Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year....

Or at least that's what ESPN's Capital One Bowl Week ads would have us believe. However, due to several circumstances (like getting our ass kicked more often than not), we find our Huskers home for the holidays. It's a sad realization that the only thing I can really root the next couple of weeks is LSU's defensive unit. Of course, I'll support every Big 12 team, but the reality is that until spring ball, the only things we have to talk about are defecting recruits and Bo Pelini's background and upbringing (He's from Ohio! Did you know he scored 1000 points in high school basketball?! He's fiery!!). While there may be a shortage of interesting Husker story lines, the same can't be said for the rest of college football. A brief look around the national landscape the past couple of weeks:

The first thing I want to look at is the academic fraud scandal at Florida State. For whatever reason, this is not the national story many thought it would be. The reason for that? Nobody cares about teams hovering just above .500. Ten years ago, this would have been huge. Look at the uproar programs face when they are prominent (Nebraska with LP, USC with Reggie Bush even though he's never been reprimanded), then look at schools with legal troubles that suck. Terrible teams tend to totally be ignored (how's that for alliteration?) when it comes to academic or legal issues, and that's the way it's always going to be. If you have a team in the top 10, you're going to hear about the smallest of transgressions, even if it's stuff like merely being in a picture with a keg of beer, as Georgia's Matt Stafford can attest to. Anyways, apparently a tutor gave a large number of players the answers to an online exam for a MUSIC APPRECIATION COURSE, which has resulted in roughly two dozen players being ruled ineligible for the illustrious Music City bowl (although I guess I can't disparage them for being in it, at least they made it to a bowl game...). If they were playing in the Orange Bowl, this might be getting more publicity. My concern is that these players even needed the answers for a music appreciation course. I mean, obviously the advisers steered a great deal of the football players into this class to um, facilitate their eligibility. So why do they need the answers? The name of this class alone screams "easy A or B", so the fact they needed answers (to an online exam no less) is pathetic yet somehow borderline amusing. Music Appreciation......I can't wait till we hear that as some FSU alum's major in a Monday Night Football broadcast sometime soon.

Michigan's hiring of Rich Rodriguez is in my opinion better for the Wolverines than Les Miles would have been. Now that he can recruit essentially anyone he wants, Rodriguez will be able to run roughshod over the rest of the Big 2, er, 10. He'll be able to mold Ryan Mallet into an effective spread (think Purdue) QB, then recruit the type of athletes needed to run the spread-option like he did at West Virginia. If I'm the rest of that dilapidated conference, I'm legitimately terrified of what is going to be coming out of Ann Arbor the next couple of years.

Is there anything more irritating than the USC-deserves-a-shot talk? They lost to Oregon and Stanford, the latter being a deal-breaker in my opinion. Any time you lose to what is considered one of the worst teams in the country, I think you can pretty much resign yourself to something else than the national title game. I don't care if your entire roster is made up of high school all americans, I don't care if you receive roughly 6,000 pre-season blowjobs from the media, and I don't give a damn about what you did two or three years ago. When it comes to national championship aspirations, Jim Tressel said it best in an interview after the BCS selection show: if you want to be in the national title game, you better win all your games, because that's really the only way to guarantee a spot. I'm still holding out hope that USC will suffer an FSU-type meltdown and return to where they were in the 90's, winning 7 games a year. Oh, and one more thing: REGGIE F'IN CHEATED!!

While I understand this is a college football blog, I had to say something about the New England Patriots. I might be in the minority, but I find myself rooting for these guys. Sure, the whole spying thing definitely hurts their rep, but from what I understand, the videotaping of signals is a fairly common practice throughout the league, and even if you are caught by the opposing team, it's usually dealt with inbetween the coaching staffs. You aren't supposed to run off and snitch like a 7 year-old like Mangini did. That aside, what's wrong with rooting for greatness? Don't get me wrong, parity is an incredible thing. Look at what it's done for college football this season. But as great as the any-given-Saturday/Sunday thing is, isn't it even more special when you can sit back and merely appreciate the fact that you are witnessing the game being played to it's highest level? When I watch old game film of the '95 Huskers, I find myself not rooting for them as much as I am merely enjoying watching the game being played at such a high level. And that's what I find myself doing watching Tom Brady & Co. What they are doing is simply incredible. My only dislike about them? Use a damn tight end at the goal line, not a linebacker. If you're their tight end, aren't you more than a little pissed off right now? I can just see Kyle Brady dumping some Ex-Lax into Mike Vrabel's Gatorade and laughing ominously.

Anyways, the Holiday Bowl is on ESPN tonight, Longhorns vs. Arizona State. If you're not up to anything, you should tune in, this is usually one of the better games of the bowl season. Hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Characteristics of an Attractive Coaching Job: Does NU fit the Bill?

Came across this article by Bruce Feldman over on, and thought it was worth mentioning on here. People have been wondering this season, what exactly makes a head coaching job an "elite" one. In the changing world of major college football, simply being Michigan or Nebraska doesn't make a job a great one. The following are Feldman's 10 characteristics of a good coaching job. I'm gonna look at each one, then give the NU head coaching gig a rating in that category on the classic 1 to 10 scale.

1. Financial commitment: The old adage 'You get what you pay for,' isn't always true, but it's close. Having the resources to pay a head coach is key. However, it's also vital to ensure the opportunity to bring in a talented staff as well as having a recruiting budget to travel, evaluate and chase talent. On top of that, it is a must to keep up with your competition.

Obviously we aren't Alabama, who is willing to give Nick Saban 4 million a year to lose to UL-Monroe and earn a bid to the PetroSun Independence bowl, but Nebraska has spared no expense in making sure that their staff is rewarded handsomely in addition to having spectacular facilities (which will be touched on later in this post). NU is one of the big boys of college football, and their boosters are more than willing to open the pocketbooks if they have an AD who they support.

Financial Commitment Rating: 8.5

2. Tradition: Two of the coaches I consulted actually had this near the bottom of their lists, but I disagree. There's a reason why many of today's elite programs were also the powerhouses from the '70s and '80s. It's why it didn't take Bob Stoops or Pete Carroll very long to take middling programs back to the mountain top in the last decade. It's also why Notre Dame and Miami can go through disastrous seasons and still be putting together top 10 recruiting classes. It's also why Michigan doesn't need to be in such a rush to name a head coach while other programs frantically try and line up a guy to close ground on the recruiting trail.

My take on this is that Nebraska, despite what ESPN and all the other d-bags might say, is still Nebraska. We have 5 national titles, 43 conference championships, are one of four programs with 800+ victories, and still have the longest bowl streak in history. I could keep going, but it would be overkill. But the real question here is, do 18 year old kids really care about Johnny Rodgers or Mike Rozier? Do they even have the respect for the tradition that kids even 10 years ago had? It's tough to say, maybe tradition isn't as important as it used to be. But I still think that having that history is what enables great programs to bounce back, as Feldman pointed out. This is why I think with the right coach, we can once again become a juggernaut. Prove me right Bo.

Tradition Rating: 10

3. Conference appeal: The difference between being in a BCS conference and a non-BCS conference is eye-popping. Bowl money, bowl tie-ins and TV exposure are the start, followed by the appeal to sell recruits on the lure of playing in the SEC or Big Ten as opposed to Conference-USA or the MAC. In essence, even if you're at a second-tier BCS conference school, you can tout playing against your leagues superpowers as a draw.

A couple of years ago, when the North was playing Stephen Baldwin to the South's Alex, we might not have been very high in this category. But the rise of Kansas and Mizzou, coupled with NU's sleeping giant and Colorado's return to respectability, has turned the Big 12 into the 2nd toughest conference behind the SEC (some may argue this point, but the ACC is terrible, the Big East still hasn't sold me, and the Big 10 has one good team). If you're in the Big 12, you have a great chance of at least having regional network coverage every week if you keep your team above respectable.

Conference Appeal rating: 9

4. Recruiting base: Everything starts with recruiting, and if you have players in your backyard, you have a chance to build something. Miami had virtually none of the other factors on this list, but because the program sat right in the heart of fertile recruiting soil, the Canes built a powerhouse after Howard Schnellenberger coined his "State of Miami" by drawing a line across the lower portion of the state of Florida. Of course, you can still thrive far from a big population base (Boise State is a great example), but it is very hard.

This is obviously a bit harder. The Dakotas and Nebraska/Iowa isn't exactly fertile territory, unless your definition of stud recruits are hard-nosed white guys with an abundance of heart and a lack of speed. Sure, there are gems out there that can be unearthed, and sometimes we'll get a bumper crop of lineman, but this isn't Florida or California we're talking about here. And despite the proximity to Minneapolis, Nebraska rarely gets anybody from there, despite there being 4 or 5 stud recruits from that area per year (Murtha and Swift are the only exceptions I can think of).

Recruiting base ranking: 4

5. Stability of the administration: You can usually trace success back to the top. Smart, confident leadership lends itself to sound decisions. And the inverse is also true. Sketchy ADs make bad, short-sighted decisions. The schools that are quick to hit the reset button tend to be mired in a constant state of mediocrity. Virginia Tech became a powerhouse only after the Hokie brass was patient and gave Frank Beamer some time. Rutgers is no longer a laughingstock because the Scarlet Knights didn't pull the plug in Greg Schiano in his first five years.

Only a couple of months ago, I would have given this a negative rating. The Pedersen/Callahan debacle really didn't do much to bolster confidence in the administration, but with the hiring of Osborne as AD, you have to think this is headed in the right direction, which is probably what Bo Pelini thought when he accepted the job. The question is, how long does T.O. stick around for? And who does he appoint as the AD once he's gone? Because of this, the rating takes a hit, but it's still better than having a dumbass like Pud in office.

Stability of admin rating: 6

6. Facilities: You can win without fancy indoor practice facilities or a sprawling new weight room or posh players lounge or expansive, glitz stadium, but it ain't easy. Miami and USC are probably the best examples of doing without, although both of them sit in the heart of prime recruiting soil. Everyone else is trying to lure kids by outdoing their neighbor. Often the first question before any coach takes over a program is about what the school is planning on doing to upgrade the facilities.

The crown jewel of Nebraska's athletic program, the facilities were fantastic before they built the Osborne complex. After it's completion, I don't think there is any argument that NU's facilities are the best in the country.

Facilities rating: 10

7. Admissions Flexibility: Private schools often get hit harder by this than state schools although don't say that to UCLA coaches. Admissions flexibility varies greatly not just from school to school but really from year to year at a given school. For instance, the academic environment Pete Carroll lives in is different now than what it was five years ago. Such "presidential" exemptions can explain why some schools are doing well with a blue-chipper while your school might not be able to talk to him.

NU was one of the biggest fans of the Prop 48 student athlete, and even though that is no longer an option, we still will let just about anybody in who qualifies with NCAA requirements. Let's just say we aren't Notre Dame when it comes to this category. But when it comes to the job being an attractive coaching stop, this is a GOOD thing.

Admissions Flexibility rating: 9

8. Campus feel: It might be sad to say but very few people I spoke with listed this one high on their list. The reality is most top recruits, even the ones who are strong students, realize they are picking a school first based off the athletic program. If they don't like the direction of the program, the coaching staff, etc., they don't care how nice the quad is. It can help on an official recruiting visit, but probably not as much as a fancy indoor practice facility.

We have a fancy indoor practice facility. Boo-yah! In all seriousness, I don't have that good of a feel for NU's campus, but I have to agree that the beauty if the campus is far down the list of potential recruits, whose main goal is their development into players who can play on Sundays. As such, this really doesn't matter. But the atmosphere on campus is great for football games, so I'm going to bump up our rating a bit.

Campus feel rating: 7

9. Fan sanity: One assistant I spoke with Sunday night said this factor probably has jumped on the board in just the last few years, pointing to a school like Southern Miss dumping perennial winner Jeff Bower after 17 seasons. Thanks to talk radio, 24-hour sports channels and above all, message boards, fans and boosters feel more powerful than ever before. How realistic a fan base is something many coaches should be thinking about, argued the assistant.

I've always thought we were the most polite fans in the country, and I still do. But this year, we saw the real teeth of Husker nation, a focus and intensity and an anger that we have rarely been exposed to. We are indeed a rabid fan base, perhaps even more than most other schools due to the fact we have absolutely nothing else to do. If the football team sucks, as it did this year, our entire fall and winter is ruined. Loyalty like that is hard to match. While I think it is one of our best traits, an incoming coach might not want National Title expectations every year when a more realistic goal would be competing for conference championships and then making a NC run every 3 or so years. So it's tough to give us a rating on this. Our fan insanity rating? Easily a 10. But in terms of attracting a coach? Might not be the best thing all the time.

Fan Insanity rating: 8.5

10. Climate: Two different former head coaches I consulted raised this point, saying that people forget "that families have to adjust too." On top of that, a favorable climate makes it easier to recruit junior college kids and also can help you recruit assistant coaches -- and their families -- easier.

I love the midwest. I do legitimately enjoy having all 4 seasons. That said, going to my car every morning when it's 10 below zero makes me contemplate suicide, so I understand the appeal of heading to Coral Gables or Southern Cal. But that said, Lincoln isn't as bad as it was 10 or 15 years ago. Sure, they'll have a couple of bad weeks (like they are right now with the ice storms and all that), but aside from that, it gets warmer every year (thanks global warming!) and spring and fall are absolutely gorgeous. The south can have their balmy September nights in the swamps. I don't think you can beat the smell of crisp autumn air and the feeling of a hooded sweatshirt on a nice October Saturday.

Climate rating: 9 (If kids can go to f*cking Ann Arbor or Columbus, they can go to Lincoln)

The total overall score: 81

The most attractive coaching job right now, in my opinion, would be Florida, due to the climate, the bevy of talent in the state, and other factors like playing in the SEC and the commitment to athletics. But still, Nebraska, no matter what anybody says, is still one of the most attractive jobs out there. And if you win, you'll be revered in the region for all time. Not a bad deal, in my opinion.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Big Red Roundtable, Bo's Back Edition

1. The 2007 season finished with a disappointing 5-7
record. Very few people expected this. What went

In a season that many expected to be a return to the halcyon days of Nebraska football, it is quicker to talk about what went right than what went wrong. When looking at the season, it's easy to shrug it off as a defensive collapse or a laundry list of other woes. But when one looks harder, the turning point came when Southern Cal came to town with a #1 ranking and made us look like the Poles fighting Germany in WWII. The Trojans completely demoralized the Husker defense, opening holes so wide, I can't think of a comparison without being completely inappropriate. While the coaches denied it, it was evident that the psyche of the "Blackshirt" defense was completely destroyed, and in the following weeks, it snowballed until it was apparent that there was no turnaround coming.

In addition to the collapse of the defense, there were other problems:

-An inconsistent running game that apparently had all of four plays. The inability to run the ball between the tackles haunted the Husker offense all season and put Sam Keller in an unfair position of having to do all of it himself.

-Drops by receivers in key situations cost us in some key drives early in the season, although this improved by the end of the year.

-Poor pass protection, coupled with Keller's habit of holding on to the ball waaaaay too long, made for a harrowing situation that was repeated far too often: Keller pumping the ball repeatedly before dumping it to a 3-yard out route while being pile-drived into the turf.

-The coaching staff's continued refusal to make halftime adjustments. Nebraska was, by far, the worst 3rd-quarter team in football. I don't care what statistics you might come up with to say it was someone else, you watch every Nebraska 3rd quarter and try to convince me otherwise. Even when we were kicking ass at halftime (Colorado comes to mind), somehow the Huskers managed to come out and play to the other extreme, as if the staff had made changes to make sure that we sucked in the 3rd stanza. I always pictured this exchange:

Callahan: "Well Kev, we're playing great. What can we do to make sure we live up to our reputation and nose dive in the 2nd half?"

Cosgrove: "Yea, did you see us actually tackling people? We were holding them to 6 yard gains instead of 16! I'll go make some adjustments to make sure our linebackers are completely out of position. Wait, better yet, I'll just move our linebackers out of the box completely and put them over some slot receivers. That oughta do it."

Callahan: "Sounds good buddy. Once the game is safely out of hand, I'll get the O to tack on a couple meaningless deficit-cutting touchdowns to make the final look more respectable and to promote my image as an offensive genius. Let's get 'er done!"

-It became apparent during the Okie State game and those following it, that despite their comments to the contrary, that this Husker team had completely quit on it's coaching staff. How else do you explain the seemingly complete lack of effort? Obviously, these guys were still trying hard, but even if the effort may have been there, the passion was not. Guy busts 20 yard carry after 20 yard carry? Who cares, we knew when we showed up we were going to get our ass kicked. That may not have been what they were thinking, but it's the body language the fans were seeing.

2. Bo Pelini takes over as head coach. Good move or

If you have read my blog at all, you know my opinion on this one. I am a huge Bo Pelini fan, and have been since his first stint here back in 2003. His temperament and passion is something that college kids easily identify with. He's a coach that gets in your face and demands you're best, and when your challenged like that, you want to do everything in your power not to let him down and to earn his praise. Callahan, who I do believe has a great football mind, is better suited for a coordinator's position in the pro game.

Pelini, on the other hand, is suited perfectly for college football, and his Midwestern roots and respect for the Husker tradition is something that Husker fans have been longing for the past 4 years. Thus far, he has said all the right things and made all the right moves in mending the wounds that have taken place since Solich's ouster after the 2003 season. This is someone who I could see (if he wins obviously), being here for the duration of his career. In an era where coaches seemingly are content to spend 5 to 10 years at a school and move to greener pastures, Pelini might be our guy for the next 25, and that is the kind of stability that Husker Nation craves.

And the last thing that is causing me to love this hire is Pelini's credentials. He's coached under some of the brightest minds in football, and his defensive emphasis is obviously exactly what this Husker team needs right now.

3. Nebraska fans were divided after the last coaching
change. Do you see fans finally uniting?

Yes, I really do. While some wanted Gill, I think everyone was in favor of Anybody But Callahan, and getting a guy who embraces the past and has the approval of Tom Osborne goes a long ways. Said Osborne of Pelini:

“We need a head coach with strong defensive credentials and great leadership,” Osborne said. “We were also looking for someone who can inspire confidence and get players to play with great effort. And, of course, we also wanted our new head coach to understand our traditions, including the importance of our walk-on program and the importance of football in this state.”

In addition to this, Pelini made sure to properly credit Solich for his contribution to Husker football, something Pedersen & Callahan never properly did. This might not seem like a huge issue, but when a native son and Osborne's hand-picked successor was forced out, it caused a much bigger divide than Pedersen expected, and he never properly addressed the situation nor thanked Solich for the good years he did have. And it didn't help that the tradition of Husker football was seemingly swept under the rug (taking down the All-American pictures, the cold shoulder that former Huskers apparently got, etc;).

Pelini, in his introductory press conference, said exactly what we wanted to hear:

"I look forward to going out and recruiting the best in the state of Nebraska and getting this program back on track," Pelini said on Sunday. "It's like one big family, and that's the way I want it to be. I look back at all the great players and programs -- I want to bring all those people back into the fold. I might be the head coach now, but they're all part of the family. We want to draw on the tradition to move forward."

'Nuff said.

4. How would you like to see Bo Pelini fill out his
coaching staff? Anybody or anything in particular you
are looking to see?

As of right now, (and I'm publishing this one kind of late compared to my peers), Pelini had either hired or was expected to hire the following coaches for his new staff:

Ron Brown
Barney Cotton
Marvin Sanders
Carl Pelini
John Papuchis

OC Shawn Watson and Receivers coach Ted Gilmore were expected to be retained by Pelini.

Looking at the staff, I love the defensive staff that Pelini is bringing in. Obviously, after watching an overmatched and inept staff the past four years, I'd be excited about any change at all, but even with factoring that it, these guys are legitimate coaches who have good backgrounds.

Carl Pelini has done an excellent job coaching the defensive line at Ohio, which you can read about here at the Bobcat's home page. This would be a great hire for the Huskers in light of the struggles the defensive line had this year. Yes, obviously we lost some great players to the NFL last year, but that doesn't excuse the complete lack of a pass rush and continued problems with basic containment responsibilities.

We all know about Sanders, who was an assistant here during Pelini's first stint in Lincoln. He had overseen a steady improvement of North Carolina's defense during his 3 seasons in Chapel Hill, and him being a former Husker certainly doesn't hurt his status around here. His defensive backs were known for their ball-hawking nature and penchant for turnovers, which would be refreshing after watching our atrocious secondary play the past couple years.

We all know about Ron Brown and Barney Cotton, both of them former Husker assistants. The deal only got sweeter when Cotton's stud prep son switched his commitment to Nebraska after his old man's hiring.

Papuchis is an up-and-coming assistant who worked under both Nick Saban and Pelini at LSU. While he isn't officially on staff yet, he has been seen in the North Stadium complex and is expected to be added at some point. A former KU grad assistant before his tenure in Baton Rouge, he too is a defensive specialist.

Two or three more hires are expected (if all the aforementioned people do indeed sign contracts at UNL), so it'll be interesting to see how Pelini fills out the rest of the staff.

5. What do you think the expectations are for Bo
Pelini? Do you think he needs to win x amount or do x
by a certain date?

I think expectations will be moderately high in his first year, just because people believe that there is talent in place and he simply has to mold it. Is this fair? Probably not. But that's Nebraska. Obviously, people don't expect a Big XII title right away, but I do think that people are hoping for 7 wins and a bowl berth, and for our losses to be by much smaller margins than those we experienced this year. He'll have a lot of leeway after all we've been through this year, and I think the honeymoon period will be a good one. The mere fact that he is embracing the past and is Osborne's pick will go a long ways by itself, if he gets 7 or 8 wins, that's really all we can ask for.

Be sure to check out all the other Husker Bloggers' responses to the Roundtable:

Husker Faithful

Midwest Coast Bias

Corn Nation

Double Extra Point

Husker Mike

Big Red Analysis

Big Red Network

Hi-Plains Drifter

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

All Hell Breaks Loose

I realize it's been a while since I've written everything, especially in light of all the developments we've seen in the past week. The Colorado beatdown, the firing of Callahan, the coaching search. I know all 7 of my devoted fans have been hanging on the edge of their seat, waiting to hear what my thoughts are on all that has happened in Husker Nation. The thing is, with every blogger, journalist, and fan talking about it, I seriously felt, what the hell am I going to add to it? I have kind of taken a let-the-dust-settle approach, fearful that anything I say will be contradicted the next day with an announcement that we've hired someone.

Perfect example: a while back, I said that the Michigan/OSU rivalry was being over-hyped because neither team had a chance at the national title. A few short weeks later, enough teams have stumbled that the Buckeyes find themselves a Missouri or West Virginia loss away from playing in their second straight national title game.

Another: In a post a while back, I said it was probably best if we didn't long for the return of Bo Pelini, because all we were doing was entertaining a fantasy that would never come to fruition. And now we find ourselves just days away from that possibly happening.

I get tired of all the speculation, the constant rumors, and the uncertainty that comes with having nobody in charge of our football team. Meanwhile, recruits are fleeing like Frenchmen in a war zone, and I'm concerned that if we don't get somebody fast, we'll be left with a marginal class. That said, we had awesome classes before, and that didn't really get us all that far. So if it takes a couple extra days to find someone who can actually develop players, I'm all for it.

I'm still firmly entrenched in the Bo Pelini camp. Some may want Gill, and I don't begrudge them for it, he is an icon to Nebraskans and has a bright future as a coach, but I just don't think he's ready for that jump, even if he does have HC experience and Pelini doesn't. I'd argue that there is more pressure being a DC at Oklahoma and LSU then there is being the head coach of Buffalo. I'm just glad that Osborne hasn't offered the job to anyone right away. When Petersen was propositioning coaches in 2003 like a stumbling drunk guy hitting on women at the tail end of a kegger, he got shot down several times, which was embarrassing for the program. Osborne is going about it the right way, taking his time and making sure that the right decision is made.

I'm still not sold on Jim Grobe. Seems like a good coach, but I think people are too quick to talk themselves into him when they look at his ACC title last year. Let's be honest, the ACC with horrible Florida State and Miami teams isn't really that powerful of a conference. Plus, his loyalty to his assistants (which I actually do love) means that there won't be many, if any, spots on his staff those with Husker ties (which I don't really love). I'm not saying the whole staff has to have Big Red ties, but I think one or two is kind of a necessity.

Hiring a new coach is an inexact science. There are hits and misses, and we are coming off a miss of Biblical proportions, at least when it comes to the expectations of Nebraska fans. Which brings me to my next point: is the head coaching position at the University of Nebraska still an elite job? I've read multiple stories about this is an unwinnable situation with unrealistic fan expectations. And perhaps, to a point, they are right. The time of expecting national championships has come and gone. With the rise of Mizzou and KU, it's going to be tough just to win our division every year, let alone the conference title. But what pisses me off is, if this isn't an elite job, than what is? Tell me what schools with openings are elite jobs. Look at the top of the rankings right now. Would you say Missouri or West Virginia is an elite job? How about Florida State? If Bowden were to retire, would that be a desirable job, coming off 5 years of general suckiness? There are crappy jobs out there, but there are few programs with the history, facilities, and commitment to winning than Nebraska. So to all the media types who say we aren't a good job, you can feel free to pull your head out of your ass at any time.

As far as our search goes, I agree with what T.O. said during his press conference announcing the firing of Callahan: there's something to be said for competing. Do I expect to beat everyone? Of course not. But dammit, I do expect to compete and play every opponent, whether they are USC or Ball State, with a fire that honors our past. Getting blown out is not an option, even in today's college football where every giant can fall on Saturday. I still think the Nebraska job is an elite one, albeit slightly diminished over the past 5 years. We still have the best facilities in the nation. We still have one of the most passionate fan bases in the country. With the right coach, a resurgence is not going to be impossible to pull off. And if you do, you will be rewarded for the duration of your stay on this planet. Just look at Osborne, who is a pigskin toss away from deity status to Nebraska fans.

Let's hope that within the next couple of days, we'll have the next one.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My Bad Joe, My Bad

Joe, I'm sorry. I had you all wrong.

I saw a 6'1", 200 pound kid that looked way too much like a D-III linebacker and not enough like a D-I quarterback. Like many of my fellow Husker fans, I looked at you and thought of one phrase: "career backup". Sure, we heard reports about you being a "gamer", about you knowing the system better than even our beloved Zac Taylor, about the respect your teammates had for you. But still we weren't convinced. In a world where style is too often glorified over substance, we gave you a once-over and looked elsewhere on the depth chart. We talked about incoming stud recruits. We drooled over high-profile transfers. We did all we could to ignore you, but you kept fighting like you always had, and even more impressive is the manner in which you did it. In an era of me-first athletes, you put your head down, gritted your teeth, and kept fighting. You said all the right things, supported the guys in front of you, even though deep down in your gut burned a fire to compete that few of us could fully comprehend.

When a kid named Sam Keller announced that he would transfer to Nebraska and sit out a year in hopes of becoming a starter for his senior season, Husker nation rejoiced. Sure, we wouldn't have Zac anymore, but at least we had someone coming in who could bridge the divide between him and whatever hot recruit would eventually take over. Yeah, we knew you were there Joe, but we didn't give it much thought. You were our fall-back insurance policy, something you could rely on in a pinch but certainly not the one you'd look to first. To make a comparison, Sam was the hottest girl in school who we suddenly had a shot with, and you were the girl next door. Sure, we had a soft spot for you for all the sacrifices you'd made, but look at Sam. A coach's dream, a 6'4", 220 pound prototype QB who would come in and operate our inconsistent West Coast Offense like a well oiled machine. The problem was, the hottest girl in school had some maddening faults. A little reckless. Didn't protect the ball nearly as much as we'd have liked. And when you finally got your shot, you showed why the one next door is the one who usually wins our hearts. It took a while for us to find out, but when we did, it was a thing of beauty: 2 games, 915 yards, and 11 TDs. Kind of like taking the girl next door to prom and finding out that she's a 10 when you had thought she was a 6.

I realize that it's only two games. I realize that this piece might have some seemingly gay innuendos with all the hot girl/girl next door comparisons (it's the most accurate one I could think of, but kind of derailed when I realized I was talking about dudes). But that's neither here nor there. What I'm trying to say Joe, is that I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I underestimated your ability and your heart. And while we are only in the first couple of chapters of your legacy here, I'm excited to see what kind of ending you write.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What T.O. Warned Us About

I don't have enough time for a lengthy entry today, but after Oklahoma's loss to Texas Tech (and their subsequent drop from national title contention), I can't help but look at the next couple of weeks and remember what Tom Osborne warned when the Big 12 was formed: that while it would make money, it would ultimately cost the conference chances at national titles.

After this week's big game between KU and Mizzou, the winner will end up facing the Sooners for the conference crown. And what is going to happen? Sure enough, Oklahoma will probably prevail, meaning that after having three teams in the top 5, we will have no more contenders for the national title, allowing West Virginia to step in and fill the #2 slot to face (barring a loss beforehand) LSU.

This isn't the first time that having a conference title game has cost the Big XII. In 1996, the Huskers, despite having one loss, were in position to leap into the #2 spot and a shot at an unprecedented third consecutive national championship. And what happened? Texas, led by Priest Holmes and unheralded QB James Brown, came in and beat the Huskers, 37-27.

It may make a lot of money, but this thing has cost the conference several times. Also, it has robbed us of an annual OU-NU game, which is perhaps the biggest crime of all. Anyways, just thought it was worth mentioning that we might be shut out of the national title game again. Back tomorrow for some Husker stuff.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Some Potpourri before the weekend

Just some assorted thoughts before we head into the bye weekend:

-As if this season hasn't been insane enough. With Arizona knocking off the 2nd-ranked Oregon Ducks (the 5th time a #2 has lost this season), I think it's official that this has been the wildest season of college football I have ever seen. Granted, I'm only 23, so I can't go back that far, but still, what a year. The only other time I can think of something like this was in 2001 after the Huskers lost to Colorado in the regular season finale but still made it to the national title game. About 10 teams that year lost in the next couple of weeks, allowing Nebraska to get back in. But what makes this year special is that it has been a season-long trend, whereas 2001 was limited to less than a month. Before this season started, Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated wrote an article about how teams lower than 20th in the country in the pre-season polls realistically have no shot of playing for the national championship because there is no way to rise from that low without an unbelievable set of circumstances come into play. The soon to be second-ranked team in the country? The Kansas Jayhawks, who started the season unranked. If this season has taught us one thing though, they probably won't be there for long.

- With Dennis Dixon down for who knows how long, the Heisman race just became even more wide-open. I still think Tebow should get the nod, I don't care how many losses the Gators have. If Chase Daniel can get hot and beat both KU and OU and lead his team to the national championship, he can probably come in and steal it.

- I may not agree with his coaching, but what has happened to Kevin Cosgrove is unforgivable and a horrible representation of Husker fans. Can he coach a defense? No, not really. But he certainly doesn't deserve to have his life threatened by some loser who most likely never played football past middle school. You have to feel for Cosgrove and his family. As much as it sucks to be out of a job, you have to think that they are borderline excited to get out of Lincoln.

- Glad to see Barry Bonds is going where he belongs, which is behind bars. It's not a crime to cheat in baseball (it's against the rules, but it's not a crime). But lying to the federal government? Yea, that's not gonna go over very well. There is one thing bothers me about this whole steroids situation though. Yes, Bonds is a cheater who has been dogged by steroid speculation for years. But why is it that baseball steroid use is so much worse than it is in the NFL? Shawn Merriman, the phenomenal defensive end for the Chargers, was suspended for four games for steroid use, yet it seems like most people have completely forgot about this. If he goes to Canton, will he get an asterisk on his bust? It's almost as if people brush off NFL steroid use as OK because of the violence of the game.

Back into the swing of things next week, hope everybody has a good weekend.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Enough about an overrated rivalry

You know, I was originally going to write about Joe Ganz's initial two games as NU's starter, but after hearing the non-stop hype about OSU/Michigan, I felt compelled to write about just how unbelievably fucking stupid the pundits at Bristol are.

First off, let me make it clear that I do respect the tradition of the rivalry between OSU and Michigan. I know they've met 103 times, I know about the "10 Year War" between Bo and Woody, and I understand that it is the Big 10 equivalent of what used to be the annual battle between Oklahoma and the Huskers. So don't get me wrong, I realize the importance of the game to the fanbases involved and those in Big 10 country.

With that being said, can we please end the ongoing charade that this is a battle between elite teams? This year, we have to hear about an OSU team who's most impressive victory was against then-#20 Purdue and about a Michigan team who, in the words of ESPN's own Pat Forde, is "nothing special."Last year, it came to a head when the two steamrolled through the Big 10 like it was made up of high school teams, leading up to an over-hyped matchup that was pronounced by many as "The Game of the Century". Forget for a minute that that century was only seven years old at the time, and think back to that game. Yes, they were #1 and #2. But the game was never really in doubt. Every time Michigan would score to cut the lead to one score, Ohio State would answer on the next series. Sure, they only ended up winning by 3 points, but the fact of the matter is that it was a 2 score game for the majority of the game, and any educated college football fan who watched the game knew early on that OSU would (and did) answer every challenge Michigan presented. For a conference that prides itself on it's supposed toughness, the defenses gave up stat lines that the 2007 Husker squad would be proud of: Troy Smith and Chad Henne combined for 583 yards and 6 touchdowns.

What stands out most to me is how these supposed powerhouses from the Big 10 went on to perform in their bowl games. We all know that the Buckeyes were subject to a massacre of Biblical proportions at the hands of the Gators in the National title game, and the Wolverines were raped up and down the field by USC in the Rose Bowl.

Just how full of themselves are these two schools and their fans? In 2004, Michigan and Ohio State announced a deal with SBC communications to sponsor their football game for the next two years for $1.06 million, to be split between the universities. The game would be dubbed the "SBC Michigan-Ohio State Classic" that year and the order of the school names would be switched the next. Fortunately, the fans were smart enough to protest the move until it was canceled. In honor of the 100th meeting between the schools in 2003, US Representative Stephanie Jones of Ohio proposed a resolution in the House to recognize Michigan and Ohio State as the "greatest sports rivalry in history." Really? The greatest in not just college football history, but SPORTS HISTORY? Even HBO is getting into the act, producing a special feature, "The Rivalry", that chronicles the history of the matchup.

All of this makes the struggles of the Big 2 and Little 9, er, the Big 10 even better. This year, both Michigan and OSU stumble into the game with losses the previous week. Yet despite most of the nation having a hangover from having horrendous Big 10 football jammed down our throats, here comes east-coast ESPN again, hyping the game again. I don't know, maybe I'm still pissed about Michigan being voted #1 in 1997 by the media despite their struggles with an overrated Washington State team while the Huskers demolished #3, Peyton-Manning-led Tennessee. Or maybe, just maybe, I'm sick of a horrible conference taking precedence in a year when the Big 12 has a resurgence and three teams ranked in the top 6.

So I hope every one has fun watching college game day on Saturday. They'll spend one half of the two-hour program watching highlights of Mike Hart bowl his way for 4 yards. All the while, Herbstreit and Co. talk breathlessly about how important the game is despite the fact that neither of these teams have a shot at a national title. Instead of focusing on that, they'll do what we Husker fans tend to do: talk about a period when we were national powerhouses, a time that has, at least for the time being, passed these programs by. What will be even more fun is watching them get their ass kicked in January bowl games yet again.

Big 10 football, feel the excitement! I think I'll take a f*cking nap.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What the Hell?

Unbelievable. There's really no other way to describe what we witnessed on Saturday. How does a team who just a week ago looked like a deer in the headlights come out and flip the script on the next team? How does it go from the wrong end of 76-39 to winning 73-31? On a glorious senior day, the Huskers left home in style, cruising to a blowout behind Joe Ganz's 510 yards and 7 passing touchdowns. While I'm thrilled with the result (and relieved, the losing streak was draining on the fans as well as the players), I can't help but think that this is such a good indicator of why Callahan finds himself on the way out at the end of the season: the most consistent part of his tenure has been inconsistency.

Set a new standard for defensive futility one week, and then follow it up with the most prolific passing day in school history. Beat a top 15 team one week, lose to an unranked the next. Over the past four years, we have seen patches of brilliance mixed with periods of complete ineptitude. It's not that we expect to put up 73 a game, but where has this been? Was this an aberration, a one-day fluke where a pissed off team decided to shut some people up? Or was this something that we could have been doing all season? It is maddening and hope-inspiring at the same time. Maddening because we've witnessed the worst defensive season in school history, hope-inspiring because it shows that perhaps among all those supposedly great recruiting classes, we do indeed have some playmakers.

And all of a sudden, a bowl berth seems like a legitimate possibility. Unfortunately, this could make the coaching situation even messier. What happens if we beat CU? We will go to a bowl, and Osborne, being a man of his word, will let Callahan remain till the season is truly over. This means that we will lose a month that we could have used to hire our new coach and hopefully retain some of our recruits. If we do indeed go to a bowl game, and Callahan is fired, that will leave the new staff just over a month to not only retain Callahan's recruits, but try and fill out a class with whatever prospects remain undecided at that point (which there won't be many undecideds left).

But for now at least, let's forget about the mess and bask in the glow of the victory over K-State. On a day when the Huskers could do no wrong, the seniors spent one last day saying thank you to the Husker faithful, at the same time giving us hope that we aren't as bad as everyone has been saying we are.

Some quick-hit thoughts on the game before I cut this short so I can actually work:

-Frantz Hardy: 3 catches, 3 touchdowns. For all his speed, he didn't do much over the past four years, but what a way to go out. And I'll always remember his long TD against KU last year that was crucial to our victory over the Jayhawks.

-You know you've had a good passing day when Marlon Lucky can rush for 103 yards on 16 carries and nobody even notices.

-Mo Purify.......what a wasted season.....why haven't we been making it a point to throw to this guy every chance we can? There comes a time to forget about the West Coast offense and it's 5 yard out routes and just throw it up to your playmakers. Mo should have been 1st team All Conference, instead we're going to have to be content to see him tear it up the last three or four games. He'll always be one of my favorites from a dark Husker era. He's the definition of a gamer.

-Another catch for Meno Holt.......glad to see him finally getting some playing time......wish we coulda seen all the youngsters (Brooks, Paul, etc.) get some catches, but at least we have the next couple years to see them develop.

-Great line for Octo: 9 tackles, 2.5 for loss and a sack. Wish we could have seen more of those games from him this season....wonder what he could have done with an effective defensive coordinator instead of a mannequin.

-Finally, some significant action for Anthony Blue......who knew that if you put good athletes on the field, they might just make a play? Oh wait, we're not supposed to play young guys, no matter what? Yea, good call on that one. Dumbasses.

-The kick return for Grixby was such a heart-warming event for so many reasons. Last year, he shouldered much of the blame for the struggles of the entire secondary. He has been one of our most consistent performers this year, and one of our special teams aces. To see him take one back on senior day was truly special, and yet another example of why college football is such a special sport. You don't see stuff like that in the NFL.

-Glad to see Ruud get on the field for senior day despite nursing an injury. We need to find someone with that last name for the next four years, there's gonna be a void without one.

Back tomorrow to talk about Joey Ganz. And while I think about it, if you know one, hug a vet today. It's disheartening for me to see my generation oversee the general decay of a once-great country, but let us not forget the men who so valiantly defended freedom from WWII to Operation Iraqi Freedom. I don't care about your stance on the war, these men deserve our respect and gratitude for their service and sacrifice to our country. May God bless them all.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Thank You Seniors

It wasn't supposed to end like this. This group of kids was supposed to come in and alter the landscape of Husker football. To take them the program out of the dark ages of the option football and usher in a new era for one of the most powerful schools in the country. Instead, this crop of hard-working kids now faces their senior day mired in what has become the worst season in Husker football history. There might be more losses in previous years if you go back far enough, but for pure ineptitude, none can match the current Husker squad. But this weekend, let's not think about that. Let's not worry about the lame-duck coaching staff and their inability to earn their paychecks. Instead, let's send this group of seniors out with a farewell befitting a group of guys who have sacrificed years of their life to a program in it's most tumultuous time.

Years from now when we look back, we'll remember the Callahan era as a trainwreck of historic proportions, a four-year hiccup in a four-decade run of relative dominance. But it is important that we remember the contributions of these seniors and the good memories that they have provided us over the years, even if they didn't always result in the wins we have wanted.

I'll always remember the infinite potential of Mo Purify and the inability of this staff to properly utilize his talents. The great game against Kansas last week shows what he is capable of if given some downfield chances, and it's a shame that they didn't make it an integral part of our offensive strategy to showcase his abilities. And if nothing else, we'll always have his 63 yard catch-and-run against Texas and his game-winner against A&M last year. Through all his tough times and personal tragedy, Mo has been a warrior for this Nebraska squad, and I'm going to sincerely miss him.

I'll always remember Sam Keller, the kid that was supposed to take us to the next level but instead gutted out a season with no defensive support and an anemic running game. A guy that was perceived to be a hired gun, the sight of him crying after the his injury at the Texas game showed just how much this season has taken it's toll on him and just how important it was to him to represent this school. He became our unofficial captain and the spokesman for the rest of the team when it was playing horribly, and I'll always appreciate his contribution to the Big Red.

I'll always remember Octo's game against UT in the snow, and always wonder what he would have done if he'd have been healthy his whole career. It's a shame he had all the injuries, and it's a shame that Cosgrove couldn't find a way to use him better.

I'll always remember Zach Bowman's hardships and how he fought back to get on the field senior year. A great football player, and an even better person.

I'll always remember Corey McKeon's stellar sophomore year and his amazing fall from grace this season. But despite his disappearance, I still am thankful that for that one year he tore it up and brought some pride to the Blackshirts.

Every senior has given a something to this program. Whether it was a remarkably consistent, solid, but unspectacular contribution over four years (Terrence Nunn) or a single season of attempting to carry a team on his back (Keller), we owe these kids our thanks. Our coaches efforts may have fallen short of what we expect, but the same cannot be said for these kids. This Saturday, don't think about the five game losing streak, don't think about the coaching staff on it's way out or which one is on it's way in. Instead, let's show the seniors that their contributions to this program, no matter what the result has been, mean a lot to us, and no matter how cheesy it sounds, that they'll always be Huskers to us. Thanks guys.

Monday, November 5, 2007

What more can be said?

Wow. And we thought USC or Ball State was bad. At this point, what is really left that can be said? We've bitched and moaned for weeks now, only to see the team somehow perform even worse (which none of us thought was possible). I've never seen so many players routinely out of position at any level of football in my life, and quite frankly, I've grown tired of trying to dissect what is wrong with this team. I'm glad that I didn't have time on Friday to get a prediction in, because who honestly would have predicted us giving up 76 points? 45 or 50, I'd understand, I figure that's a given with the defense we have right now, but really? 76? That was one of the most embarrassing games I have ever witnessed. I was still getting calls and text messages at 11:30 at night, wondering what the hell was going on with our program.

I think T.O. is a man of his word and will let Callahan finish out the season. But if I were on this staff, I'd start putting out my resume right now, because while the writing was on the wall a couple weeks ago, it is now highlighted and underlined: unless the new HC wants you, you will be replaced.

A few quick thoughts before we move on and never speak of this game again:

-It's not like the offense played poorly. Ganz had some picks, but he was in a tough spot trying to keep up with an onslaught of Biblical proportions. Even if KU did have 3rd stringers in at the end, we still put up 39. Put up 31 against the starters, which is more than enough to win a game if you have a defense that doesn't completely blow. Unfortunately, ours does.

- How many times can one defense fall for the same play? I saw KU send the slot guy into the flats, with the outside WR come right back in with a slant about 50 times, and every damn time the slant was open. Why? Because every time, we'd chase the out route, and Reesing would hit the slant. There were seriously a couple times I thought I was just watching an instant replay, but instead it was an actual live touchdown. And you know what fixes this simple mistake? Good coaching. Hell, not even good coaching, just somebody who knows what the hell they are doing would know how to stop it.

-What the hell happened to our kickoff coverage? It seemed like every time KU was returning the ball to midfield.

- I never thought I'd say this, but I'm glad that the Husker football season is almost over. Usually, I dread the end of it because with it comes the long, agonizing wait for next season. At this point, however, I can't watch many more of these massacres and retain what is left of my sanity. Thank God the Gophers and the Big 10 suck too, otherwise I'd really be miserable.

-The only real competition I can look forward to on Saturdays is no longer Husker games, it's seeing how many beers I can drink to make me oblivious to the outcomes of those games.

- Good thing I didn't go down to Lawrence and use the tickets I had bought for the game. That would not have been a fun trip.

- I would say that the Huskers should play for pride now, but I get the feeling they were playing for that a while ago and realized they didn't have any left.

Congratulations to Kansas. We might be atrocious, but that doesn't take away from the fact that that is a hell of a Jayhawk team. They are now FOURTH in the BCS, ahead of Oklahoma. Should be interesting the rest of the way, with the battle against Mizzou for the right to face OU in San Antonio. Good luck the rest of the way.

One question that has been bothering me: how does the nosedive that we are witnessing affect next season? If your the incoming coach, how do you convince your players, particularly the defense, that they don't suck? How do you revive their self-confidence for next year? Whoever we bring in has the daunting task of repairing a downtrodden team and a demoralized fan base.

And as one last note, I seriously think we will start seeing some Huskers on the police blotter the next month or so. When your team plays this horribly and falls so short of expectations, often times players will offset it by drinking more on the weekends to get away from the stress of it all, and that can lead to some bad decisions. Believe me, I've seen it on teams I've played on. Let's hope that they can just hold it together the next three weeks so we can turn the page and finish the darkest chapter in the history of Husker football.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Texas Reflections and Other Crap.......

So I'll admit, I was concerned about the Huskers being broadcast to half the country this past Saturday. The way we had been playing, I figured the last thing we needed to was an embarassing performance that could be seen everywhere west of the Mississippi. But who knew the Huskers had that type of performance in them? Sure, they fell apart at the end, mostly due to exhaustion and injuries. But that heart, the effort we had been looking for? It was evident from the outset. You could see the pain on the faces of the Big Red when they lost, you could see that they had left it all out on the field, which is all we have asked for the past month. Unfortunately, it didn't translate into a win, but I wasn't concerned about that.

Some random thoughts:

- When was the last time we weren't favored against Kansas? The Kennedy administration?

- I feel horrible for Sam Keller. He came here hoping to have a special year, but instead he oversaw a trainwreck of a team through one of the worst years in program history. That doesn't fall on his shoulders though. He left it on the field every game and became the unofficial voice of the Huskers. Here's to hoping that he heals quickly and has a great combine to up his draft status. He deserves it after all he's been through these past few years.

- What was Suh thinking on that 3rd and 13? He makes that play, we get the ball back with time to at least tie the game, maybe even win. Instead, Charles escapes and gets the 1st. What a backbreaker. That one play may encapsulate this season better than any other we've seen.

- It'll be interesting to see what Joe Ganz does with this opportunity. This is his chance to get a jump on the job for next year, and he better seize it. Because once the new staff comes in, I guarantee that Witt is going to impress them, so Joe better get ready for a battle again.

- I have Kansas tickets if anybody wants them. Glad I dropped 75 a piece on them, turned out to be a great investment.

- Among all the coaching rumors, I still am holding out hope that a deal with Bo gets done. I'm not on the Turner for HC bandwagon, and I'm not sure why so many others are.

- I can't wait till Ohio State gets beat by Michigan and BC loses too. There's now way they make it through unscathed, unless Michigan is missing Hart and Henne for the game. It's just been one of those seasons where maybe two 1-loss teams makes it in to NC game.

I'll add more here tomorrow, but today's a busy day at work. Kansas preview to come, as well as a quick look around the Big 12.

Friday, October 26, 2007

It Just Hurts......

So I was flipping through the newest Sports Illustrated last night, and came across a four-or-five page article on the great season Mizzou is having. Unfortunately, I hadn't read the table of contents and was completely unprepared for it. And you know what I felt? Not anger. Not any of the frustration that has been seemingly omnipresent in this fall of our discontent. No, what I felt was emotional pain, a feeling in my gut akin to the one you get when you break up with a girlfriend. I've been so upset the past couple of weeks, so angry over the train wreck that is Nebraska football, that I hadn't had time to realize just how big of an emotional hit I was taking.

As I sat there and read about Mizzou's dream season, the dream season that was supposed to be ours, I thought back to last week against A&M. As my brother and I sat in our hotel room following the Aggie destruction, I looked over and saw the kid with one of the most depressing, crestfallen looks I have ever seen. He noticed my look, and he explained it like this:

"It just sucks. After my family, this is all I care about. It's the only thing I read about, the only thing I watch. The other 7 months out of the year, I count down to football season. And it just sucks to invest so much of myself into something and have nothing returned."

Perhaps that is what makes sports so special to people, the connection they have to that team and the ability said team has to break it's fans' hearts, much like a girlfriend can. Like my brother and millions of other college football fans, fall Saturdays are the only thing that gets us through our bland workdays, the only thing that we can truly get excited about. What makes it even harder is the lack of any other favorite teams. It's not like I can fall back on a favorite pro team, or a different sport. All there is to us is Husker football, and when they suffer, it proliferates down to the fans, making for one miserable fall.

Unfortunately, my brother and I were too young to fully appreciate the dominance of the Huskers in the 1990's. We even went to the national title game against Florida, saw Tommie's run and everything. But when your 12, you don't realize just how special a magical season like that is. You never imagine that in 10 years your team will be on it's way to a 4-8 season and a new coaching staff. You just root for the team because that's what you've been taught to do since the day you were born. Now, I'm 23. I realize what's going on. And it hurts so bad that I'd give just about anything to be 12 again so I wouldn't comprehend just how bad the state of Nebraska football is.

I'm tired of the losses. I'm tired of the rumors. I'm tired of coaches who don't come out and admit that they don't know what the hell is going on. I'm tired of players looking like they'd rather be doing keg stands than playing. And I'm tired of the pain that results from all of it. But the great thing about sports: there's always next year.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Some various Husker-related thoughts.......

So let's just say my visit to Lincoln didn't go near as well as I had hoped. In my prediction, I said that A&M's bland offense would enable the Huskers to keep it close. As it turns out, that vanilla offense is all you need when your playing against our defense. Considering you've already read all the reports and blogs about the game, you probably know that the Aggies shredded us with the option. I sat in the stands, drunk and exhausted from the 80 degree heat and from getting up at 7:30 to start drinking. The first half was great, we went into the break only down 16-14. But after that it was all downhill. Despite the crowd imploring them to rise the occasion, the defense fell flat, allowing McGee and Lane to run over us like we were a Pop Warner team. The option is both easy and difficult to defend. Easy because if every guy does their job, it's going to be shut down. And therein lies the problem for defenses, because it only takes one guy doing the wrong thing to allow some big plays, which is exactly what happened.

Between the loss, the fact that a great deal of the students were gone for fall break, and the heat, it made for a less-than-stellar trip to Lincoln. Most of it is probably due to how depressing the atmosphere was going into the game. When I bought the tickets for the game, it was supposed to be a battle between two teams competing for the Big 12 title. Instead, it had all the electricity and intensity of a pick-up basketball game between two brothers. Sure, the younger one might keep it interesting a while, but in the back of your mind you know the older one is going to assert his will and pound the kid brother into submission. Which makes it all the more sad when you come to the realization that Nebraska has sunk to little brother status in the Big 12. I'd say really the only teams we are better than in our conference are Iowa State and Baylor. That's it.

Callahan's gone. Barring a minor miracle, we're going to finish 4-8, making it the worst season in my lifetime (one of the benefits of being born in 1983). So who comes in? The rumor mill has been churning out crap at a breakneck pace, with few people knowing what is true and what is pointless chatter on a message board. I'm hoping for Bo Pelini, but others hope for Turner Gill. I'd love to see Gill on the staff in some capacity, but can we please not give him the head job? I know all the AARP Husker fans would love to see him be the HC, but let's slap ourselves out of this nostalgia and be realistic. Pelini is the hottest assistant in the country, his defenses annually rank in the top 10, and he has a respect for the culture that surrounds Nebraska football. I've never been a guy who thinks we HAVE to go to the Husker family tree. Look at how well that worked for John Blake at Oklahoma. I'd hate to go through another failed 3 year experiment when our Bob Stoops might be ready now in the form of Bo.

Regarding the stories about how the players are fed up with the treatment from the fans, I have a few thoughts. First off, to the players: What do you expect? The program and it's fans came into this season with huge expectations, and instead we've witnessed the worst defense in Nebraska history. It's been hard to watch, particularly with the offense going into the tank as well the past couple of weeks. Do we expect you to beat everyone? No, not at all. All we ask is that you look like you give a damn. To the fans: If you are one of the people who we keep hearing about, the ones going behind our bench and deriding our players, get the hell out of the damn stadium. I don't give a shit if they give up 40 points, you don't tell these guys they suck or anything to that effect. Oh, you're disappointed with their performance? I think it's safe to say that they are disgusted enough with the way this season has gone that they don't need a bunch of morons reminding them of just how poorly they are playing. At the game this weekend, I saw the crowd give the D standing ovations when they took the field in the first half, doing all they could to support these kids. I don't know who these people are who are going up to the guys after the game or at the bars and giving them a hard time, but knock it off and leave the kids alone.

Why? Because when these kids look back 10 or 20 years from now, I'd hate to hear them say that they hated their time at Nebraska because their fans couldn't support them when they were losing. I'd hate to see them hold ill will towards the program because of one bad year. These guys are pretty damn close to just mailing it in the rest of the season and binge-drinking their way to Christmas break. And for every unappreciative fan that comes and makes a snide comment, they move one step closer to that happening. I'm not saying you should cheer when they are getting their ass kicked. But you certainly don't have to criticize them directly to their face either. You think you can do better, with your beer gut and 6.3 forty time? Then walk on and let's see you stop any of the guys who have ran all over us this year. Because until you do that, you have no right to be talking shit to these kids. No matter how poorly they play, they are still Huskers. And as such, they deserve our support.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

At least I can drink this time.......

What a week. Rumors, press conferences, firings. The dust has pretty much settled from the Pederson ouster, and despite the rumors, it looks as if Doctor Tom has every intention of letting Callahan and Company finish out the season before any more personnel decisions are made. It's the right decision in my opinion, as kicking people out in the middle of the season is not the right way to do things. Is he gone at the end of the year? I think that's a given. I'm not going to talk about the coaching search or anything else. My main concern is that we at least defend home turf this week better than we did against OSU, and so after all the crap this team had dealt with thus far this week, I think it's time to forget about all that for the weekend and just focus on the game at hand against Texas A&M.

I'm especially excited about this game because for the first time, I will be making the trip to Lincoln with the ability to legally enter bars. My last game? The last game of Callahan's first season, the loss to Colorado that ended our bowl streak. Needless to say, I'm hoping NU does better this time around. The upside is that even if we play horribly, at least this time the pain can be soothed by an unhealthy amount of Bud Light.

I'm not going to predict a score or a Husker win, I've pretty much resigned myself to the Huskers being flat-out horrible the rest of the year. But that's not going to stop me from being the best fan I can be, cheering for our guys and supporting them in this tumultuous time.

I think NU has the ability to move the ball on A&M. The Aggie defense is giving up 24 points and 400 yards a game, 260 of them through the air. It's sad to think that those stats are actually good in comparison to ours. Also, the inability of their offense to throw the ball too effectively will allow us to focus on stopping McGee, Lane, and the running game. The downside of us focusing on stopping those two is that I could see TE Martellus Bennett sneaking behind our linebackers and doing some damage. Do I think Nebraska wins? No. But they don't lose by much.

If your in Lincoln for the game, I suggest you stop by the Huskerboard tailgate party. They have BBQ and a T-shirt for 10 bucks, as well as 3 flatscreen TVs. It's located under the pedestrian bridge near the stadium.

Hope to see some of you in Lincoln. GBR!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Big Red Roundtable, Back to the Future Edition

Well, I once again managed to completely suck at predicting the outcome of Husker games this fall. I predicted NU would beat OSU, but instead they suffered another embarrassing loss that I'd rather not talk about (and one you'd probably prefer not hearing about again). So instead, through a Big Red Roundtable of Husker Bloggers, we're going to look at the tumultuous week thus far in Husker Nation, commenting on everything from Pud's firing to the hiring of T.O. As always, I encourage you to check out the other Husker bloggers' responses.

1. Steve Pederson is out as athletic director. Did you see it coming? Good move or bad move?

While I've never been a Pederson fan, I wasn't one of his biggest detractors either, at least not until very recently. It is amazing just how much the vilification increased once the Huskers started getting embarrassed the past couple of weeks. After the Mizzou game, I had an inkling that Pederson would be gone at the end of the year, but I never saw it coming mid-season like it did. What's more is that the decision was made before the OSU debacle, so obviously Pearlman felt he had no choice. I think the most telling (and damning) revelations about Pederson pertain to his apparently off-putting demeanor that has caused several high-level staffers (like chief fundraiser Paul Meyers) to leave. Pud never had that many fans to begin with after his mishandled firing of Solich and the protracted search for a replacement, and once it became apparent that Callahan would not succeed, it pretty much sealed Pederson's fate. I think this is a good move for NU, and now hopefully we can wash our hands of the mess and move forward.

2. Tom Osborne has returned as Pederson's interim replacement. Good move/bad move? What should T.O.'s priorities be, and what does he need to do?

In my opinion, Osborne isn't only the right hire, he was really the only option. Think about it, what other person could step in with not only the experience to do the job, but the ability to reunite Husker Nation and bring some sense of calm to the histrionics that have surrounded this program the past couple of weeks? I can't remember where I read it, but someone likened Osborne to a grandpa that a family leans on in tough times. And when you think about it, I believe T.O. brings that kind of stability to the Husker family and all of the fans. Combine that with his familiarity with Husker traditions, his experience with college athletics (from both NU and his role with Creighton), and his serving in Congress, you have a candidate that not only assuages a beleaguered and worried fan base, but also is qualified to fill such a position.

His priorities should be first and foremost helping the current coaching staff right the ship. Yes, they are probably on their way out and would probably prefer Osborne just stay out of their way. And that may be the case. But Osborne has to let them know that if they need anything to help RIGHT NOW, to help win games this season, that he's there. His second priority (although in terms of future importance, this should probably be first) is to start searching for a qualified coach that can take control at the end of the season (because we all expect Callahan to be gone at some point). He doesn't have to have head coaching experience in my opinion, as long as he is aware of the traditions and "Husker way" that we hold so dear, and is knowledgeable and a proven X's and O's guy. Oh, and it'd be nice if he could recruit. Anything else?

Another priority is to get all the boosters and administration guys on the same page. The Pederson firing went over well with many, but upset others (like the Cook family, who were big Pedey backers). It is important that we win back some of the people we lost during Pedey's tenure and the mess we have right now. While T.O. doesn't have an easy task ahead of him the next couple of months, he is well aware of what he has taken on and is well-prepared to handle the job.

3. The Huskers have been blown out two straight weeks. What is happening with the football team, and what does the rest of the season look like?

What makes this whole clusterfuck even more maddening is the fact we can't get a straight answer about anything from anyone. All we hear is the same damn coach-speak from Cally, and all we hear from the players is that the coaching schemes are good and that they aren't quitting. Well I don't give a rat's ass what everybody is saying, because what we have seen on the field is a football team devoid of leadership that is giving less effort with each passing week. The players have the look of a refugee fleeing a war-torn country. They stare off into the distance, apparently wanting to be anywhere else than playing football for Nebraska. While I have no doubt that many of the players are aching with every inch of their being to right the ship, I have a sneaking suspicion that more and more of them are seeing the writing on the wall and realizing that they will have new coaches soon, so what's the point? Most of them are probably looking forward to the nightlife on Saturdays instead of the game, if only because they know that the coaching staff is completely inept and on it's way out (I'm mainly talking about the defense).

As a unit, good performances breed pride and aggressiveness, a pack mentality that leads to even better play. However, when a unit completely blows, and blows so badly that they lose their sweet black practice jersey, then it becomes a self-defeating prophecy. None of these guys expect to play well on Saturdays, which is why they go out and play the way they have been. I hurt for these players, especially guys like Bo Ruud. But unfortunately, there is no magic switch that will fix this. These guys are going to have to go out and perform a minor miracle if they are going to turn this season into something even relatively successful.

Looking ahead to the schedule, we have a rough go to finish this season. We are going to lose at Texas and K-State, barring miracles. Our other road game, at Colorado, is going to be a dogfight, one I unfortunately expect us to lose (their defense is damn good) . Which leaves us with Texas A&M. Their vanilla offense and inability to throw the ball gives me hope that we can christen the new Osborne-as-AD era with a win. And while I used to think that home field advantage meant something, OSU showed that Memorial Stadium doesn't really intimidate anyone when you put a crappy product on the field. So let's hope we win the Buyout Bowl this weekend. We do that, and I think we finish with a 5-7 record. Hopefully we at least make things interesting and knock someone out on the road to make it to .500.

4. and are getting lots of traffic. Steve Pederson is already gone. Tom Osborne says nobody will be fired during the season. What happens with this coaching staff?

Callahan and Cosgrove are most definitely gone. I don't see any other way around it. In what was supposed to be a leap year, we have regressed horribly, and it certainly isn't because of a lack of talent. I think that in addition to the top two, there will be several coaches asked to leave (defensive assistants especially). A lot of it will depend on who the players want to be brought back, as well as what the new head coach (whoever he is) wants. He may bring in all his own guys, or he may choose to retain some of the staff for continuity. I'm hoping that Watson is retained to keep the offense going, as well as Dave Kennedy for strength and conditioning (he is one of the nation's best). Like I said, it all depends on what the players tell Osborne and what the new HC decides to do.

Other Roundtable contributors:

Husker Faithful

Corn Nation

Big Red Analysis

Husker Mike

Big Red Network

Midwest Coast Bias

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bring on the Okies.....

Throughout this turbulent Husker football season, there has been one constant that we can all fall back on: me completely sucking at predicting Husker games. Some may say that I don't know near as much about college football as I think I do, but I'm going to fall back on the excuse that it's because of Nebraska's maddeningly inconsistent play so far this season. So I'm not going to get into the position-by-position breakdown others do, because at this point, we are basically crossing our fingers and hoping our defense doesn't suck. Incidentally, this is the same tactic that Cosgrove uses as well.

I think it's going to be tough for us to stop OSU's offense. While it may not be the most powerful on earth, as they proclaimed in the preseason, it's still damn good with competent playmakers at several positions, especially with Adarius Bowman at WR. I think we are in for a looooong day defensively, and unfortunately, that's going to be a recurring theme throughout the season. However, I think that the team, and the fans, recognize this game as the most important game of the year. If we lose this game, it sets us up for a very bad second half, something that Callahan and Pedey can't have if they want to buy some good will for future seasons. This game, along with next week's A&M game (which I'll be in attendance for) will go a long way in determining when and where NU ends up playing their bowl game. Nobody wants to go to the Alamo Bowl again, so it's important we get these two wins heading into a brutal last month.

I'm not going to predict a final score, because I've proven over the course of this season that I thoroughly suck at accurately forecasting the final outcome of games. But the Husker optimist in me sees the defense stepping up this weekend.

Huskers by 7

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Stop with the What-Might-Have-Beens........

I never thought the uttering of a 40-year old man's name would make me depressed, but it does. Whenever someone brings up Bo Pelini, I feel like someone (maybe Kevin Cosgrove?) is punching me in the stomach and kicking me in the nuts simultaneously. All of us as Husker fans have entertained the fantasies of what might have been had Pedey offered Pelini the head coaching job after the '03 season instead of Callahan. Immovable defenses, unstoppable defenders, Big XII titles and BCS bowls are all things that seem possible now that we've witnessed Bo's run at LSU and his one season at Oklahoma after his departure from Lincoln. And as much as I sometimes find myself yearning for that kind of defensive supremacy, I'm realizing a bit more each day that if I hope to keep my insanity for the duration of this season, I have to stop thinking about Bo.

You might be wondering what it is that brought me to write about Pelini. It was this article, which somebody posted on Huskerboard that was the source of my emotional pain today. Quotes like this, from Barrett Rudd, don't help in making me forget about what might have been:

"Guys were ready to run through a wall for him," said Ruud, a junior on that Nebraska team. "He was such a great motivator. He'd print out cards with different quotes and leave them in our locker to fire us up before games, and when it came to X's and O's, he definitely had the 'it' factor.

It'd be one thing if it was the offense, not the defense, that was sucking this season. Maybe then I'd be able to forget about Pelini. But when a unit that was once good enough to have a sweet nickname like the Blackshirts is playing like a bunch of Powder Puff players, it makes it that much harder to forget that the preeminent defensive coordinator in the country once roamed our sidelines and wanted to stay there. The fact that the second-biggest douche in the universe (Pedey, Jimmy Clausen being #1) hired the first big-name guy to come available when his fan base and the players wanted Pelini is perhaps the biggest testament to his stubbornness. And the sad thing is, I saw it coming. When Callahan was fired by the Raiders right after our search started, I told my brother, "Watch, I guarantee you that we hire him, he's the biggest name on the market now." Which, at the time, he was. He had gone to the Super Bowl (and gotten his ass kicked)a couple years earlier, and I figured bringing in Jon Gruden's system to Lincoln was the type of change that Pedey thought necessary.

Let it be clear that I don't think Callahan was necessarily a bad hire. I think he has done a good job turning a program that ran a power-option game into the West Coast machine we currently see playing on Saturdays (although someone should have told him that we still wanted SOME KIND of a running game, not that we wanted to scrap it entirely, which is apparently what he has done). I have my doubts about his ability to interact with players the way college coaches should, but I still think he can turn it around here.

Ugh, but our defense. It has been so painful to watch this year, I find myself slamming beers at an unsafe rate during games just to numb the pain and anguish of having to watch the poorly-coached Husker D half-ass it around the field for the better part of 3 hours. I have to admit, there are times I find my mind wandering.........if we got rid of Pedey and Callahan, what would Bo think.........dammit, I'm doing it again!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Reality sets in.....

We are in for a long one folks. You know, I usually post my post-game review on Mondays. But this weekend's loss was so eye-opening, so revealing and disgust-inspiring that I couldn't bring myself to write about it yesterday. I found myself getting so upset that I thought I wouldn't be able to properly articulate just what I was feeling. I trolled around every Husker site I could find, getting a feel for the pulse of Husker Nation coming off our most embarrassing loss in recent memory. Sure, there have been a lot of low spots in Callahan's tenure here, and in the 2002 season as well. But in terms of pure disappointment, the 41-6 undressing that Mizzou handed us on Saturday night in Columbia was definitely right up there.

We've covered the defense, we've talked about the inability of the running game to develop, and quite frankly, it just depresses me to discuss it further. What was particularly disheartening, and it has been discussed thoroughly by Nebraska fans and media the past couple of weeks, was the seemingly complete absence of any fire or competitive spirit shown by the Huskers.

I can tolerate a loss. Do I like them? No, nobody does. But when we are beaten by a superior team, I can accept it knowing that it just wasn't in the cards. And make no mistake, Missouri IS the better team. They have a better offense (one that has an actual running game), and their defense came to play on a night when a no-show by the Husker offense was the last thing we needed.

One thing I cannot tolerate? The disgusting lack of heart I saw displayed. I don't give a shit if your down by 100 points, you go out and you fight it's tied in the last minute of a title game, and that should never change. What I saw was a disgrace, an insult to every Husker who has passed through Lincoln, and it was hard to take in. You could see it in the faces of the Nebraska defenders, the sad, pathetic look of a unit that would rather have been anywhere else than on that field representing their state and their school. Have some damn pride! You play for Nebraska for Christ's sake, I'd give my left nut to be in your position, and they played with the intensity of a JV high school team on a Tuesday afternoon.

And as far as Callahan goes, I'm a little sick of his "our goals are still intact, we're still in this hunt" talk. Have you been watching the same team we have Bill? Have you seen them getting out-performed in nearly every category? Have you seen them giving up in the third quarter? Oh, you haven't? My question is, how far up your ass does your head have to be to block out just how horrible your team is playing? For those of you who don't know, Callahan gets paid over 4,000 dollars a day to coach Nebraska. When I read that in the OWH, I was taken aback. Surely someone who gets paid that much would realize just how poorly his team is executing. Or maybe someone being paid that much could create some semblance of a running game.

I don't know, maybe all of that is too much to ask of Callahan. But I know one thing that isn't. When your team steps on the field, they should at least play with the intensity and heart that is expected of a Big Red football player. They should have some pride pulling that jersey over their pads, having the "N" on the side of the helmet. Because nothing I saw on Saturday made it seem that way. And all the other shit aside, THAT is what Callahan should be most concerned about. Because while Husker fans may be known for their impatience for losses, they have even less for people who don't leave everything on the field. That may or may not be Callahan's doing. But it is his job to fix it. Now.