Tom Osborne, Gophers Too

20 Nov

To my followers, family, Facebook friends, and anybody else who ends up here:

Thanks for stopping by!  I appreciate you taking the time read this.  But I’d greatly appreciate it if you read this fine article on HuskerMax.com, as I earn a fraction of a penny per page view – and I’m hoping to earn enough this year to buy my wife a steak dinner – and I’m guessing she’d rather go to Misty’s over Steak ‘n Shake.

Sincerely,

FeitCanWrite

So did anything interesting happen at the game on Saturday?

I kid…I kid…Saturday was one of those “I was there” games that you’ll remember 20 years from now.  Not because of the game itself (a bit of snoozer, especially in the second half when Minnesota stopped trying), or even a super-sized Senior Day (any more seniors, and they would have needed to start 90 minutes before kickoff), but because of one man.

Tom.

Nebraska pulled out all the stops to show their appreciation, gratitude, and respect for a man who has done so, so much for this state.  You’d be hard pressed to find any other person in the country who could get a video tribute from a Supreme Court Justice, the richest man in America, and one of the stars of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

And it was all well deserved.

Tom Osborne is an amazing man of principle, character, dignity, hard work, and a thousand other traits that we Nebraskans like to believe we possess – traits that make our state something more than flyover country filled with a bunch of tractor-riding rubes.  That Osborne can do all the things that he has done, and still carry himself with a humble, self-effacing wit, is even more special.

I wish there was a simple way to sum up this man, his accomplishments, and his impact upon the University, the state, and millions of people over 50 years, but that is impossible.  All I can say is “Thanks, T.O.”

So what did we learn?

Nebraska can beat you on the ground or in the air.  A quick look at the stat sheet shows that Nebraska had only 133 yards rushing (at 2.8 yards a carry).  That’s not a huge surprise as Minnesota regularly had eight defenders in the box, and rarely had anybody more than 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage – they sold out to stop Nebraska’s running attack.  It showed, and it for the most part it worked…except for the part where Nebraska racked up 311 yards passing and won by 24 points.

A year or two ago, the smartest way to beat Nebraska was to make them beat you through the air.  Now with Martinez, Turner, Bell, Enunwa, Reed, and other receiving threats, that is not such a great idea.

Taylor Martinez needs to stay healthy.  In fairness, the game was long decided when Ron Kellogg III took over.  And he was victimized by some drops that probably don’t happen if he’s throwing to Kenny Bell or Quincy Enunwa instead of Sam Burtch or Tyler Evans.  But RKIII’s outing in relief of Martinez did not inspire a lot of confidence if he is needed in Indianapolis or the bowl game.

Nebraskans love them some Tom Osborne.  The recorded tributes played during the game were a great highlight.  Jason Peter showed off his jewelry collection.  Nebraska’s Poet Laureate (a.k.a. Larry the Cable Guy) cracked jokes, and Scott Frost moved many to tears.  During these videos and the halftime montage, you could truly hear a pin drop in the stadium.  Kudos to the HuskerVision folks for the great job they did.

So what don’t we know?

Can Nebraska finish it off?  One game stands between Nebraska and a division title, and the opportunity to play for their first conference championship since 1999.  And it is a game against 4-7 Iowa, a team that is a handful of points away from being 2-9 (or 8-3).  On paper, you really have to like Nebraska’s chances.  But strange things can happen in rivalry games – even if those rivalries are sponsored by a grocery store.  Nebraska can be looking ahead and get knocked off of an Iowa team looking to be a spoiler.  Let’s see if Pelini can keep the team focused on the task at hand.

What is the future of Nebraska athletics without Tom Osborne?  Saturday marked the 500th Nebraska Football game that Tom Osborne has been associated with.  Over that span, Nebraska won 404 of those games (81%), with 21 conference championships and all five national championships.  In the nine and a half seasons without Osborne around, the program went 85-37 (70%) with one conference championship.  And if you want to really get technical, you can throw out the 1998 – 2001 season where Frank Solich had players recruited by Osborne.  That knocks the record down to 43-28 (61%) without any direct influence on the program from Osborne.  In other words, history has shown that the program suffers without Tom around.

I like Bo, and I trust him running the program.  I don’t know a ton about Shawn Eichorst, but I like what I do know.  And overall, I think the program is probably in the best shape it has been since before the 2001 Colorado game.  The trick now is maintaining it.  There are lots of moving pieces (coaching, recruiting, the sellout streak, fan expectations, etc.), but I’m optimistic that Nebraska is set up for continued success in the years and decades to come.

Where are my Keys?

At the beginning of the season, I laid out three simple keys for Nebraska to have a strong season:  1) Win the turnover battle, 2) Own 3rd Down, 3) Limit penalties.  Throughout the year, I’ll be tracking Nebraska’s progress:

Penalties Penalty Yds. 3rd Down Conv.   (NU) 3rd Down Conv. (Opp) Turnover Margin
So. Miss 2 30 80.0% 50.0% 1
UCLA 7 60 9.1% 45.0% -1
Arkansas St. 4 34 76.9% 37.5% -2
Idaho St. 9 104 45.5% 13.3% 0
Wisconsin 6 70 38.5% 26.7% -1
Ohio St. 9 75 35.7% 45.5% -3
Northwestern 8 62 21.4% 25.0% -3
Minnesota 5 47 21.4% 7.7% 0
2012 Per Game 6.7 64.8 46.7% 33.1% -8
2011 Per Game 7.2 57.3 42.3% 40.2% -1

The Blackshirts dominated Minnesota on 3rd Down, and kept the mistakes (penalties and turnovers) to a relative minimum.

5 Players I Loved

  1. Taylor Martinez.  He may not be Manning, Elway, or Marino, but he is well on his way to being the best quarterback Nebraska has ever had (statistically, anyway).
  2. Kenny Bell.  Throw to the ‘Fro!  Nine catches for 136 yards and two TDs used to be a season for a Nebraska receiver.  Still very much alive for a 1,000 yard season.
  3. Will Compton.  The pride of Bonne Terre came through with another big day, helping to shut down the Gopher offense.  Not the flashiest linebacker in school history, but he’s become quietly dependable.
  4. Ciante Evans.  It is very cool to see the progress Ciante has made this season.  He is becoming a shut-down corner, excellent blitzer, and one of the better tacklers in recent memory.  He should start getting ready for the hype that will be attached to his 2013 campaign.
  5. P.J. Mangieri.  I can hear some of you now:  “Seriously?  The long snapper?”  Damn right.  Aside from the Mizzou Monsoon as a true freshman in 2009, how many bad snaps has he had over his career?  Exactly.  He has been quietly consistent for four years of punts, PATs, and field goals.  I hope I’m wrong, but we may not realize how big of a loss this is until next year.

Honorable Mention:  Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Damian Stafford, Jamal Turner, Seniors

5 Areas for Improvement

  1. Missed opportunities.  Coaches often bemoan the points or yards “left on the field”, but I’m referring to the chances by a handful of career backups to get some stats on Senior Day.  No, I’m not the jerk who will get on a guy for dropping a pass (especially local kids like Evans and Burtch).  I’m just bummed for them – especially since the story they’ll tell the grandkids about playing at Nebraska has a much better ending if they catch the pass on Senior Day.  Here’s hoping they get a shot at redemption at Iowa.
  2. Rex Burkhead.  There were a lot of folks who left early on Saturday, but I’m guessing that many of the ones who stuck around were waiting to see Rex on the Memorial Stadium turf one final time – even if it was to stand 15 yards behind line of scrimmage during the final Victory Formation play.  I give credit to the coaches and trainers for giving him time to heal, but I know the fans wanted to give another ovation to one of the more beloved Huskers in some time.
  3. Ron Kellogg III.  This was a performance that I’d guess he would like to forget.  Yes, he was hurt by some drops, but he didn’t exactly set the world on fire with the other phases of his game.
  4. Jamal Turner (Punt returner).  First, I’d like to thank Bo and Special Teams Coordinator Ross Els for reading my (seemingly weekly) pleas to have Turner back returning punts – especially after the Tim Marlowe debacle against Penn State.  Now, they just need to get him some more practice – and some blocking.
  5. Pronunciations.  Can we get some rulings here?  Is it “John” or “Gene” Baptiste?  Qunicy e-NUN-wah or e-NOON-wah?  At the beginning of the season it was John and NOON, but now it is Gene and NUN.  As a fan it is hard enough trying to accurately pronounce “Ndamukong” and “Amukamara” without somebody having somebody change directions mid-stream.
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