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  1. 2011 Nov 02

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Blackshirts Aided By Beatdowns and a Break From Stiff Competition


    By HuskerLocker

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    By James Stevenson

    Last Monday, 20 (that’s twenty, not a typo) Nebraska defenders found black practice jerseys in their lockers. Eight defensive linemen and nine defensive backs were among those honored in Bo Pelini’s tweaked version of the Blackshirt tradition.

    While the Huskers certainly earned the right to their black practice jerseys after dominating Michigan State, the resurgence on defense may have as much to do with the competition as with the Blackshirts actually improving.

    There’s no question that Nebraska’s defense has statistically improved since the non-conference schedule. After the debacle at Wisconsin, Nebraska’s was ranked No. 68 in pass defense, No. 58 in pass effeciency defense, No. 64 in total defense and No. 73 in scoring defense.

    Heading into the game against Northwestern this week, those rankings have improved to No 12 in pass defense, No. 23 in pass efficiency defense, No. 29 in total defense and No. 33 in scoring defense.

    That’s some massive improvement. Bo Pelini’s defenses are known for gelling over the course of the season, as players learn to trust each other and the system in his Zone Pattern Match defense.

    For example, the 2010 defense had improved from No. 35 to No. 12 in total defense from the third to the tenth week of the season. The 2009 team improved from No. 50 to No. 9 in the same category.

    The last two seasons prove that Bo Pelini defenses improve during the middle of the season, evolving into the fearsome units he is known for coordinating. The 2011 Nebraska squad seems to be following this pattern, but the competition faced during October is decidedly different than what was seen in the Big 12.

    In 2009 and 2010, Nebraska faced two teams ranked No. 2 in total scoring (Texas Tech in 2009, Oklahoma State in 2010). They usually had another date with a Top 25 scoring outfit (Missouri in 2009 and 2010).

    Unlike those seasons, the 2011 Blackshirts have padded their stats since the Wisconsin game, playing against the Nos. 108, 110, and 66 scoring offenses in Ohio State, Minnesota and Michigan State, respectively.

    Neither Ohio State (No. 111 passing offense) nor Minnesota (No. 108 passing offense) featured any sort of significant threat against the Huskers’ secondary. Even Michigan State, despite star quarterback Kirk Cousins, was merely average in both total offense (No. 66) and scoring offense (No. 58).

    Aside from the first half against Ohio State, Nebraska did what it should have done against the offenses it faced: shut them down. Over the last ten quarters of play, Nebraska has only given up 24 points. That’s good defense no matter how you slice it.

    The big question that remains going into the November contests is if the Blackshirts can contain a mobile quarterback. Nebraska was exploited early in the season by slippery signal-callers.

    Ohio State’s Braxton Miller gashed the Huskers for big gains before his second half injury. Wisconsin, Washington and Fresno State used rollouts and plays designed to get their quarterbacks on the move and into space effectively.

    Much like Michigan State, two of Nebraska’s upcoming opponents, Penn State and Iowa, don’t feature much mobility at the quarterback position. The real test for the improved Blackshirts will be Northwestern and Michigan.

    The first mobile quarterback will be Northwestern’s Dan Persa. Hampered by an injured Achilles’ tendon, he hasn’t quite returned to his 2010 form. Last week against Indiana, he still rushed for 41 yards on four attempts with his longest gain being 22 yards.

    The Wildcats’ change-up option at quarterback, Kain Colter, is more of a runner than a thrower, and accounted for 38 yards on five attempts gaining 20 yards on his longest run. Northwestern doesn’t sport much of a defense though, which should reduce pressure on the Blackshirts.

    The biggest test will be in two weeks in Ann Arbor. Nebraska will face one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in Michigan junior Denard Robinson. “Shoelace” leads the Wolverines in passing and rushing, and is averaging over 100 yards on the ground in his last seven games. If Nebraska can contain Robinson and limit his running ability, they have a chance to win at the Big House.

    For the Cornhusker defense, being able to defend a mobile quarterback will be paramount during the November stretch if they want to win the Legends Division. Given that dual-threat quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Russell Wilson lead two of the three teams that could hypothetically oppose the Huskers in the conference championship game, a conference title may rely on that improvement, as well.

    The Blackshirts have come a long way since that fateful night in Madison, but to win the inaugural Big Ten Championship, they’ll have to step up and prove they can to shut down the conference’s highest-octane signal callers and offenses.

    Follow James on Twitter: @JamesStevenson
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    Tags: bo pelini, blackshirts, northwestern, dan persa, denard robinson, kirk cousins, kain coulter, ohio state, wisconsin, penn state, iowa, washington, braxton miller, fresno state

  2. 2011 Sep 15

    Husker Heartbeat 9/15: Abdullah in The Spotlight, No Offensive Worries and Crouch Under Center Again


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Ameer Abdullah is coming up big as the Huskers' return man

    - The Huskies present Nebraska's first true obstacle

    - Nebraska's not worried about their quick offensive possessions

    - Another walk-on starter on the offensive line?

    - Former Nebraska Heisman winner Crouch to play quarterback this Thursday for the Omaha Nighthawks

    - NU baseball pitcher Logan Ehlers will transfer

    Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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    Tags: ameer abdullah, eric crouch, logan ehlers, washington

  3. 2011 Sep 14

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Coverage Map for Washington-Nebraska


    By HuskerLocker

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    The ABC-provided map for this weekend's upcoming Washington-Nebraska game:

    Tags: washington

  4. 2011 Sep 12

    What You Need to Know About the Washington Huskies


    By HuskerLocker

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    To ensure that Husker fans know the necessities of all upcoming opponents, every week Husker Locker will be previewing Nebraska’s upcoming foe. This week: The Washington Huskies

    Washington Basics:

    Conference: Pac-12
    Stadium: Husky Stadium (72,500 capacity)
    Head Coach: Steve Sarkisian (14-13 at Washington)
    2010 Season: 7-6 (Defeated Nebraska 19-7 in the Holiday Bowl)
    Last Week: Defeated Hawaii 40-32

    How many times is Nebraska going to play these guys?

    Consider this weekend’s game the rubber match for the calendar year. The Huskers won't see Washington again until at least the 2017-2018 season barring another bowl game meeting.

    Has Washington ever defeated Nebraska in Lincoln?

    In 1991, the No. 4 Huskies defeated No. 9 Nebraska 36-21. Washington would go on to split the national championship with Miami (FL).

    Did You Know?

    Nebraska and Washington have met nine times with a series record of 4-4-1. Both teams were in the top 12 on four occasions.

    Before he got into coaching, Washington’s Steve Sarkisian played quarterback in college. He transferred from El Camino College to BYU and had a brief stint in the Canadian Football League with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

    Three current Huskers had offers from Washington (Eric Martin, Dijon Washington, Todd Peat, Jr.)

    Washington Players to Watch

    QB Keith Price (Last week: 18-of-25 passing for 315 yards, four TDs and one INT)

    RB Chris Polk (Last Week: 22 rushes for 107 yards (4.9 YPC) and one TD)

    WR Devin Aguilar (Last Week: 5 catches for 131 yards and one TD)

    DE Everette Thompson (Last Week: 3 tackles (2 solo), 1 TFL, 1 SCK, 2 blocked kicks)

    LB Cort Dennison (Last Week: 12 tackles (2 solo), 1 FF)

    DB Desmond Trufant (Younger brother of Seattle Seahawks’ Marcus Trufant; Last Week: 4 tackles (all solo), 1 INT, 1 PBU)

    Interact with Husky fans at: The Dawgman Football Forum

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    Tags: washington

  5. 2011 Sep 12

    Husker Heartbeat 9/12: O-Line Baby Steps, Ciante Evans Angry and Suh Dominates; Overachieves


    By HuskerLocker

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

    - Will little steps cut it for the Huskers' 2011 offensive line?

    - The coaches were pleased that players kept their cool against the Bulldogs

    - Ciante Evans isn't happy about last Saturday's coverage breakdowns

    - The return of Alfonzo Dennard would tighten up Nebraska's defense against the run

    - Nebraska opens as a 17.5 favorite vs. Washington

    - Former Husker Ndamukong Suh: Dominant on the field; Grand achiever off of it

    - A bad week exposes the Big Ten's problems

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    Tags: ciante evans, alfonzo dennard, washington, ndamukong suh

  6. 2011 Jun 18

    Husker Chatter From Around the Horn: 6/18


    By HuskerLocker

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    A weekly look at what's been said about the Big Red around the wide, wide world of sports:

    "The Cornhuskers are the consensus preseason pick to win the Legends Division that also includes Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Iowa and Minnesota." - The Gainesville Sun

    “We kind of grew up around here. Going to Nebraska football games — they are the best.“You learn the customs and the ways. Sports around here are a big deal.” - Vanderbilt second baseman Riley Reynolds in town with the Commodores' College Word Series squad

    “There’s a lot of kids that are in some tough situations and just need some help,” said Washington, who went to the University of Nebraska on a football scholarship. “I grew up like that, and I had a way out with football. ... Some people got to go the other route and hit the books, and I feel those people should be rewarded.” - Former Nebraska cornerback Fabian Washington regarding the creation of a scholarship in his name

    "I really got this idea after interviewing Correll Buckhalter for a magazine article,” explained Raeshaun. “We talked about how many professional athletics come from the small community we live in.” - Journalist and substitute teacher Iris Raeshaun who will be holding a Summer Learning & Sports Camp

    " So yeah, Nebraska is a nice addition. But let's not give up the ship just yet. We'll be providing Nebraska with some pretty good opponents. And recent history has shown, they don't fare so well when that happens." - Bama Hawkeye from Off Tackle Empire

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    Tags: big ten, big 10, vanderbilt, college world series, correll buckhalter, fabian washington

  7. 2011 Jan 28

    YEAR IN REVIEW: CB Report Card


    By HuskerLocker

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    Samuel McKewon breaks down the cornerback play in 2010...and the highest grade just might surprise you. Check it out with a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: year in review, report card, alfonzo dennard, prince amukamara, ciante evans, anthony west, anthony blue, lazarri middleton, dijon washington, charles jackson, jase dean, antonio bell

  8. 2010 Dec 05

    HOLIDAY BOWL: Let's Play Two?


    By HuskerLocker

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    This isn't kissing your sister. This is kissing your sister's best friend with the peanut butter breath and three tons of metal in her mouth.

    In what appears to be a final turn of the Big 12 screw, Nebraska learned Sunday night that it's headed back to the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl to play Washington, a team NU smashed 56-21 in September.

    The 6-6 Huskies, on a three-game winning streak, qualified for a bowl by scoring a last-minute touchdown in a 35-28 win over Washington State Saturday night.

    The 10-3 Huskers lost the Big 12 Championship 23-20 to Oklahoma, which opened them up for a precipitous fall in the bowl slate, especially considering the Big 12 had five teams with at least nine wins.

    But no one predicted, until now, that NU would fall this far to face a team it already thoroughly humiliated.

    What happened? The Insight Bowl, held Dec. 28 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, selected Missouri over Nebraska to play Iowa. In 2008 and 2009, the Tigers received bowl snubs – although not quite like this.

    Conspiracy? NU fans have certainly thrown around the word often enough as it pertains to the Big 12.

    Consider: Hawkeyes vs. Huskers sells better on television and at the admission gate. The Big Red Faithful has consistently traveled better than Mizzou – the opposite would be the case in basketball - they gobble up more pay-per-view sales and move more merchandise. The Huskers also have a massive contingent of fans in the Phoenix metro, built up over many years of bowl trips to the Fiesta Bowl and road games at Arizona State.

    But a NU/Iowa matchup would also feature two Big Ten teams in a Big 12 bowl. And Missouri is ranked higher than Nebraska in the Bowl Championship Series rankings.

    And, of course, the Big 12 is the Big 12.

    That UW landed in San Diego is the result of four remarkable Pac-10 events converging in one year:

    -The NCAA deemed 8-5 USC ineligible for a bowl game after finding that former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and his family received improper extra benefits from runners and hustlers.

    -Oregon State chose, of its own volition, to play at Boise State and TCU in Dallas, losing both and leaving the Beavers one win short of bowl eligibility.

    -Arizona State won six games and smoked Washington, but two of its wins were against non-Division 1-A opponents. The NCAA denied ASU's appeal for a bowl.

    -The Pac-10, which placed Oregon in the BCS national title and Stanford in the BCS, was too damn hard. USA Today's Jeff Sagarin rated the Pac-10 his toughest conference, but the teams – aside from the Ducks and Cardinal - all beat up on each other.

    Thus, only four Pac-10 teams qualified for bowl games. So here come the Huskies. Again. It's the 1979 Orange Bowl – when Nebraska played Oklahoma in a rematch of NU's 17-14 regular-season wins - all over again. Minus a quality opponent. And a competitive game. And a Jan. 1 slot on TV.

    They do say San Diego's quite pretty this time of year.

    Tags: holiday bowl, washington

  9. 2010 Sep 21

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: A Classic Drive from a Rebuilding Pipeline


    By HuskerLocker

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    On one of the best days for Nebraska offensive line in years - where the memories of Wiegert, Taylor, Fonoti, Shields, Raiola, Young and Stai came flooding back, their brute strength punishing the opponent for having the temerity to exist - Barney Cotton had one embarrassing moment.

    As Roy Helu’s pretty-as-a-painting, 65-yard touchdown run during a 56-21 win over Washington unfolded, NU’s Pipeline coach tried to keep pace with him down the sideline. Don’t blame Cotton. When a sweep is blocked like that, you feel like skipping through the grass.

    “We had some great edge blocks pinning the defense,” Cotton said, “and then when we had two good pulls on the edge and then Roy pops through and he just beats the rest of the defense.”

    He too beat Cotton, who saw himself running on the Husky Stadium big screen.

    “I looked painfully slow compared to Roy,” Cotton joked. “I have to make sure I don’t run anymore.”

    But that moment paled in comparison to the enjoyment Cotton got out of watching NU’s offensive line work Saturday - and then again Sunday in film review.

    “The best thing about watching this film and there was a number of real physical plays,” he said.

    Cotton’s not going to heap too much praise. He reflexively reverts back to teaching points, growth patterns, the process. That’s the Pelini Way. NU’s coaches are like metronomes in this way. A lot of good things. Tick. A lot of things to work on. Tick. Bo wants to create an edge, a lack of fulfillment.

    And yet Saturday looked unmistakably like a statement game for Cotton’s unit, with a statement drive at its heart. You know the one. It answered Washington’s second touchdown, a gift handed to the Huskies when Cody Green fumbled at his own 6-yard line.

    After UW scored, Cotton gathered his guys on the sideline.

    “We owe them a touchdown back,” he told them.

    Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson put it more bluntly: “We could drive it down and put it in and that’s what we were going to do. We told them that before they took the field.”

    Eight plays, 48 yards, all with two tight ends on the field, all but one with Taylor Martinez out of the shotgun, calmly handing the ball to Rex Burkhead or Roy Helu, right up the gut.

    “That was tiring,” Caputo said Tuesday. “But that was fun. It was really cool to pretty much tell the defense what we were doing. After the third time I think they figured out we were going to try to run it up the middle and we just kept running it.”

    Said head coach Bo Pelini: “I loved that drive.”

    It was power football with a simple, game-changing twist: By putting Martinez in the shotgun, Washington had to account for him. Just for a second. Which is all the NU offensive line needed to blast the Huskies off the ball.

    “The blocking schemes are exactly the same,“ Cotton said. “And we weren’t spread out in those runs. We were packed in.”

    Martinez scored on a one-yard sneak, riding a massive surge from Ricky Henry and Mike Caputo. He could have sneaked in from the 5.

    “At the end of the drive I could feel them tire out,” Caputo said “I could tell they were kind of done.”

    It’s a myth that halftime always rejuvenates a defense. Sometimes, with a little water in the belly and the adrenaline dialed down a notch, apathy sets in. Resignation. A faint hope that maybe the offense will botch a series, or hand the ball back on a fumble.

    Didn’t happen.

    In the second half, Nebraska ripped off two touchdowns in just five plays. Finished with 383 rushing yards. Threw the ball just a handful of times in the second stanza.

    And that’s how it used to be. And how it was, for one weekend, in Seattle.

    See also: Jackrabbit Fever!

    Tags: washington game, shawn watson, barney cotton, ricky henry, mike caputo

  10. 2010 Sep 20

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Bo Bullish on the O-Line


    By HuskerLocker

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    Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini doesn’t “really care” which coach bestowed his football team with a first-place vote in the later USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll.

    “But it wasn’t me,” he said during Monday’s Big 12 Teleconference.

    And that was that.

    Pelini was much more in the mood Monday to talk about his running game, which ranks fourth in the nation, averaging 344 yards per game after a 56-21 victory over Washington.

    “We’re making them have to defend everybody,” he said, referring to the multiple weapons NU puts on the field, including quarterback Taylor Martinez, who rushed for 137 yards. The Huskers had Martinez, Roy Helu, Rex Burkhead each top 100 yards, the first time NU had done so since 2001.

    One key: Nebraska’s offensive line, making holes in the power downhill running game out of the shotgun.

    “We’re blocking well up front,” Pelini said. “We controlled the line of scrimmage pretty well the other day…When you’re able to play well up front, it solves a lot of issues.”

    See also: A closer look at Helu's 65-yard gem and Dennard's Pick Six

    Tags: bo pelini, washington game

  11. 2010 Sep 20

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Husker Monday Review: UW


    By HuskerLocker

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    Related video

    Cover photo for the Nebraska-Washington Highlights videoWatch video
    Nebraska-Washington Highlights
    Trophies: 0
    Washington fans weren’t the only ones barking at Nebraska’s football team Saturday. The Huskies themselves were chirpy and chippy while NU ran up and down the field in a 60-minute track meet and a 56-21 win. When execution and talent fails, hey - turn it into a punkfest.

    “Maybe it’s Pac-10,” running back Roy Helu said. “Maybe it’s California kids. I don’t know who it is. But they like talking.”

    The Huskers won’t see it again for several weeks, but girding for a verbally tumultuous Big 12 Conference road schedule would be a good idea. Teams - and their fans - will be getting in their parting shots. Most likely as Nebraska delivers a knockout blow.

    On with the review of a surprisingly easy, dominant win:

    Five Players We Loved

    Quarterback Taylor Martinez: I still question whether he can throw a go route or deep post route. But Martinez can throw a deep comeback route as well as most guys in college. And not only is that a hard throw to time up and make - it’s a hard pass route to defend. When a receiver drives a defensive back 18 yards upfield, the DB has to allow some cushion. With the Huskers’ big-bodied receivers, Martinez has large, healthy targets for delivery.

    Wide Receiver Brandon Kinnie: And here's one of them. A banner day for BK - as a blocker. His work on Washington’s defensive backs was exemplary. Throw in a nifty kickoff return and three catches for 90 yards, and you have Kinnie’s breakout game. Defenses have to account for him.

    Offensive guard Ricky Henry: After two poor games from the Omaha senior, Henry brought his work gloves to Seattle. He mashed and mauled all day, blowing open holes for Rex Burkhead and Roy Helu.

    Defensive back Alfonzo Dennard: The best cornerback in the country? Right now, Dennard - not touted teammate Prince Amukamara - is making the better case. Dennard’s instincts are off the charts, and he gets into receivers' pads without causing penalties. We’ll take Prince, too, of course.

    Defensive end Pierre Allen: NU’s front four did a sublime job of collapsing the pocket on Jake Locker without losing contain more than once. Allen was a big reason. He didn’t put up a bunch of flashy stats, but he anchored a line that consistently caved in on UW’s quarterbacks.

    Three Concerns

    Boneheaded plays: Nebraska had its share, from Cody Green’s first fumble - just go down! - to a misplayed coverage on the Washington’s final touchdown.

    The absence of the deep pass: NU will eventually need to burn defensive backs in tight, physical coverage. We still don’t know if Martinez can make that pass. He hasn’t had to yet.

    The lack of a challenge for Nebraska’s offense: The Huskers have played three straight games - and could very well play five straight - against opponents who lacked a clue on how to defend Martinez for four quarters. You’d like to see NU face some adversity - rather than its own mistakes - before the Oct. 16 Texas game. It may not be coming.

    Three Questions

    How does Nebraska approach South Dakota State week and the game itself? With a bye week beyond this Saturday, let’s see how the Huskers handle practice and game repetitions against a Jackrabbit team that’s 0-2 in Division 1-AA (sorry, never changing). NU wouldn’t disrespect an opponent, but Bo Pelini is gearing up for the Big 12 Conference - not scheming his heart out to stop SDSU.

    Has NU’s offense scratched the surface of its playbook? Just barely. Shawn Watson didn’t have to unpack much at Washington. Many of Nebraska’s most successful plays were the same ones that knocked over Idaho 10 days ago.

    Who gave the Huskers that first-place vote in the coaches poll? We’re guessing it’s UW’s Steve Sarkisian, who became a Boliever on Saturday - and continued to insist, somewhat mindlessly, that Washington isn’t that far behind Nebraska.

    Tags: husker monday review, washington game, taylor martinez, alfonzo dennard, ricky henry, brandon kinnie, pierre allen

  12. 2010 Sep 19

    NU Gets 1st Place Vote in Poll: Was It is Sark?


    By HuskerLocker

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    After its 56-21 clobbering of Washington in Seattle, Nebraska impressed one college coach enough to a gain first-place vote in the USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll released Sunday morning.

    Could that coach be UW’s Steve Sarkisian? He has a vote in the poll.

    NU also moved up from No. 8 to No. 7, slipping past Florida, which scored an impressive 31-17 victory at Tennessee.

    In the AP, Nebraska is now No. 6, moving ahead of Texas and Oklahoma.

    The whole coaches top 25:

    1. Alabama (55) 3-0 1,470 1
    2. Ohio State (3) 3-0 1,410 2
    3. Boise State 2-0 1,291 3
    4. Texas 3-0 1,251 4
    5. TCU 3-0 1,188 5
    6. Oregon 3-0 1,181 6
    7. Nebraska (1) 3-0 1,135 8
    8. Florida 3-0 1,092 7
    9. Oklahoma 3-0 1,060 9
    10. Wisconsin 3-0 884 11
    11. Arkansas 3-0 846 13
    12. LSU 3-0 801 12
    13. Utah 3-0 693 14
    14. Auburn 3-0 655 15
    15. South Carolina 3-0 612 16
    16. Arizona 3-0 610 18
    17. Stanford 3-0 541 19
    18. Iowa 2-1 463 10
    19. Miami (Fla.) 1-1 418 17
    20. Penn State 2-1 335 20
    21. West Virginia 3-0 315 21
    22. Michigan 3-0 255 22
    23. Michigan State 3-0 125 NR
    24. Missouri 3-0 123 25
    25. Oklahoma State 3-0 103 NR

    The whole AP top 25:

    1 Alabama (53) 3-0 1492
    2 Ohio State (5) 3-0 1435
    3 Boise State (1) 2-0 1333
    4 TCU 3-0 1280
    5 Oregon 3-0 1238
    6 Nebraska 3-0 1175
    7 Texas (1) 3-0 1164
    8 Oklahoma 3-0 1114
    9 Florida 3-0 1044
    10 Arkansas 3-0 903
    11 Wisconsin 3-0 803
    12 South Carolina 3-0 739
    13 Utah 3-0 703
    14 Arizona 3-0 663
    15 LSU 3-0 654
    16 Stanford 3-0 606
    17 Auburn 3-0 600
    18 Iowa 2-1 482
    19 Miami (FL) 1-1 472
    20 USC 3-0 414
    21 Michigan 3-0 291
    22 West Virginia 3-0 258
    23 Penn State 2-1 198
    24 Oregon State 1-1 75
    25 Michigan State 3-0 45

    Tags: washington game

  13. 2010 Sep 18



    By HuskerLocker

    Blog post image

    OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Quarterback Taylor Martinez. He served some Pac-10 revenge cold, didn’t he? Kid can ball. Martinez isn’t perfect, but when he needed to be clutch as a passer, he was on the mark. And his 80-yard is the reason why he’s Nebraska’s starter. Not many guys can do that.

    DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. Stuck to his assignments like glue, then slammed the coffin shut with a Pick Six in the second half. Dennard is playing his way into the 2010 NFL Draft. Don’t kid yourself. Enjoy the kid while he’s still here.


    QUARTERBACK: B It’s for the whole position, not just Martinez, so the grade comes down for Cody Green’s fumbles. Martinez has the occasional mistake, too. Early in the game, he kept the ball too much on the zone read, and he took two unnecessary sacks. Overall, though, the kid led Nebraska like a champion, never had a false start penalty, appeared to run the team well, and made his trademark big plays. He’s not a great passer yet. But he completes them when they count.

    RUNNING BACK: A Roy Helu and Burkhead ran with authority, decisiveness and toughness. I wrote that last week. I’m writing it again. They’re both off a terrific start this year. A healthy Helu is scary thing. He’s fast again. And Shawn Watson is using him the right way, too, on outside runs. Burkhead, meanwhile, is just a bulldog. He’s an upbeat country music song waiting to happen.

    OFFENSIVE LINE: A- A couple of rough penalties on a drive or two, but, otherwise, these guys played like men Saturday. The Pipeline blasted Washington’s defensive front. Go back and look at Martinez’s three quarterback sneaks in the game and the push the Huskers get off the line. The most pleasant surprise, to this point in the year, is center Mike Caputo, who is outpacing Jacob Hickman from last season.

    WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS: A Brandon Kinnie had career day catching the ball. But you should have seen some of his blocks. He engulfed his blocking assignment in several situations. Niles Paul did, too, Mike McNeill made the most of his big catch for a touchdown by reaching for pylon. These guys will be a little unloved this year because Nebraska’s running game isn’t going anywhere.

    DEFENSIVE LINE: A- Better than the statistics would suggest. The front four kept Jake Locker hemmed in most of the day with a disciplined pass rush that limited his scrambling lanes and notched a sack. Pierre Allen consistently got good pressure. Against the run, just remember what the Huskers’ defensive line is supposed to do - hold up the running lanes for the linebackers. Only a few times did they get knocked off their positions.

    LINEBACKER: B Rough start for Eric Martin and LaVonte David, but they settled in and made some nice plays against the run after Washington’s first TD drive. For a big guy, Martin can pursue. And David nearly landed a sack on Locker in the first half. Both still get caught a little too far inside at times and are vulnerable to the cutback.

    SECONDARY: A You can live with one breakdown and one ticky-tack penalty call if the result is 4-for-20 for 71 yards, right? This the nation’s best. Some pro teams can’t field this good of a unit.

    SPECIAL TEAMS: A- A small demerit just for Paul’s curious catch of a punt at the 5, and his generally circuitous running on kickoff returns. Kinnie did a better job. Adi Kunalic was awesome on kickoffs and Alex Henery - living a boring life this year - hit a few good punts.

    GAME MANAGEMENT/PLAYCALLING: A It might have seemed, early in the game, that Shawn Watson was getting a little cute with play calling. On the contrary - he was setting Washington up by spreading the Huskies and getting them tired. One UW was gassed, he hammered it right down UW’s gullet. It was clever. Plus, he kept that counter play to Roy Helu - the same one he scampered 58 yards on last week - until just the right time, as well. On defense, NU stayed in a basic pass rush plan while mixing up the coverages on Locker in the back seven. It really worked; Locker didn’t know what day of the week it was.

    What's your take? Click here!

    Tags: report card, washington game, alfonzo dennard, taylor martinez

  14. 2010 Sep 17

    CHALKTALK: Jake Locker vs. The Pelini Brothers


    By HuskerLocker

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    HL's Samuel McKewon breaks down how Washington will try to attack Nebraska's stalwart defense - and why the Huskies must run to win. It's exclusive, easy-to-understand analysis you won't find anywhere else except right here - for a 30-day free trial of Husker Locker Pass!

    Tags: washington game, jake locker, bo pelini, chalktalk

  15. 2010 Sep 17

    Guess The Score! NU-Washington!


    By HuskerLocker

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    Here's Samuel McKewon's prediction for the Nebraska-Washington game! Enjoy!

    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Now - make your guess - along with an explanation, perhaps, in the comments area below. Anybody who hits the score (and the winner) right on the nose goes into a drawing for two free tickets to Nebraska's last Big 12 game ever vs. Colorado!

    Congrats to Tipper34, who nailed the 38-17 score from last week! Great job!

    Not a member but want to play? Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    Check Out Our Two Newest Chalktalks: Jake Locker vs. The Pelini Brothers and What Makes T-Magic Tick

    Tags: guess the score, washington game

  16. 2010 Sep 17

    Podcast 9/17: NU Soccer Hosts Two


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    Tags: podcasts, volleyball, washington, soccer

  17. 2010 Sep 17

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Five Keys to Washington


    By HuskerLocker

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    Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

    It’s a few weeks after an awful season - the kind that makes fans question the whole point of putting on the colors and rooting for their teams on any given Saturday - and the new defensive coordinator has gathered the remaining players for an introductory speech. This being his sole chance to deliver a right cross of a first impression, he lights into them.

    I don’t care if a kid’s more talented or he has a bigger heart, he bellows. I’m going to put the 11 best kids who are going to win a game for me out of the field. Get rid of the losing. We don’t do that around here anymore.

    This isn’t Bo Pelini at Nebraska in spring 2003. Or the head coach version of Bo in spring 2008. It’s Nick Holt, Washington’s defensive coordinator, in spring 2009, just after the Huskies finished 0-12.

    “Tenacious,” UW linebacker Cort Dennison remembers thinking of Holt in that first meeting. Fearless. Emotional. Competitive.

    “He expects to win at everything,” Dennison said. “He brings the best out of you. Best coach I’ve ever had.”

    That quote could easily apply to half of NU’s defenders, speaking about Bo or Carl Pelini.

    As I’ve read about the Huskies this week and talked to some of their players, I see parallels between Washington’s program in 2010 and Nebraska’s in 2008. Young, bright, aggressive guys at the helm. A culture taking hold. Players buying in. The previous coaching staff left behind just enough players worth developing - plus a quarterback whom teammates want to follow.

    Like that Joe Ganz-led Husker squad, this Jake Locker-led Husky bunch is flawed - but dangerous. Prone to breakdowns - and creating nightmares. Capable of taking Nebraska to the wire - or crashing against the waves of the moment.

    Which Washington appears depends, to some extent, on which NU rolls into Seattle. Safety Dejon Gomes put it best this week when he said the Huskers’ chemistry would be put to the test. They’re talented as all get out, willful, still a shaky at times, and led by Taylor Martinez, the most curious Nebraska player in years.

    With haste:

    Test for T-Magic: Bo Pelini and Shawn Watson are on record: They think this mysterious, talented redshirt freshman will handle his first road start in stride.

    I’m not sure they - or any of Martinez’s teammates - really know.

    Martinez’s gift, it would seem, is to erase memories of good or bad plays and take each snap tabula rasa. In Memorial Stadium, against the first two offerings of Steve Pederson’s parting gift, that was true. Martinez was deft and heedless with his play regardless of what, good or bad, had just happened.

    Can he translate that to Seattle with the knowledge of the enormity of the game - and the pressure on his shoulders? If he can’t - does Bo Pelini pull him and give Cody Green a shot? And how close by is Zac Lee?

    Know this about Bo: When it comes to winning games, he’ll hurt some feelings. He’ll yank a guy.

    Working in Martinez’s favor: His big-play ability compels a coach to keep giving him the ball. Not every quarterback, for example, could make up a 14-0 deficit in a quarter. But Martinez could.

    Power Play: Washington has to run the ball. Has to. Yes, despite Locker’s arm and athletic talents. Absent a running game, the Blackshirts eat Locker’s lunch. NU commits too many athletes to the pass, tackles too well in space, generates too good of a pass rush, and dials up too exotic of blitzes. If Blaine Gabbert, Landry Jones and Colt McCoy - three more efficient QBs than Locker - couldn’t unravel it, don’t expect Locker to do it in 40 passes.

    So the Huskies must run against NU’s smallish, agile front seven. They have the running back, Chris Polk, to do it. The offensive line is young but talented. And Washington will have the advantage of crowd momentum. Should UW run the ball well between the tackles, then it can play to Locker’s strengths - his agility on rollout plays and the playaction pass.

    Locker hasn’t been a primary running threat since his freshman season - when he gained 986 yards - but he’s good enough in the zone read to burn the Huskers. But how many hits does head coach Steve Sarkisian want to expose Locker to? UW’s season won’t be defined by Saturday any more than Nebraska’s will.

    The Specials: Nebraska has a distinct advantage here. UW is 90th nationally defending the punt, 91st defending the kickoff, 99th in net punting, 107th in punt returns and 117th in kickoff returns. The Huskies are now breaking in a junior walk-on punter after the starter got hurt. NU has some of the best punt (9th) and kickoff (18th) return units in the country, plus kicker/punter Alex Henery, plus kickoff specialist Adi Kunalic.

    NU has a 3-to-7-point edge here, and head coach Bo Pelini knows it. That’s why Niles Paul is heading back to return kickoffs this week.

    Seattle Sound: Husky Stadium is much like any hostile atmosphere: It’s as tough as the opponent allows it to be with its play. If NU can’t shake Washington, the crowd will surge. Hang a couple touchdowns on the Huskies early, and unplug the purple-and-gold faithful.

    We’ve already covered Martinez, so here’s another guy to watch: Running back Roy Helu. He likes these moments. He’s good in a big crowd. He feeds off of it. In some of NU’s toughest road games - Texas Tech and Oklahoma in 2008, Virginia Tech, Missouri and Kansas in 2009 - Helu ran with toughness, consistency and a sense of urgency.

    One more: Paul. The talented senior wide receiver has to fight the urge to rush himself. Stay in the moment, and create big plays. Get ahead of it, and create turnovers.

    Clutch Time: Washington isn’t to be confused with Virginia Tech in 2009. Certainly not USC in 2006. Perhaps Wake Forest in 2007. But it’s “the game” of this weak non-conference schedule, the one September measuring stick worth remembering. It’s a long trip in front of a big crowd against a team with athletes comparable to Nebraska.

    And as such, I’m curious to see which of NU players leaders embrace the moment and begin to take the baton from Pelini and run the team with their own passion and personality.

    Check Out Our Two Newest Chalktalks: Jake Locker vs. The Pelini Brothers and What Makes T-Magic Tick

    Tags: washington game, five keys, jake locker, taylor martinez, niles paul, roy helu, bo pelini

  18. 2010 Sep 16

    NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: The Man From Ferndale


    By HuskerLocker

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    You ask for a Jake Locker practice story, some small addition to this particular legend of the Washington quarterback who occasionally does extraordinary things for heretofore awful-to-mediocre football teams in Seattle.

    UW linebacker Cort Dennison has to think a minute.

    “He does a new thing every day,” Dennison says.

    Then he picks one from the most recent fall camp: Locker, flushed from the pocket, rolled to his left and, while on a stone-cold tear toward the sideline, leapt, aimed and flung the ball back from whence he came, thence his arm to judge the quick and dead fifty yards downfield. To a open receiver. Touchdown.

    So roughly 65 yards on a hard sprint, thrown against his body, perfect strike.

    “Rolling to his left,” Dennison says again. Remembers thinking: Oh my God.

    And: I’ve never seen that before.

    “That’s just God-given talent right there,” he says. “And hard work. I don’t really think there is anything the defense can do about it.”


    He is, in the alpha and omega, the Man from Ferndale, a Washington hamlet just 13 miles from the Canadian border - as close to Vancouver as it is Seattle - bisected by the Nooksack River. Rooted in agriculture, its 11,000 citizens include a bunch of Lockers, some of whom played Division II college football.

    None of them, though, were Jake, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound tank who runs and throws like a young John Elway - without the polish that came with Elway being the son of a college coach. But Locker’s sheer athleticism overwhelmed opponents in high school as he led Ferndale to a state championship in 2005. Shortly after his arrival at UW - or maybe even upon it - he got a nickname. A doozy. The Savior.

    And there is no way to beat around this bush: Despite becoming the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2007, despite the hosannas and acclaim from NFL Draftniks, he has not been one.

    Locker is 9-20 as a starter and 3-10 vs. AP Top 25 teams. He’s thrown 26 career interceptions, completing just 53 percent of his passes heading into this year. In the 2010 season opener, Locker had a “Heisman” opportunity to lead a fourth-quarter, game-winning drive at BYU. He didn’t finish it.

    This is also true: Until now, he could not have been. His team wouldn’t allow it.

    Locker committed to Tyrone Willingham. The Huskies, in 2007 and 2008, couldn’t find defense on a map, giving up 32 and 39 points per game, respectively.

    Whereas Tim Tebow, a guy of similar physical skills, was surrounded by some of the finest offensive talent in America and supported by an elite defense, “Montlake Jake” had none of those advantages - plus a lame duck head coach apparently incapable of drilling the finer points. Locker broke his throwing thumb in 2008 and missed the final eight games. So UW fell into Lake Washington, finishing 0-12, even managing to lose to rival Washington State, a pitiable team that gave 44 points per game that year.

    “I had an opportunity to step away and kind of look at our team from a different perspective,” Locker said. “It helped me in becoming a better leader, understanding how we could improve as a football team and it allowed me and some others to be more aggressive in the dressing room.”

    Locker got his shot at resurrection. UW dumped Willingham and hired Steve Sarkisian, himself a decorated college quarterback at BYU, and mentor of a Trojan trinity - Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez - at USC.

    “The energy and passion they brought to the game, it was contagious for all of us” Locker said. “It allowed us to pick things up quicker and develop as a football team a lot faster than maybe we would have with another staff.”

    Sark, as he’s known in Husky fan circles, took apart Locker’s game and put it back together. Re-taught him how to read protections and keep passing plays alive without forcing himself into one of those throws that defied explanation but risked interception.

    “Now he’s not out there wondering or waiting to see if it will happen,” Sarkisian said. “He’s got real anticipation.”

    Said UW safety Nathan Fellner: “He’s smart with the ball. It’s hard to cause turnovers in practice. He’s really good with his reads. He also has a cannon.”

    Locker threw for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. Just 11 interceptions. The numbers were good enough for Locker to seriously consider entering the NFL Draft, where the St. Louis Rams would have looked hard at selecting him over Sam Bradford. His raw tools alone - plus his mobility - warranted that look.

    He leaned on Sarkisian, who had been through it with Palmer and Leinart - who returned for their senior years - and Sanchez, who did not, drawing criticism from then-head coach Pete Carroll. In recent years, some NFL scouts have argued that quarterbacks can’t get enough starts in college. The tide has ebbed away from pure playmakers and toward guys who can stand up to a political vetting process.

    “I was happy to have someone who’s been around and gone through it before,” Locker said.

    Sarkisian said Locker did “due diligence.” Coach and quarterback together examined pro QBs.

    “Who’s gone out, who hasn’t,” Locker said. “The success they had, or the success they didn’t have.”

    Of the NFL’s brightest luminaries, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton and Eli Manning and Philip Rivers all played for four years. Only Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger left after their junior years. Sam Bradford left school early, of course. So did Jamarcus Russell.

    Locker announced he’d return in December 2009.

    “I haven’t regretted it a day since,” he said. “I feel really, really good about it.”

    Said Sarkisian: “He’s loyal. He’s humble.”

    And Dennison: “Anytime you turn down money for something you love, you have to take your hat off to the guy and what he did,” He had tens of millions thrown his way, and he said no. I respect that.”


    Locker adorns the September cover of the University of Washington’s alumni magazine, Columns. It is not ordinary grip-and-grin kind of snapshot, however. He beams into the horizon, his features sharpened by the sun at gloaming. His Adam’s apple looks ready to pop out of his throat. Here is the classic definition of the Big Man on Campus, a guy recognized not so much for winning, but just being.

    Sark: “As good of a player as he is, he’s an even better person.”

    Fellner: “He can throw the rock.

    Dennison: “I look up to him.”

    “HOME FIELD HERO” reads the cover art.

    Hard against Nebraska impenetrable, infuriating, indisputably awesomely punishing defense rides The Savior, Montlake Jake, The Man from Ferndale.

    Tags: jake locker, washington game, steve sarkisian

  19. 2010 Sep 16

    Husker Heartbeat 9/16: Can Taylor Throw the Deep Ball?


    By HuskerLocker

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

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

    *Washington's DC Nick Holt brings a familiar intensity.

    *OWH's Robert Nelson analyzes Bo Pelini at a presser.

    *LJS breaks down the Huskies.

    *The two-headed monster of Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead.

    *Can Taylor Martinez hit the big pass downfield?

    *Husker Talk Live's recap from Wednesday.

    Tags: husker heartbeat, taylor martinez, washington gane, rex burkhead, roy helu

  20. 2010 Sep 16

    Podcast 9/16: Licht Leads NU Over ISU


    By HuskerLocker

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    Please enable Javascript, or download the podcast here.

    Join Husker Locker today - it's free!

    Tags: podcasts, volleyball, lindsey licht, washington game, cross country

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