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C O M M E N T A R Y
T A D    S T R Y K E R
July 26, 2010

 
Henery packs a wallop for the Huskers
 

Alex Henery seems to be able to fly under the radar. In several of those summer college football preview magazines, he isn’t even the preseason all-Big 12 placekicker, which I find amazing.

With all due respect to Missouri’s Grant Ressel, if I need someone to make a pressure kick, I choose Henery every time.

But that’s OK. As long as he keeps making pressure-packed kicks, he’ll have all the fame he can stand in the state of Nebraska.

Henery has made 50 of 57 field-goal attempts in three years at NU and already has tied a national major college record by kicking four field goals in a game six times. He’s also converted 139 of 140 extra-point kicks.

Have the Cornhuskers ever had a kicker who made a bigger difference in his career? Let’s examine the biggest moments in Henery’s career so far.

The only time he has missed in a pressure situation was in the Oklahoma game last fall, when the Huskers needed every last point they could get. Henery could have given the Huskers a 10-point lead, but pushed a 43-yarder just wide with 5:32 left in the game. Thanks to Matt O’Hanlon’s three interceptions, that miss became insignificant.

Other than that, Henery has:

n Nailed a 42-yarder dead center to give NU a 12-10 lead over Texas with 1:44 left in last year’s Big 12 Championship, and kicked a 52-yarder earlier in the game, on the way to going four-for-four.

n Kicked a school-record 57-yarder in the final two minutes of the game to enable Nebraska avoid an upset loss to Colorado in 2008.

n Kicked four field goals without a miss to help Nebraska beat Clemson in the 2009 Gator Bowl.

n Kicked five field goals without a miss to provide all the Huskers’ points at Virginia Tech last season, including a 38-yarder with less than five minutes left to give NU at 15-10 lead.

Going back to his freshman year, you can make a case that Henery was the most consistent Husker player during the lost season of 2007. As a freshman he hit all eight of his field-goal attempts and all his extra-point kicks.

Henery’s unforgettable 57-yarder is easily the most dramatic moment in Nebraska placekicking history, eclipsing Josh Brown’s 29-yarder on the final play of the Huskers’ 34-32 win over Colorado in 2000, Jordon Congdon’s 40-yarder with 1:05 remaining that gave NU a 27-25 win over Kansas State in 2005 or Byron Bennett’s missed 45-yarder against Florida State in the 1994 Orange Bowl that would have given Nebraska four national titles in the 1990s.

That’s just as a placekicker. Now that Henery has shown his ability to punt – most notably, to pin the opponent inside its 10-yard line – he is twice as deadly. Ultimately, his versatility should earn him a ticket to the NFL as a third- or fourth-round draft choice next April.

But in the meantime, with his ability to put opponents in bad field position, and machinelike placekicking accuracy from inside 50 yards, the skinny, unflappable former soccer player from Omaha Burke will continue to be worth six to 10 points a game.

Will an improved Nebraska offense make Henery less vital this fall? That remains to be seen. If there is no significant upswing, Henery probably becomes the most important Husker in uniform. But even if improved production from the offensive line and quarterback make Nebraska’s attack respectable, Henery still has the ability to win a couple of close ones for the Big Red.

He was the difference in Nebraska finishing 9-4 in 2008 instead of 7-6. Will he turn a 10-4 season into 12-2 this time around? If that happens, there should be no keeping him off any all-conference team.

 

Formerly the sports editor at the North Platte Bulletin and a sportswriter/columnist for the North Platte Telegraph, Tad Stryker is a longtime Nebraska sports writer, having covered University of Nebraska and high school sports for more than 25 years. He started writing for this website in 2008. You can e-mail him at tad.stryker@gmail.com. | Archive

 
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