Category Archives: Nebraska Big 10

Trashing-Talking Tales from the Huskers

BY TODD NEELEY

There’s nothing better than offensive linemen who trash talk.

At Nebraska’s weekly football press conference in Lincoln Monday senior offensive tackle Jermarcus “Yoshi” Hardrick talked about the choice words going back and forth between Nebraska’s offense and Washington’s defense in Lincoln Saturday.

Nebraska beat the Huskies 51-38, on the heels of a power running game and 31 second-half points.

Anyway, check out what Yoshi had to say about the play of guard Seung Hoon Choi in his first start for the Huskers, near the bottom of this transcript:

On what he knows about Spencer and Jake Long

“I think they come from a real close family. They’re very close to each other. They started to show their true selves to the team. They like to have fun. They work very hard. I like Spencer a whole lot. He’s very physical. A lot of people know a lot about Spencer. He’s a walk-on that’s starting. I think he’s worked very hard to get to where he got. Jake is a very physical tight end. He’s big. I think he’s going to be good in the long run.”

On if he saw Spencer coming up the depth chart

“I talked to him in the spring. I told him, ‘you keep working and I think I’ll see you up there with us playing on Saturdays.’ I think he just took it and ran with it. When he got the
opportunity to run with the ones he never looked back, and now he’s started
three straight games.”

On the biggest difference with the line last week

“I think we rotated a lot of bodies in. We had a lot of fresh legs. I think we subbed every two series. We didn’t get a chance to get tired. We ran a lot of no-huddle and we wore them
down. When they got tired we just went fast and faster. I think that was (Strength)Coach (James) Dobson’s preaches us: not getting tired is going to help us get through the season.”

On if he likes the subs or would rather be on the field every play

“I think all of us would rather be in there the whole game. If helping the team means keeping a lot of fresh legs in there. All of us play different styles. We rotate four tackles and three guards. Just keeps a different attack coming in and fresh legs. It’s going to help us down the road and keep a lot of people fresh.”

On how his hand is doing

“Hand’s great. I think I get the stitches out this week. I’ve played with it. I haven’t missed a day of practice, and I’m going to practice this week.”

On if that’s the most painful thing he’s gone through

“No. Not at all. Probably when I broke my hand the first time. This is just stitches.”

On how hard it’s been for Alfonzo Dennard to be out the first three games

“I know on the sideline when I talk to him and stuff, I can just see it in his eyes that he wants to be out there. He kept running past me in the game and playing a lot of jokes on me like he was getting ready to go in and things like that. I think he’s just been waiting on to just get a chance to be back. Every day he talks to me and says, ‘I can’t wait to put a receiver out of bounds.’ He’s just ready to bring the physical back and return the Blackshirts, I guess.”

On focusing on Wyoming

“I just think we have to do something different that hasn’t been done here. Just competing every day. Taking a different outlook on things. We got to do something different if we want something different. We just have to look at it as getting better every day and every game and I think that’s what we’re going to do.”

On if he could see center Mike Caputo focused before the Washington game

“I saw a different Caputo. I know every day in meetings Coach (Barney) Cotton made a lot of jokes. He made a lot of jokes about the Holiday Bowl that Caputo didn’t play very well against
a big nose guard. I think that was very personal. He didn’t talk a lot in practice this week. He had a chip on his shoulder. I texted him right before the game and we text like three or four texts apiece. I just felt during the texts he was ready to play. I think like the third or fourth play of the game I saw 74 lying back by the linebackers. He just looked at me, and I figured it
was going to be a good game.”

On how it feels to have the offense shine

“I know there were a lot of jokes going around last year that we didn’t hold up to good as a team. The defense was always talking about the slack they had to pick up for us. I just think we can throw jokes back now, but I don’t know, we just got to keep winning as a team. I just think they’re struggling right now, but it’s going to get better. We’re still young on D. Very young on D. Playing a lot of freshmen and sophomore corners. All we can do is get better.”

On if he felt the offense tested the defense in the offseason more than previous years

“I felt in the spring, when the new offense came in, we were way more aggressive with the defense. We’d come off, we’d run side to side, we’d run north to south. We can go five wide and we can just do a lot and they couldn’t tell what we were doing. I felt that the offense had to be better if we could finally move the ball on the defense because usually at practice the defense is just like a shut down and we don’t get nothing.”

On Seung Hoon Choi’s level of confidence in the huddle and on his performance

“I think it was probably the funniest game I’ve ever played. I think I heard him talking like every
play. Just saying something like, ‘come on boy, what are you going to do now? Are you going to call me a fat Asian again?’ Him and 74 they were going at it, they were talking the whole game. It was so funny. I didn’t know what to do. Every time we heard somebody he was like ‘uhh uhh uhh uhhh’ just making a lot of noise. He texted right before the game. The O-line they call me Yogodi. It’s just a joke. He texted me right before the game saying, ‘Yogodi, I’m ready to go.’ I texted him back, ‘it’s tomorrow’. I think he was just very amped just to play.”

On if anybody told him to quiet down

“No. Actually, I joined him a couple times. We had a little fun out there. It’s all about having fun. We’d come to the sideline and talk about what we said to somebody and what they said to us and what we were going to say when we went back out there and things like that.”

On if Washington kept their reputation on being a team that likes to talk

“Oh yes. 74, 11, 28 a couple of numbers I know that, it doesn’t matter what was going on in the play, they were just calling my number out a couple of times. I think it was 92 who was on Choi a couple times. They were just going back and forth. Choi, I didn’t know he talked that much. Every play when we’d break the huddle he just kept saying stuff, “come on boy, come on, come one,’ He’d talk very funny. I don’t know. It was just different.”

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Playing Freshman at Nebraska Could Signal Trouble, or Solid Recruiting

BY TODD NEELEY

Is it just me or is there a renewed sense of urgency for Nebraska football?

The Huskers’ struggles on offense in 2010 have been well-documented. Nebraska arguably could have won two Big 12 titles in consecutive seasons had NU been even remotely productive in moving the ball.

The overarching theme coming out of Nebraska fall camp has been a youth movement across the board. Taylor Martinez is the only veteran at quarterback, and he’s just a redshirt sophomore. Behind junior Rex Burkhead at I back is a stable of freshman running backs in Aaron Green, Braylon Heard and Ameer Abdullah. At wide receiver freshmen Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner are likely to play a lot, and now this from the Lincoln Journal Star Friday.

Freshman offensive lineman Tyler Moore is in the hunt to start at tackle, http://dld.bz/amYxe. This is significant for two reasons. First, the O line was a penalty machine in 2010, and became famous for melting down at inopportune times. Second, Nebraska couldn’t consistently pound the ball at teams when it needed to last season.

Moore isn’t the only young lineman to enter the discussion this fall. Freshman Jake Cotton has turned heads as well. At the least Nebraska will be playing more freshmen up front, and we could see a couple of them starting.

Although Bo Pelini has said he’s hesitant to play freshmen, his willingness to put the best guy on the field at any position, regardless of class, points to a coaching staff trying to push all the buttons it can to get the offense rolling again.

We’ll see if it works.

Playing freshmen comes with its fair share of risk. Most young guys are not ready for Division I football. So either Nebraska really has been masterful in its recruiting efforts in the past few seasons, or the offense still is full of question marks.

I tend to think the latter is the most likely scenario.

Huskers Hope to Lean on Reed in Passing Game

The Nebraska football team continued two-a-day sessions of fall camp with a two-hour practice inside the Hawks Championship Center on Monday morning. Offensive Coordinator Tim Beck said the team is practicing hard as it starts another week of fall camp and prepare for a second practice Monday afternoon.

“Guys are playing hard,” Beck said. “I’m really pleased with the effort offensively. We’re obviously still making mistakes; a young football team is going to do that. We’ll keep coaching them hard and keep demanding perfection from them. I think they understand that. They’re working hard and I like what I see so far from them as a group.”

The Huskers will look to Kyler Reed as playmaker on the Husker offense in his junior year. At 6-3 and 230-pounds, Reed has great speed, which adds an explosive element to NU’s tight end corps.

“Kyler has been doing very well,” Beck said. “He has picked up a lot from where he left off (in the spring). He is working hard on continuing to improve his blocking and certainly is a weapon in the passing game. I’ve been really pleased with what Kyler is doing so far.”

Beck spoke about where the offense is now and where he is looking for it to go in the coming weeks of fall camp.

“I’m pleased, we’re still a young football team,” Beck said. “We have a lot of young players. You’re playing with a lot of guys who are still learning the game of football and learning our offense. It’s a combination of two things or some of those things for those guys. Again, I think the effort, the will and the want-to is there. The toughness has been there, I’ve been really pleased with that. We have to improve our consistency. We’re inconsistent at times and we have to keep being disciplined.”

The Huskers will await the announcement this evening from incoming freshman Bubba Starling, who will decide between signing with the Kansas City Royals or playing at Nebraska.

“To be honest, it is between him and his family,” Beck said. “We’re supporting whatever he does. He is such a great young man and comes from a great family. Whatever he does, we’re behind him all the way.”

Nebraska returns to the practice field this afternoon for its second two-a-day workout of camp.

Huskers Filling out Future Football Schedules

The Nebraska football program has announced the addition of two home football games to future schedules, one each in the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

The Huskers will take on Arkansas State in Lincoln on Sept. 15, 2012. The matchup with Arkansas State is an addition to a non-conference schedule that also includes a Sept. 1 opener against Southern Miss in Lincoln and a Sept. 8 trip to UCLA. Nebraska has one remaining opening on its 2012 non-conference schedule.

Nebraska faced Arkansas State in 2009, with the Huskers winning 38-9 at Memorial Stadium in the only meeting between the two schools. The Red Wolves were 4-8 in 2010 with a schedule that included road trips to Auburn, Indiana and Navy. ASU competes in the Sun Belt Conference and has also had recent road trips to Iowa, Louisville, Texas A&M, Texas, Alabama and Tennessee.

The 2013 schedule is now complete with the addition of a non-conference contest with South Dakota State on Sept. 21, 2013. The game will be the second meeting at Memorial Stadium between the two schools, after Nebraska defeated the Jackrabbits, 17-3 last fall in Lincoln. The South Dakota State game was Nebraska’s closest non-conference matchup in the 2010 campaign.

South Dakota State finished the 2010 season with a 5-6 record, but won five of its final seven contests. SDSU finished the 2009 season with an 8-3 record and this fall the Jackrabbits will face another Big Ten foe when they travel to Illinois on Sept. 10.

The addition of South Dakota State completes a Nebraska 2013 non-conference schedule that also includes matchups with Wyoming (Aug. 31) and UCLA (Sept. 14) in Lincoln, and a road trip to Southern Miss (Sept. 7).

Nebraska Associate Athletic Director for Football Operations Jeff Jamrog said agreements in principle have been reached to fill the remaining 2012 opening and two openings on the 2014 schedule. Jamrog is hopeful those contracts will be completed in the next six to eight weeks, at which time they would be publicly announced.

Iowa, Nebraska Annual Football Game to Honor American Heroes

Some play for axes, little brown jugs and even a milk can. Others engage in “battles” and “holy wars.” Still more play for cups of a myriad of shapes and sizes and names.

On the last Friday of November in Lincoln, Neb., the football teams from the University of Iowa and the University of Nebraska will square off in the first of what is expected to be a long and competitive and entertaining rivalry between one of the Big Ten Conference’s original member institutions and the league’s most recent addition.

And, while the goal is the same as other “trophy games” – win the struggle on the gridiron and claim the trophy — the Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers won’t use their annual meeting to determine ownership of football bragging rights for the Corn Belt exclusively. Instead, they will use the national stage that will be Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium or Iowa’s historic Kinnick Stadium each autumn to honor citizens of their respective states who are, according to Webster’s Dictionary, “admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities,” and they intend to work with a partner to do a good deed of their own.

Representatives of the two institutions unveiled their plan for “The Heroes Game” Friday morning, hours before the Big Ten Conference celebrated the start of its 116th season of football — the first which includes the Cornhuskers as a member institution of the nation’s oldest and grandest intercollegiate athletics conference.

The institutions plan to honor one citizen of Iowa and one citizen of Nebraska prior to each Heroes Game for their extraordinary act. These heroes will be nominated by friends, neighbors or co-workers and will be guests of the two teams at the game where they will be honored on-field during game day. Each will also have their name and hometown etched on the to-be-created Heroes Game trophy.

“We believe that the people of Iowa and the people of Nebraska are very much alike in many ways. Both believe in an honest day’s work, the importance of community and family, and both love college football and their football heroes. We also know there are citizens of our states doing exceptional things every day and we think they are deserving of some recognition and we look forward to using this game to do that,” said Tom Osborne, director of athletics at the University of Nebraska.

The first “Heroes Game” is still months away. It will be played the day after Thanksgiving – Friday, Nov. 25. However, that event is already larger than life for the fans of the two teams. UI and NU officials are counting on that interest to drive another piece of “The Heroes Game” puzzle: The opportunity to use the “Heroes Game” to raise funds for a non-profit organization in each state. The beneficiary of the efforts initiated in support of the first two “Heroes Games” will be the Iowa and Nebraska chapters of the American Red Cross.

“There’s little doubt that the football game between Iowa and Nebraska will have the full attention of our fans and fans across the country. In fact, in our state it’s been a topic of significant discussion for our fans since the official announcement of the expansion of the Big Ten last year. So, to have the opportunity to work with our friends at Hy-Vee and a new friends at Nebraska to channel that energy into support for something as deserving as the American Red Cross efforts is exciting,” said Gary Barta, the UI’s director of athletics, who also noted the prominent role the American Red Cross is playing as the states of Iowa and Nebraska deal with the flooding caused by the swollen Missouri River.

As the title sponsor of the “Heroes Game,” the institutions will look to the leadership of Hy-Vee, one of the nation’s top 20 supermarket chains and top 50 private companies in the United States, to spearhead the fund-raising efforts that will be staged annually and to take a lead role in creating activities that bring the event to life across the two states.

And, Hy-Vee is uniquely positioned to help the UI and NU achieve their goals. The company boasts annual sales of more than $7 billion and 233 locations throughout the Midwest, including more than 160 locations in Iowa and Nebraska. It also has a wealth of sports marketing experience with a resume that includes partnerships with NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and MLB’s Kansas City Royals, in addition to the staging of the annual Hy-Vee Triathalon.

“With the ‘Hy-Vee Heroes’ game, we have a truly unique opportunity to not only provide support for two legendary football programs but also an event we believe will from year one a ‘classic’ post-Thanksgiving rivalry game. We also have the opportunity to use this annual event to recognize some incredible people, doing incredible good in Iowa and Nebraska,” said Randy Edeker, president of Hy-Vee, who noted that Hy-Vee employees are excited about partnering with the American Red Cross and providing support for all the great work they do. The Heroes Game is the 14th “trophy game” in the history of the Big Ten Conference.

The institutions will work with their multi-media partners – Hawkeye Sports Properties, a property of Learfield Sports, and Husker IMG Sports Marketing – to expand support of the event and of the non-profit organization that will benefit annually from the efforts of everyone involved.

Pelini Meets Big Ten Media in Chicago

Head Coach Bo Pelini spoke with members of the media for 15 minutes on Thursday during the first session of the Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago. Pelini will field more questions in a less formal session on Friday, while Husker players Rex Burkhead, Jared Crick and Lavonte David will also meet with the media.

On Thursday, Pelini touched on a variety of topics, including the progression of quarterback Taylor Martinez, his teams transition into the Big Ten and the outlook for this year’s team.

Huskers.com will have additional content from the first day of Big Ten Football Media Days later this evening, including additional video coverage of the event.

Bo Pelini Press Conference
Big Ten Media Days
Chicago, Ill.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Transcript courtesy of the Big Ten Conference (BigTen.org)

THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Coach Bo Pelini from Nebraska. We’ll have coach make an opening statement and then open the floor to questions.

COACH PELINI: We’re looking forward to the upcoming season. It’s great to be here today. I brought with me Rex Burkhead, our running back, Lavonte David, and Jared Crick, the players representing us today.

We’re excited. We’re excited about the season. We’re opening up here practicing in a little over a week. We’ve had a great off-season. We’ve needed it. We required a lot of work because of obviously our first year coming into the Big Ten. We basically had 11 new opponents on our schedule which creates a little bit of a challenge for our football team and our kids.

But our kids are excited. It’s going to be an honor to be a part of this conference, to be a part of the tradition, all the things that the Big Ten represents, the tremendous institutions we’re going to be joining in the conference and playing against this year and into the future. We’re looking forward to that.

It’s great to be here at our first Big Ten Media Day.

THE MODERATOR: Time for questions.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the progress of Taylor Martinez over the summer and early fall, and the depth at quarterback?

COACH PELINI: We feel really good about where Taylor is. He’s had a great off-season. He had a tremendous spring. He’s had a phenomenal summer. I think he’s engaged as a leader. I think he’s really taken it upon himself to grow in that area. I think he’s becoming a tremendous leader on our football team, holding his teammates accountable, holding himself accountable. I think he’s poised to have a great year.

We feel great where we are at the quarterback position. We have a young man who stepped out in the spring as a backup in Brion Carnes. Cody Green choosing to leave, he made a decision that he thought was best for him and his future. We decided to back him on that. We wish him the best of luck.

With Brion, we have Ron Kellogg, Bubba Starling. You all know he’s a baseball kid, somebody who has a tough decision that he’s going to be facing here in the coming weeks. We’ll see how that all plays out. We brought another walk-on in.

We feel good about where the depth is. You can never have too many, we all know that. But we feel real good about the quality of our players and the type of kids we have playing the quarterback position for us. We’re real excited about it.

I mentioned the walk-on that we have, we have Joe Broekemeier, we now have his younger brother (Tyson) coming in and we think he’s going to be a nice addition so we’re excited about it.

Q. As you said, you have nothing but new teams on the schedule this year. Basically zero familiarity with the teams you play. How do you prepare for them? Do you watch tape?

COACH PELINI: Yeah, we prepare like we do any other time. We always find the new teams on our schedule. We put a little bit more time into those. Obviously we have 11 of them this year. That required a lot more time. It creates a greater challenge for us.

But at the end of the day, I feel great about the preparation we’ve had. That started for me way back in February, our staff. We put a lot of work in. we feel good about where we are in that process. I think it will continue right up until we kick it off next week.

But we’ve got a lot accomplished in this off-season and I think we’re ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

Q. Given your program’s style of play, how do you feel the Big Ten is a better fit for Nebraska than the Big 12?

COACH PELINI: I don’t know if it’s about style of play or anything else. We feel like we can line up and play against anybody in the country. We’re going to do our thing. We’re going to play our way. Obviously you have to make some adjustments according to who you’re playing in a particular week. But we feel like our style, the type of kids we recruit, the type of football team we put on the field can fit into any conference.

Is the style of play a little bit different? In some ways yes, in some ways no. Football is football. You’re going to win by the basics, the fundamentals. If you’re good at those things, you’re going to win football games, no matter who you’re playing, no matter what conference you’re in.

I do understand that in this conference there are going to be quality athletes, quality coaching. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us.

Q. You have two players on the defensive side of the ball. With your defense, do you feel this unit could be potentially as good a defensive unit as you’ve had the opportunity to coach?

COACH PELINI: Well, we’ll see. We have a good group coming back. Lavonte and Jared Crick. Alfonzo Dennard, I think is as good a corner as there is in the country. I think we have depth that we haven’t quite had up until now.

There’s a lot of things that play into that. I’ve been really fortunate to be around some defenses that have been pretty stout, accomplished some great things. Do we have the opportunity to do that? Yeah. But it’s going to come through a lot of hard work and a level of commitment that allows our football team to get better on a daily basis.

There’s a lot of things that make you become good. It’s not just talent. It’s about character, it’s about leadership, it’s about chemistry, all those things. Ultimately coming with your lunch pail every day and going to work. I think if we do that, we have the opportunity to be pretty formidable on that side of the football.

Q. You said in some ways your style of play will be a little different. Can you elaborate?

COACH PELINI: I’m not quite sure that’s what I meant. I mean, we’re going to play against some teams where the style might be a little bit different than we’ve seen in the Big 12. The style of play might be a little bit different.

We’re going to do what we do and we’re going to do it well. We’re not really going to adapt what we do to the conference. We’re going to hopefully make the conference adapt to what we do.

Certain things have allowed us to have success on the defensive side of the football. We’re going to do that. We’re changing some things offensively. There are going to be some things that are obviously the same, but there are going to be some things that are new wrinkles. You’ll see that as the season wears on.

But at the end of the day to be successful in this game, yeah, you have to adapt to your opponents. But you have to line up and do what you do well. You have to execute your football. If we continue to do that, we’ll be fine no matter who we’re lined up against.

Q. Whether it’s on the field or off, what would you say are the biggest differences you’ve noticed between the Big Ten and the Big 12?

COACH PELINI: Well, ask me that a year from now, I’ll have a better idea. Having not gone through the conference schedule yet, it’s hard to say.

I think the leadership in this conference is tremendous. I obviously played in this conference. I grew up in Big Ten country. I have a tremendous amount of respect for everything that the Big Ten represents.

So to me it’s an honor to be a part of this, to be a part of this conference. I think if you look at the tradition, the academic integrity, all the things that I believe our program at the University of Nebraska stands for, I think we fit right in with this conference. Tremendous football, tremendous athletics, a tremendous commitment to academics, and doing things the right way. That’s what this conference is all about. That’s what it represents.

So obviously I believe Nebraska is a tremendous fit.

Q. You’re getting quite an initiation in the Big Ten going up to Camp Randall, if not the most hostile environment in college football, then Ohio State at home. How do you prepare for something like that?

COACH PELINI: You just take care of yourselves. Obviously the schedule makers didn’t do us any favors in our first year, did they? We have a tough schedule ahead of us.

But you go week by week. We always talk about in our program the process. The process is going to lead us to have an opportunity to have success. If we continue to do that, we get better as a football team week in and week out, day to day, we’ll be just fine.

I played in Camp Randall before, I understand what Ohio State brings to the table, the rest of the teams that are going to be on our schedule. It’s not going to be easy. But we knew that going in.

Our football team understands the challenges that are going to be presented to them. I think they’re ready to meet those challenges. It’s going to be great.

You want to play against the best. You come to play college football to be challenged, trying to be the best you can be. You do that by playing against tremendous opponents, great coaching, a great environment. We’re going to have all that in year one. I think our football team is looking forward to it and our fan base is looking forward to it.

Q. You mentioned your commitment to doing things the right way. Are you bothered at all by some of the things that have occurred across the landscape the last few years?

COACH PELINI: Yeah, obviously. You don’t like things to happen. A couple things happen here and there, next thing you know the media, you all pick it up, you run with it. Sometimes I think you tend to exaggerate the difficulties that come up where that’s the minority. The majority is, you know, things don’t happen.

Let’s talk about the tremendous academic accomplishments that are happening across the country, the kids that are all doing things the right way. That’s what we should be focused on.

But, you know, let’s face it, we live in a day and age where something happens, it’s going to be on the airwaves for sometimes weeks, not just days, but weeks. So, you know, that becomes glorified instead of glorifying all the tremendously positive things going on in college athletics.

Let’s face it, I don’t live with my head in the sand. In this day and age, we all understand that’s the way it works. We’re under the microscope all the time. You have to be on guard all the time. You have to make sure you do things the right way so your institution doesn’t fall into that category.

Q. For the Big Ten fans that aren’t as familiar with the play of Taylor Martinez, tell us what makes him such a special player and what types of things you’d like to see him improve upon this fall?

COACH PELINI: I think Taylor has all the tools you look for. He’s very fast. He’s quick. He gets to top speed in a hurry. He can make all the throws. He can do really everything you ask a quarterback to do. He has good arm talent. He can throw the ball outside.

He has a long way to go in his decision making, just his knowledge of the game overall. With more experience, he’s going to continue to get better.
It was interesting because last year he had such tremendous success early on that everybody wanted to jump ahead. The pressure went up in a hurry. People were talking Heisman candidate, all those things. He was two, three games into his career, which was crazy. Then he got hurt later on in the year.

But the young man is committed. He’s tremendously talented. He has an opportunity to finish up his career. He has obviously three years left to play. He’s going to be a tremendous player not only this year, but I think he’ll continue to get better as the year goes on and throughout his career.
Just got to let him develop. That’s where we are right now. He is a much more prepared quarterback right now than he was a year from now. A year earlier he was just getting started. We had no idea what we even had going into camp. Now he has a year under his belt and I think he has the opportunity to take his game to another level.

But you got to earn it on a daily basis. He has a lot of talent around him, a lot of talent pushing him. So he’s going to have to be on his Ps and Qs to withstand all that competition.

Q. There’s always a culture to every conference. It might be geography, ethnicity, a variety of things. What do you see as being the Big Ten’s culture in that respect?

COACH PELINI: When I think of the Big Ten, I think of class, I think of tremendous tradition. Like I said, I think of integrity. I think that’s what the Big Ten has represented for a very long time.

You look at the academic accomplishments throughout the conference. To me it serves as a model, and it’s why I feel so great about us being a part of the conference. I think it serves as a model for the rest of college football. That’s why it’s such an honor for us as an institution for us to become a part of it.

I think maybe I’m a little bit biased because I said I played in this conference, grew up in the area. But I think you see the other conferences strive to be what the Big Ten is. That’s why it’s so great to be going into our first year.

Goodbye Iowa State, Nice Owning You

BY TODD NEELEY

Remember when Nebraska joined the Big Ten? The reaction coming from Big 12 schools was all over the chart.

Kansas officials practically begged NU not to leave. Boone Pickens (representing Oklahoma State’s view, I guess, since he practically owns the program in Stillwater), said “What’s Nebraska got to offer?”

And remember Iowa State fans?

Well they were critics of Nebraska making the move — a strange bit of criticism coming from a fan base that has watched its Cyclones flounder for so long– especially against Nebraska.

Iowa State has won just 18 games in the series since 1896. Yet, a preview story in the Des Moines Register Wednesday somewhat lamented the end of a “rivalry,” http://dld.bz/4YKF.

You’re kidding, right?

Let me explain something for those Iowa State fans who have for many years fantasized about this being a rivalry. A rivalry is when two teams of equal prominence battle nearly every season for a chance at a conference championship.

No, that’s definitely not Iowa State.

Sure, Nebraska will miss having that near-automatic win on its schedule every year. And wow, we’ll really miss traveling to the middle of Nowhere, Iowa, every other year to play in one of the few stadiums in college football where it just feels like a home game on the road.

Well, now it’s Iowa State week in 2010, and there’s every reason to believe Nebraska will get the last laugh in Ames in what has been a pathetic, waste-of-time series for NU.

You know things have been bad when ISU fans were totally geeked after the 9-7 “win” in Lincoln last year. Now they look at Paul Rhoads as if he’s the second coming of — oh this one will hurt — Dan McCarney. ISU should have never let that guy get away. Afterall, he represents the “glory days” of ISU football.

In 12 seasons McCarney won just 27 conference games and lost 68. Yet he’s one of the few Cyclone coaches that has had any level of success against Nebraska. He’s virtually a legend at Iowa State with that eye-popping, all-time record of 56-85.

I’ll remind ISU fans that the Cyclones did absolutely nothing to win that game in Lincoln last year.

Let’s put it in perspective: Nebraska gave you eight turnovers, including four inside the ISU 5-yard line, and was still a field goal away from winning.

Yeah, the win at Texas a couple of weeks ago was nice, but somewhat diminished the following week when the Shorthorns lost again at home to Baylor.

That’s a nice bit of smack ISU fans can throw Nebraska’s way — ‘we beat Texas and you didn’t.’ You can have that one, Iowa State, and you can have that 52-0 loss to Oklahoma and the 68-27 loss to Utah too — Oh ouch, those had to sting.

Let me translate: Playing Nebraska this week isn’t going to be any easier.

NU will show the Cyclones just why it’s time to leave the Big 12. These one-sided games have been cramping Nebraska’s style for quite some time.

It appears the Iowa State/Nebraska game this year is heading closer to a sell-out (for ISU fans who don’t quite understand what I’m describing: It’s the same thing that’s happened on football Saturdays in Lincoln for more than 300 consectutive games, where every game ticket is sold, but I digress.)

ISU fans’ silence will be deafening.

It is as simple as this — Nebraska may never again commit eight turnovers in game, and ISU won’t be able to keep up.

Iowa State’s defense gives up an average of 433 yards a game, including 194 rushing. Nebraska comes in with the sixth-best rushing offense in the country.

In looking at the ISU offense it’s difficult to see how it can move the ball consistently against Nebraska. The Cyclones are 75th in total offense in the country, including 90th in passing offense and 40th in rushing offense.

Alexander Robinson is a good back who averages about 80 yards rushing, but is the only threat Iowa State has. Let’s see, where have we seen this before? Oh yeah, Kansas State had only Daniel Thomas and lost 48-13 at home to Nebraska. ISU quarterback Austin Arnaud has no receivers who can come remotely close to testing the Nebraska secondary.

From what Nebraska coaches have said it will be a game-time decision on whether Taylor Martinez starts at quarterback, as he continues to recover from an ankle injury suffered against Missouri last week. I think there’s a 50-50 chance Nebraska starts Zac Lee in his place, with the idea that Martinez could come off the bench if he’s needed.

Chances are Nebraska won’t need Martinez, and likely will ride running backs Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead to what should be an easy win.

Goodbye Iowa State. Nice owning you, maybe we’ll meet in a bowl game sometime.

Well, probably not, ISU would need to win at least six games every year.

Oh well, it was fun.

There won’t be eight turnovers in this game, as Nebraska proves a point: Nebraska 42, Iowa State 14.

Nebraska to Expand Memorial Stadium- and Just in Time for the Big Ten

BY TODD NEELEY

First the huge win in Manhattan Thursday night on ESPN (more on that later), now this. Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne announced plans to expand Memorial Stadium — or Old Granny as some affectionately call it. Check out this news release from the Nebraska athletic department:

The University of Nebraska Athletic Department submitted two building projects to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents for approval at the Oct. 15 Board Meeting. The Board of Regents will be asked to approve the proposed program statement and $55.5 million budget for improvements to the East Stadium in Memorial Stadium as well as a proposed capital improvement expenditure of $4.75 million for a new baseball and softball indoor practice facility at Haymarket Park.  The proposal calls for funding to come from athletic private donations and bond revenues generated from the new seating.  No state appropriated funds will be used for either project.  

East Stadium Improvements

The Nebraska Athletic Department is proposing an expansion plan for the east side of Memorial Stadium, which will increase Memorial Stadium’s attendance to more than 90,000. The Stadium was last expanded in 2006 when 6,500 seats were added to the stadium’s north end, along with a large HuskerVision screen, Skyline Suites and athletic office space.  The stadium currently has 3,600 club seats in West Stadium and 61 suites in the West and North Stadiums.  Nebraska has the nation’s longest sellout streak at 307 and last year ranked among the top 10 in average attendance.

Pending approval by the board, NU plans to expand Memorial Stadium by adding approximately 5,000 new seats, which will include between 2,000 and 2,250 new club seats, approximately 400 to 500 seats within approximately 30 new indoor/outdoor suites, and approximately 2,500 to 2,800 new general seats, including additional seating for disabled patrons.  Each new seating area would include dedicated restrooms and concessions areas. A new grand lobby, expanded concourse, and additional first-aid areas would also be added. No current East Stadium seats will be removed and no season ticket holders will be required to relocate their seats as part of this project.

The proposed height of the new addition to be constructed above and around the current east balcony will be similar to the West Stadium, completed in 1999. Within the six proposed levels of the new East Stadium building, approximately 40,000 square feet of interior shell space will also be created.  Athletics will retain approximately 20,000 of the undeveloped space for future growth, and as part of a unique partnership between athletics and UNL Research, will allocate approximately 20,000 square feet for future office and laboratory space for research at UNL.  Athletics has committed $1.5 million to help finish the interior of the academic space while the UNL Office of Research and Economic Development will be responsible for the remaining construction cost of finishing the shell space.

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has experienced stellar growth in research funding during the past decade, largely due to an increase in interdisciplinary research involving faculty from multiple departments and colleges.  Prem S. Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development, said a new research center is envisioned that will use cutting-edge imaging technologies to better understand foundations of behavior that contribute to health, injury and disease. Participating UNL academic units could include the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Education and Human Sciences; the Departments of Psychology; Sociology; Political Science; Special Education and Communication Disorders; Anthropology; Mathematics; Biological Systems Engineering; Agricultural Economics; Economics; Management; Child, Youth and Family Studies; and the School of Biological Sciences.  “This innovative partnership combines and leverages the university’s strengths in research and athletics. Locating the proposed research center in East Stadium will build new opportunities for collaboration and position our university to take a leading role in developing long-term solutions to improved health and performance,” he said.  Details regarding the proposed research facility will be presented to the Board of Regents in the coming year.

Chancellor Harvey Perlman said, “This is another example of where we are leveraging our athletic program and our research efforts to mutual advantage.”

The total projected cost of the East Stadium Improvement Project is $55.5 million.  The proposal calls for $40.5 million to come from private donations and the remaining $15 million from bond revenues.  Approximately $7 million in new revenue is expected to be generated annually from the new seating.  These additional revenues will be used to pay off the bonds.

Athletic Director Tom Osborne said the additional revenue generated by the new suites, club seats and general public seating is needed to keep Nebraska competitive.  “We believe now is the right time to build on the success of the Nebraska football program as it transitions to the Big Ten Conference.  We need to find ways to generate additional revenue for athletics as well as for the University at large and we see great opportunity to do that with the East Stadium expansion and with our partnership with UNL Research.  We believe that adding 5,000 seats will meet our fans’ demands as brought forth in the survey conducted earlier this summer and still preserve the sellout streak.”

With the Board of Regents’ approval, a construction manager and architect would be selected and brought to the board for approval in December and construction could begin in November of 2011 and be complete by the fall of 2013.

Haymarket Park Indoor Practice Facility

NU Athletics is also submitting a proposal to the Board of Regents for approval of a capital improvement expenditure for an indoor practice facility at Haymarket Park to be used by the Husker baseball and softball teams.  NEBCO, Nebraska’s public/private partner at Haymarket Park, will be responsible for the construction in accordance with the Haymarket Park agreements, while the athletic department will be responsible for the financing of this $4.75 million project. 

The new indoor practice facility will include batting cages, pitching mounds, a turf system suitable for infield practice and a netting system for live hitting. The proposed 22,000 square-foot practice facility would be located at Haymarket Park, east of the Bowlin Softball Stadium and north of the Hawks Baseball Field. Haymarket Park does not currently have indoor batting cages and the Nebraska baseball and softball teams must utilize the indoor practice facility provided within the Hawks Championship Center.  The addition of on-site batting facilities will enhance Nebraska’s opportunities to host  regional baseball and softball tournaments in accordance with NCAA guidelines.

Understanding that the Board of Regents will not meet to vote on these two proposals until October 15, Osborne met with the media Friday to discuss the financing of both building projects.  “No state appropriated funds will be used for either facility,” he said.

Nebraska may Reconsider ‘Peso’ Defense When Big Ten Play Begins

BY TODD NEELEY

With Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten starting in the 2011 season, it makes you wonder if NU’s recent move to what coaches call the “Peso” defense will hold up.

The Peso essentially includes four down linemen, one linebacker and six defensive backs. Defensive back Eric Hagg has been playing a hybrid linebacker/defensive back position. This has allowed Nebraska to get a ton of speed and athleticism on the field at one time.

The one true linebacker spot in the Peso is usually occupied by Lavonte David, Alonzo Whaley or Eric Martin. Most of the time in the first two games David has been the one linebacker playing in the Peso. The one downside is that David is just 6-0, 200 — pretty much the same size as any of the defensive backs in the lineup.

This defense makes  a lot of sense in the Big 12 because we’ve seen wide-open, pass-happy offenses carry the day in the past several years. Nebraska’s Peso has been effective because NU can put seven great athletes on the field at one time to cover some great receivers in this conference.

But who knows what happens starting in 2011.

During Nebraska’s weekly Tuesday press conference Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini said the smash mouth style of play in the Big Ten may have some bearing on whether the Huskers play the Peso after the 2010 season.

That’s because to defend what are run-oriented teams in the Big Ten could put a bigger premium on recruiting linebackers more suited for defending the run.

No offense against Lavonte David, but who knows what Nebraska will do on defense when it takes on Kansas State and bruising running back Daniel Thomas in a couple of weeks down in Manhattan. Last year in Lincoln Nebraska was able to keep Thomas pinned down, mostly because linebacker Phillip Dillard was all over the field. Yet Thomas was hard to tackle and put up some decent numbers.

If you look at the Big Ten there is a drastic difference in the way teams play offense. Nebraska will face a much more physical brand of football than what it sees in the Big 12, and much like the way Pelini has NU playing right now.

Pelini told reporters Tuesday that NU continues to recruit players like Hagg who can play multiple positions. It makes you wonder how well this works on defense considering that size may be a premium to defend the run.

Really, though, it isn’t always size that matters.

If you look back on Nebraska’s history, some of the best Husker defenders of all time were not exactly big. Mike Brown, the former Nebraska all-American and all-pro safety was the most fundamentally sound tackler NU has had — and the guy was only 5-11, 200. Barron Miles played corner for Nebraska during the ’94 championship season, and was a very good run defender at 5-8, 165.

I think we’ll continue to see Pelini and company recruit the best athletes regardless of position on defense.

As we’ve seen in Pelini’s first few years at Nebraska, guys aren’t necessarily recruited to play any one position. A good example is safety DeJon Gomes. Pelini said Gomes came to Nebraska as a corner back but hasn’t played that position since he came to Lincoln.

In a short time, however, Gomes has proven that he’s a playmaker. It started last season at the beginning of conference play when Gomes was inserted as a nickel back. He made a big interception at Missouri and had a big forced fumble at Kansas, both changing the face of the game.

Pelini said Lavonte David also has the ability to play more than one position. More importantly, I think we can refer to the back seven on the Nebraska defense as just the back seven. Position really doesn’t matter like it once did. It’s not as clear-cut.

Chances are Nebraska will continue to rely heavily on the play of its defensive line when it begins Big Ten Conference play next season at Wisconsin. Pelini and his staff have shown a tremendous ability to develop defensive linemen.

Ndamukong Suh was a good player when Pelini arrived, but quickly became the best defender in Nebraska history.

One thing’s for sure, we know Pelini will make the right adjustments ahead of the 2011 season.

Nebraska’s First Big Ten Schedule Brutal

By Todd Neeley

Welcome to the Big Ten Nebraska. Say goodbye to soft schedules and patsies.

The Huskers have to get ready to play one, tough, brutal schedule starting in 2011.

Nebraska starts the season at home against Fresno State and Washington, before hitting the road at Wyoming.

NU will waste no time in getting an introduction into the Big Ten.

Nebraska starts conference play Oct. 1 at Wisconsin, returning home the following week to face Ohio State — which will likely be one of the most anticipated games in Husker history in Lincoln.

Nebraska then gets a bye on Oct. 15 before hitting the road at Minnesota on Oct. 22. NU then returns home for games against Michigan State and Northwestern.

The schedule remains brutal as Nebraska again hits the road on Nov. 12 at Penn State, then the following week at Michigan, before closing the regular season in Lincoln against Iowa.

You can’t argue with that last game for sure, as this has the potential to be a big rivalry game that will replace the traditional Nebraska/Colorado matchup.

“I think there’s a lot of competitive balance and they’ve preserved a lot of traditional rivalries,” Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne said on the Big Ten Network Wednesday evening. “I think rivalries really occur naturally. I think this builds up over time. Usually it occurs when you play a lot of big games that are meaningful. Obviously one school that gets a lot of mention in Nebraska is Iowa.”

Nebraska will play Penn State every year as a cross-over game.

“We have a challenging schedule and we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Osborne said. “I thought whoa, what are we doing here? We certainly do have a lot of matchups with a lot of traditional schools.”

The Big Ten announced the conference’s new divisions Wednesday, putting Nebraska on the same side of the conference with Michigan, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern. The other side includes Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue.

Looks like a great competitive balance has been struck in splitting up the conference’s traditional powers into separate divisions.

The conference split is perfect, it keeps traditional rivalry games in place like Ohio State and Michigan, and geographically it makes sense.

There may be a move to a ninth conference game at some point, depending on how the schedule shakes out in 2011 and 2012.

In looking at the 2011 schedule for Nebraska, and it’s making the road to the national championship a bit rocky.

Having said that, the division sets up nicely for Nebraska in 2011. In the short term Nebraska will be a clear-cut favor to play in the first conference championship game in Indianapolis, although Iowa will be the one road block unless Michigan turns a corner in a hurry.

Simply put, this is why Nebraska made the jump to the Big Ten.

Put it down:  attendance records will be set, legends will be made, and this first schedule clearly sets up what are likely to be huge rivalries down the road — Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Bring it on.