Category Archives: Taylor Martinez

Real Question, is Wisconsin Ready for Nebraska?

BY TODD NEELEY

I’m not totally buying into the hype.

Pundits have given Nebraska hardly a chance against Wisconsin in Madison Saturday, but in all the excited fog surrounding the game is a dose of reality.

There are plenty of reasons to believe the Huskers have a shot to beat Wisconsin.

Sorry to upset the Russell Wilson apple cart here, but tell me one time early in this 2011 season that the Badger quarterback has had so much as a hand in his face.

Yeah I didn’t think so.

Wilson will face a much more athletic, physical defense than he’s faced all season. Wisconsin has barely broken a sweat in going 4-0, but things will change with Nebraska coming to town.

The Badgers may not face a better, more physical, faster team this season unless they play in the national championship game.

The Blackshirts will need to come to play this week, but defending Wisconsin is not impossible.

Week in and week out the Nebraska defense was challenged by the likes of Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas A&M, Texas and Texas Tech.

Let’s face it, Nebraska hasn’t lived up to its standards in 2011 – they rank an embarrassing 52nd in the country in total defense. These are the kinds of numbers that once got Craig Bohl fired as defensive coordinator, and proof that Husker coaches are pounding on their
defenders in practice.

Bo Pelini has a history of making adjustments on defense, and usually has that unit peaking by midseason. The fact that Nebraska hasn’t played very well on that side of the ball yet means its best game is yet to come.

It would be a great week to put it all together.

Setting all the hype and history aside, Nebraska has a clear path to its first Big Ten win.

First, the Nebraska defensive line must get a push against a mammoth Wisconsin offensive line – one of the biggest at any level of football. This means Husker all-American Jared Crick has to somehow find a way to re-establish the line of scrimmage two to three yards in the Badger backfield, forcing Russell Wilson to run. The guy is a better passer than he is a runner.

If Nebraska can force Wisconsin into third and long, then the Huskers can bring the heat and get hits on Wilson.

Nebraska has to make the Wisconsin defense make decisions on the perimeter. The Badgers have to be made to choose between containing Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead – making the option the perfect play to run against what appears to be a good, but fairly slow defense.

Nebraska has a lot of speed at receiver and will need to take shots downfield and exploit holes in a Wisconsin zone defense.

NU has been outstanding on special teams with kicker/punter Brett Maher and kick returner Ameer Abdullah. Nebraska will need to win the field position battle to put pressure on the Wisconsin defense and these guys can make a huge difference.

The Huskers have to force at least two turnovers in this game. Simply put, Wisconsin hasn’t made mistakes and that will have to change. Conversely, Nebraska has to hold onto the ball – they laid the ball on the ground four times at Wyoming last week. What’s more, Nebraska has to not beat itself with dumb penalties.

If you watch Russell Wilson during his days at North Carolina State, he had plenty of games when he made knuckleheaded mistakes with the ball – proving defenses can get to him.

Finally, Nebraska can’t allow the Wisconsin offense to just pound away in the running game and control time of possession.

Though Husker fans are up in arms about Nebraska’s slow defensive start that may be the silver lining heading to Madison – this is a Nebraska team that hasn’t come close to reaching its potential on defense.

The Nebraska offense has improved significantly from game one – finally finding an identity that includes a power running game and a big-play quarterback. NU holds a speed advantage on both sides of the ball and Nebraska’s special teams have been special, Wisconsin’s not so much.

With all the talk about how NU is facing a balanced and disciplined team in a hostile environment, you’d swear Nebraska has yet to play in the kind of atmosphere it will see at Camp Randall Stadium.

Nebraska fans remember well playing at Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Washington, Oklahoma, you name it. Kids come to Nebraska to play in the big games on a big stage with a lot on the line.

Wisconsin has been good, really good, but championships aren’t won by playing softies. So far the Badgers have been playing weekly scrimmages, but this week they face an opponent that will punch them in the mouth – win or lose.

Is Wisconsin ready for Nebraska?

Martinez, NU Offense Prepare for Opener

From Nebraska sports information:

With just four days remaining until the kickoff of their 2011 season, the Nebraska Cornhuskers continued with their preparations for Tennessee-Chattanooga on Tuesday afternoon. Nebraska practiced outside on the Ed and Joyanne Gass practice fields in full pads for just over two hours. 

Following practice offensive coordinator Tim Beck spoke to the media about this afternoon’s practice, quarterback Taylor Martinez and the offense.

“It was a pretty good practice today,” Beck said. “It wasn’t bad. At the end a little bit, I think we lost our focus, but we have to continue to push through that, but overall not bad. I think the guys are ready to play somebody else for a change.”

Starting quarterback Taylor Martinez is learning a new offense where he is able to make more decisions than the previous offense. Beck spoke about how he and Martinez need to be on the same page.

“We work together and that’s the thing in this offense. Taylor and I almost have to have the same brain,” Beck said. “We have to be thinking a lot alike and we do. He’s a sharp young guy when it comes to the game of football. He can get it.”

Beck also said he told Martinez to just let the offense run its course.

“Let the offense run itself. Don’t force things,” Beck said. “Don’t feel he has to go out and play at a certain level of the offense. If he just runs the offense, everybody will get what they need to get. He doesn’t need to force throws, or runs, or decisions.  Just play the game, just like he’s been doing all fall.”

The Huskers will kick off their season in Memorial Stadium against the Mocs on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 CT. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network. Continue to check back to Huskers.com for all your Husker news.

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.

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.

Nebraska’s Martinez Named to O’Brien Watch List

Nebraska sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez picked up his second watch list recognition of the summer on Friday, as he was named to the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award watch List.

The O’Brien Award recognizes the nation’s top collegiate quarterback, and Martinez was a semifinalist for the award in 2010. He comes off a freshman campaign where he threw for 1,631 yards and 10 touchdowns, while rushing for 950 yards and 12 scores.

Martinez nearly became the third freshman quarterback in FBS history to rush and pass for 1,000 yards in a season. He finished the 2010 season with five 100-yard rushing games, including a NU quarterback record 241 yards against Kansas State. Martinez became the first Husker quarterback to rush for 100 yards and throw for 300 yards in a game at Oklahoma State, when he ran for 112 yards and completed 23-of-35 passes for 323 yards and five touchdowns in a win over the Cowboys.

Martinez is one of three returning semifinalists from Big Ten teams, joining Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, and is one of six Big Ten quarterbacks on the O’Brien Award watch list.

Burkhead Named to Doak Walker Watch List Junior running back Rex Burkhead became the latest Husker to earn preseason recognition, as he was named to the Doak Walker Award watch Friday afternoon.

Burkhead comes off a sophomore season when he rushed for 951 yards and seven touchdowns, while also completing three touchdown passes out of the wildcat formation. Burkhead totaled three 100-yard games while splitting time with All-Big 12 performer Roy Helu Jr. in 2010. Burkhead rushed for a career-high 129 yards in a win at Iowa State. In addition to his running and passing exploits, Burkhead also hauled in 15 catches out of the backfield in 2010.

He is one of seven Big Ten running backs on the 51-member Doak Walker watch list, which is presented to the nation’s top running back.

Huskers on 2011 Watch Lists

Bednarik Award – Alfonzo Dennard, Jared Crick, Lavonte David Butkus Award – Lavonte David Doak Walker Award – Rex Burkhead Lombardi Award – Jared Crick, Cameron Meredith, Lavonte David Mackey Award – Kyler Reed Maxwell Award – Taylor Martinez Nagurski Trophy – Alfonzo Dennard, Jared Crick, Lavonte David O’Brien Award – Taylor Martinez Outland Trophy – Jared Crick Rimington Trophy – Mike Caputo Thorpe Award – Alfonzo Dennard

What to Make of Nebraska’s 2011 Offense?

By Todd Neeley

Husker fans have been burned so many times when it comes to spring football.

As we learned during the Bill Callahan era, the Nebraska west coast offense was proven to be deceptively explosive in the spring. Sam Keller looked like Joe Montana under center, heck, even Joe Dailey played like Joe Ganz in the spring. And remember in the Frank Solich era when Bobby Newcombe had Husker fans salivating?

Name two people who were not convinced Newcombe would start ahead of Eric Crouch. The rest is history.

In other words, spring football rarely provides a window into what NU will look like come fall. Spring football 2011 really isn’t all that different, but for a few exceptions.

We’ve learned in a short time is that Bo Pelini can recruit. The fruits of those labors were obvious at this year’s glorified scrimmage. Pelini’s defense likely will go at least three deep at every position, while the offense is pretty much a mystery stacked with good, young talent at this point.

Chalk up at least one journalist who believes the Husker offense will be vastly improved, more explosive at wide receiver, deeper and more talented at quarterback with the emergence of redshirt freshman Brion Carnes, somewhat inexperienced and young in the offensive line and seriously lacking proven depth at I back.

The good news is Pelini said at the end of spring ball that he’s not the kind of guy to automatically hand redshirts to young players. He proved that with Taylor Martinez in 2010. Pelini is willing and eager to get the best talent on the field.

Nebraska will likely rely on many young guns to make this offense better in 2011.

Probably sitting atop the list is redshirt freshman receiver Kenny Bell. For such a young guy, Bell has a multitude of moves in the open field and breakaway speed similar to Martinez. Coaches raved about Bell’s play on the scout team in 2010, and in particular his 10.5 speed in the 100-meter dash. To put that speed in perspective, when Eric Crouch was a senior in high school he won the Class A state championship in the 100 with a 10.7 – and we all remember what was Crouch’s breath-taking speed.

In addition, true freshman Jamal Turner is likely to see the field a lot in 2011. In the spring game Turner had 94 yards in receiving yards including a 49-yard touchdown catch and he was a special teams star in the return game. Since Turner moved to the receiver spot around spring break, he has a long way to go to learn the offense.

What really stands out, however, is that new offensive coordinator Tim Beck appears to be willing to put his best players on the field and then have them do what they do best.

If the season was to start today, Rex Burkhead would probably see 80 percent of the carries from the I-back spot. Right now Austin Jones and Ty Kildow are the best options behind Burkhead.

Though Nebraska is banking a lot on young guns Braylon Heard, Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah, it’s hard to put too much stock into any freshmen let alone relying on such a group for depth at a virtually bare
position.

Considering how much pounding Nebraska I backs take, this could be a real problem spot come fall.

And how about the quarterback spot?

Even though Nebraska ran very basic offense in the spring game, Martinez was less than impressive. The same old habits are still alive and well – throwing off the back foot in to double coverage, and still playing extremely tentatively from the pocket.

I’m going to wage a guess that this year’s spring game will be a sign of things to come for Nebraska, especially when it comes to the future of quarterback Brion Carnes. Again, the guy ran basic offense but was poised in the pocket, has a smooth passing delivery and impressive feet.

More than anything, Carnes brings intensity to a position where Nebraska could use a leadership spark. Is he going to challenge for the starting job in 2011? Not unless Martinez and Green completely meltdown – only if the Martinez-led offense continues the disappointing struggles that marred the 2010 season. It’s not yet a full-blown quarterback controversy, but it get a violent shove into controversy if Carnes continues to develop.

It’s a lot harder to get a feel for the Nebraska defense in a spring game. Coaches played a myriad combination of players on that side of the ball and a handful of starters didn’t play. Having said that, converted linebacker, defensive end Eric Martin was all over the field. In addition, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jay Guy has come a long way in a short time. He was a chore to block in the red/white game and has a great future at Nebraska.

Keep in mind, so much can change when fall rolls around. The Nebraska offense has a long way to go. After all, coaches had just 15 practices to install an offense that Nebraska really didn’t run at all in the spring game.

So when the lights come on in the fall there will be growing pains. But there’s little doubt that Nebraska will have a great defense and will be capable of giving the offense plenty of time to develop by shutting down the opposition – at least until the first Big Ten game at Wisconsin.

My guess is we’ll find out how good that defense will be in a nationally televised night game against a powerhouse Badger team.

Nebraska needs to rebuild its offense, but doing it with Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa and Penn State on the schedule will be a tall task.

Pelini Holds Himself Accountable in Press Conference

BY TODD NEELEY

This is a transcript worth reading if you’re a Nebraska football fan. Husker Head Coach Bo Pelini said all the right things in response to his outbursts at officials during the Texas A&M game Saturday. In a strange way, I’m guessing this latest go-around will only add fuel to a Nebraska fire that was running out of steam.

Will this ‘us-against-the-world’ mentality manifest itself on the field Friday against Colorado? We’ll see.

Whatever Nebraska Chancellor Harvey Perlman and Athletic Director Tom Osborne said to Pelini, it must have struck a cord. Pelini was personable, open to answering all questions and was impressive in taking accountability for his actions.

That’s all you can ask from the head coach, time to focus on Colorado.

Take a read:



Nebraska Football
Weekly Press Conference
Monday, Nov. 22, 2010
Pre-Colorado

 Opening statement
“When I got hired here a couple years ago I was asked to come in here…I really believe my job is to prepare the young men, it’s not to win football games. My job here is to prepare the young men who come into this program for the rest of their life. I make that vow to the kids when I go into their homes when I’m recruiting. I make that vow to the parents. That’s what I’m all about and that means accountability, discipline. I’m a very black and white, direct person, and I feel we’ve done that in the program.

 “Our kids are representing this great university with respect and integrity. You don’t see our kids out there getting in trouble on ESPN, doing all those types of things. They are representing the program the right way. I believe myself and the staff is representing this program the right way. I’m a passionate person. During that game the other night I thought there were times when, obviously it’s OK to disagree with a call, it’s the way that you disagree with the call. I believe at times during that game, I got too animated and for that I regret that, and I’m sorry about that.

 “It’s interesting, I always believe it’s OK to disagree with a call, (but) it’s not OK to make it personal and at times during that game, probably in my quest to fight for our kids on the football team I let it get personal, and for that once again I say I’m sorry. I regret that.

 “I know there is a lot of speculation out there about the exchange I had with Taylor (Martinez). He and I have handled that. First of all, I know there was speculation that it had something to do with his injury – it had nothing to do with his injury. It was an issue totally unrelated to that. We handled it. Once again, I regret that it was on national TV. When I wanted to address the team earlier in the season, and I had all the press out, you guys gave me a lot of havoc over that, but I felt like something needed to be dealt with directly with the team. I did that. I usually do those things behind closed doors. Once again, when I deal with something, I told you I deal with something directly. If there’s an issue with something related to the team, you guys know me, my policy is I don’t talk about what happens in our family. What happens inside stays inside.

“I can say this, the things that are out there speculating over what that was are completely off base. Taylor is with the football team. He and I are on the same page and there are no issues there. We put that behind us. As far as (UNL) Chancellor (Harvey) Perlman and the statement he made yesterday, we’ve spoken – we’re on the same page. I have total respect for him, the administration and the job they have to do. I respect that. Once again, that’s kind of where we are. I’ll open it up for questions.”

On if he met with Chancellor Perlman and if there was anything said about not letting it happen again

“Yeah, absolutely. Believe me, like I said, it won’t happen again.”

On if he understands why Ben Cotton reacted the way he did the other night

“I had no problem with the initial part of what happened with Ben. What I didn’t like is that Ben took his helmet off. He knows better than that. Once again, I dealt with it right there. Ben and I were on the same page. Ben was really upset and that needed to be dealt with right there or else he was going to get himself into a lot of trouble. At that point I’d rather him be upset with me than upset and do something crazy. Believe me, we were on the same page and a few minutes later Ben came back over and apologized for the whole incident. One thing about our players, I promise you they know this, that I got their back. And they understand also that I expect them to have mine. That means to represent this program all the time, no matter what the situation. When I got animated, I didn’t do that as well as I could have the other night, and I’m sorry for that.”

On if he has had time to look at the film and think about changes he needs to make

“I think I just addressed that.”

On if he had any sort of ultimatum from the administration to change his sideline behavior

“No, the administration is behind me 100 percent. They know me as a person. They know what I’m all about. They understand the character and the things that I represent and brought to this program, and they made that known to me. There are no issues between myself and the administration. I’m not perfect because nobody is perfect. You make mistakes. You look back at your actions and you look back at the situations you’ve been put into, you reflect on them both football wise and in all areas, and you make adjustment and move on. You hope that you better yourself through all your experiences, and you don’t make the same mistake twice.”

On if this is still a growing process

“Yeah, it is. Your life is a growing process. You grow every day. You learn every day. You have different experiences, different situations every single day. Like I said before, I walk into a home and I tell parents I’m going to have your kids back, I’m going to fight for them every step of the way. I’m going to be there for your kids. I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure your kids have a fair shake and prepare them for the rest of their life in a lot of different ways. I’m going to love them unconditionally. I just need to watch the passion I bring to it, and make sure I do it in the right way.”

On if he talked to Athletic Director Tom Osborne about the issue

“Yeah, I can always talk to Coach Osborne.”

On if Taylor Martinez missed team meetings yesterday

“Yeah, but it had nothing to do with…it was a completely separate issue.”

On what the separate issue was

“Why he wasn’t at team meetings? He was excused from team meetings.”

On if he had a conflict for the Sunday team meeting
“It’s not a team meeting, it’s a team shake out. We don’t meet as a team on Sunday. I don’t know where that came from, but we don’t meet as a team on Sundays.”

On if Martinez has ever missed a Sunday team shake out

“Yeah, there are a number of guys who have missed shake outs. For instance, Alex Henery was excused from a team shake out. The guys are excused from that a lot.”

On if Martinez expressed anger or frustration after Saturday’s game

“No, not at all. He’s frustrated with the injuries and those that have happened, but no, Taylor was just fine. In fact, we communicated and talked for a good 15-20 minutes in the locker room after the game.”

On if the sideline exchange between Martinez and himself was precipitated by Martinez calling his dad during the game

“I’ve already said that I’m not going to get into (it), that stuff is nobody’s business but ours. I can say this; I have heard the things that are being said out there and the speculation as to what that was about and they are way off base.”

On if there was ever a moment where it was up in the air if Martinez was going to be on the team
“No.”

On if he ever had any doubt that Martinez would be on the team today

“No, it was business as usual yesterday.”

On if he can guarantee that he will be on the team going forward

“Yeah, Taylor is at class right now. I believe he had class at 10:30.”

On if Martinez will play on Friday

“We don’t know. He’s still obviously recovering from some of the injuries.”

On if Martinez is healthy will he play on Friday

“Yeah.”

On if he can define what a team shake out is

“It’s just a voluntary kind of jog around a little it to get the kinks out, which he couldn’t participate in.”

On if Martinez doesn’t play on Friday, can he use his injury to cover for a suspension

“Taylor Martinez is not suspended. I think you guys know me well enough to know that if somebody was suspended I’d say so.”

On if Martinez broke any team rules

“No.”

On if Martinez not participating in the shake out was injury related

“He couldn’t have run in the shake out. I think I’ve already said that. He couldn’t participate in the shake out run.”

On if they typically watch film on Sunday

“No. We didn’t watch film yesterday, especially during a short week. It was get them in and get them out as quick as possible. That’s a big work day for the coaches. We don’t spend time with the players. That’s their day off.”

On if he has talked to Martinez’s dad since the game

“Yeah.”

On if that conversation had anything to with the argument with Martinez on the sideline

“No, I just believe in a situation like this you have to make sure you keep the parents in the loop, because he was getting phone calls that he wasn’t sure (what they) were all about. Casey (Martinez) was confused on some of the inquiries he was getting because they were pretty far off base.”

On if his players are getting a fair shot during games
“I’m not commenting on that. You just trust the integrity of people and you hope that your football team is getting a fair shake. Our team is excited about this weekend, about the game on Friday and all the things that come with it. We’ve moved on past Saturday and we’re excited to go out and play. We have a lot to play for and we’ve moved on.”

On how many plays they sent into the Big 12 office and if they have heard anything back
“We haven’t had any feedback from the Big 12 office about the officiating or anything else. We’ve moved on past there. It’s a short week. It’s time to really get focused on Colorado.”

On if he would give a coach like himself a break if he were an official

“Probably not. Like is said, I thought when you get animated you don’t approach it the right way. Sometimes you do yourself a disservice, and I might have done that the other night. Like I said, I regret it, and I’m sorry about it.”

On his response to embarrassing the state and the program

“Everybody has their opinion. I hope they look at the heart of who you are and what you’ve done, and what you’ve built up over a certain amount of time, and hope that the people are in your corner. In the end that’s what you hope. I bust my butt each and every day for this program and for these kids and the university, and if I embarrassed anybody by what I did, I’m sorry, but that’s as far as I can go. Obviously, I didn’t do it intentionally.”

On if the Big 12 always responds to what they send in to be reviewed
“Oh yeah, the Big 12 always responds. They have a lot to do and there are a lot of football teams. It doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye.”

On what he knows about the incident with Carl Pelini on the field after Saturday’s game

“First of all, that was kind of crazy on that field after the game. I actually almost got run over. Fortunately, I got lit up pretty good by mistake, it was somebody just running onto the field, and fortunately I had security. There was a lot of things going on. There was a player in a group of people trying to get out of it, and Carl saw it and went over to try and pull the player into the locker room. I guess it happened on the way to the locker room, and as he did so apparently he went through the camera to get it, and if something happened to the camera, I know Carl regrets that it happened. That’s what happened and I talked to the player that was involved too.”

On if he has talked to Tom Osborne and Harvey Perlman about the officiating

“Yeah, I know they have communicated with the league office and that happens pretty regularly about many different things. I know that their focus is on representing our program the right way.”

On how he prevents everything from being a distraction moving forward

“It’s not a distraction with our football team. You hope that everything is over and behind you. Our team is ready to play. They’re excited. They were very disappointed the other night and they were mad. We talked about it right after the game, all you can control now is what you can control, and that’s what happens on Friday and it comes down to preparation. You know us, it’s about the process. It starts today. If we put our work in during the week, we’ll be ready to play our best football come Friday. That’s where our focus is right now.”

On what is wrong with the offense

“Well, we didn’t execute very well the other night consistently. We left some plays out on the field. We left some situations out on the field. We need to play better and execute better more consistently. That’s what we’re working at and that’s what needs to happen on Friday.”

On what they need to do to bring back some of the big plays they had earlier in the season

“You just tweak things. You play with confidence and you play fast. I think that will happen. I like our plan that we have right now going forward for this week. Like I said, it’s about attitude; it’s about doing things the right way and playing with fundamentals and technique. Our guys will be ready to play come Friday.”

On how he addressed the penalties with his team

“Well, we really haven’t met as a team yet. We’ll talk about it. Some of it was addressed already. Some of them can definitely get fixed, and we need to fix that aspect of it. Some of them were boneheaded penalties. Some of them were a lack of focus or a lack of concentration. You can’t use crowd noise or anything else as an excuse. You have to go in and execute your football. That means doing things the right way consistently.”

On if Martinez will be a practice today

“Oh yeah.”

On if there is any reason he wouldn’t be at practice

“Not that I know of.”

 On if Martinez can’t play, will Cody Green be the starter

“Yeah, I would expect Cody Green to be the starter.”

 On if Zac Lee is available to play

“We think so. He’s getting better each day. He’s kind of day-to-day right now, but he’s come a long way in a week or so. We obviously haven’t done anything with him in the last couple days.”

 On if Lee was available on Saturday if they needed him

“Yes, he was available on Saturday.”

 On how impressed he is with what Colorado has been able to do the past two weeks

“I give their coaching staff and their kids a lot of credit. That’s a tough time when there’s a coaching change at the point it was. I think they’ve showed character and they’ve done a nice job of rallying the troops. They played well the past couple weeks.”

 On if he puts any credence into the talk that the Big 12 is out to get Nebraska

“No. I don’t know. I never really even thought about that. I can’t even speculate on something like that. That’s pretty far out there.”

 On if it’s possible the Big 12 officials have an extra eye on Nebraska

“Yeah, there’s a possibility there.”

 On the senior class

“It’s a great senior class we have. All these kids mean a lot to me, but this senior class, we’ve been through a lot. They were here when I got here and a lot of them, almost each and every guy who is going to be playing his last game at home this weekend, has brought a lot to the program. They’ve done a lot. They’ve made big impact around here. It will be tough to see them go. I know it will be highly emotional for them, to play in this stadium for the last time in front of these fans, and our job as football team is to honor those guys by playing our best football and sending them out a winner.”

 On what is on the line this week

“Well, it’s obvious what’s on the line. If we win, we keep playing. It’s to win the Big 12 North. I think our guys fully understand that. Every week, when you play in a conference like this, every week is big. Because of what’s at stake, you don’t play any different. You don’t approach it any differently. You hope you play the same way all the time. It’s the next step, and it’s an important step. You have to go out and earn it. That’s what’s lying ahead of us. That’s the challenge that’s lying ahead of our football team right now.”

Nebraska’s Trip to the Twilight Zone at Memorial Stadium

BY TODD NEELEY

I know I run a risk of nit-picking with Nebraska standing at 9-1 and just one win away from the Big 12 championship game, but what the heck is going on with this team? This coaching staff?

The Nebraska offense was flat against Kansas Saturday in Lincoln, against what was the 108th-ranked rush defense in the country. NU failed to break off long runs against the Jayhawks or establish any consistency at all. Blocking was horrible and, again, this offense played uninspired.

Like it did against South Dakota State, the Nebraska offense took another game off. Maybe coaches really don’t have answers, but it gets old hearing Bo Pelini say ‘we didn’t execute.’

Well, why the heck not?

It happened the week before at Iowa State, although there was an obviously huge problem at quarterback with Taylor Martinez on the shelf. That was more understandable, somewhat excusable.

What happened against the Jayhawks defies logic. Or should I say, what didn’t happen.

How does Nebraska’s offensive line not knock KU off the ball on every play? This happens when NU isn’t interested, and that falls squarely on the coaches.

The whole game atmosphere itself was like watching a bad episode of the Twilight Zone.

I know I’m not the first to say this, but the pregame featured a message from Tom Osborne on how great it is to have Turner Gill back at Memorial Stadium.

That’s all well and good, but it reminded me of the Wizard of Oz when the Wizard stops Dorothy, the Lion, the Tin Man and the Scare Crow in the middle of their panic — “Silence!!”

It was almost as if Nebraska’s Oz was telling fans to ‘go easy on Gill, he’s trying his best at KU and we want to honor his return with the utmost respect.’

Why did Osborne have to state the obvious?

Even the tunnel walk was strange. At the part where the opponent’s logo appears outside the Husker locker room and explodes, the Jayhawk logo explosion was soft, even drawing a few giggles in the press box.

What, we don’t want to hurt Gill’s feelings with the usual tunnel walk stuff?

It was all very bizarre. How about coming out and honoring the former Husker all-American with an all-star performance on offense? How about that?

All of this is otherwise trivial, but things became even more strange when Pelini called out the Nebraska crowd on his weekly football show, saying the crowd was flat as if it was a scrimmage and not a game.

When asked about it at the Tuesday press conference, Pelini tried to blow it off as if it was nothing — putting up his dukes as he usually does with the media.

Bo, you can get all huffy with the media all you want, but calling out Nebraska fans at all is shear stupidity.

Fans arrived relatively late Saturday because it was windy and 34 degrees at kickoff. Unfortunately Nebraska’s offense was even colder and gave the faithful little to cheer about.

The cold weather is absolutely no excuse for anyone, but this loyal fan base was asked to stand outside for three hours for this? Bo should be apologizing to fans for this offense.

Nebraska should have opened a can of whoop-ass on KU with a wide-open offense that actually resembled a gameplan designed to actually score. Shouldn’t Nebraska at least try to look like a team challenging for the BCS title? Darn straight.

NU should have had its way with that defense, but instead walked off the field Saturday night after not leaving it all on the field.

I thought Nebraska moved beyond lack of effort with Pelini’s arrival. I didn’t see that on offense, not even close.

This lack of focus from week to week is a mystery.

What’s more, the coaching staff’s apparent inability to get these players to move beyond the usual mistakes is an even bigger mystery.

At this point the Nebraska offense is nearly as big of a question mark as it was this time last season. OK, Martinez is still hurt and was hesitant to make cuts in running the ball against KU. But where were the deep balls? Why didn’t Nebraska get Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead into the Kansas secondary consistently? Why the heck is Nebraska still fumbling (they lead the nation in this category)?

And why does Nebraska insist on distracting the Memorial Stadium crowd with a weekly video production that includes fan games and waving guests during timeouts? I’m sure plenty of fans enjoy some of that, but it is a huge distraction to the flow of the game and distracts focus away from the game itself.

Here’s how we solve the video problem: Stop the games, wait until halftime to introduce guests. Sounds simple enough, but Nebraska football has become way too much of a production.

Second, if coaches want the Nebraska crowd to show up every game just quit already with the same, old lines about why the offense didn’t do its job.

It just sounds like Pelini and company are making excuses for a unit that should perform at a much higher level every game.

Just play football already.

Eating Crow After Close Call at Iowa State, Sort of

BY TODD NEELEY

Some people take themselves way too seriously.

I wrote a blog last week ahead of the Nebraska/Iowa State game in which I pretty much said it was way past midnight on the series with the Cyclones, http://dld.bz/58e5.

If you read the comments in response to the blog you’ll see I got into a little “discussion” with a handful of readers who said they were Iowa State fans. Unfortunately there was hardly a comment that didn’t resort to personal attacks on yours truly.

Did I have some of it coming?

You be the judge.

I threw down some pretty hard smack on how I believe the series between these two teams has been a waste of time for Nebraska.

And Saturday’s 31-30 Nebraska win on a dramatic interception by Eric Hagg on a fake point-after try by ISU in overtime, has done nothing to change my belief that it’s time to put these one-sided series on the shelf.

Nothing has changed for me.

An occasional uprising by teams like ISU every decade isn’t enough if Nebraska wants to compete for national championships. For those ISU fans who don’t get that, too bad, but Nebraska has always been about winning championships. That’s just the way it is around here.

Let’s face it, all fan bases have those people who resort to name calling. Whatever happened to engaging in a real debate on the merits of what I had to say? Why not throw a little Nebraska smack back at me rather than resorting to name calling?

They no more represent the entire ISU fan base than I represent the Nebraska fan base. But if you can’t take the smack, find another blog to read.

The point remains — in this day and age when style points mean everything in college football, Nebraska can no longer afford to play cupcakes. And even good and decent ISU fans will admit their team has — by and large — been a cupcake.

Speaking of food, I’ll eat just a little crow on that tight game in Ames.

I said Nebraska would run away from ISU 42-14. But the absense of Taylor Martinez and all-American candidate  cornerback Alfonzo Dennard made for a much closer game than many people expected. ISU fans made a point that the Cyclones won in Lincoln last season with their backup quarterback and backup running back.

I’ll submit to you, ISU fans, that Nebraska won in Ames pretty much without a quarterback.

I’ll give credit to Iowa State. They again took advantage of numerous Nebraska mistakes and made a couple of plays on offense to make a game of it.

But ISU had no answer for running back Rex Burkhead, who ran the Nebraska offense from the ‘wildcat’ formation. By the way, why the heck did NU play Cody Green at all on Saturday? He has proven what I said here awhile back — that he’s all hype and has been a huge disappointment for Nebraska fans.

About last week’s blog, I said what I meant and meant what I said.

I pointed out the obvious: That the series with ISU has never been a rivalry — 18 Cyclone wins in 114 years since these two teams started playing each other does not constitute a rivalry. Not even close.

For years to come fans will remember this last Nebraska/Iowa State game for several reasons.

First, ISU Head Coach Paul Rhoads showed great courage in faking the point-after attempt to go for two. But it made no sense to put the game in the hands of your kick holder instead of just going for two with Austen Arnaud running the offense. That was a critical miss for ISU, especially since the Cyclones had success moving the ball on the Blackshirts.

Second, great teams make big plays when the game is on the line. If Hagg didn’t pick off that pass in the endzone we’d be lamenting the rotten taste of two consecutive losses to Iowa State to end Big 12 play for Nebraska. And ISU fans, at least the ones I’ve heard from, would be talking about how Iowa State has arrived.

Third, Nebraska is a great team with Taylor Martinez running the offense and inconsistent without him.

Speaking of crow, Kansas comes to Lincoln Saturday in what will be, again, the last game in yet another cupcake series for Nebraska.

ISU fans also pointed out in their comments (in between the personal attacks) that Nebraska would have it rough in the Big Ten.

You know, that may be true.

But let’s put it this way — next season’s first Big Ten schedule for Nebraska will be necessarily brutal. NU plays Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State in 2011.

Maybe it’s just me, but if Nebraska runs the table next year it looks a lot better than running the table on Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Colorado and Iowa State.

Then again, maybe it’s just me.

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.