Tag Archives: blackshirts

Sunday Morning Hot Takes: UCLA Edition

If the first thing you did when you woke up this morning was check the box score from the Foster Farms Bowl, don’t worry.

You weren’t the only one who did that.

It wasn’t a dream. Nebraska really did run wild against UCLA and came away with a 37-29 victory that was equal parts fun and gut-wrenching anguish.

Even when the Big Red was trailing 21-7 midway through the second quarter, Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf stuck to their game plan* and continued to pound UCLA like Rocky slugging a side of beef. It was a glorious sight to behold as the Huskers chipped away at the Bruin defense a few yards at a time and rattled off 30 unanswered points.

UCLA finally replied early in the fourth quarter with a quick and methodical secondary shredding strike to pull within 8 points but that would be it. A missed field goal and absolutely clutch end zone interception by Chris Jones would seal the Bruins’ fate. The Huskers finally ran out of new and cruel ways to blow it at the end.

*Let’s Talk About That Game Plan: No doubt this next week will be full of think pieces and talk radio jibber jabber about how Riley and Langsdorf have finally found the light when it comes to Huskers’ offensive identity. Were these new look Huskers the result of a philosophical sea change or was it something as simple as Coach Riley checking his twitter mentions while enjoying a complimentary omelet at the Embassy Suites?  Could an endless stream of eggs imploring him to run the football actually have enough sway to make him throw UCLA a change up for four quarters? It would be amazing if that were the case. If there was one thing message board coaches got right this year it was the need to run the football.

Three Quick Wishes For 2016…

1) The Return of Tommy Legstrong: Tommy ran for 305 fewer yards in 2015 (400 vs 705). Splitting the difference in 2016 would be gravy.

2) A Lockdown Secondary (or at least one that isn’t consistently beaten): UCLA’s 60 yard bomb in the second quarter looked eerily similar to other times the Huskers were repeatedly scorched on the deep ball throughout the season. Then, when the Bruins started to rally in the fourth, they ran the exact same screen pass 4 or 5 times. The only variation was flipping the formation to the opposite side of the field one time.

3) A Nickname For Nate Gerry: Here are a few that come to mind… Jailhouse Rock, The Convict, Penalty Box,  Big Boss Man, Lock Up, Early Exit… (good thing there are still 9 months until the season starts)

Mike Riley’s Balloon Watch: A solid win over UCLA means Coach gets his balloon back for the off-season.

Mike Riley Happy Balloon

NUMBERS TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS WITH

17:36: The Huskers’ time-of-possession advantage over UCLA.

62: The number of times the Huskers ran the ball against the Bruins for a total of 326 yards on the ground.

Now let’s compare that effort to the rest of season:

BYU – 37/126
S. Alabama – 37/258
Miami – 34/153
S. Miss – 39/242
Illinois – 34/187
Wisconsin – 37/196
Minnesota – 36/203
Northwestern – 38/82
Purdue – 33/77
Michigan State  – 36/179
Rutgers – 35/174
Iowa – 38/137

4: The number of times the 1995 Huskers, aka the greatest team in the history of college football, topped 62 rushes during their entire season. (70 vs Pacific, 63 vs Washington State, 68 vs Iowa State,  68 vs Florida)

And all this leads to Larry the Cable Guy winning the award for “Most Accurate Tweet of the Night.”

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Foster Farms Bowl Preview

Cue the triumphant clucking of humanely raised, steroid-free chickens.

The Foster Farms Bowl is finally here.

You’re excited, right?

Like more excited than this chicken, right?

If you’re finding it hard to nod in agreement like some kind of subservient chicken, it’s OK. It really is. In all honesty, I’ve kind of tuned out the lead up to the Foster Farms Bowl. It’s amazing how the return of Star Wars can make a guy instantly forget about the woes of the Huskers. Still, they have a game today and I’m back on the Big Red train in full force.

Here’s our preview…

If you can remember all the way back to September, UCLA went in to the season at #13 in the AP Poll. If I recall correctly, the Bruins were a pre-season top 10 on Sam McKewon’s ballot. Luckily, for the sake of its voters, the AP doesn’t keep an archive of week-by-week ballots so that can’t be confirmed.

UCLA had a hot 4-0 start, including a one point squeaker against BYU thanks to Tanner Mangum’s last second magic finally running out. From there, the Bruins hit the skids hard against Arizona State and at Stanford where Christian McCaffrey had a record setting day en route to the Cardinal winning by three touchdowns. Still, the Bruins won the yardage battle by a healthy margin.

That sort of statistical anomaly has been a hallmark of UCLA’s season. Against Colorado they were out gained 554-400 and had the ball for only 19 minutes, yet they won 35-31.

After crunching all of UCLA’s games, the key to beating the Bruins looks to be the ability for a team to one thing well. Go through the air like Washington State or do a ground and pound like USC, the Bruins can be shredded by a team that sticks to its guns.

And could very well be the Huskers’ problem.

Have Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf used the bowl practices to finally forge an identity into their offense? Or is it going to be another case of another game, a whole new look?

Here’s hoping they took a page or two from USC’s methodical pummeling and feed the Bruins a steady diet of seniors Imani Cross and Andy Janovich, assuming they remember they are still on the roster. Add in a dash of Jordan Westerkamp and some non-horrible decisions by Tommy Armstrong and the Huskers could leave Levi’s Stadium with the win.

No matter how it shakes out for the Huskers, the Foster Farms Bowl is going to be one odd duck of the game.

If the Huskers lose, they’ll notch their eighth loss in a season for the first time since the 1951 squad went 2-8. At least the 1-9 record of the 1957 Huskers will be “safe” for at least one more year.

If the Huskers win tonight, especially if it’s by a convincing margin, they’ll head into the off-season with a nice boost for 2016 but there will still be that unshakable aftertaste of a team that clearly didn’t live up to its potential.

Even still, sleeping through class and acing the final exam is a much better way to go out.

Let’s turn this D minus of a season into a D+. GBR.

UCLA BRUIN
Mark it, Donnie. The Huskers will win 31-17.

BONUS CONTENT

A stat to impress your friends with: Tommy Armstrong is no longer the FBS interception leader. That honor currently belongs to Virginia’s Matt Johns who has 17 to Tommy’s paltry 16.

UCLA field trip: In case you missed it, I took a field trip to UCLA to see if anyone would notice a Husker fan roaming the campus.

I’m glad to say I didn’t get beat up, except for a few self-inflicted bumps and bruises and I even made some new friends.

UCLA BRUIN BEAR
Claws out Bruins!

BRUIN BEAR EATS A CHILD
While my new little buddy pretended to get eaten by the Bruin Bear, his dad and I had a good chat about Mike Riley. His take is that the guy is a great coach but just flat out cursed with bad luck dating back to his days with Chargers. My new little buddy and his dad were up from San Diego to visit Mattel Children’s Hospital and celebrate the 7th anniversary of the heart transplant he had at age 2. If you haven’t already, become an organ donor and help make a difference.

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Sorry, Northwestern. It’s Time For a Vintage Husker Ass Whoopin’.

Northwestern, you had a good three year run as a brainy thorn in Nebraska’s side but know this: last year’s 38-17 throttling on your home turf was just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s high time you accept the fact that your rightful place is down in the dregs of the Big Ten as the purple clad Wildcat that gets an annual beat down from the Big Red.

Christian Peter Huskers
It was really nice of the Big Ten to ensure that the Huskers would still be able to pummel some purple every year just like the good ol’ days of the Big 8/12.

Speaking of good ol’ days, the 1995 Husker squad, aka the greatest college football team in the known universe will be in attendance to celebrate the fact that 20 years have passed since they graced us with their presence on the gridiron. Just the fact that they’re assembled within the same area code as Memorial Stadium is good for at least two bonus touchdowns for the Huskers.

Tommie FrazierThe over/under for the number crab legs Tommie Frazier would take down was set at 62, as in 62-24. Don’t ever think Vegas doesn’t have a sense of humor.

With Mike Riley finally taking down his first legit opponent as head coach of the Huskers last Saturday, he got his first taste of Big Ten blood just like C. Thomas Howell in Red Dawn.

And if that wasn’t enough, we have it on semi-good authority that Coach Riley is ditching his Mister Rogers persona like a prom night dumpster baby for something with a little more attitude thanks to the help of Killer Mike from Run the Jewels.

Killer Mike and Mike Riley
Killer Mike and his new protege Killer Mike Junior.

In other words, you’re doomed, Northwestern.

Granted, you little Wildcats had a nice win against Stanford in the Nerd Bowl and looked pretty impressive blanking Minnesota but you’re coming in to Lincoln just when things are starting to click for the Huskers. The offense is starting to remember what it’s capable of and while the Blackshirts might still be more than a little shaky defending the pass, they at least remembered they too can catch passes and score touchdowns of their own.

And if that wasn’t enough bad news, Northwestern, one of your dozen or so loyal fans had to go make a video that proves Evanston truly is the place where Ivy League rejects find refuge.

Northwestern should really be thankful that Andy Janovich and Jack Gangwish probably haven’t seen this.

That revisionist history lesson was so much worse than Dick Cheney‘s recollection of Iraq War Numero Dos that we were forced to reply via the Twitter just to set the record straight on Cabbage Patch Kids and parachute pants. Seriously, WTF?

Look for Tommy Armstrong to run wild against Northwestern like it’s 2014 all over again.

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Breaking Down the Bankshirts’ Worst Play

What’s up, reader(s)? Miss us? Don’t worry, this humble little slice of the Husker internet didn’t decide to run for cover now that Big Ten play is here.

This week got kind of turned upside down due to attending an AC/DC concert Monday night at Dodger Stadium. As hard as they tried (thanks for ears that are still ringing and a two day hangover) Angus Young and company could not blast the memory of one particularly horrific play the Bankshirts made against Southern Miss out of my head.

Starting with that darn Hail Mary (or Hail Joseph Smith), the age of the Bankshirts has been maligned to the point that the names Mark Banker and Kevin Cosgrove are starting to appear together in pieces by Brandon Cavanaugh and Steve Sipple which is never a good sign.

So, without further ado, the Bankshirts’ play that sticks in my craw more than any other happened with 9:30 left to play and the Huskers comfortably leading 36 – 21. Southern Miss was starting a drive at their own 25 yard line and quarterback Nick Mullens threw a short pass to running back Ito Smith as he sneaked his way out of the backfield. It was a nice safe choice to start a drive that was sure to gain a nice little chunk of yardage towards another first down.

Except for the fact that it netted 39 yards and more missed tackles than I have the ability to count.

Here’s how it started…

BustedPlay1

Freedom Akinmoladun
and Greg McMullen rush Mullens like they’re trying to scare off a bear. Mullens flings the ball off to Ito who’s all alone.

BustedPlay2

Have no fear, Nate Gerry is there to limit Ito’s catch to a only a five yard gain. Oops.

BustedPlay3

Over on the offensive side of the ball, Keith Williams‘ number one rule for his receivers is to make the first defender miss. Surely that philosophy can’t be a universal phenomenon so we’ll give Gerry a pass because Chris Jones is there to try to back him up.  And because football is a team sport, Mohamed Barry adds a whiff of his own while Dedrick Young gets blocked all the way out to Waverly.

BustedPlay4

From here, the Bankshirts kick in a ferocious level of pursuit not seen since that one time Jack Hoffman scored a touchdown.

BustedPlay5

Luckily, Byerson Cockrell remembers they’re playing a game that counts and swoops in with a potential touchdown saving tackle. Southern Miss would go on to score 8 plays later after Josh Kalu was unjustly charged with a pass interference call the negated his interception at the goal line. On the upside, three and a half minutes were chewed off the clock.

Will things get better for the Bankshirts against Illinois on Saturday?

Hard to say but it will also be hard to do much worse than this complete and total meltdown.

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Sunday Morning Hot Takes: Southern Miss Edition

Pop quiz: What’s the best part of a Sunday?

There’s no chance of a Husker football game to stress you out.

The game should have been a cakewalk but Southern Miss just had to add itself to the ever-growing list of teams that have given Husker Nation heart attacks the season. The Huskers came out strong before devolving back to what was on the field for the first three quarters against Miami last week. Like the Millennium Falcon, the Big Red somehow found a way to hold together and get the win.

On with the hot takes.

Mike Riley’s Balloon Watch: A win is a win but the way Southern Miss kept it interesting until the last damn second means Mike’s balloon holds steady for another week at partially deflated.

MikeRiley Sad Balloon

Offense: It’s getting closer to having an identity even if that identity could best be described as make some spectacular plays to get to the red zone only to kick a field goal after stalling out. One of these days it will click more than it sputters and it will be a lot of fun to watch.

Defense: Hey…  the Bankshirts™ got the sack when it mattered the absolute most and spared us the drama of finding out if the Huskers figured out how to stop the Hail Mary. That secondary tho… lawn chairs randomly placed around the field could do a better job of defending the pass.

Andy JanovichCareer stats entering today’s game: 3 rushes for 6 yards, 3 receptions for 29 yards. Against Southern Miss: 5 rushes for 68 yards, 1 reception for 53. It’s a bummer that he’s already a senior but maybe it’s a good thing that Dirk’s days of being able to make analogies that even we think are bat shit crazy are already numbered.

Alex LewisThe officials called his number only once today. Good job, buddy!

The Big Red Cobcast: The only best part about sparsely attended 9am games is that they give you a chance to easily shoot the breeze with your fellow members of Husker Nation since there isn’t a packed room of fans shouting over each other. The vibe of a morning game is almost like a Husker Study Hall where the cool teacher lets you talk as long as you don’t get too rowdy. For Southern Miss, that meant 3 quarters of cracking jokes with Pat and Ryan from the Big Red Cobcast and 1 quarter yelling at the nearest TV. If you don’t already subscribe, the Cobcast is a must listen for any Husker fan.

NUMBERS TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS WITH

45-7: Our overly bold score prediction. In our defense, we were on pace to be close until Southern Miss realized the Huskers have no pass defense.

65.7: Tommy Armstrong’s completion percentage (23/35). The drops that plagued Husker receivers last week against Miami were mostly gone but Cethan Carter seemed to be running the wrong way every time the ball was thrown to his ZIP code. (Even Brandon Cavanaugh agrees so we must be onto something.)

23: Our good buddy Brent called the over/under on attendees to our watch site at 22.5. At kickoff there were 29 die hard Husker fans who rallied for the 9am start time thanks to a group visiting from Columbus. (Kudos to them for packing Husker gear.) When they bolted at halftime, that left exactly 23 of us to sweat it out to the final second.

12: The Huskers had 12 penalties totaling 98 free yards but none were for having 12 men on the field which is a pleasant surprise. The season total for that bonehead move remains at three.

6: The number of miles Bo Pelini will be from the Nebraska border next Saturday when his Youngstown State Penguins travel to the land of great faces and great places to take on the University of South Dakota Coyotes, a team he faced in Lincoln just two years ago. Maybe you remember it the day Tommy Armstrong made his first career start in place of a hobbled T-Magic?

2-2 Along with the Huskers, these other brand name teams are also sitting at a double deuce: Oregon, Oregon State, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, BYU, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington.

1: The number of times this season the Huskers have had a 100 yard rusher. Seriously. We even looked it up.  Terrell Newby’s  198 yard day against South Alabama is the only time this season a Husker has rushed for over 100 yards. That day seven different Huskers toted the rock for 258 yards. Against Southern Miss the Big Red racked up 242 yards split between eight different ball carriers with Newby leading the way with 76. It’s great that Langsdorf is spreading the wealth but one of these days a hoss running back needs to emerge from the pack.

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Behind The Scenes At The Boneyard Bash

With just two weeks before football season and countless lost freshmen looking for something to do and people to meet, there seemed to be only one solution to everyone’s problems: open practice at Memorial Stadium at the first-ever Boneyard Bash.

Memorial Stadium
It’s good to be back. Soon, this place will be rocking.

Around 1:45  Saturday afternoon, I arrived at Memorial Stadium with a handful of the sport directors for The Iron N. Granted, I have no responsibilities when it comes to my minimal membership in the club, but much like all of the new freshmen on campus, I refuse to go to an event alone.

While we set up the tables of free t-shirts and koozies inside, a line of students quickly formed outside of Gate 24. Thirty minutes later, a flood of over 1,500 students poured in to the stadium. From wide-eyed freshmen wearing their lanyards around their necks to seniors claiming front row seats that were rightfully theirs, there was a good mix of different students in attendance.

Line of Students
Moments after this photo was taken, I was nearly trampled by the rush. Hope you enjoy it.

Suddenly caught in front of a Pamplona bull run of students, all I could imagine was how this was (almost) exactly how Mufasa died in The Lion King. (Editor’s note: Spoiler Alert!) I retreated back to my usual game day seat in the front row of the East Stadium student section and watched the never ending sea of students fill over two entire sections of seats.

The Boneyard Crowd
Obligatory photo of the ‘No Photos’ warning while students piled into the hallowed midfield seats.

Once the crowd had settled in, Mike Riley (looking sharp in a Boneyard t-shirt) spoke with students. I was able to overhear more than a few people mention how “adorable” he was, which is probably the polar opposite of any word students had used to describe Bo in previous seasons.

Mike Riley Addresses The Boneyard
Head Coach Mike Riley addresses the crowd before getting the Boneyard Bash started.

The players were out on the field as De’Mornay Pierson-El whipped some donuts on the sideline in his cart. Needless to say, I think he’s doing pretty well after his surgery.

Throughout the scrimmage, prizes such as gift cards and video game consoles were being given away to numerous students who checked in to the event on The Iron N Rewards app. The new app allows students to check in at various events to earn points to go towards different prizes. Despite currently sharing the first place title (not to brag), I didn’t win any of the giveaways. I’d also just like to take a moment to let the other seven students currently in first place know that they’re going down and I will win the free textbooks. Not that I’m competitive or anything.

Unfortunately since the event was still technically a practice, no photos or videos were allowed. I’m sure in that same nature they wouldn’t be too crazy about going into detail on what I saw on the field, and after seeing Bo’s interactions with the media, I’d rather try to stay on the coaches’ good sides. But I will say that with what I saw, I have high hopes for this season.

Editor’s Note: If the action on the field during the Boneyard Bash was anywhere close to the action in this Boneyard Bash, the Huskers might just be alright. Now the question is, which Blackshirt is going to step up and claim Grave Digger as a nickname?

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Rickey Thenarse Arrested on Burglary Charges (Again)

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that former Husker safety Rickey Thenarse has been arrested on burglary charges.

RICKEY-THENARSE-MUGSHOT
Rickey Thenarse via Mugshots.com

A recruit of Bill Callahan, Thenarse was briefly a member of the Seattle Seahawks  and apparently a grad assistant at Nevada before spiraling into a descent of poorly thought out petty theft.

Thenarse’s most recent arrest stems from an incident on January 14 in which a computer and several DVDs were reported stolen. (This is not to be confused with another bumbled burglary on January 24. )

WTF, who still even has DVDs? And who thinks they’d be a valuable commodity on the black market in 2015?

We know the answer to the second question would be Rickey Thenarse.

At least he didn’t waste valuable time rummaging through old shoe boxes on a quest to find a hidden collection of Cassingles buried like it was the Ark of the Covenant.

Then again, those would probably be worth more on eBay than DVDs at a Pawn Shop.

And this is all speculation, but our official Big Red Fury Magic 8-Ball says all signs point to Thenarse not being enough of a criminal mastermind to wipe the victim’s computer before attempting to exchange it for some valuable loot.

It’s not hard to imagine how that one played out.

“Hi, is this (anonymous victim)?”

“OK, great. This is Bill down at Capital City Pawn. Some big guy just returned your computer to us for some reason. We’re open till 6 if you want to pick it up tonight. Otherwise, we’ll reopen tomorrow at 9.”

Here’s the deal, Rickey. You’ve been rung up three times in four months dating back to November’s petty theft charge. (Btdubs, good job not getting arrested over the holidays.)

In all seriousness, don’t you think it might be time for a change of course? A new plan of action?

I’m not exactly a career counselor or a life coach but I did stand in line behind Tony Robbins at a Coffee Bean once so I feel I’m qualified to suggest that instead of strong arm robbing people of their Zoolander DVDs, why don’t you try gently knocking on the door of the next house you think about robbing?

Then, when it opens, say “Hi, I’m former Husker Rickey Thenarse. Maybe you remember me doing this on Tom Osborne Field?” (This is where you’d throw the bones for added flair.) “I’m a little hard up for cash right now and was wondering if you’d have any Husker items you’d like me to sign. Or, if I’m interrupting dinner, maybe I could join you and tell you some stories?  Heck, I’ll even wash the dishes when we’re done.”

Yes, Rickey. I know that sounds embarrassing but it can’t be any worse than what you’ve already done.

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Macho Man Randy Sackage – A Photo Tribute

As the storied career of Macho Man Randy Sackage draws to a close at Nebraska, we look back at some of Randy’s finest moments.

In other words, we got blasted on Rumple Minz and put our cave man level Photoshop skills to work and created a photo gallery to document the man, the myth, the legend that is Macho Man Randy Sackage.

Macho Man Randy Sackage 1

Macho Man Randy Sackage 2

Macho Man Randy Sackage 3

Macho Man Randy Sackage 4

Macho Man Randy Sackage 5

MACHO MAN RANDY SACKAGE 6

MACHO MAN RANDY SACKAGE 7

MACHO MAN RANDY SACKAGE 8

MACHO MAN RANDY SACKAGE 9

MACHO MAN RANDY SACKAGE 10

Thanks for the bone crushing memories, Macho Man Randy Sackage.

Please come back next year.

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Nebraska vs Miami: Breaking Down the Play of the Game

Before we turn our focus to Nebraska’s Big Ten opener with Illinois, let’s take one final look at the Miami game – specifically the play that was the final nail in Hurricanes’ coffin.

It was a thing of Blackshirt beauty and was no accident.

The Huskers settled for a field goal to go up by 10 with nine minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. Miami got the ball back starting from their own 25. Four plays and barely two minutes later, they were at the Nebraska 35 but had stalled out.

Looking down the barrel an absolutely crucial 4th and 4, Nebraska called time out and Coach Papuchis “saw something” and called for true freshman Josh Kalu to drop into zone coverage.

What Igor signaled was a classic example of pattern matching.

(Quick plug time: If you really want to learn about what makes a defense tick, Chris Brown‘s Essential Smart Football is the best $7.49 you will ever spend.)

Now back to the play at hand. It’s 4th and 4 at the Nebraska 35. The Huskers had finally found an answer for Hurricanes’ screen passes and had all but shut down running back Duke Johnson. The most appealing option left for Miami would be a pass along the sideline to one of their hoss receivers. This is a well they dipped into throughout the night with much success.

As Nebraska lines up for the snap, notice how deep Nate Gerry is playing.

IMG_9854

This is all just  a ruse. As Miami’s Brad Kaaya begins his snap count, Gerry creeps towards the line of scrimmage but he’s not blitzing.

Nebraska-Interception-1
Notice how Gerry comes set at the exact moment Kaaya receives the snap.

The play begins and Kalu starts shuffling back to cover Miami’s slot receiver until he breaks to the inside. Instantly, Kalu hands him off to Gerry who is positioned perfectly to continue covering the receiver.

Nebraska-Interception-2
Seamlessly “turning over” a receiver to another defender is a key element of pattern matching.

Kaaya releases the ball under the assumption that he’s throwing into one-on-one coverage, a situation where Miami’s receiving corps dominated the entire game- until Josh Kalu seemingly appears out of nowhere and intercepts the ball so effortlessly you’d think it was thrown to him on purpose.

Nebraksa-Interception-3
This pass had 1st down written all over it until Josh Kalu said otherwise.

Among all the big time plays Nebraska made Saturday night, this one was the biggest. A perfect, designed outcome in a clutch situation. Kalu’s grand entrance on the Blackshirt stage was reminiscent of an unknown kid by the name of Eric Hagg being turned loose at the end of the 2009 Gator Bowl and coming up huge with a pass break up and a sack when Clemson was looking at a 1st and ballgame from the Nebraska 10 yard line.

While the Husker peanut gallery would love a big play every time the Blackshirts are on the field, the years have shown Pelini doesn’t reach for the ace in the hole until his team is right on the edge of falling into one.

Think of it as the Blackshirt  version of Hulking up.

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