Talk to Director of Athletics Show Set Tonight

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The Talk to the Director of Athletics Radio Show features Shawn Eichorst.

Tonight’s Talk to the Director of Athletics Show begins with studio host Greg Sharpe interviewing Shawn Eichorst in the first two segments of the 7 to 8 p.m. monthly radio show on the Huskers Sports Network. 

Eichorst will share his overall view of Nebraska Athletics while looking back at the last month and ahead to a big weekend that includes Nebraska playing at No. 10 Michigan State Saturday night in a Big Ten football showdown. The No. 8 Husker volleyball team hosts No. 3 Penn State Friday night and then plays Ohio State Saturday, two hours before Nebraska’s nationally televised football game against the Spartans.

In addition, the Husker softball team will host Colorado State and UNO Sunday at Bowlin Stadium in the Husker Fall Classic, which begins at 11 a.m.  Nebraska’s soccer team plays at Michigan Thursday and at Michigan State Sunday at noon. The Husker men’s golf team, rifle team and swimming and diving team also are competing away from home this weekend.

Dave Harris, in his third season as Nebraska’s distance coach, will be live in studio in segment three for tonight’s Talk to the Director of Athletics Show.  Harris is the Huskers’ cross country coach for both women and men.  He succeeded Jay Dirksen, who retired in 2012 after 28 years as Nebraska’s distance coach and head cross country coach.  Sarah Larson, a distance runner and senior student-athlete majoring in Business Administration, also will be featured in the third segment.   

Sharpe will interview Ashley Rose, Nebraska’s newest head coach, in the show’s fourth segment.  Rose was an assistant rifle coach at Kentucky before being named NU’s head rifle coach.  The Huskers are ranked fourth nationally and return eight letter-winning shooters, including three All-Americans – Denise Martin, Rachel Martin and Lauren Phillips.

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Gregory’s Roommate Finds Fame of his Own

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Daniel Davie uses his sprinter speed after intercepting an Illinois pass.

USA Today: Marquee Guy Delivers Simplicity

SI.com: Parallel Paths of Gregory, MSU Star

AP: Gregory Keeps NU Opponents Guessing

ESPN: Two Reasons to Believe in Nebraska

World-Herald: Injury Rehab Didn’t Deter Davie

Journal-Star: Versatility Giving Teams Fits

The N-Sider’s Five Favorite Bo Pelini Quotes

By Randy York

One thing about Nebraska.  You can hide in the shadows of special teams for a while, but whenever you intercept two passes in a nationally televised game, your days of anonymity are over.  Nebraska junior cornerback Daniel Davie, who will return to his home state Saturday wearing a Nebraska uniform, handled his giant leap into the limelight like a seasoned veteran.  Perhaps that’s because he rooms with Randy Gregory, Nebraska’s marquee defensive player, who has enjoyed watching Davie get a little taste of what Gregory experiences on a daily basis since his arrival on Nebraska’s campus.  Let’s cut to the quick on the identity of a starter the media held high on its priority chart on Monday.

First, Davie lived in Michigan until he was 15.  Then he moved to Beatrice, where he ran faster than anyone else in Nebraska.  The Huskers liked seeing a prospect 40 minutes down the highway with double gold-medal speed of 10.73 in the 100-meter dash and 21.95 in the 200.  The two schools Nebraska beat out for Davie’s signature? Kansas and Ohio.  I would bet a dozen roses from Pasadena that Daniel Davie is the first-ever recruit from Nebraska who grew up a fan of a football program that wears maize and blue and a basketball program that favors green and white.  Yes, Daniel Davie loved a basketball program in East Lansing almost as much as he relished the Big House in Ann Arbor.  Strange, but true … the equivalent of a split personality who might like Oklahoma and Texas simultaneously, or Alabama-Auburn, Michigan-Ohio State, or Army-Navy.

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Cornerback Daniel Davie battles wide receiver Kenny Bell every day.

Davie: Kenny Bell Best Receiver in the Big Ten

All that matters is that Davie found a home in Lincoln, where he battles one of the nation’s best receivers every day and kicks back at night with a defensive lineman headed to the NFL, barring injury.  So Daniel, what’s it like going one-on-one against Kenny Bell every day?  “A lot of people don’t know, but he’s very physical,” Davie said.  “When you get your hands on him, he’s swiping down on you.  He’s the best receiver in the Big Ten.  He’s made me better.”  How?  “He has a lot of tricks up his sleeve,” Davie said.  “It’s very hard to cover him.”

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Sometimes, Randy Gregory looks like a steer wrestler making tackles.

Randy Gregory Can Do Anything He Wants

Enough about No. 80, who made the bell toll after catching a 63-yard pass five minutes into the second half to give Nebraska a three-touchdown cushion.  What about No. 4A, a.k.a. Randy Gregory?  “Randy can do a lot of things, man,” Davie said.  “I give him a lot of grief, and we have a lot of fun.  He can do whatever he wants to do, you know?  He’s probably our best player on defense.  He’s just a great player.”  Here’s the question: Does Gregory, a low-key guy who would never Google his own name, help a roommate solve a big problem this week? Counting family and friends, Davie is, after all, looking for 25 to 30 tickets when the 17th and 19th-ranked Huskers visit No. 10 Michigan State Saturday night for a nationally televised game on ABC.

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Spartan Stadium, Cook’s Arm Tough Challenge

Surprisingly, no one asked the question because, frankly, Davie faces bigger problems than game tickets.  Consider Connor Cook, MSU’s quarterback and a future pro who led the Spartans to a 41-28 win over the Huskers last year in Memorial Stadium.  “He has a great arm.  He fits balls in very tight windows,” Davie said.  “He gives his receivers a chance to make plays, even if they’re not wide open.  You have to be prepared.  We have to make plays.  It’s about us being sound in our technique.”

Gregory will play a big part in achieving that goal, and Davie knows how big the target is on his roommate’s back.  “Teams are going to try and do things to take him out of his game,” Davie said.  “He’s responded well to that and made plays for us.  It’s amazing for him to get double-teamed and chop-blocked and hit in the head and knee and stuff and still be able to make the plays.  That’s just pretty impressive on his part.” Impressive, perhaps, because Gregory isn’t looking for tickets, a fact that would take a load off anyone.

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Secondary Coach Warren on at 7 p.m. Tonight

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By Randy York

Charlton Warren, above, is the newest assistant on Bo Pelini’s coaching staff and will be featured on Nebraska football’s weekly radio show on the Huskers Sports Network (HSN) from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday night.  The lineup for HSN’s monthly Talk to the Director of Athletics Show has been set for the same timeslot on Thursday night.  Nebraska head coaches Dave Harris (cross country) and Ashley Rose (rifle) are Thursday guests in the show’s third segment.  Veteran Lincoln runner Sarah Larson will be Shawn Eichorst’s fourth-segment guest.  Studio host Greg Sharpe will interview all guests on both nights.

Warren joined Nebraska’s football staff after spending nine years on the defensive staff at the Air Force Academy, where he was a standout defensive back for the Falcons in the late 1990s.  In his final two years at Air Force, Warren was the Academy’s associate head coach and defensive coordinator, and he has reinforced that reputation since his arrival at Nebraska last February.

Harris is in his second year as head cross country coach for the men’s and women’s teams.  Also the distance coach for NU’s men’s and women’s track and field teams, Harris coached previously at Emporia State University in Kansas.  Larson, a graduate of Lincoln Northeast High School, was the Huskers’ MVP runner in 2012 and named team captain in 2013.  The only three-time letterwinner on the Nebraska women’s cross country roster this fall, Larson is expected to miss the entire 2014 season with a leg injury.  A scholar-athlete honoree, Larson has earned the Hero Leadership Award twice at Nebraska and was a member of the inaugural Tom Osborne Citizenship Team.

A native of Eubank, Kentucky, Rose came to Nebraska after spending the 2013-14 season as an assistant coach at the University of Kentucky. She inherited a Nebraska program that finished fifth at the 2014 NCAA Championships. A four-year letterwinner and a team captain at Murray State, Rose’s career for the Racers includes a third-place overall finish in air rifle at the 2010 NCAA Championships.

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Keil ‘Pumped’ about Playing No. 3 Penn State

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By Randy York

Check Melanie Keil in the above photo.  The 6-foot Nebraska volleyball middle blocker from Berlin, Germany, is celebrating an emotional moment in the Huskers’ five-set loss to No. 2-ranked Texas at the Devaney Center two weekends ago.  Nebraska’s only other losses this season are to unbeaten No. 1 Stanford and unbeaten No. 5 Florida State.

After losing to three of the nation’s top five ranked teams, the bad news is that Nebraska now hosts No. 3-ranked Penn State on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Devaney Center. The good news is the Huskers are “fired up” and even “hyped up” about the challenge, Coach John Cook said Monday in his weekly presser.  The best news is that Keil, who has worked her way into Nebraska’s starting lineup, told a small group of writers Monday that the Huskers have matured and gained considerable confidence over the last month.  “We’re pumped up (about playing Penn State) because we know we can beat this team,” she said.  “We’re excited, especially after Texas.  We’re playing at a consistent level and think we’re capable of (winning) another set.”

Cook does not back down from his team’s newfound confidence and the way the Huskers are embracing the weekend challenge of hosting Penn State on Friday night and entertaining Ohio State at 5 p.m. Saturday.  “We’ve made adjustments, and things are encouraging,” Cook said.  “We’re at a much greater comfort level than we were, but this will be a whole different level than Iowa (Nebraska swept the Hawkeyes twice last week – once in Lincoln and last Saturday night in Iowa City). They (the Nittany Lions) make you perform at a higher level and they make you pay for mistakes.  This weekend will be a great challenge for us.  Penn State is a great team.  They have all the pieces, and they’ve set the bar high.”

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Keil Adapted to Coaching, Connected with Pollmiller

Cook cautions that the Big Ten, which has three of the nation’s top eight ranked teams and six of the top 18, is “a grind” and every team that competes in the nation’s strongest conference has to “take it one week at a time.”  Keil “played a lot but didn’t get coached a lot, so she played with bad habits” in Germany before selecting Nebraska over Michigan and Illinois, according to Cook.  “She’s worked really hard, connected well with (setter) Mary Pollmiller (above) and now has the opportunity to make the most of it,” he said.

At this stage, Keil will be a front-row player, but the goal is to have her play all the way around.  “Last year was hard for me to adjust,” Keil said.  “It was so much harder than I thought it would be.  Now, I’m having fun playing.  They (her teammates) trust me, and I trust them.”  Trust and culture have enabled Keil to improve dramatically.  “I just learned a whole different view of blocking,” she said.  “We never slack off in practice.  We’re always competing, always giving our best.  Now, I actually have a purpose for everything I’m doing.”

Nebraska holds a 13-9 lead in the all-time series with Penn State, but since the Huskers joined the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions have a 3-2 edge. Both Husker wins in the Big Ten era have been in five sets, and all three losses to Penn State have been in four sets. Penn State (14-1, 2-0 Big Ten) becomes the third top-three team to play Nebraska at the Devaney Center this season. Stanford handed the Nittany Lions’ their only defeat this season in a five-set showdown on Sept. 5.  Aside from the Stanford loss, Penn State has dropped just two of 44 sets in its 14 victories.

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Cook: Nebraska’s SRO Average ‘Blows Me Away’

Last year, Nebraska led the nation in attendance for the first time in more than two decades, averaging an NCAA-record 8,175 fans per match. The Huskers are on pace to surpass that mark this year, averaging 8,361 fans per contest through the first seven home matches. Nebraska’s NCAA-record consecutive sellout streak enters the weekend at 208.  Before the Husker volleyball team headed back to Lincoln from Iowa City Saturday night, Cook (above) received a text about the public address announcement that the Huskers had swept the Hawkeyes in three sets.  More than 91,000 fans at Memorial Stadium responded with gusto, and Cook is hoping for dynamic crowds this weekend.  Nebraska’s average of selling more than 300 standing room only tickets this year “just blows me away,” Cook said.

Nebraska’s head coach knows Husker fans have remained positive despite three home-court losses to the nation’s top teams this season.  At least 300 Nebraska fans also made the trip to Iowa City Saturday, giving the Huskers a major presence in a rival’s gym.  Cook connected Nebraska and Penn State as rivals Monday because both schools belong to the same conference, are part of “the same family” and compete aggressively in national recruiting and overall performance.  Since 2000, no programs have more AVCA All-Americans than Nebraska and Penn State. The Huskers lead the nation with 41 selections in the 21st Century, while Penn State is close behind at 40.

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Husker Heroes Stand Up & Cheer New Jester

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Ron Kellogg III, Homecoming Jester Cassie Irwin and Johnny Rodgers

By Randy York

Nebraska’s fifth Homecoming Jester did something Friday night the previous four did not do – added another descriptor for a motivator who took Big Red football spirit where it had never been.  Meet 5-foot-3½ Cassie Irwin, a sophomore Business Administration major from Kearney, Neb. She was voted Homecoming Jester for, drum roll, please, being a master rapper who moved the judges so dramatically that all three gave her a standing ovation, along with nearly 1,000 students who gathered at UNL’s City Union Plaza by the fountain.

The spontaneous crowning ended any huddled up judges pretending they have a secret and will only let you in on it when they compare notes and create more drama.  With all due respect to Yogi Berra, this competition was over before it was over, even though Irwin insisted on reaching her punch line after the time limit had essentially expired.

Ron Kellogg, Johnny Rodgers Liked the Energy

Let the record show that Ron Kellogg III, the stingiest judge all night, wrote down a 10 on his white board and leaped to his feet to lead the standing O for Irwin a split-second before Johnny Rodgers and yours truly followed suit.  Kellogg is the only quarterback in Nebraska’s 125-year football history to complete a game-winning Hail Mary pass.  Rodgers was the first of three Husker Heisman Trophy winners.  Both know when you need to huddle and when you don’t.  Even Irwin knew she was standing triumphantly in the winning end zone.  We’re all football fans, so here are the winning words from a savvy rapper who was wearing a Husker jersey with Rex Burkhead’s 22:

Hello my Huskers, your attention Imma steal it.

I just have one question: Can you feel it?

Grab some tissue for Illinois to wipe away their tears,

Cause we’ve been out here grindin’ for 125 years.

Again, my name is C-Irwin and I hope that you see me.

Shout out to the man upstairs, my boy Bo Pelini.

And don’t be afraid to love one another.

We all bleed the same color: it’s red motha Huska.

As the Jester winner, Irwin will be introduced at Memorial Stadium about 48 minutes before Saturday night’s kickoff against Illinois.  She will be recognized in the southeast corner of the field near the student section.  The Homecoming Royalty Court, along with winners of various competitions, will be announced after the band performs at halftime. 

Jester Started Rapping in Seventh Grade

Yes, Irwin had the support of her Gamma Phi sorority sisters who talked her into competing for the honor a second time.  “I thought I’d give it another try,” Irwin said, acknowledging that she started rapping in seventh-grade.  “I’ve always loved music and always loved poetry when I was growing up.  I decided I wanted to develop my own style and love expressing my emotions that way.”

Credit her parents for encouraging her to complement her love for dancing with something else.  “I just picked up rap on my own,” she said.  “I wanted to be really good at something, and I just found that something was rap.  Sometimes, after a long day, I’ll stay up extra late just to write one verse.  For me, it’s a way to relax when I’ve been going strong all day.”

Her parents were high school sweethearts, and they should be particularly proud to know that their daughter was at the top of her game, even though she had four tests during the week – in economics, accounting, computer application and business calculus.  She also worked diligently and contributed major time to help the Homecoming Parade go smoothly before Friday night’s Jester competition.

Kellogg Career Moving Full Speed Ahead

Rodgers and Kellogg know high energy when they see it, and both have been working extra hours themselves.  Kellogg is now a wealth accumulation specialist with Northwest Mutual in Lincoln.  He’s a Lincoln Firefighters Pee Wee football coach for seventh and eighth-graders, plus gives private quarterback lessons.  He also contributes to ESPN radio on Mondays and Froggy 98 radio on Fridays. 

In my opinion, Johnny Rodgers does more Heisman poses with fans than any other trophy winner in America.  That’s why I asked “The Jet” do one more combination pose Friday night with a creative rapper and the judge who led her standing ovation.  “She deserved it,” Johnny R said.  “She took the ball all the way home and tore us loose from our shoes.”

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Friday: A Very Strong Day for #Averystrong

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Shavon Shields and Avery Harriman, 7, enjoy a special bald-headed bond.

Video: Avery Gets to Go Home

By Randy York

Anyone who reads today’s N-Sider Blog becomes, in effect, an automatic member of the #AveryStrong team and yes, this is a super-charged band of brothers and sisters, moms and dads and a wide spectrum of supporters who have jointly declared Friday as AVERYSTRONG DAY … the long-awaited day for Avery Harriman to be the recipient of a bone marrow transplant.

Avery is the 7-year-old son of Nebraska men’s assistant basketball coach Chris Harriman and his wife, Cheryl, who are also the proud parents of 5-year-old sister Kacee and 9-month-old sister Elsie.  I mention all five charter members of Avery’s Army because they’re the tight-knight core of an ever-expanding family that keeps multiplying on a daily basis.

On Thursday morning, prayers were shared on Avery’s Facebook page for Andrew, the bone marrow provider who donated his stem cells to help Avery continue his spirited fight following three difficult battles with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  The prayers are for a smooth procedure and a speedy recovery for Andrew and for his stem cells to be transported from California to Nebraska safely Thursday evening, so Avery can receive those life-giving cells in an early Friday morning surgery in Omaha.

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To support his “little brother” Avery, Walter Pitchford also shaved his head.

Chris and Cheryl Harriman Focus on the Positive

One thing is certain as Chris and Cheryl prepare to clear the next hurdle in their oldest son’s courageous battle – they have a very strong sense of peace and have found a way to focus on their faith.  Mom and dad both appreciate the incredible support of a close basketball team that opens their hearts for them, a caring community that reaches out to them, a unique university that that has served them, and a spirited state which reminds them that there really is no place like Nebraska.

Husker guard Shavon Shields shaved the hair off his head to show his support for Avery during the 7-year-old’s extended chemotherapy treatments.  Nebraska forward Walter Pitchford followed suit and shaved his head as well. “We’re all doing whatever we can to show our support for Avery,” Pitchford told me Wednesday.  “We see Avery like he’s our little brother.  His mom and dad are awesome parents.  They help him and encourage him to fight every day.  The entire Harriman family is part of our team’s family.  Whatever we do is to show them that we love them and that we care.”

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Voices from Husker Nation

In this age of winning is everything and athletes being self-centered, some programs run without regard to the personal development of their student-athletes.  Nebraska gives me a sense of pride and a source of inspiration in my own life. I was born and raised in Nebraska and now live in Long Grove, a suburb of Chicago. My wife has M.S. and I find strength in helping her simply by watching the selfless actions of student-athletes at Nebraska. I have been to many functions in the Chicago area to watch Nebraska games and everyone feels the same way about how Nebraska builds men and women of character.  That’s the draw that wills us to attend as many games as possible. Winning is great but my pride in my home state is built on character – the kind of character that Shavon Shields and Walter Pitchford showed to support a 7-year-old kid with leukemia.  Please tell all Nebraska student-athletes how their actions are the main reason we support them better than any other program in the country.  And please know that Avery will be in our thoughts and prayers.  Ken Friend, Chicago, Illinois

Captain Got the Glory; Roach Gets the Credit

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Trevor Roach shares thoughts about the play that changed the momentum.

Video: Trevor Roach Press Conference

Video: Josh Mitchell Press Conference

By Randy York

If you’re looking for a personal growth story on Nebraska’s Top 20 football team, look no further than Josh Mitchell, a senior cornerback from Corona, Calif.  He went from his head coach’s doghouse to become one of Nebraska’s five senior captains this fall.  Mitchell places that honor right next to his heart.  The effect has been transformational, and Monday’s press conference in Memorial Stadium showcases the evidence.

Mitchell answered questions about his 57-yard fumble return for a touchdown that switched momentum and put Nebraska on the fast track of a 41-31 win over Miami Saturday night.  But the truth is the Husker captain prefers to give credit where credit is due.  “A lot of attention on the play has been set on me because I was the one in the end zone, but Trevor Roach is the one who made the play,” Mitchell said.  “I just happened to be around the ball at the right time.  I’m really happy for him.  After the play, I told him: ‘This is your play, not mine.  You made this play!’”

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Mitchell: Everyone Knew Roach Had Talent

Mitchell, the captain, got the glory, but Roach, the persevering senior, gets the credit.  “Since Roach has been here, he’s always worked hard,” Mitchell said.  “He’s one of those guys from our freshman year.  Everyone knew he had talent, but he had a couple injuries here and there that set him back.  I think it (the pivotal play) was huge for him.  He’s a great guy.”  Roach forced the fumble by stripping the ball out of Miami running back Duke Johnson’s hands.  “We were running a blitz to the right,” Roach said.  “Basically, I read it, even though it wasn’t even my gap.  I tried to make the tackle.  They had him (Johnson) wrapped up, so I just tried to reach for the ball.  I actually didn’t think I had it until I saw the ball pop out.”  At the point, Roach had a decision to make.  “I thought about diving for it,” he said.  “It’s a good thing I didn’t because J. Mitch (Mitchell) picked it up and scored.”

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Mitchell Lit the Match to Change Momentum

Football has a fast lane, and fans only seem to care about recognizing the one with his feet in the end zone while the ball is in his hands.  Mitchell was the benefactor.  His name is the one in the scoring summary.  But give Mitchell bonus points for identifying the hero who lit the match for changing the game’s momentum.  “Turnovers are huge,” Roach said.  “Throughout fall camp, we’ve always emphasized if someone’s wrapped up, try to get the ball.  Initially, I was just worried about getting him down.  Other people were around him, so I tried grabbing for it.”  It worked, and Roach finally caught a break that he’s been waiting for.

Asked how surprised he was to get so much playing time, Roach admitted he wasn’t expecting to play as much as he did.  “But I remember going back to my freshman year … I wasn’t expecting to play when Will Compton got hurt.  You just have to be ready,”  said Roach, who made sure he settled his nerves and used another source of inspiration while he earned unexpected playing time.  “That was a great atmosphere.  The fans were going crazy,” he said.  “It was a great time, and I would say that was the loudest game since I’ve been here.”

Increased playing time has been a well deserved payoff for Roach’s hard work and loyalty to the program.  It doesn’t necessarily, however, guarantee more opportunities on the field.  Making arguably the biggest play in the Miami game certainly enhanced that option and let the record show that Roach practiced Monday with the first-team defense at linebacker.  Those snaps are important, but they don’t become meaningful until the Huskers see the offensive scheme they will face.  If Illinois stretches the field with multiple receivers, the linebacker roles will be different for everyone, not just Trevor Roach.  Stay tuned.  Homecoming should be interesting.

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The N-Sider’s Five Favorite Bo Pelini Quotes

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N-Sider’s Heisman Portrait

Video: Bo’s Monday Presser

Video: Abdullah’s Presser

By Randy York

If this is Monday, it must be the beginning of Big Ten Conference play.  That means The N-Sider’s Five Favorite Bo Pelini Quotes will focus on fundamentals today.  First up is Nebraska’s running game, which responded well to Tim Beck’s game plan and therefore has set a physical tone for the rest of September through the end of November.  On deck is Nebraska’s home crowd, which seemed to be as consistently loud since Nebraska upset No. 1 Oklahoma, 17-14 more than a quarter century ago.  In the hole is Illinois’ top running back, who may not command the national recognition of Ameer Abdullah, but is nevertheless definitively dangerous.  We save the last two spots in the Husker lineup for Ameer Abdullah, the cleanup hitter who likes to dodge single defenders, confuse double trouble, juke a triple and weave his way home.  Here we go:

No. 5: On Husker plans for the run game: “To a certain extent you have to take what they can give you,” Bo said at Monday’s press conference.  “Miami might have gotten a little bit spooked early in the game. We hit a couple passes on them … we were running the ball effectively … we’re going to stay with it. We were going to mix in the play action stuff when we needed to, but I thought Tim (Beck) called a heckuva game.”

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No. 4: On the crowd atmosphere against Miami:  “I thought this crowd was phenomenal the other night … it was a tremendous atmosphere … it’s a tremendous advantage. I hope to see that every week,” Pelini said.  “I challenged our team; I challenged the crowd. Let’s make sure it’s that way every week.  You can’t ride the highs and lows in this deal. You can’t pick and choose. It’s got to be the same approach every week.”

No. 3: On defending Illinois junior running back Josh Ferguson: “He’s a really good football player … one of the better backs in the conference,” Pelini said.  “He’s elusive; he’s quick. He’s quick to bounce the football … he runs with really good vision. He’s a good all-around player.  Their staff looks to feature him.  It doesn’t take a long time looking on film to recognize that this guy is a good player.”

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No. 2: On what stuck out about Ameer Abdullah’s performance:  “I don’t know if the first guy brought him down all night.  I don’t remember many times you can say that.  He continues to show why he is who he is.  He was possessed … he ran like he always does. He ended up on top of a lot of people.  Anybody out there who says he isn’t big enough, that he doesn’t run big, they need to take a good, hard look at that film.”

No. 1: On where Ameer belongs in the Heisman Trophy watch: “Anybody who pays attention has him in the top five.  You’ve got to not be paying attention and not watching to not recognize the type of year he’s having so far.  That’s my opinion. I’m a little biased.  I had a front row seat for a pretty good performance.  One thing about Ameer: You know what you’re going to get …he’s wired … a tremendous competitor.”

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Tommie: Matt a Better Movie Idea than Rudy

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From left: Tommie Frazier, Alex Berringer, Jan Berringer, Matt Turman.

By Randy York

Nebraska’s latest College Football Hall-of-Famer waved to Memorial Stadium’s record crowd Saturday night during the second quarter of the Huskers’ 41-31 win over Miami. But before he stepped into the spotlight on the northeast sideline near the Nebraska bench, Tommie Frazier shared something that continues to tug on his heart while celebrating the Huskers’ 20th anniversary of Tom Osborne’s first national championship team.

“It’s so special to look back and see what Brook Berringer and Matt Turman did to help us win the national championship,” Frazier told me.  “Some people still don’t realize what those two guys did for our team.  What they did was more important than what I did, and when I look back, it’s overwhelming and it’s humbling.  Without both of their contributions, we don’t make the national championship game against Miami in the 1995 Orange Bowl.  It’s that simple.”

Frazier said the late Berringer had a bond, a relationship and camaraderie in leading Nebraska to seven wins during that national championship season while he was recovering from blood clots.  “Brook was awesome, and Matt was a perfect example of what Tom Osborne taught people every day – you better prepare yourself every day because your number can be called when you least expect it and you better be ready.

One Got on the Field; Other Enabled National Title

“I tell people all the time that they should have made a movie about Matt Turman because he walked on from a little town 30 minutes away from Lincoln and played a major role in helping us win a national championship,” Frazier said.  “They made a movie about Rudy just getting on the field on Notre Dame.”

Turman, the third-string star of a win over Oklahoma State that season and the starting quarterback for Nebraska’s late-season win at Kansas State, missed Friday night’s 20-year reunion banquet because he’s the head coach at Omaha Skutt High School, which defeated Omaha Roncalli that same night.

Saturday, during the second quarter, Frazier, Turman and Jan Berringer, Brook’s mom, represented Brook in a stadium salute to three quarterbacks from three states who led the charge for the national championship trophy – Frazier from Bradenton, Fla., Berringer from Goodland, Kan., and Turman from Wahoo, Neb.

Turman Calls His Role 15 Minutes of Personal Fame

“It’s good to go back to honor the glory years and my 15 minutes of fame,” Turman told me.  “I was a kid from a real small town and played a real smart part in the whole deal.  The guys around me were the ones who made it happen and helped me get the job done.  My perspective is different.  So many of these guys went on to play professional football, they’re the ones who made me a key contributor.  My role just seems kind of small comparatively.”

Informed of Frazier’s “bigger than Rudy” comparison, Turman steps back and finds another way to deflect any special measure that focuses on him.  “Do you remember Brett Popplewell?” he asked.  “Brett was a junior split end from Melbourne, Australia, on our 1994 team.  He moved back to Australia and then came back to Lincoln this weekend for the reunion.  I think that’s pretty cool.”

Tommie Frazier’s right.  Someone should have made a film about Matt Turman, who would have directed a fellow character from Australia to take the attention off of him.  It is, after all, the team that counts.

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Tunnel Walk + The Prayer = Big 1994 Legacies

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Nebraska linebacker Donta Jones says “The Prayer” was pivotal in 1994.

Video: Mark Pelini Leads ‘The Prayer’

Bo Would Have Gone for Two, Too

T.O. Calls ‘94 Team Most Remarkable

Husker Captains Leaders in Life

Nebraska’s Unbeaten 1994 Season

Huskers’ ‘94 Championship Roster

By Randy York

On the eve of Nebraska and Miami renewing a college football rivalry that is dead even at five wins apiece, we take you back two decades when the Huskers were pioneers outdoors and unifiers indoors. 

Tom Osborne’s first national championship team in 1994 launched the Tunnel Walk, and here’s hoping that the Huskers’ four captains finally get to “feel it” since they were already on the field 20 years ago when one of college football’s grandest traditions leveraged sudden impact videos from the biggest screens in college or professional football at the time.

Yes, pregame obligations prevented Terry Connealy, Ed Stewart, Zach Wiegert and Rob Zatechka from having the same rush their teammates experienced because in 1994 all four were already on the field, meeting opposing captains, listening to officials, and being part of the coin toss.

As ground-breaking as the Tunnel Walk was, a Nebraska All-Big Eight linebacker nominates something else as even more pivotal to the Huskers winning their first national championship in a quarter century.  

And what would that be?  “Our pregame prayer,” said Donta Jones, who insists Vernon Powell, a former teammate, introduced “The Prayer”, a pregame ritual for 1994 players wanting to improve their off-season tenacity and amp up their resolve to win a national title after a missed last-second field goal left the Huskers short the previous year.

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1:16 is a Number That Fueled Husker Purpose

“Losing to Florida State the previous year with 1:16 remaining gave our prayer a purpose,” Jones said.  “That entire off-season, we pushed ourselves past the limit on and off the field simply because we believed.  WE BELIEVE became our team motto.  It drove us every day to be champions and finish the business we didn’t finish in 1993.”

The commitment to every day improvement became a shared commodity and the heart and the soul of “The Prayer” which has become part of  Nebraska’s DNA and continues to be a vital component of Husker tradition two decades later.  Jones, one of three Nebraska linebackers who earned first-team All-Big honors in 1994, went on to play six years in the NFL.  He and his wife live in Charlotte, N.C., and flew to Lincoln for this special reunion weekend.  Their oldest son plays football at Ball State and they have two children (15 and 19 months-old) living at home.  Jones smiles when he reveals that his next goal is to officiate NFL games.  It’s a step-by-step process that will require day-by-day improvement and yes, Jones can still recite every word of The Prayer:

Dear Lord, the battles we go through life,

We ask for a chance that’s fair

A chance to equal our stride,

A chance to do or dare

If we should win, let it be by the code,

Faith and Honor held high

If we should lose, we’ll stand by the road,

And cheer as the winners go by

Day by Day, we get better and better!

Til’ we can’t be beat … WON’T BE BEAT!

“We start in low voices and we build to high voices before we say amen,” Jones said.  “That prayer was the purpose that allowed our team to go out and win a national championship for Coach Osborne.” 

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Former Husker John Garrison believes in Mark Pelini’s leadership.

Mark Pelini Leads Prayer to Strive for Excellence

It is same igniter for this year’s team.  Check out the conviction in Nebraska’s resolve here.  “Mark Pelini is doing a great job of leading that prayer,” said Mike Nobler, Nebraska football’s video coordinator.  “He knows how to enunciate, when to slow down and when to speed up.  He has a way to psych people up with ‘Won’t Be Beat.’”

The Prayer is a commitment to strive, to seek excellence, to win the right way and to keep faith and honor held high.  It is a gift from Vernon Powell, a cornerback from East St. Louis, Mo., and two-year Husker letterman in 1990 and ’91.

The language fits Nebraska and reflects the sportsmanship that Tom Osborne embraces, win or lose.  “Coach Osborne’s teams were unselfish, and that’s what made them so special,” Tim Carpenter said prior to nearly 100 players, coaches and staff members gathering to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1994 national championship season Friday night inside Memorial Stadium.

“Looking back and reflecting, it was the leadership of the coaching staff that brought our unselfishness out,” said Carpenter, a Columbus, Neb., native who earned his first of four varsity letters at tight end in 1994.  “We were all more interested in reaching the team goal than any personal goals, and we all knew our role in reaching that goal.  That was a special group of people, all trying to accomplish the same thing.”

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Tom Osborne’s players celebrate their head coach’s first national title.

Huskers Sharpened Their Skills in Practice

“The reason Coach Osborne called this team remarkable was because of our one common goal,” said Jamel Williams, who was a sophomore “rover” from Merrillville, Ind. “We practiced that way every day and it carried over into our game play. The goal was the same year-round, from winter conditioning and spring ball to summer workouts and fall camp.  “We ended every workout every day saying 1:16 to remind us of what we had to do to get what we wanted.  If we had not practiced the way we did, I don’t think we could have accomplished the goal we set.  I watched a replay the other night with our three boys, and I couldn’t help thinking how awesome it was to play for Coach Osborne in the first of his three national championships.”

Darren Schmadeke, a junior cornerback from Albion, Neb., said the memories of that experience “are life lasting because after coming so close a year earlier, our team dedicated itself to winning it all,” he recalled.  “Our Unity Council was very strong and so was our focus and our dedication.  We knew when we stepped on the field, we were going to win.  The confidence and leadership we had in our captains was a big part of our success.

“I will never forget Tom Osborne’s halftime locker room talk at the Orange Bowl,” Schmadeke said.  “He remained calm, focused and told us exactly what we needed to do to win the game.  Helping Coach Osborne win his national championship is something we’re all proud to be a part of … and something we will never forget.”

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