted, he came from an inter-divisional team and, for all intents and purposes, our new “rival” in the Big Ten. However, it’s not like Rick has torn it up in the coaching ranks.

    Yes, he had Adrian Clayborn, however like Bo/Carl had Ndamukong Suh, you need to be consistently pulling talent into the program and creating great players to be considered a solid hire. There were better people out there (Ron Zook and Larry Johnson Jr. to name a couple), but Kaczenski is not a slouch by any means. Now, if he can recruit Florida like he did for Iowa, then my feelings about him improve for sure.

    Erin: I don't think it was a bad hire. In fact, it's definitely going to create some animosity for the Iowa-Nebraska rivalry. Really no better way to get that started then stealing a coach.

    As for the actual hire, Coach Kaz is going to balance out the lack of experience on the defensive side of the coaching staff. I am not implying Papuchis isn't good at what he does, but he's only 33. Coach Kaz will be able to provide additional support and knowledge from his previous experience. That alone makes him a good hire. Plus, I think he'll be stellar with our defensive line.

    James: I like the hire, he's known as a good teacher, a decent recruiter, and has solid connections to Nebraska strength coach James Dobson. Dobson has done great things here, and his endorsement is enough for me. I hope he can really hit the recruiting trail, for all of the success Nebraska's defensive linemen have had under Pelini, it's shocking that they haven't landed young recruit after recruit.

    Brandon: I’m taking a wait-and-see approach, but I like everything I’ve heard thus far. Allegedly, Kaz weeds out slackers, has solid recruiting connections, is very technique-oriented and is a blue-collar guy which fits Bo’s mentality to the letter. He seems to have a fair amount of energy, too. See his comments regarding finally being able to sport Nebraska as a “brand name” for evidence of that.

    Have a prediction, both gameplan and score for the Capital One Bowl?

    Brian: The offense will go as Taylor goes, per usual. You of course will see a steady diet of Rex and option/zone read. Knowing how good South Carolina has been against the run, they will load up, daring Martinez to beat them with his arm.

    While there will be some success, I fear that Nebraska will not do enough good things to score much. The defense will make plays and it will be close, but I just do not see the offense being consistent enough to pull this one out.

    South Carolina 17 Nebraska 13

    Erin: My score prediction has been 24-21. I said that weeks ago and I'm sticking with it. It'll be a close game no matter what.

    As for game plan, I'm really hoping Beck has drawn up a lot of run plays, utilizing more than just Rex Burkhead. Burkhead can be the anchor, but let's get guys like Ameer Abdullah going and catch South Carolina off guard. Quick passes on slants would be ideal.

    Bring the Gamecock defense up with those quick slants, then throw a bomb to Kenny Bell down the field. Basically, I'm predicting a lot of quick plays that will have the South Carolina defense all over the place. I believe that is the key to winning.

    James: South Carolina 24-21. I think the defense will play lights out, but will be burned by a key big play breakdown, as well as timely quarterback runs to keep the chains moving for USC. The Huskers will keep it closely with a big play or two on defense and special teams to set the offense up.

    This could easily go the other way if Nebraska shows up. That said, don't you get the feeling Steve Spurrier is looking to extract some revenge for the 1996 Fiesta Bowl? If it goes badly early, I see the Old Ball Coach pouring it on.

    Brandon: On offense, keep the ball on the ground heading north-south as much as possible. South Carolina has struggled with the option all year, so there’s little doubt in my mind that they’ve been hitting the books hard on defending it. Given that there’s opportunity to gash the middle of their defensive line, take the opportunity. If Nebraska’s going to pass, short to intermediate gains need to be the goal. Don’t test that Gamecock secondary much.

    Defensively, while the Blackshirts don’t have to worry about Marcus Lattimore, they need to keep South Carolina’s running game in check. More importantly, they need to put doubt in Connor Shaw’s head about pulling the ball down and running. Alfonzo Dennard looks to be on Alshon Jeffery all day which is going to force Shaw to look for other talented receivers. Going against some questionable talent in Nebraska’s secondary, I expect Bo to run the nickel for most of the game.

    Score prediction: Whoever wins, they’ll do it by a score of 27-23

    Follow the panel on Twitter:

    Brandon: @huskerlocker
    Brian: @btbowling
    Erin: @helloerinmarie
    James: @jamesstevenson

    Like us on Facebook: Official Husker Locker Page

    Tags: capital one bowl, jared crick, lavonte david, alfonzo dennard, rex burkhead, ameer abdullah, taylor martinez

  8. 2011 Dec 30

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: What You Need to Know About the South Carolina Gamecocks


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    On Monday, Nebraska will make bowl appearance No. 48, facing the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Capital One Bowl. This will be the fourth meeting between the two teams, but the first post-season match-up. The Huskers hold a 3-0 edge over the Gamecocks going into the game slated for a 1:00 PM EST kickoff on ESPN.

    To help Nebraska fans get to know more about their opponent, David Cloninger of GamecockCentral.com answered a few questions that have been on the minds of many.

    What does Nebraska have to do to keep freshman phenom defensive end Jadeveon Clowney out of the backfield?

    Have left tackle Yoshi Hardrick and right tackle Marcel Jones hold their blocks. Clowney’s greatest gift is his ridiculously quick first step and ability to run past undersized tackles, but as was proven time and time again against the SEC, Clowney can be kept off the quarterback by pushing him out of his rushing lane and giving the QB time to step up in the pocket.

    SEC officials were very hesitant to call holding on any team this year, something that Clowney felt frustrated by, but then he realized he had to get past it anyway. He’ll switch from left to right and Jones and Hardrick will have another obstacle – if they do block Clowney, they may be freeing up All-American Melvin Ingram and Devin Taylor to attack.

    There's talk of SC's interior defensive line being a weakness. Is this an area Nebraska can exploit with Rex Burkhead?

    Tackle Travian Robertson is as big and as much of a playmaker as they come, but freshman tackle Kelcy Quarles is still learning and has often been bulldozed by opposing centers. If teams ran a wedge at the middle of USC’s line, Robertson would hold his own but Quarles often couldn’t hold on and was pushed down. Mike Caputo should be able to target No. 99, and as long as Burkhead sees where Robertson is lined up and can go to the opposite, he could have a big day.

    How can Nebraska nullify the Gamecock's excellent secondary?

    Quick passes. The Gamecocks, due to playing in a 4-2-5 set, play off the receivers and a quick-strike artist, such as East Carolina’s Dominique Davis or Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, can carve that apart. Taylor Martinez has to be wary of lurking spur Antonio Allen, a big-play producer, but cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and C.C. Whitlock are usually playing boundaries and at least eight yards off the receivers. Running slants to get Allen in motion and then throwing to the other guy would be a plan, since linebackers Shaq Wilson and Reginald Bowens are known more for run-stuffing than intercepting passes.

    The last time Cornhusker fans saw Steve Spurrier, it was 1996. What's changed about the Old Ball Coach since then?

    His approach to the game. Spurrier arrived at South Carolina promising great things, and he has delivered (for a program that has wallowed in mediocrity since its inception, at least). It just took him far longer than he had planned. He boasted of having his best team yet and one capable of challenging for the SEC championship in 2007, only to see a 6-1 start fizzle into five straight losses and no bowl game.

    Since then, Spurrier has continued to learn that he can’t depend on snapping up every five-star recruit due to his name like he did at Florida, because there simply aren’t that many in South Carolina and much more in-depth recruiting profiles are needed. He could be stubborn when he had the horses he did at Florida, but that’s not the case here.

    Spurrier has quit screaming so much and started coaching more; he’s surrounded himself with similar coaches as assistants, who can go get the best players in South Carolina; and he has not yielded to the Gamecocks’ sorry football history by continuing to get better. He feels this is his best team, in talent and attitude, and it is. That he doesn’t have to brag about it shows how far he’s come.

    Tell us a bit about Connor Shaw settling into the quarterback spot after Stephen Garcia was removed from the team.

    Shaw was given the start in the season-opener but was quickly forgotten after a 17-0 deficit. Then Garcia came riding in to save the day. Shaw understood that he hadn’t played that well, but then when Garcia was playing lousy from then on, Shaw wasn’t even an option. That was really the first time that Shaw was especially frustrated, and his attitude slightly dropped, but then Garcia was awful against Auburn and Shaw was given the start against Kentucky.

    Since then, Shaw has improved game-by-game, and there’s no question that it helped him to know he was the guy no matter what when Garcia finally ran out of chances. From not being trusted to pass to becoming a very capable thrower, Shaw mixes the run and the pass well and is starting to become a baiting quarterback – just when a team thinks he’s going to option run, he drops back and heaves a 50-yard touchdown strike, such as he did to Bruce Ellington against Clemson.

    How much is the loss of running back Marcus Lattimore going to affect SC's game plan?

    No question that it was a tremendous blow, but the injury happened in USC’s seventh game. While some fretted that the season was over, since Shaw had not yet become a capable passer, the Gamecocks believed they could rise. Brandon Wilds came off the bench to collect three 100-yard games, and when he sprained his ankle early against Clemson, career backup Kenny Miles entered and rushed for 71 yards.

    Miles will start against Nebraska, with Wilds behind him, and Shaw can run as well. Lattimore’s talents are missed, but put it this way; not having him to hand off to opened more possibilities of how to run the ball, and all have worked thus far.

    There's been talk of Alshon Jeffery not being 100 percent. Have you heard anything to this effect and how do you see the match up between he and Alfonzo Dennard?

    Jeffery broke his left hand in the first half against Clemson, but returned after halftime and caught a touchdown with it. He has been lightly practicing as the hand has healed (he had surgery to repair a broken bone on the top of his hand) and reported to practice on Thursday with no extra bandage or wrap under his glove.

    He’ll be fine, and he’ll be able to catch, but the question is as it has been throughout the season – can the Gamecocks get the ball to him? Having Dennard cover him won’t be ideal for Shaw to even attempt to do the best option with Jeffery – throw it high and let him go get it.

    How do you think SC tries to nullify Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David?

    Can a team nullify a player with 122 tackles? David is simply all over the field. The best option seems to be running sweeps with Shaw and perhaps speed receivers like Damiere Byrd and Ace Sanders away from David’s weak side position, or else perhaps break out the Emory and Henry formation used earlier this year and force him to adjust before the snap.

    USC’s fullback blocking is suspect, and to try to send someone like Dalton Wilson in there to put a body on David probably wouldn’t work. Shaw has shown great improvement in drawing the blitz into him, ducking under one and throwing, so perhaps that will be an option.

    Has there been a consistent Achilles' Heel for South Carolina this season? I.E., When "X" happens, the Gamecocks unravel?

    The team hasn’t really unraveled due to it, but the kick return units have been disastrous all year (and really for several years). That’s covering and returning. The Gamecocks simply can’t get a long return on kickoffs or punts, and their coverage on opposing returners hasn’t been any prize, either. They haven’t lost a game strictly due to it, but it’s agonizing to the offensive staff when the Gamecocks have to start every possession inside their own 20.

    Which team has the most to gain and which has the most to lose?

    I think South Carolina, on both counts. Win this one and South Carolina completes the greatest season in program history and sets up for next year. Lose this one, and it’s the same as the past few years. Sure, it was great to beat Clemson (a huge accomplishment in the state), but losing the bowl game leaves a bad taste throughout the offseason.

    This year, with two assistant coaches already leaving, whispers of more potentially being on the list for other positions at other schools and an NCAA hearing in February, a bowl loss would bring back the old phrase – Same Ol’ USC.

    What do you see the keys to victory being for both Nebraska and South Carolina?

    Nebraska – Stop the run and force Shaw to win with his arm. Stick Dennard on Jeffery and make Shaw win by throwing to his other receivers. Have Martinez throw short passes to get the Gamecocks’ defense drawn in, then bomb over them for an early touchdown and grind out the game with the run.

    South Carolina – Get a push right away with the offensive line, as it did against Clemson. Knock Nebraska back on its heels and get Miles, Wilds and Shaw running free. Don’t force the ball to Jeffery, but use the other receivers who have perhaps been unaccounted for – Nick Jones, D.L. Moore, Sanders, Ellington, Byrd.

    On defense, have Ingram, Gilmore, Taylor, Clowney et al. bum-rush Martinez from the start and put him on his back. If the Gamecocks can get him feeling pressure right away, get ahead on the scoreboard and force him to win with his arm, they can get their secondary and its big-play potential involved.

    David Cloninger is a full-time staff writer for GamecockCentral. He covers Gamecock football, men’s basketball, baseball and recruiting.

    Follow David on Twitter: @DCAtGCKCentral
    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
    Follow Husker Locker on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: capital one bowl, south carolina, alfonzo dennard, rex burkhead, taylor martinez, yoshi hardrick, marcel jones, steve spurrier

  9. 2011 Dec 17

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Bowl Season Week One Thoughts


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The Husker Locker staff will be presented a number of questions addressing various aspects of each week in the world of college football all season long.

    This week:

    How big of an impact will a win or a loss in the Capital One Bowl have for Nebraska?

    Erin: A win is extremely important. I believe the impact would be great and would really get momentum going before signing day. Morale has been a bit low as of late, so a win would aid that. It would keep the excitement high for 2012.

    It would also help erase the painful memory of the last bowl game.

    Greg: You're looking at a game against a quality SEC opponent. Win and you take a big leap forward. Lose and welcome to the No. 20-30 ranking.

    James: I think the biggest impact will be on the message boards in the off-season. Another loss would put a Husker Nation in a sour mood as the Huskers would finish with another late-season collapse losing three of their last five games. A win would help show Nebraska's trajectory is at least near stable, and would be a nice finish over a good SEC school.

    Regardless, the most important things this month for the staff to be working on isn't this game, it's recruiting to fill the voids and build depth on this thin roster. The recruiting class is going to be small, and other schools seem to be picking off the best talent.

    Brandon: This is a huge game in terms of momentum for both the remainder of the recruiting cycle and heading into prep for 2012. Last year, Nebraska fizzled at the end of last season and went 2-2 in November this year. A win gives the Cornhuskers 10 victories with one over a top ten SEC team during a time of confusion among the Big Red program.

    There’s no defensive coordinator named, Bo’s busy on the recruiting trail so communication’s been minimal and honestly the Twitter ban’s probably the best thing that could’ve happened. Nebraska needs to stay focused or they will lose to South Carolina just as they did to Washington last year.

    What one player do you feel will make the game for Nebraska against South Carolina?

    Erin: I'd say it will be a combination of Rex Burkhead and Taylor Martinez. With South Carolina's secondary being so strong, the running game will have to be just as efficient. Taylor will have to play very smart and stay calm. I also hope Rex has gotten a lot of rest because his legs will be put to heavy use. To win, the ball can't go in the air much.

    Greg: In all three phases, I think it will be the same playmakers we have relied on all season, Rex Burkhead, Lavonte David, and Brett Maher. Many will say Dennard, but I think David has the ability to disrupt the quarterback and cause an errant throw.

    James: On one hand, I'm tempted to say Lavonte David in containing the Gamecocks' running game. I ultimately have to go with Mike Caputo, who may be sitting out the game due to an arrest for an alleged DUI.

    Nebraska clearly doesn't have another center. Perhaps the only weakness of the South Carolina defense is their middle/interior run defense. Nebraska was probably relying on pounding the rock with a fresh Rex Burkhead. Without Caputo, the offense is going to greatly struggle.

    Brandon: The easy answer here is Burkhead and he’ll get his carries, but I’ll go with Brett Maher. You’ve got two teams that are pretty evenly matched and in that situation it comes down to turnovers and special teams. Maher’s money with kicking duties and fortunately Nebraska hasn’t given the ball away unless it was via Martinez. Maher may be the guy with the winning points.

    Do you see a similar postseason letdown as last year's Holiday Bowl or will the team be more focused?

    Erin: No. Not at all. I don't even want to think or talk about last year. This team knows what is at stake so it won't happen.

    That's that.

    Greg: I think that despite the off-the-field issues and continued rumors about Bo's interest in coaching elsewhere, that this team will be focused and ready for the game. If they aren't focused, it will get ugly in a hurry.

    James: The team will CERTAINLY be more focused. The change in bowl locale (hello Florida!), the prestige of the bowl, the fact that it's against a fast and tough SEC opponent, how could this team not be jacked to play in this game?

    If there is any issue with motivation, the coaching staff only has itself to blame. Husker fans should be furious if Nebraska comes out flat in this contest. Outside of the BCS, it doesn't get any bigger than the Capital One Bowl.

    Brandon: The potential’s there. With Mike Caputo, Eric Martin and Colin McDermott all in the paper, plus players clearly not taking the initial Twitter ban warning seriously, it makes me think this ship is floating wherever the tide takes it.

    Fortunately, the big names will continue to make plays because, to quote Herm Edwards, "they play to win the game." Burkhead will show up and likely won’t stop playing unless he takes a bullet to the buttocks Gump-style. Even that’s might not slow him down.

    The game’s going to speak loudly about the amount of respect the current staff is getting and how much control they have over the team as a whole. Carl’s departure isn’t going to affect much, but 60 minutes of extremely focused football is necessary to prevent another SEC Capital One Bowl win.

    What bowl game are you looking forward to the most besides the Capital One Bowl?

    Erin: Stanford vs. Oklahoma State, honestly. I think the match-up is interesting and the Cowboys will win. I'm not going to start the whole "Okie State should be in the title game" debate again, but I think this game will be telling in a lot of ways.

    Greg: Wisconsin-Oregon

    James: Impossible to pick just one - I think the Orange Bowl will actually be fun this year with Clemson and West Virginia. The BCS Title game will hopefully feature some offense this time around, and maybe even a touchdown (gasp).

    The Kraft Fight Hunger bowl should be a fascinating match up of coachless 6-6 Illinois versus 6-7 UCLA. Really stoked about the Fiesta Bowl showdown between Weeden and Luck, as well as the Rose Bowl matchup of the Badgers and Ducks. Finally, the TicketCity Bowl should be fun in seeing Houston's offense against Penn State's defense.

    It's bowl season, I lovingly consume each of the 35 games, knowing it will be a long nine-month college football hibernation before the 2012 season.

    Brandon: The Beef O’Brady’s Bowl between Florida International and Marshall. I’ve be touting this game for a long time and get plenty of crazy looks as a result. Ever since I started watching, it’s been a very entertaining game regardless of the participants. Florida International plays hard-nosed ball under Mario Cristobal and Marshall’s as schizophrenic as any football team in America year in and year out.

    Follow the panel on Twitter:
    Brandon: @eightlaces
    Greg: @thehooch36
    Erin: @helloerinmarie
    James: @JamesStevenson

    Follow Husker Locker on Twitter: @huskerlocker
    Like us on Facebook: The Official Husker Locker Facebook Page

    Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, brett maher, mike caputo, capital one bowl, lavonte david, alfonzo dennard

  10. 2011 Dec 15

    Husker Heartbeat 12/15: Turner Gill's New Job, Beck Evaluates Martinez; 2011 and Volleyball's on the Move


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    A daily dose of what's new in Husker Nation from Monday through Friday:

    - Liberty College names former Husker Turner Gill its new head football coach

    - Offensive coordinator Tim Beck has seen growth in his unit over the 2011 season

    - Beck also puts in plenty of time helping to improve Taylor Martinez's passing

    - The football staff is out on a recruiting blitz searching for the next Huskers-to-be

    - Nebraska volleyball may find itself in the Devaney Center sooner than expected

    Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker
    Like us on Facebook: Official Husker Locker Page

    Tags: turner gill, tim beck, taylor martinez, volleyball

  11. 2011 Dec 13

    Husker Heartbeat 12/13: Ron Brown's Retirement, Two Huskers Involved With Police and Nebraska Cracks Top 25


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    A daily dose of what's new in Husker Nation from Monday through Friday:

    - Despite the rumors, Ron Brown's not done coaching yet

    - Quarterback Taylor Martinez's natural gifts and Tim Becks' offense have been meshing nicely throughout the year

    - Center Mike Caputo was picked up on DUI charges

    - Defensive End Eric Martin was cited for potentially leaving the scene of an accident

    - Women's Nebrasketball checks in at No. 25 in the latest AP poll

    Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: ron brown, mike caputo, eric martin, taylor martinez, basketball

  12. 2011 Dec 11

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Sunday Husker Conversation


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Neil Raus: Who is going to replace Carl (Pelini)?

    BC: That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? The three names everyone has been tossing around are Mike Stoops, Ron Zook and John Papuchis. I think you can pretty well cross Papuchis off of that list as promoting another coach to learn a high-level position on the job isn’t a good move by Pelini.

    Peter Bruno: Who’s the next quarterback after Martinez?

    BC: Rex Burkhead. Seriously. With the lack of playing time that you saw Brion Carnes get, it’s pretty obvious who the No. 1 guy is, but let’s say Martinez went down. I think you’d see something similar to 2010 when Burkhead stepped in as a Wildcat quarterback.

    Kaleb Henry: How many conference championships will be won this year and which sport will be the first to win a national championship in the Big Ten era?

    BC: Well, the volleyballers already notched one. I could see some track and field titles, maybe softball and even baseball if some luck graces Darin Erstad’s first year. When it comes to national titles, I’d give the volleyball team the inside track.

    Lance Badousek: If we don't win a conference championship next year how much longer will Bo have a job?

    BC: That depends on how bad any losses are and if Nebraska looks just plain out of it like they did against Northwestern this season. That kind of performance will get you a loss in the Big Ten nearly every time. It seems like Pelini’s teams are good for a few surprising wins and a few shocking losses. 2012’s schedule doesn’t get any easier, either.

    Patrick Farrell: When will we find out about the new defensive coordinator?

    BC: I’m honestly surprised we haven’t already.

    Beverly Kay: What's next for Turner Gill?

    BC: At this point, I think a trip back to the mid-majors would do Turner well. It’s a shame he didn’t snag the UAB job as he’d do well there. If he can coach Buffalo up, I’d trust him with about any mid-major. I know what you’re thinking and I severely doubt he’ll be back at Nebraska as long as Bo is head coach.

    Shane McKinney: When we get to our usual 17 points against South Carolina, will we once again shut down the offense?

    BC: It’s possible. Watch for a heavy dose of Burkhead as Carolina’s strength is defending the pass. They’re a little more susceptible to a powerful running game. Alfonzo Dennard is going up against one of the best receivers in the country in Alshon Jeffery, but Jeffery’s playing with a busted finger. Dennard still needs to treat him like he’s 100 percent. The lack of South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore really evens the playing field.

    Caleb Gorham: Can we have another Tom Osborne?

    BC: Another T.O. will never come along. Not for Nebraska or anyone else. Coach Osborne’s a special guy on a number of levels. There will be new coaching masterminds, but only one Tom Osborne.

    Follow Brandon on Twitter: @eightlaces
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    Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, mike stoops, ron zook, john papuchis, carl pelini, brion carnes, darin erstad, turner gill, south carolina, alshon jeffery, alfonzo dennard, tom osborne

  13. 2011 Dec 10

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Bowl Season Thoughts


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    The Husker Locker staff will be presented a number of questions addressing various aspects of each week in the world of college football all season long.

    This week:

    Three names seem to be at the top of the list to replace Carl Pelini as defensive coordinator: Mike Stoops, Ron Zook and John Papuchis. Who’s your pick and why?

    James: I'm torn between Ron Zook and Mike Stoops. I think Mike is probably the better defensive coach, but Zook might be the stronger recruiter. Then again, was Zook's recruiting success due to his former recruiting coordinator Mike Locksley?

    I think the doubt about Zook's true recruiting prowess leads me to Stoops. Ultimately though, this is Bo Pelini's defense, the real key to me is bringing in a guy who is killer at coaching a position, can take some of the film breakdown and basic gameplanning off of Bo's plate, and will recruit like crazy.

    Erin: Luke Fickell.

    Just kidding. I can dream though, right? I'd take Mike Stoops, even though I'm fairly positive one ref would go deaf every game from being yelled at by the Pelini/Stoops combo. The two of them are so similar, so maybe Ron Zook is the better option?

    Moral of the story: Not John Papuchis.

    Brandon: I’m high on Zook and have been since I heard his name was a possibility. He can walk into Lincoln and make an immediate impact as a recruiter which is something the program desperately needs. His connections throughout the Big Ten won’t totally nullify Urban Meyer’s advances, but Zook’s been around the block and knows how to play ball.

    He’s got experience with the secondary, so I could see him helping Corey Raymond continue to grow and he’d be able to handle a number of the duties that Bo simply doesn’t care for. It seems like a win-win to me.

    What are your thoughts on the Capital One Bowl matchup with South Carolina?

    James: It's not as bad of a match-up as it initially appears. South Carolina has a nasty and stout pass defense, but is soft against the power running game. Big opportunity there, especially with a healthy offensive line and rested Rex Burkhead.

    Bo Pelini, with a month to gameplan and install said gameplan, should wring out a great game from the Blackshirts. I think Nebraska's in for a physical brawl down in Orlando. The team should be jacked for this game against a good SEC team, unlike last year's Holiday Bowl.

    Erin: Another Big Ten-SEC matchup and this one should be interesting. South Carolina has a great defense and will definitely give our offense a tough time. Hopefully Taylor Martinez can replicate how he played in the second half of Ohio State here. If he can, it should make for a win. It'll be close, but a good game.

    Brandon: Couldn't love it more. I spoke to some Capital One Bowl representatives earlier in the season and mentioned the possibility of this matchup when asked who I’d like to see Nebraska face if they went to Orlando.

    The storylines are plentiful: Spurrier-Nebraska, Alshon Jeffery-Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska’s offense versus South Carolina’s defense (the gamecocks are No. 2 in pass defense and No 13 in scoring defense). No matter how you slice it, this game’s awesome. I wish Marcus Lattimore would be suiting up for the Gamecocks, though.

    How do you feel about the BCS’ selection of LSU-Alabama for the national championship?

    James: From a pure perspective of the BCS existing to ensure the top two teams play for the national championship, this is the correct decision. From a "fairness" and "watchable" perspective, it's a bit of a bummer. I would've loved to have seen Oklahoma State get a chance to play in this game.

    The fact that LSU already beat Alabama (at home), means the Crimson Tide doesn't really deserve another shot at this game. On the other hand, it's going to be fun to watch these teams go at each other with a whole 5-plus weeks to prepare for this game. How sick must you be if you're Boise State's kicker though? If they beat TCU, I think the Broncos might've played for the title.

    Erin: Well, I know it's not ideal. Most people wanted Oklahoma State to face LSU. Unfortunately, Okie State held up their ticket to the National Championship and let Iowa State snatch it from their grasp, then burn it. It was one loss, but it was a defining loss. Alabama lost to the No. 1 team in the country. OSU lost to Iowa State. So like it or not, the BCS says this is what is.

    But if you want to talk playoffs...

    Brandon: The BCS is what it is. It technically did its job. The problem with computers is that there will still be human input (See: garbage in, garbage out). Alabama and Oklahoma State can (and probably will) argue over their rightful place in the BCS National Championship Game, but honestly I can’t say Team X should be in without noting the case for Team Y.

    I was happy to hear that the Plus-One model is being looked at seriously and while I don’t think it’ll be implemented immediately, I’d like to see it as a part college football’s post-season ASAP.

    Which players do you feel have the most to gain/lose in terms of draft stock against USC?

    James: I don't think anyone can change their position too much at this point. Brandon Kinnie could potentially elevate his worth a bit. Lavonte is probably late first/early second and if he plays really well in this game, he might help secure a first round spot. I think Dennard is pretty locked in where he's going to be. I don't see this as make or break for most of the players, though maybe some of the fringe seniors could make a statement for a late round draft choice with a big game.

    Erin: Alfonzo Dennard. I think Lavonte David has more than sealed up his fate in the NFL, but Dennard needs another strong game. He'll be drafted, but this game will determine how high he goes.

    Also, Brandon Kinnie will need a big game. It's been a rough season for the senior wide receiver, but he's proven that he has the strength and speed to play his position. If he can make one more big outing, it could create some buzz that he desperately needs.

    Brandon: Right now, I think things are pretty well set. A loss to Nebraska, no matter the size, isn’t going to hurt an SEC player. Guys like Alfonzo Dennard and Lavonte David have nowhere to go but up as they’ve been scouted all season long, made highlight reels, heck David is a first-team All-American during his second year of FBS football.

    It’s a shame that Crick isn’t able to step in, but he’ll have his opportunities down the line and will still likely make a good chunk of change on Sundays.

    Follow the panel on Twitter:

    Brandon: @eightlaces
    Erin: @helloerinmarie
    James: @jamesstevenson

    Follow Husker Locker on Twitter: @huskerlocker
    Like us on Facebook: Official Husker Locker Page

    Tags: capital one bowl, ron zook, john papuchis, mike stoops, alfonzo dennard, lavonte david, brandon kinnie, taylor martinez, jared crick

  14. 2011 Dec 05

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Capital One Bowl Comparison - Quarterbacks


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez vs. South Carolina’s Connor Shaw

    NOTE: Shaw played in only nine of South Carolina’s 12 games. Martinez played full season.

    - Rushing

    Martinez: 172 carries for 837 yards (4.9 YPC) and nine touchdowns. Had three 100-yard games (Chattanooga, Fresno State and Ohio State).

    Shaw: 116 carries for 483 yards (4.2 YPC) and seven touchdowns. Rushed for 285 yards in his last three games (Florida, The Citadel and Clemson).

    - Passing

    Martinez: 152 of 272 (55.9%) for 1,973 yards, 12 touchdowns, seven interceptions

    Shaw: 112 of 171 (65.5%) for 1,128 yards, 12 touchdowns, six interceptions

    - Quarterback Rating:

    Martinez: 126.2
    Shaw: 141.5

    - No. of Times Sacked:

    Martinez: 15
    Shaw: 19

    - Best Game Rushing:

    Martinez: vs. Fresno State – 15 carries for 166 yards (11.1 YPC) and two touchdowns

    Shaw: vs. Clemson – 19 carries for 107 yards (5.6 YPC) and one touchdown

    - Best Game Passing:

    Martinez: vs. Northwestern – 28 of 37 (75.7%) for 289 yards and two touchdowns

    Shaw: Vs. Kentucky – 26 of 39 (66.7%) for 311 yards and four touchdowns.

    Worst Game Rushing:

    Martinez: vs. Michigan State – 12 carries for 23 yards (1.9 YPC)

    Shaw: vs. Mississippi State – 16 carries for 28 yards (1.8 YPC)

    Worst Game Passing:

    Martinez: vs. Wisconsin – 11 of 22 (50%) for 176 yards and three interceptions

    Shaw: vs. Florida – 6 of 12 (50%) for 81 yards and one interception

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    Tags: capital one bowl, taylor martinez, connor shaw

  15. 2011 Dec 05

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Huskers’ Party of Five


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brett Baker

    Back in August, most Nebraska fans thought come December they'd be making plans for a trip to the Rose Bowl at worst. Obviously, that did not come to pass.

    After two blowout losses and a complete gag against the “other NU”, the Huskers were left with the pageantry of the Capital One Bowl. It's kind of like getting socks for Christmas. Useful sure, but not quite the mega-haul you dream of.

    Rather than coming to grips with the underwhelming feel of this 9-3 campaign, now is a good time to look at what, or in this case who, went right. With that in mind here are my top five most-improved Huskers from the season that was.

    5. Andrew Green - Cornerback

    Having watched this young man play his high school football at San Antonio's Madison High School, there was particular interest in watching his development. Early in the season, he was about as far from this list as a player could be.

    After taking his lumps against Fresno State and Washington before seeing his playing time reduced with the return of Alfonzo Dennard, the redshirt sophomore settled down and became a dependable member of a sometimes suspect secondary. He learned a lot from a healthy Dennard and began to play with the kind of confidence that a cornerback has to have to succeed.

    4. Spencer Long – Offensive Guard

    From walk-on who had never played a snap at Nebraska to second team All-Big Ten, Long has to be among one of the most pleasant surprises of the Huskers inaugural jaunt through their new conference.

    Without Long doing the heavy lifting up the middle or pulling to lead the way for Mr. Burkhead, Rex's numbers most likely wouldn't be as sexy without Long's blocking. The best part is he'll be in Lincoln for two more years and should only improve.

    3. Will Compton – MIKE Linebacker

    After getting a decent amount of playing time following a return from injury in 2010, Compton took full advantage of his increased role this season. Next to Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard, Compton was easily the Huskers’ most reliable defender. At the beginning of the season, the Blackshirts’ biggest problem was not being able to get teams off the field on third down.

    As the year went on this became less and less of an issue in large part due to Compton's play. He would consistently shed blockers and fill holes where ball carriers were trying to go. A solid wrap-up tackler, he'll be the leading force on next year’s defense.

    2. Brett Maher – Kicker/Punter

    To the casual fan, this was probably the first season that they’d heard Maher's name. After having played in 27 games in the past two years, he’s no stranger to the field. That said, when you're the holder for Alex Henery you're probably not going to get noticed if everything goes right, and with Henery it almost always did.

    When Maher trotted onto the turf as Nebraska’s starting kicker for the first time in September, Husker fans had no idea what to expect, in that sense the junior from Kearney wildly exceeded expectations.

    Going 19 for 22 on field goal attempts, a perfect 42 for 42 on PATs and averaging will 45 yards per punt will go a long way towards making you a fan favorite. Being named the Big Ten Kicker and Punter of The Year will only add to that.

    1. Taylor Martinez - Quarterback

    After the Wisconsin game, there were two directions for Martinez to go. Fortunately for Husker fans, T-Magic put that debacle behind him and played really good football from there out. Following a turbulent week of media criticism, Martinez responded by pioneering the biggest comeback in school history against Ohio State. It seems that something clicked for the talented sophomore during that game.

    Rather than trying to win every game on every play, he became the kind of decision-maker that could grind out wins with his head as well as his feet. Statistically, his cumulative numbers in 2011 were almost identical to his numbers in 2010.

    Rushing - 1,292 yards / 11 TDs
    Passing - 1,631 yards / 10 TDs / 7 INTs
    Total - 2,923 yards / 21 TDs / 7 INTs

    Rushing - 958 yards / 9 TDs
    Passing - 1973 yards / 12 TDs / 7 INTs
    Total - 2,931 yards / 21 TDs / 7 INTs

    Martinez tops this list for some of the things that he didn't do. He didn't take unnecessary punishment, stepped out of bounds after a good gain rather than going one on one with a defensive back and stayed positive with his receivers.

    It's not hyperbole to say that Martinez would have had much bigger passing numbers in the second half of the season if his receivers didn't drop a good number of his chucks. While his throwing style will never be fundamentally beautiful, it can be functional. His receivers have to step up for him to truly succeed.

    If there was one play that solidifies Martinez's top ranking on this list, it was the option pitch to Burkhead at Penn State. At the very last second, he channeled his inner Tommie Frazier and made the perfect pitch that allowed Rex to score what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. It was a thing of beauty that illustrated just how far he'd come.

    There they are, the five most-improved Huskers of 2011. The best part, they will all be back in scarlet and cream next season.

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    Tags: andrew green, spencer long, will compton, brett maher, taylor martinez

  16. 2011 Nov 28

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against Iowa


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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

  17. 2011 Nov 28

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Statistically Speaking as of 11/28


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Brandon Cavanaugh

    At the end of this season, if current trends continue:

    - Quarterback Taylor Martinez will complete 55.9% of his passes (165-295) throwing for 2137 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions ending 2011 with a passing efficiency rating of 125.9.

    - Running back Rex Burkhead will finish the season with 283 carries for 1374 yards rushing (4.9 YPC) and 16 touchdowns.

    - Wide receiver Kenny Bell will wrap up his year with 32 catches for 530 yards (16.6 YPC) and three touchdowns.

    - Linebacker Lavonte David will have accumulated 132 tackles, 62 solo, 12 tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions, two passes broken up, three quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

    - Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard will have broken up at least one pass in all but two games he’s played.

    - Specialist Brett Maher will have converted 21 of 24 field goals. He will have kicked 59 punts averaging 44.6 yards per punt, downing 26 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. On 75 kickoffs, he’ll have averaged 67 yards per kickoff, tally 21 touchbacks and have scored 107 points.

    - Running back Ameer Abdullah will have piled up 896 yards in total return yardage (69 YPG).

    - Nebraska will have fumbled the ball 34 times, but will have only lost 11.

    - The Cornhuskers will have committed 82 penalties accumulating 683 yards of punishment (52 YPG).

    - The third quarter will have been Nebraska’s finest as they will have outscored opponents 119-72.

    - If the Huskers win the 2012 Capital One Bowl, about 771,463 fans will have seen Nebraska win live.

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    Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, kenny bell, lavonte david, alfonzo dennard, brett maher, ameer abdullah, capital one bowl

  18. 2011 Nov 27

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Knee-Jerk Reactions - Iowa


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    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.

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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

  19. 2011 Nov 21

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Top Five Things We Saw Against Michigan


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By Erin Sorensen

    A few weeks ago, Husker fans were planning their trips to Indianapolis for the inaugural Big Ten Championship game. Nebraska had just come off a big win over Michigan State and the Legends Division appeared to be locked up.

    Then Northwestern came to town and stunned the confident Cornhuskers. Since then, it’s been a rollercoaster season. Nebraska faced a Michigan team who stole momentum early and added another loss to the Big Red’s record. Five things stood out in the loss to the Maize and Blue.

    1. No Control or Containment of Denard Robinson

    Rumor had it that Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was injured. In fact, ESPN analysts spoke about how much differently he had been playing versus last season. Based on film, it was clear that Robinson had not been his old self. That should have been a comfort to Nebraska.

    It seemed that all it would take was stopping Robinson from getting his feet going. His passing hadn’t been worth noting. Containing an already one-dimensional quarterback seemed like something the Cornhuskers were more than capable of doing.

    By the end of the game, senior linebacker Lavonte David had 17 tackles. Of those, only three were assisted. A former high school rival of Robinson, Nebraska’s premiere linebacker was out to get the Michigan quarterback on nearly every down. It’s too bad no one else on the defense decided to join him.

    David spent the majority of the game chasing his rival down. Often successful, one man was just not enough. Take the All-Everything linebacker out of the game and Robinson would have run for miles. Fans saw a defense play without heart this past week. For those used to the dominant Blackshirts that showed up against Michigan State, it was another unwelcome sight.

    2. A Lopsided Offensive Attack

    Offensive coordinator Tim Beck has his strong weeks. Unfortunately, this was not one of them. The offensive strategy was often bizarre. While there were a few shining moments (the double option in the red zone, anyone?), it was a sluggish offensive attack overall.

    All of the blame cannot fall on Beck, as the Huskers found themselves making costly mistakes on plays that should have worked. There were many opportunities for Michigan to give up big plays to Nebraska, only to have a receiver drop a Taylor Martinez pass. It was a painful reminder of the ineffective offenses the Huskers have produced in recent years.

    Give credit where credit is due. Senior wide receiver Brandon Kinnie scored his first touchdown of the season bringing Nebraska back in the game for a short period of time. It was an impressive catch and score considering the Michigan defenders clearly held the big-bodied senior.

    In addition to Kinnie’s big moment, junior I-back Rex Burkhead somehow managed to keep his legs moving after the massive workloads of the past several weeks. How they have not fallen off, Nebraska fans will never know.

    3. Lack of Leadership from Taylor Martinez

    It would be unfair to say Martinez completely lacked leadership on Saturday, but he was definitely not the “T-Magic” many have grown to appreciate. Coming off a big win at Penn State, Martinez managed to make his life more difficult with a showing reminiscent of several breakdowns from last year.

    His inconsistency is worrisome, but it’s not his biggest concern. If anything should raise an eyebrow, it is Martinez's attitude following the game. When asked in the post-game press conference how he felt Nebraska’s first year in the Big Ten was going, Martinez simply said, “Going all right. So far, I guess.”

    Say what you will about his passing mechanics and decision-making, but if Martinez continues the season with a lackadaisical attitude, it will transfer to the field. He was more than likely upset over the loss. However, a starting quarterback of a championship-caliber team never lets a loss faze him. These are the things Martinez needs to begin learning now.

    4. Poor Clock Management

    By the start of the game on Saturday, the “Big House” was without power. There was no play clock on one end of the field. Both quarterbacks were required to watch the referees count down the seconds. When it tripped up Robinson, it seemed inevitable that this system would do the same to Martinez. Thankfully, it didn’t. However, that was the least of a Nebraska fan’s worries.

    The offense simply appeared slow on Saturday. Clock management seemed to be of little concern as Michigan pulled further and further away. That may have been one of the biggest disappointments, as it seemed the team began to give up. By game’s end, fans couldn’t even blame the refs for the countdown issues as the power had been on for some time.

    5. A Team Meltdown after Penn State

    The win over Penn State was an emotional one. While Nebraska no longer controlled their destiny in the Big Ten following the loss to Northwestern, a win over Michigan would have kept the Cornhuskers in the running. Based on how Nebraska handled their emotions after the Michigan State win, the lopsided loss does not seem as surprising.

    The team that took the field against the Nittany Lions was not the same one in Ann Arbor last Saturday. A team that has continuously showed they are capable of playing in the big leagues has let their emotions tackle them instead of the opposition. Blame the lack of focus on whatever you wish, but it’s something that needs to be addressed.

    It wasn’t the game Husker fans had hoped for. However, there is still the game against Iowa on Friday and a bowl game to look forward to. Football season isn’t over yet, whether some fans wish it were or not.

    At this time, the young men on the field need the fans’ support more now than ever. It might not be easy, but it’s imperative. A Big Ten Championship is not in the cards this year, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything left worth playing for. Fans need to continue watching and cheering. This is their team too.

    Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
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    Tags: michigan, denard robinson, tim beck, lavonte david, taylor martinez, rex burkhead, brandon kinnie

  20. 2011 Nov 21

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Most Valuable Huskers vs. Michigan


    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    By James Stevenson

    Offensive MVP: Film not found. Nebraska junior quarterback Taylor Martinez completed nine passes out of 23 and was sacked three times. The Huskers’ star running back Rex Burkhead gained only 36 yards on 10 carries (how did he only have 10 carries?!). The offense lost two fumbles. If we were forced to give an MVP out, we’d give it to the sweet triple read option play. You know the one.

    The play where Martinez read the defensive end, handed off to Burkhead who then read the corner and pitched to Freshman I-back Ameer Abdullah who waltzed in for a touchdown. Did you get the feeling that ESPN color analyst Urban Meyer will be running that play against Nebraska next season as the head coach of Ohio State?

    Defensive MVP: If there was a silver lining to last Saturday’s game, it was the amazing play of senior linebacker Lavonte David. It was a career day for David, finishing with an eye-popping 17 tackles (14 solo). While spying Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, he combined with safety Daimion Stafford for a sack, and had 2.5 tackles for a loss.

    Special Teams MVP: The unit that directly led to Nebraska’s implosion doesn’t deserve an award this week. We would’ve considered junior kicker/punter Brett Maher had he not bobbled the snap on what eventually was a blocked punt. He was money otherwise, hitting a 51-yard field goal, and averaging 46 yards on six punts.

    Michigan MVP: Michigan junior quarterback Denard Robinson completed 11 of 18 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed 23 times for another 83 yards and two more touchdowns. He single-handedly outscored the Huskers, and constantly broke the Blackshirts’ backs with well-timed runs and passes.

    Texas A&M Redux: Just over one year ago, Nebraska took an infamous trip to College Station. Conspiracy theorists in the crowd will recall quite a few questionable calls in that game. The curse of Novembers' past followed the Huskers to Ann Arbor. Early in the game, Michigan completed a 46-yard pass to wide receiver Roy Roundtree after he pushed off of All-American cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.

    Later, wide receiver Tim Marlowe was tackled on third down before a pass arrived, but no flag was thrown. When Nebraska was trying to make a late comeback, the referees flagged Nebraska’s special teams for roughing the kicker, even though he’d barely been touched by the Cornhusker rush. The referees certainly didn’t cost Nebraska the game, but they tilted the odds in Michigan’s favor even more.

    Stubhub Award: Internet-service providers certainly saw an uptick in Husker fans heading to online ticket broker Stubhub.com during the second half of the game. Instead of buying tickets to the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis, the Husker Faithful were listing their tickets on Stubhub, hoping to gobble up some Turkey Day spending money. If you’re a Michigan State fan planning your trip, you should check the hotels in Indianapolis. A number of rooms likely became available as of last Saturday.

    Nebraska Loves the Option So Much: …that it tries to run it on defense too. When defensive tackle Terrence Moore intercepted an attempted screen pass by Denard Robinson, he returned it 10 yards before attempting to pitch it out to a nearby teammate. He was ultimately ruled down before the pitch, but it was one of the Cornhuskers’ best option plays of the day.

    The Corn Bowl?: The Huskers have a short week ahead. They play the Iowa Hawkeyes bright and early in Lincoln on Black Friday at 11:00 AM. It’ll be the final home game for the Nebraska seniors, as they play for an ugly wooden trophy with a bowl of corn on the top (fans certainly didn't vote for that base).

    The sad thing is that the trophy will only be seen by the Innocents Society and is better than the game’s other stakes with the winner claiming third place in the Big Ten Legends division. A loss would likely banish the Huskers to the Insight Bowl (held at another House of Husker Horror: Sun Devil Stadium). Talk about a step back from 2009 and 2010.

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    Tags: taylor martinez, rex burkhead, terrence moore, ameer abdullah, lavonte david, daimion stafford, brett maher, alfonzo dennard, denard robinson, roy roundtree, tim marlowe

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