Last year Nebraska joined the B1G and Ohio State traveled to Lincoln for an exciting game. Last year also introduced us to Tad Stryker, Dan “Husker Dan” McGlynn, and Husker Max.com. They joined us last year for our questions and they graciously decided to put up with us again this year and answer our questions about this year’s game.
1) Watching Nebraska defeat Wisconsin (woot!!) on Saturday, we couldn’t help but have deja vu with the second half comeback. Do you attribute that to great half-time adjustments, players executing the game plan better in the third and fourth quarters, home crowd momentum, or Bert Bielema just being awful? We’ll totally accept a combination of the two.
Tad Stryker: Yeah, that comeback did bring back a memory or two, didn’t it? The home crowd was a big factor, but the players settled down and stopped making critical mistakes. As far as coaching goes, putting Ciante Evans on Abbrederis for the second half was one of the best adjustments the Huskers made all evening. Second-year offensive coordinator Tim Beck stuck with the running game despite being down 17 points, unlike last year in Madison.
Husker Dan: The main cause of the Huskers’ second half resurgence was that they got out of their own way. There were also half-time adjustments to the offensive and defensive line schemes. Better execution, half time adjustments and the fact that Russell Wilson is playing for the Seahawks helped to contribute to the Husker win! Bret Bielema is a good coach, but clearly doesn’t have the talent he’s had the past few years.
2) Taylor Martinez has improved his passing significantly this year, both statistically and in his decision making. However, there seem to be several moments of regression (UCLA game, 1st half against Wisconsin)… what are the coaches doing to help him put together a complete game?
HD: This is a great question. I’m not sure the coaches can do much, other than stay out of his way. Taylor Martinez is light years from where he was a year ago. He played most of 2011 with two bad wheels that limited his ability to throw and run. This year, he’s become much more of a leader. He is definitely in charge of the offense. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance this fall. When he reaches his full potential, look out. He has the potential to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
TS: Martinez has improved a lot, but I still don’t think he can beat a high-level opponent with his arm alone. I think the coaches just need to keep reinforcing his confidence and let him run the ball with abandon (no more hook slides). When the Husker run game improves, Martinez improves as a passer, and so on.
3) At the game in the Rose Bowl, the Blackshirts seemed to be out of position in a number of occasions. What adjustments have Nebraska’s defensive personnel and coaches made since UCLA?
TS: Lack of speed on defense has been a major problem, both last year and throughout the early part of 2012. After UCLA piled up 650-plus yards, John Papuchis, the first-year defensive coordinator, is trying a few younger but faster players in the lineup, especially against spread offenses like Ohio State’s. They will need to grow up in a hurry.
HD: The coaches have tried to get more speed on defense. Highly touted juco transfer, Zaire Anderson (LB), played the next week for the first time in the Arkansas State game, but was injured and is out for the season. They’ve also tried three man fronts, moved some personnel around. Players like LB Alonzo Whaley, CB Ciante Evans, CB Mohammed Siesay, S Corey Cooper have made big improvements in their play.
4) The “knock” on the Huskers is that they struggle on the road- big losses at Michigan and Wisconsin last year, UCLA this year. Given that this is another night game in a pretty hostile environment, do you see Coach Pelini doing anything different to prepare for Ohio State?
HD: Coach Pelini seemed to think that his team was too pumped up Saturday night. Excitement can reach a level of diminished returns if not tempered. Coming into the Horseshoe Saturday night is going to be a huge challenge for Nebraska. Look for Bo to keep it basic early in the game. Look for Nebraska to test the Buckeye secondary at some point. Oh, and the Huskers must contain Braxton “Lighting In A Bottle” Miller. Of course no one contains a player like Miller. You just play your position and pray a lot! Miller also has the potential to be one of the best, if not the best QB in the country. IMHO the team that makes fewer mistakes and can run the ball more consistently and effectively, will win the game. How’s that for going out on a limb!
TS: The Huskers must have success on offense early and be within a touchdown at halftime to have a decent chance of winning this game.
5) Game on the line, and you have one of your running backs go down to injury… who would you want still available- Burkhead or Abdullah?
TS: Burkhead. He’s more reliable, tougher, less apt to fumble …. but Abdullah has come a long way already this year. I thought he was only going to be a situational back, but he’s developing all-round talent and he will start next fall.
HD: Wow, what a question! These are two great running backs whose running styles are different. RB is a workhorse. Need three or four yards? Give it to #22. Need someone to throw a great block? Look for #22. Need someone to catch a pass for a first down? #22′s your guy. He’s also a kid who almost never fumbles (he ran into his blocker Saturday night for one of his rare fumbles).
Ameer Abdullah (#8) at 5’9″ and a buck 85 can find holes where there aren’t any. He has Johnny Rodgers’ type moves. Can run full speed and turn on a dime and leave you with 9 pennies in change. He’s an explosive runner, great receiver and kick returner capable of taking it to the house every time he touches the ball. And as just a true sophomore, he has unlimited potential. His only drawback is a penchant for fumbling. Once he gets that fixed, he’ll go down in Husker history as one of the all-time greats.
I know, I know. I didn’t answer your question, but it’s like choosing one of your own kids.
6) What are you most looking forward to in Big Red’s first visit to Columbus? What are the overall expectations from fans regarding the environment surrounding the game?
HD: Well, we’re looking forward to a win! Nebraska has a long history of playing in big, hostile environments-Penn State, Oklahoma, Colorado, LSU, Texas, Miami and Texas A&M. But the Horseshoe will be an extra challenge for Nebraska, especially in the closed end of the field. This is will be the Huskers’ first visit to OSU and should be a great game. I can’t wait!
TS: Anytime you get a chance to play in a historic venue like Columbus where they love college football, it’s a great thing. I want to see the Cornhuskers play where Woody Hayes used to coach.
7) You’re not going to be wearing those uniforms again any time soon, are you?
TS: The word is the younger generation likes them, and the recruits think they’re cool. Whatever. I hope those Power Ranger suits help the Huskers sign a few great recruits, because they sure looked funny.
HD: I hope not!
8 ) Are Husker fans happy with Bo in his time as Nebraska head coach?
HD: Bo has made big strides so far this year in his sideline demeanor and his behavior during press conferences. The jury is still out on how good of a head coach he is. He has two titles in a weak Big 12 North division and no conference titles in his first four years at Nebraska. But he took over a program that was nearly run into the ground by Bill Callahan. BP has gone 9-4, 10-4, 10-4 and 9-4 while at NU. His success will ultimately be determined by the number of championships his teams have won. So far, that number is zero.
TS: The majority of them are OK with Bo so far because the program has won at least nine games a year, players have made good progress academically, and for the most part have kept out of trouble off the field. But this is Nebraska football you’re talking about and he hasn’t won a conference title yet, so a small but vocal minority calls for his scalp after each loss. That will not subside until he wins at least one conference title. Then expectations will rise; it will escalate to a major bowl victory, then a national title, as it did with Osborne.
Thanks again to Tad Stryker and Husker Dan for taking time to answer our questions. As always be sure to check out their website HuskerMax.com for the best Nebraska coverage on the web.
And one last thought…..we are glad to have you in the B1G Nebraska but we hope to give you the same welcoming that Lincoln gave us last year…..classy hosts but the home team winning! Go Bucks!