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J U S T I N   P R E S T I D G E
Nov. 1, 2009

This Just-In...

 

Watson’s lean mean “Green” machine sputters; Blackshirts have to grin and “Bear” it. Nebraska holds 20-10.

Player(s) of the Game: Jared Crick 13 tkls, 6.5 tfl, 5 Sacks (school record)

 
“They’re a Crick, House (of spears)…”
They’re mighty, mighty just lettin’ it all hang out. OK, so I’m not much of a singer. No, I’m not talking about the Commodores hit from 1977, rather referring to the best DT duo I have seen come through Lincoln in a long time — maybe ever. Baylor’s game plan dictated that they double up Suh on pretty much every play. Guess they haven’t heard of Jared Crick. Their double down gamble on Suh resulted in Crick nearly tripling his season sack total. If you listened closely you could hear Crick asking the Baylor QB if he wanted paper or plastic. I don’t think there is a better tandem in college football. Baylor ran a lot of quick slant patterns and tried to use the over pursuit against NU. Baylor hit a few big plays and got a little assistance from the zebra crew, but overall the defense put them in bad positions and held when it needed to. Crick is only a sophomore and is playing better than Suh was at this point in his career. To be fair, Suh didn’t benefit from a player of his caliber playing right next to him two years ago either. If Moore or Steinkuhler can step up next year and contribute at a high level we may very well have a dominant defensive line for years to come. Mix in the continued improvement of the secondary and development of our young linebackers and it doesn’t take a crystal ball to determine that the Blackshirts are not a one year wonder. With players as talented as Suh and Crick, it makes playing defense look easy. “Easy like Sunday morning.”

How to make some Green in a “Bear” market — “Sooner” rather than later...
Husker fans clamoring for a change in QB got their wish when number 17 trotted out to a spirited applause from the mostly red clad audience on Saturday. It didn’t hurt that he already had a 7-0 lead courtesy of a blocked punt minutes earlier. Green directed the Huskers to points on his first three drives. Then the inexperience of an 18 year old making his first start came through. The encouraging thing is not so much that the offense didn’t light up the score board (who really thought it would?), rather that the offense didn’t seem to be worse than what we have been seeing the last few weeks. No, they didn’t move the ball between the 20’s as well as they did last week, but points got put on the board. That alone — this year — is something to cheer about. Would we have won the game with Lee as the starter? As Jason Kidd would say “most definitely”. A few key plays would have likely garnered a different result if Lee was in there — here are a few observations:
 
First Quarter
3rd and 5 from NU 33
Green can’t find an open receiver after steeping up in the pocket and takes off for a 10 yard gain and a first down by out running the linebacker. Lee probably steps up in similar fashion but would hesitate too long and either take a sack or a short gain resulting in a punt — he wouldn’t have outrun the defensive pursuit. Advantage: Green
 
Second Quarter
1st and 10 from Baylor 46
Green has good protection and lofts a pretty spiral into a small window where Niles Paul makes the play and goes out at the one setting up a short TD run by Robinson. Lee who throws a good deep ball, isn’t likely to take a chance in making this throw since Paul didn’t have his defender clearly beat. We would have seen hesitation and when the pocket started to collapse he would have dumped it off to the RB near the first down marker. Green let Paul make a play. Advantage: Green
 
Third Quarter
1st and 10 from NU 37
Green checks off at the line and overthrows a streaking Kinnie down the sideline who had the coverage beat. I think Lee makes this throw if he is in the game in this situation. Kinnie had a step or two on his defender and Lee could have lofted it out without having to worry about the safety over the top the result would have likely been a touchdown. It is hard to say if he would have made the throw but Lee has been pretty accurate on that play this year. Advantage: Lee
 
3rd and 5 from NU 42
Green stares down his receiver on an out pattern, delivers the ball late, and doesn’t see that Baylor backed off on the blitz. Result is a pick six. I think Lee checks down and hits the RB curling out of the backfield for a short gain — don’t think he would have picked up the first down as there was a LB lurking nearby but we would have ended up with at punt. Advantage: Lee
 
There were many other plays in the game that we could dissect and play the “what if” game, but it didn’t seem to me that we made a huge step back having Cody in the game. Now, I’m not a coach nor an X’s and O’s expert but it would seem to me that if you are getting about the same result with these two QB’s wouldn’t you want to commit to the freshman whom you will have for the next three years? Lee starting at QB does not make us appreciably better on offense and is not a threat to run. Given that we are down to our 17th string RB we need someone who can pick up some yards on the ground when the play breaks down — which has happened far too often this year. Watching some of the K-State/OU game last night having a threat to run and extend plays may be the only chance we have to score on them. Cody has to grow up quick going into next week and hopefully the coaches are not going to play flip flop with the starting QB this year. Green needs to be here to stay — he will get better “Sooner” rather than later we hope.

Live from Waco it’s Saturday … morning …
A few weeks ago I mentioned that I would be attending my first live Husker game this past weekend in Waco. The revelation that I had not previously attended a game sparked emails from concerned readers that questioned my loyalty and credibility to Husker Nation. Doing their best Ricky Ricardo impersonations the basic consensus was that “You’ve got some ’splaining to do”. How is it even remotely possible that a die-hard Husker fan has never been to a game? Now, I’m not here to bore audiences with my life story, but I wanted to share how Waco would become the site of my first Husker experience. I was born and raised (for the most part, my mother was in the Navy) in Scottsbluff and neither of my parents were sports fans, much less Husker fans. Even if they would have had the money there was a list of a million things that would have came before tickets to a game at Memorial Stadium. It was my great-grandmother and uncle, who still reside in Scottsbluff, that introduced me to Nebraska Football. I would usually find myself at her house on Saturdays relegated to playing Monopoly or checkers with my sisters (yuck — who wants to do that?) while they commandeered the television for what seemed like an eternity watching stupid football games. I knew whenever something good happened because I could hear my great-grandmother, who is now approaching 90, loudly applauding and doing her best to recap what just happened. When something bad happened, I would hear some language that would eventually lead to me getting my mouth washed out with soap in later years, mostly coming from my Uncle. The first game I ever remember watching (I mean actually paying attention to) was Nebraska/UCLA in 1987. I watched as Taylor tossed 5 TD’s against the Bruin D as he led the Huskers to a 42-33 victory. The excitement and joy that my great-grandmother and uncle showed rubbed off on me that day. I wanted to be that that excited, I wanted to be that passionate, I wanted to be a Husker fan. No longer would my Saturdays be marred by fighting my sisters over who would get to be the car. The decision was easy — I was watching (or listening) to the game. I remember crying when the top ranked Huskers would lose to number two OU 17-7 in 1987. I remember trying frantically to rig my new black and white TV (my mother actually picked it up at a garage sale for me) so I could watch Nebraska kiss their sister in a 19-19 tie against Colorado in ’91. I remember questioning the caliber of our athletes after a loss to Florida State in 1993. I remember my screaming keeping my aunt awake, who had to work early the next morning, when Schlesinger ran it in for what would be the winning touchdown against Miami on New Years Day in ’95. I moved to with my parents to Texas in ’95 and tried to keep up with the games as much as possible on the radio, and when available, on television. I had tickets to the Independence Bowl in 2002 and again for the Cotton Bowl in 2006 and had to give both of them up when last minute work related projects beckoned. I am the President of a Theatre group and, at the time, worked as an AVP for an auto finance company in Lewisville and could never seem to pry enough time away from work to follow my passion in person. We had planned to travel to Lincoln to watch Nebraska pound Nevada in 2007, but learned two months prior that our company would be closing down operations in the US. Needless to say road trips to watch college football games would have to be placed on hold. I was fortunate enough to find employment in the auto finance industry shortly thereafter, while many of my friends are still out of work. While I would love nothing more than to become a nomadic scribe and follow my Huskers all over the nation, reporting back my humble observations, my family would not likely find that financially prudent. So to make a very long story short — there I was at age 31, watching Cody Green make his first collegiate start, along with my family, and a good friend Mark Jones. I have been to many games, both high school and lower level college games but none as important as the one I attended this Saturday. I got to meet Rick Berns, and see Coach Osborne. Larry the Cable Guy put a smile on my stepdaughter’s face by signing her hat and taking a picture with her. I saw some disgruntled fan shout “You suck, Watson!” during Bo’s press conference and got to see Pelini’s response shortly after. Some players were kind enough to sign some autographs and take some pictures with us, and my wife has found a new love interest in Cody Green — even if he is a foot taller than her. It was a great day — one that I won’t forget. We plan on making the Big XII Championship if the Huskers make it and possibly a trip to Lincoln to see the Huskers play K-State. It was a long time coming to be sure, but as the old saying goes — good things come to those who wait.

In Conclusion...
The defense was once again stellar in holding its seventh straight opponent under 300 yards. The problem is Green and Co couldn’t top that mark either. Bo and Watson made the right choice, even if it may have been a week too late. It is not a given that Green starts again this week against OU but these coaches can’t go back to Lee, can they? Watson making the move to field level didn’t make a difference in the offensive result, but it seems to have made some difference with the players. Maybe Suh said you come down here, or else I’ll come get you. Watson was wise to listen. K-State showed some grit in their game with the Sooners on Saturday scoring 30 points against that vaunted defense giving our offensively challenged team a punchers chance. Our defense will keep this game in reach but it will be up to whoever trots out there at QB to make enough plays to pull it out. Nebraska doesn’t have to win this game to still have a chance to win the north (provided Iowa State loses another game) but if they can somehow find enough offensive firepower to beat OU at home, it may be the springboard that this team needs to getting back to national relevance. Are the Huskers ready for this test, I’m not sure, but it wouldn’t hurt to get some cliff notes just in case.

Rick Berns-Justin (85K)
 
Helu-Miranda (50K)
 
Cody Green-Carolyn (51K)
 
Bri (71K)

 

Justin Prestidge is a new contributor to this website. Born and raised in Scottsbluff, Justin is currently holding a low profile deep in the heart of Texas. A die hard Husker fan, Justin has been following Big Red Football for over 20 years, and has been a member of the North Texas Nebraskans for the last 10. You can e-mail him here.