By Randy York
Anyone walking the hall outside the Nebraska football locker room this week will see a rarity – a group award to represent the Nebraska Defensive Player of the Game following the Huskers’ 23-9 win over the Michigan Wolverines last Saturday night. There simply was no room for 11 individual photos in one tiny space for the defensive MVP honor, so coaches did the only thing that made sense. They asked the Capital Planning group to place an engraved Blackshirt logo on the Michigan game plaque, flanked by Offensive Player of the Game award winner Ameer Abdullah and Special Teams Player of the Game honoree Wil Richards.
Under the Blackshirt logo is this description: Defensive Player of the Game: Entire Defense
What a meaningful tribute to 11 newly anointed Blackshirts. Eight are seniors:
Will Compton, 6-2, 235, linebacker, Bonne Terre, Mo. (North County)
Sean Fisher, 6-6, 230, linebacker, Omaha, Neb. (Millard North)
Eric Martin, 6-2, 250, linebacker, Moreno Valley, Calif. (Rancho Verde)
Cameron Meredith, 6-4, 250, defensive end, Huntington Beach, Calif. (Mater Dei)
P.J. Smith, 6-2, 210, safety, River Ridge, La. (John Curtis)
Daimion Stafford, 6-1, 205, safety, Norco, Calif. (Norco/Chaffey College)
Baker Steinkuhler, 6-6, 290, defensive tackle, Lincoln, Neb. (Southwest)
Alonzo Whaley, 6-1, 230, linebacker, Madisonville, Texas
Three new Blackshirts are juniors:
Jason Ankrah, 6-4, 265, defensive end, Gaithersburg, Md. (Quince Orchard)
Ciante Evans, 5-11, 185, cornerback, Arlington, Texas (Juan Seguin)
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, 6-3, 215, cornerback, Miami (Central HS/Fort Scott CC) ,
Compton intuitively knows and understands what a Blackshirt is all about – what it means to wear one and what it represents when you do.
Compton Favored a One-Week Postponement
When he saw a Blackshirt hanging on his locker last week after Nebraska’s win over Northwestern, Compton did not want to pull it over his head. Even though he leads a chant that breaks the last huddle and ends every practice with “1-2-3, Shirts!”, Compton wasn’t ready to declare himself or anyone else Blackshirt worthy until and unless they beat Michigan. Whaley, Stafford and Meredith seconded that emotion almost simultaneously, and suddenly, there was an empty but metaphorical carrot staring at the Blackshirts every time they opened their lockers last week.
You know the rest of the story. The Huskers held the No. 20-ranked Wolverines to 188 total yards and three field goals and now all 11 Huskers have no problem wearing the newest adidas version of the black pullover jersey that has symbolized Nebraska defensive excellence since 1964.
Abdullah, Richards Win Individual Awards
After extensive evaluation of film, Nebraska coaches named Abdullah, a sophomore I-back, the Offensive Player of the Game after he netted 101 yards on 24 carries. Abdullah gave the Huskers their 23-9 lead less five minutes into the fourth quarter with a 12-yard touchdown run, plus he caught a four-yard pass that produced a first down. Richards, a 5-9, 195-pound junior safety from Lee’s Summit, Mo., West, was named Nebraska’s Special Teams Player of the Game for the second time this season.
Nebraska coaches also recognized three Scout Team players Tuesday. Sam Burtch, a 6-3, 190-pound redshirt freshman wide receiver from Murdock, Neb. (Elmwood-Murdock), was named the Huskers’ Scout Team Offensive Player of the Week. Jeff Uher, a 6-1, 280-pound defensive tackle from Omaha Creighton Prep, received NU’s Scout Team Defensive Player of the Week, and Michael Rose, a 5-11, 230-pound freshman from Kansas City Rockhurst, was named Nebraska’s Scout Team Special Teams Player of the Week.
Blackshirts Make Major Statistical Improvements
The Blackshirts’ performance against Michigan resulted in dramatic advancements in NCAA defensive statistics. The Huskers moved from 46th to 26th in total defense and from 74th to 55th in scoring defense.
At Monday’s press conference, Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini had no bones about his top defenders getting Blackshirts that represent the skull and bones. “My message to the team is you get what you earn in this world,” Pelini said. “They are not going to give you anything. You have to earn it, and you have to be ready to go take it. It’s as simple as that.
“It’s not going to just happen by mistake, and it’s not going to happen by magic,” Pelini added. “You have to put the work in and match the work ethic and the process with what you want the result to be.”
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