Showing posts with label Nebraska Football. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nebraska Football. Show all posts

"Big Ten Tour" discusses Cornhusker football with SB Nation's Husker Mike

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It is Nebraska's turn for the spotlight in our latest edition of the "Big Ten Tour". The purpose of BTT is to interview writers who are closely connected with their respective programs from around the conference. It's always good to know your opponent and what people who cover them have to say.

Husker Mike, blogger for SB Nation's Corn Nation, took some time to answer some questions regarding the Cornhuskers upcoming season.

JH: Quarterback Taylor Martinez is heading into his final season with the Cornhuskers. Do you feel that he has made enough of a progression from last year to be considered the best quarterback in the conference? In your opinion, how would Martinez compare to someone like a Braxton Miller who is currently being predicted as a potential Heisman winner.
 
 Husker Mike: The coaches voted Martinez first team all-B1G last season, so the gap between Miller and Martinez isn't all that great. I think Martinez is generally a better passer than Miller, but Miller is a little better with securing the ball.  If Martinez cuts down on the turnovers, it's probably a tossup between the two...  In the end, the answer probably has more to do with which team wins more games, and in the case of Martinez last season, the losses had much more to do with the defense than with Martinez's play.

JH: With Rex Burkhead moving on to the NFL, it is safe to say it is now Ameer Abdullah's time to shine in this Husker offense? In your opinion, what does Abdullah bring to the table and what are the expectations for him this season?
 
Husker Mike: Abdullah is faster than Burkhead was.  Burkhead had a great first and second gear, and was tough to bring down.  But in the open field, he could be caught from behind.  Abdullah has breakaway speed, and he's proven himself as a part-time starter last season while Burkhead was banged up.  He's not the inside runner that Burkhead was, but he fast to the edge.  If he stays healthy, he should rush for over 1500 yards in this offense.

JH: The wide receiver group of this Huskers team highlighted by Kenny Bell is incredibly deep. Do you consider this group to be the best in the conference?
 
Husker Mike: I never would have thought that Nebraska would have the best receivers in any conference three years ago, but yes.  Kenny Bell is as sure-handed as they come, and has the speed to break something deep.  Jamal Turner matured late last season, and he's electric in the open field.  Quincy Enunwa is easy to overlook, but he's a devastating blocker.  He can hit you like a tight end, but he's got the speed of a receiver.  Now this year, several new guys are worth keeping an eye on.  Alonzo Moore and Tyler Wullenwaber are lightning fast.  Jordan Westerkamp catches everything thrown his way.  And there's this in-state kid named Sam Burtch who might be the best all-around receiver.

JH: Aside from the previous mentioned offensive players, who else is expected to have a big season this year on the offensive side of the ball? How about the defense?
 
Husker Mike: Hmm... I'd keep an eye on Jamal Turner; he really came on late last season as a clutch receiver, and they can do so much with him.  He's a former quarterback in high school, so don't be surprised if they don't try to insert a few Wildcat plays with him.  They've held off on doing it because they wanted him to focus on receiver.  He finally mastered that job, so now it's time to have some fun with him - especially now that Rex Burkhead is gone.

JH: Are there any incoming freshman that could make an impact on the program week one?
 
Husker Mike: Two incoming freshmen to keep an eye on are tight end Cethan Carter and linebacker Nathan Gerry.  Carter has picked up the position quickly and is taking advantage of injuries that have hampered Nebraska's top two tight ends.  Gerry came to Nebraska as a safety, but they quickly moved him up to linebacker.  He'll probably be used in dime situations, and with the number of spread teams we'll see this season, he could see a lot of playing time.  He's picked up the position quickly.  He's not big, but he's fast; I anticipate him being used like Nebraska used to use Dejon Gomes back in 2010.

JH: What are your expectations for this Nebraska team as a whole this season?

Husker Mike: The elephant in the room is the defensive front seven. (/wisconsin scores again)  Nebraska has made defensive line and linebacker a major point of emphasis in the last couple of recruiting classes, and last year's meltdowns show you why.  Now the youngsters are going to play, and without seeing them in game action, I think it's going to be an upgrade in talent and athleticism.   If that's reality, there's no reason why Nebraska can't get back to Indianapolis.  And win.  On the upper end of expectations: the Huskers could find their way to Pasadena.  But with so many youngsters, that's far from assured.

Op-Ed: They are who we thought they were, which makes it even worse

Sunday, December 2, 2012

If you throw Devin Gardner in at quarterback against Nebraska, or at least had him game prepared barring disaster, does he lead Michigan to victory? If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? These are questions that will forever remain unanswered. But I'd sure like an explanation.

In a year that was riddled with sanctions -- which resulted in two-thirds of the Leaders Division to be eligible for the championship game -- this year would have the easiest route to victory for Michigan, they just had to survive their road schedule.

There's no need to rehash old memories of what happened in the Nebraska game. There is also no need to talk about "what-if's". Michigan lost, Michigan didn't take care of business. It's as easy as that. What I'm not okay with is what happened last night.

Now when I tell you 70-31, surely you'd think Nebraska came out and destroyed Wisconsin. Actually, Nebraska never really left the bus. Wisconsin, who didn't even win their division outright, brutally thrashed Nebraska to earn their back-to-back Big Ten Championship last night.

For Michigan fans watching as spectators of the conference, that one hurt.

It hurt for various reasons, for those who say "it should've been us" and for those who felt Wisconsin didn't belong there. The abomination that was the conference game last night sums up the lackluster year the entire conference shared. The conference has fallen so far from grace I sometimes wonder when we'll ever see a resurgence. But, I digress.

Now, we have to see Wisconsin -- a five loss team and a team that finished 4-4 before the championship game -- head to Pasadena and play in the Rose Bowl against an 11-2 Stanford team. A silly match-up that will Wisconsin is surely headed to defeat. For the Big Ten fans across the country, barf bags are available on New Years Day.

At the end of the day, whether pure luck was the cause or not. Michigan didn't take care of business. Nebraska did. The fact that Nebraska was the only team that "deserved" to be there and then getting killed in the way they did makes it all the more hard to swallow for fans of the legends division.

In short, this is a Big Ten Conference football season to forget about. All of the teams that are bowl eligible will pack up their things, head to a bowl and then try again next season.

As for Michigan fans, they will have to let this one simmer for a year. This is a wound not easily forgotten.

Deebo Knows: Bellomy Should Not Be Judged By Nebraska Game

Monday, October 29, 2012

There is no denying that Team 133 will only go as far as a healthy Denard Robinson will take them.  That was made perfectly clear after "Shoelace" was knocked out of the game in the 2nd quarter of Michigan's loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday with a nerve injury to his throwing elbow.

Enter 2nd string QB, and possible 2013 starter, Russell Bellomy...a redshirt freshman...in Lincoln Nebraska...under the lights...in a crucial divisional matchup.

In a situation like this as a fan you take a big gulp and know disaster lies ahead.  Bellomy's final numbers were of Armageddon proportions:
  • PASSING ACCURACY - 3/16
  • PASSING YARDS - 38
  • INT - 3
  • TD - 0
  • RUSHING YARDS - 0 (Multiple sacks nullified the yardage he gained on 5 carries)
He didn't have have much help as his receivers dropped a handful of passes, he was under duress by the Nebraska pass rush, and the RBs continued to contribute next to nothing, but the numbers are still ghastly no matter how you slice it.  Subsequently U-M suffered a 23-9 defeat and failed to score an offensive TD for the 2nd straight week.

There is always doom and gloom after a Wolverine loss but this week was a little different.

"Russell Bellomy is a terrible QB!"

"We're screwed next year because we have no QB!"

"Shane Morris is going to have to start as a true freshman!"

"Fire Al Borges!"

"FIRE BRADY HOKE! (Yes, I did indeed see this on Twitter)

Look, I was just as angry and frustrated as anyone and entertained some doom and gloom myself...FOR THIS SEASON.

Once I had the opportunity to cheer myself up by watching some Seinfeld and think logically, I was able to put things in the proper perspective.  Bellomy is a redshirt freshman with minimal game experience who was thrown into a snake pit and asked to win a crucial game with very little help.  I am not sure what everyone was expecting.  I would think that nine out of ten QBs would struggle in that scenario.  Give the kid a break.

Was I a little shocked that he wasn't a little more game ready? 

Yep.

Do I think some of it falls on Al Borges and the offensive coaches to ensure that they have a QB ready to go in and at least be serviceable?

Since they have a running QB who gets pounded every game and has a history of getting banged up you're darn tootin' I do.

But let's get things straight, this was a kid thrown into a situation where the odds were severely against him.  His future career at U-M should not be judged or speculated upon based off of one underwhelming performance in which he was asked to do the unthinkable.  People who think his career will be defined by what happened on Saturday need to scale back on the caffeine and/or narcotics a smidge.

Once the season is finished his mindset, as well as the mindset of the coaches, will completely change.  He will be preparing, mentally and physically, to be the starting QB at the University of Michigan.  Not the backup.  He will be prepared by the coaching staff, mentally and physically, to be the starting QB at the University of Michigan, or at least compete for the spot.  Not to be the backup.  The offense will shift from the spread to more of a pro-style, Al Borges' preference, to adhere to his skill set.  He will be more equipped to be a serviceable, and who knows, maybe even a pretty good starting signal-caller for the Wolverines. 

I don't have a crystal ball but I am pretty certain that given the reps and the opportunity next season, he will prove that he is not nearly as bad as he appeared in Lincoln.  He would not have been recruited by the coaching staff if he was and there is a reason he is #2 on the depth chart.  They are the same coaches that get praised daily for their recruiting prowess so I think we can safely say Bellomy was not brought in by throwing darts at a dartboard.  Chill out people.

Also, those of you who think Shane Morris is going to come in as an 18-year old freshman and take the starting spot are nuts.  I can't put it any other way.  You saw what happens on Saturday when you put a kid in at QB before he's ready...disaster.  As talented as Morris may be he will still be a freshman. 

You don't start a frosh at QB unless you absolutely have to.  And if that is indeed the case you'd be extremely naive and borderline crazy to think Morris will come in and be lights out and lead Team 134 to a B1G title.  This ain't the MAC or Conference USA.  It's the B1G and you don't ask a kid to lead a big time program into places like East Lansing and Iowa City.  At least at Michigan you don't.  Chad Henne was the exception not the rule.  He also had Braylon Edwards, Steve Breaston, and Jason Avant to throw to and Mike Hart in the backfield.  Enough with the Shane Morris talk people.  At least until 2014.

If you want to worry about what might happen this season if Denard Robinson can't stay healthy then fine.  Believe me, I'm right there with you.  But when it comes to next season let's all just relax and trust the coaches to have the starting QB, presumably Russell Bellomy, ready to run the offense smoothly.  Give a very good staff the benefit of the doubt and step away from the ledge.

Team 133 is in the middle of a battle for a division title.  They are undoubtedly focused on just that and not next season.  I suggest the fans follow suit.

**You can also find this blog, as well as blogs regarding ALL DETROIT SPORTS, at www.deeboknows.blogspot.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @adamdibart.**

Nebraska Fan Jeff Morrick Previews Nebraska Game

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nebraska fan, Jeff Morrick, sent us a great piece on what it will take for Nebraska to beat Michigan. Jeff can be found on Twitter by following @TheRedOne93

You RED It Here First

Saturday night marks a titanic B1G clash in Memorial Stadium as the Huskers welcome the newly minted 900 win Wolverines of Michigan. The importance of this game for both teams can not be overstated as it appears the winner will be in control of the Legends division and have a leg up on a trip to Indianapolis for the B1G Championship Game.

This will be a classic matchup of the 'Immovable object' vs the 'Irresistable force', as Michigan boasts the conference's top ranked defense while the Big Red features the league's most prolific offense. In conference play, UM is surrending less than 8 ppg, including a shutout of hapless Illinois - Conversely, Nebraska is averaging over 32 ppg. Gaining yards, let alone points, against UM will be no small feat, however I will explain how and why the Huskers will come out on top.
Both teams reach this point in the season with a 5-2 overall mark, yet Michigan's two losses (against top ranked Alabama and a very stout Notre Dame) are far 'better' losses than Nebraska's (UCLA and Ohio State). It would be easy to say that the key to the Husker's success is stopping Michigan's do-everything quarterback Denard Robinson; but I think there are 3 other specific areas which favor the Huskers in this matchup.

First, though, let's talk about how NU can slow down 'Shoelace'. Youth will be served on the Blackshirts as a ton of uber-athletic underclassmen appear ready for the challenge. Speed, speed, speed is evident when Safety/LB hybrid Corey Cooper (So.) and LB David Santos (RFr.) are on the field. And the Huskers will need TONS of speed if they hope to contain Robinson. While containing mobile QBs hasn't been NU's strong suit (see Miller, Braxton), the Husker's improved gameplan against Northwestern showed that the coaching staff is up to the challenge of D-Rob. Also enter new D-line coach, formerly of Iowa, Rick Kaczenski. His theory of the zero-blitz has neutralized, to a degree, Robinson's effectiveness in Michigan's battles with Iowa over the years. Iowa was 3-0 vs Michigan during his tenure. I expect the Blackshirts to primarily play a 3-5-3, putting as much speed on the field as possible. The D-line rotation should include Baker Steinkuhler (Sr.), Cameron Meredith (Sr.), Joe Carter (Sr.) , Jason Ankrah (Sr.)and pass-rushing specialist Eric Martin (Sr.). Martin will be key when Michigan is put in 3rd and long or other obvious passsing situations. But the youngsters to watch out for are true Freshmen Avery Moss and Aaron Curry. The 5 LBs should include mainstay Will Compton (Sr.) in the middle plus Alonzo Whaley (Sr.), Sean Fisher (Sr.), and the aforementioned Cooper and Evans. The latter will have the most signifcant roles, as they'll be asked to not only help contain Michigan's waterbug QB, but also cover the slot receivers and any backs out of the backfield. Their great play is vital for a Husker win. Evans has arguably been Nebraska's most consistent defender all season, and Cooper has gotten better each and every week. I expect this trend to continue as the Blackshirts live up to their name and keep Robinson under wraps.
Now on to the other keys to success for the Big Red:

NU's do-everything back, Rex Burkhead (Sr.), is still limited with a knee injury suffered earlier in the season. Simply put, he's just not himself. Mr. Silver Lining here, however, sees this as a positive for Nebraska. Sure, I can hear all the Husker fans moaning and groaning, calling me crazy...."How can we be better WITHOUT Burkhead??" I'll explain: Rex is a great between-the-tackles runner, does well in pass blocking, and has sure hands out of the backfield. But what he lacks is elite speed...and that's what Michigan's D is all about. We need a guy with that 'make you miss', and when he does he needs to have the ability to take it to the house - enter Ameer Abdullah (So.). The youngster from Homewood, AL (yep, we stole one from SEC country) has been nothing short of magnificent in Burkhead's absence. Ameer has had 3 - 100 yard games so far, highlighted by a 167 yard performance on 30 totes vs Arkansas State. He's an excellent receiver, improved blocker, and on the watch list for the Jet Trophy, an award that goes to the nation's top return man. Although only 5'9", 185lbs, Ameer is incredibly durable and tough as nails. He's also a beast in the weight room as he boasts a squat max of over 500 lbs! The running lanes for #8 will be opened up by an improved run-blocking O-line and a true Freshman STUD fullback, Gretna's own Andy Janovich. Janovich is a monster, having finished high school with a perfect 99-0 record as a wrestler - he's also cowboy tough as he wrestles cattle in his spare time. The Wolverine LBs had better not take him lightly, or they'll find themselves staring up at that beautiful Nebraska sky. When Abdullah needs a breather, he'll be relieved by multi-dimensional Braylon Heard (So.) and another true Freshman Imani Cross. Cross (6'1", 225lbs) is the typical 'bruiser-back' - when he first arrived in Lincoln and was put through his initial strength tests, he knocked out 200 pushups and 40 pullups without a break- when Wolverine fans first see this kid they'll think he's a 40 year old grown man...he certainly 'looks the part'.

The next advantage I see for NU is their prolific passing attack. The Huskers boast what is clearly the best group of WRs in the league, if not in the entire NCAA. Sophomore Kenny Bell is the B1G's best - he's got great hands, is super quick, and has that 'won't get caught from behind' speed that's so important when playing an athletic defense like Michigan's. Opposite Bell is Quincy Enunwa (Jr.), while not as fast as KB makes up for it with incredible strength. Rarely does one defender bring Enunwa down, and his downfield, acrobatic catches last week in Evanston were critical to NU's comeback win. Both Bell and Enunwa are outstanding downfield blockers - remember this when Taylor or Ameer break a long run. The slot is manned by Tim Marlowe (Sr.) and Jamal Turner (So.). JT is the one to watch here as Marlowe, while a great possession receiver, is coming off a broken collarbone and just doens't possess the game-changing qualities Turner does. Jamal is a threat to score every time he touches the ball as he's certainly one of, if not THE most electric athlete on the team - and that's saying a mouthful considering this team features lightning fast QB Taylor Martinez (Jr.). Other WRs who'll see significant playing time are Taariq Allen (RFr.), Steven Osborne (Sr.), Taylor Dixon (Sr.) and Tyler Evans (So.). Also, the Wolverines LBs need to be ready for the Husker's set of Senior Tight Ends. Kyler Reed, nicknamed Speed, is the burner while Ben Cotton is the more accomplished blocker and red-zone threat. Clearly, Martinez has quite an arsenal at his disposal - the key is the O-line giving him the time necessary to find his targets - I expect they will and I see Martinez having another 300 yard passing game Saturday night under the lights.

Which brings me to my final point: Under the lights in Memorial Stadium. Oh yeah, the Old Girl will be rockin'! The only two B1G conference night games to date were 2011 vs Ohio State and earlier this year hosting Wisconsin. Those games happened to feature NU's largest and second-largest come from behind wins ever. And the crowd had ALOT to do with both! Nebraska will be giving out black rally towels to all in attendance Saturday night in appreciation of the consecutive sellout streak. We've sold out every home game since November 3rd, 1962!! That's 50 years of sellouts, and counting! Just ask any of the Badgers how loud we got while the Blackshirts were shutting them down in the second half. During that game, only the students were equipped with towels, but when Zombie Nation started playing right after halftime, the whole mood of the stadium changed - it was an awesome experience! This time, EVERYONE will be waving that BLACK towel - and not one Husker will leave with their voice. Be prepared, Michigan fans, it's gonna get L.O.U.D!!!

Nebraska will have to limit penalties, stay ahead of the chains, and not turn the ball over giving D-Rob and Co. a short field. IF, and that's a big if, they do so the crowd will be so in to it that I think the Michigan offense will find it very tough to get anything going. If the Big Red digs another hole and finds themselves down a couple scores early, well, it could be a long disappointing night for the Husker faithful. I expect the former, and I see Nebraska escaping with a closely fought 29-27 victory. Hail Varsity, There Is No Place Like Nebraska!!
Other B1G predictions for the weekend: Look for Wisconsin to beat an already beaten Michigan State bunch 27-10, Northwestern gets back on track against Iowa with a 30-19 win, Indiana should get a rare road win when they visit Illinois - call it 42-17, Minnesota holds off Purdue 20-17, and in the Ineligi-bowl I see Penn State knocking off Ohio State 23-20.
Good luck to both teams, and Go Big Red!!!

The B1G Leaders Division: Is It Wisconsin's To Lose?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It is well known that 1/3rd of the Leaders Division in the B1G is ineligible to participate in the conference championship game. Those teams are Penn State and Ohio State. So, with two of the programs unable to play, four remain to make a bid. Those four are looking to upset the winner of the Legends Division.

The former B1G champion and Leaders Division champion, Wisconsin, is looking like the heavy favorites to take the division once again. With the rest of the division including Purdue, Illinois, and Indiana. Is this Wisconsin's division to lose, even with a sub-par performance within in the conference? In a way, yes.

Wisconsin is returning their heavy hitter and Heisman hopeful, Montee Ball, for another year. This presence in the backfield is huge considering the offense will feel the loss of Russell Wilson (let's face it, Danny O'Brien is no Wilson) and his production in the air and on the ground. Though O'Brien will be aided by solid receivers Jeff Duckworth and Jared Abbrederis. Wisconsin is also returning their linebacker corps of Mike Taylor and Chris Borland on defense. Overall, it has five returning starters on offense and six on defense.

With all that talent on both sides of the ball, the lower tier opponents of the Leaders division can't statistically compare, right? Let's look at Wisconsin's conference schedule in 2012:
  • AT Nebraska
  • Vs. Illinois
  • AT Purdue
  • Vs. Minnesota
  • Vs. Michigan State
  • AT Indiana
  • Vs. Ohio State
  • AT Penn State
The first test Wisconsin receives will be at Lincoln when they play the Nebraska Cornhuskers. No matter the quality of the Nebraska team, the rabid fans of Lincoln makes it always difficult to play there. Last year, the Badgers were aided by a monster performance by Ball. Who rushed for 151 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. The Badgers handled Nebraska easily, winning 48-17. With much improved Nebraska squad, who has had a full year of B1G football, I don't think Wisconsin escapes with a victory.

Illinois is going through a change of identity right now. As former head coach Ron Zook was fired and replaced with Tim Beckman. In most first years, teams often struggle to find their identity. I believe Wisconsin takes this game easily.

Purdue may be considered the dark horse to win the division this year, and I agree. Here's why. Purdue is returning a QB looking for a better season than last, and with another year of experience under his belt, Caleb Turbush is looking for redemption. It doesn't hurt to have a dependable back in Ralph Bolden. Purdue is also returning defensive back Ricardo Allen and stud defensive tackle Kawaan Short. They also have a potential game changer in kick returner Raheem Mostert, who lead the FBS in kickoff returns last year. Purdue is returning nine on offense and ten on defense, so most of the same core is there. Even though Purdue finished 7-6 last year, expect more of a solid team this year. I believe Purdue pulls the "upset" here, beating Wisconsin.

Minnesota is well, Minnesota. They were 2-6 in the B1G. Faced with multiple health scares with their head coach Jerry Kill. Let's just face it, they flat out stink. But, hey. They have a beautiful new stadium. Postives, right? Wisconsin wins big.

This brings us to Michigan State. The arch-enemy of Wisconsin the past few seasons. The Spartans have smacked the Badgers down to earth recently. The most memorable moment coming with the miraculous Hail Mary pass caught by Keith Nichol with time expiring to defeat Wisconsin 37-31, an absolute shocker. They both met up again in the conference championship game. Where Wisconsin found revenge in the form of a roughing the kicker call to allow Wisconsin to run the clock out for the win. Michigan State, especially with their tough defense, will come away victorious.

Indiana. Need I say more? They stink. Wisconsin wins.

Next up, the Buckeyes. The first year of Urban Meyer's regime will showcase a much better Buckeye team than last year. Even though Ohio State was victorious against Wisconsin last year on ANOTHER Hail Mary pass (you'd figure they'd practice this by now), Wisconsin will be a well prepared team and will shut down the spread. The Badgers win. But, it's close.

Finally, the regular season ends as they head to Happy Valley to play Penn State. After recent events, that I don't really need to expand on, the Nittany Lions will be reeling and it will show in their play. Wisconsin wins easily.

Though you can't predict a division and the results, but considering Penn State and Ohio State are both out, Wisconsin could go 5-3 in the division and still play in the conference championship. If that's the case, Purdue or Illinois could be major figures in playing the upset figure.

But, on paper, Wisconsin is the vastly superior team in this division. It's theirs to lose, there's no doubt about it. This is how I feel the Leaders Division pans out:
  1. Wisconsin
  2. Ohio State
  3. Purdue
  4. Illinois
  5. Penn State
  6. Indiana
 

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