An Outsider’s View of the Husker Football Program

By Thad Livingston

GUEST COMMENTARY

Practically speaking, living outside the bubble doesn’t make gauging the state of Husker football any more difficult than living inside it.

And by “the bubble,” I mean the state of Nebraska.

But instead of wading through statistics, offering opinions on the pluses and minuses of keeping the coach, or scratching my head over bewildering plays that lose games, I will simply offer myself as a barometer. For this particular exercise, it’s best to live as far away from Nebraska as possible, yet still be in the continental United States.

Like many Nebraskans, I was born into following NU football. The first Cornhusker game I remember watching on television was the Game of the Century. The first time I remember feeling perplexed by a Husker loss was exactly a year later – remember the name Tinker?

I was around 10 years old in the mid-’70s when I first realized that simply being from Nebraska was worth a modicum of respect from those outside the bubble. Heck, you didn’t even have to be on the team, go to practice or get tackled. This realization hit me when I was with my dad pulling into an allnight parking lot in Chicago, of all places. The lot attendant grabbed a clipboard and asked for Dad’s name and said he’d write down our car’s license plate number. Dad pulled forward and stopped, giving the attendant a moment to see the rear plate. At that moment, the man yells: “Hey, Nebraska! You guys have a helluva football team!”

As if we had anything to do with it. But somehow just having those weird Nebraska 1976 bicentennial license plates connected us to the team with red N’s on white helmets.

I guess that’s one example of how Husker football becomes at least a small part of Nebraskans’ identities.

And so it went. Back then, Nebraska was on TV only a few times a year, at most. The rest of the time, you either went to the game or dutifully listened on the radio. And you couldn’t wait to read every word written about it in the Sunday newspaper – at least nine times a year, anyway.

Through college and young adulthood, the football program stumbled just a bit and then rebuilt itself, becoming the team of the ‘90’s – a truly dominant program.

I had moved to South Carolina by the end of that run, and felt some mild resentment from a few colleagues simply because I was from Nebraska – it would be the same way you might look at someone from Alabama who somehow found his way to Nebraska and started working in your office. South Carolina is football territory, and a couple of my new associates so badly wanted either the Gamecocks or Clemson (note: It’s either one or the other down there, believe me) to be successful that the jealousy was palpable.

How dare you be from Nebraska was the sentiment. Walking around here privileged and all ..

At the office, we would receive the Clemson fan magazine – similar to the magazine you are reading now, only orange and with pawprints – and you could just feel the hopefulness in the writing that one day soon the Tigers would break through again.

I remember one Saturday keeping track of the Clemson-Florida State game on the TV above my desk. Clemson thought it had a chance that year – probably 2001, if memory serves. Alas, the Seminoles won by a couple touchdowns, and the cameras followed the two head coaches to their postgame handshake. I remember Bobby Bowden’s words to his son, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, as the cameras focused in: “Go recruitin’,” Bobby told Tommy.

Go recruitin’ indeed.

It was about that time the cyclical nature of college football was about to cycle away from Nebraska: The rout at Colorado followed by the Rose Bowl blowout loss to a great Miami team. Then came the coaching carousel and the jump to the Big Ten. You know the rest, including, ironically, the rise of Clemson, today one of the best recruitin’ programs in the country.

I now live in Washington state. The other day, I was stopped at a light and the license plate on the car in front of me said, “GO HSKRS,” or something to that effect. Maybe in another time, I would have honked and waved; maybe yelled, “You guys have a helluva football team!” But I didn’t. I just wondered briefly what his or her tie to Nebraska might be before the car sped off.

I’m not breaking any insider news when I write that these days, the Husker brand has lost its shine. And this being a fan magazine, it’s probably hard to read those words.

A few Saturdays ago, I went to the gym for an early workout. A Washington friend who knows full well I’m from Nebraska asked why I was in at such an early hour. I said I wanted to get out so I could watch the game. “Wrong day,” he said. “Seahawks play on Sundays.”

“Uh, right, but I’m talking college football,” I said.

“Really? Who’s your team?” I thought it was a strange question.

“Well, I follow Nebraska,” was my response.

“Oh yeah, I remember one time they beat Washington when Washington was good,” he said, with nary a hint of resentment.

“Yup, that quarterback is now the coach,” I replied.

“That was a long time ago, huh?” he said.

And there it was. An outsider’s view of Husker football.

Twenty years ago, the last time I was an outsider and living on another coast, this Nebraskan was feeling some resentment from Clemson and South Carolina fans; Nebraska was at the top but tipping; and I was pitying those poor Clemson fans who were hoping their Tigers could somehow return to prominence.

Now, allow me to share this memory: Back in my South Carolina days, a good friend called me. He had just returned home from attending Sunday church in the village of Choppee, which is so small, it’s not even on some maps – think a clump of houses with a corner store and, apparently, at least one church.

Anyway, my friend said this: “Just went to church in Choppee, and I counted six current or former NFL players sitting in the congregation.”

That’s like six NFL guys hailing from, I don’t know, Venango, Nebraska. (For you city dwellers, Venango is in Perkins County, which borders Colorado.)

Trust me. There aren’t six NFL guys in Venango.

And that reminds me why, as an adult, I’ve remained intrigued by Husker football. Watching Nebraska and other college programs from varying perspectives most of my life, I’ve always felt Nebraska’s recipe was as delicate as they come. And that is what makes it interesting. Ponder this: If a hefty, balding Irishman didn’t get off a train in Lincoln all those years ago, what separates Nebraska from Wyoming?

Today’s high bar and expectations are a good thing, but finding people up to the task of meeting them is difficult. Nebraska has to do it all and do it right in an area of the country where going recruitin’ is a helluva lot harder than in South Carolina.

So, from outside the bubble up here in Washington, I know the old quarterback just got some more time to work on his recipe. And maybe someday soon, I will notice just a little resentment from the locals just because I’m from Nebraska.

Game Recap – Nebraska v. Purdue

By Darren Ivy

The Halloween boo birds came out for the Nebraska offense after junior quarterback Adrian Martinez threw his third interception of the game with 7:14 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Husker reciever Levi Falck pulls in a 43-yard reception in front of Purdue’s Derick Mackey during the second quarter.
Husker reciever Levi Falck pulls in a 43-yard reception in front of Purdue’s Derick Mackey during the second quarter.

The Huskers were trailing 28-17 after having gained only one second half first down to that point, but the defense had just forced its first three and out of the second half against Purdue. Momentum seemed to be there to seize.

Omar Manning scores on a first quarter pass reception against Purdue.
Omar Manning scores on a first quarter pass reception against Purdue.

However, any chance of a comeback seemed to go out the door on the first play when Martinez overthrew his receiver and the Boilermakers intercepted it and retuned it to the 29-yard line.

As the offense headed off the field, they were greeted by a chorus of boos. “I’m impatient to have these games turn out a different way,” Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said. “I’m grateful to the fan base. I was just as frustrated as them in the second half.”

Purdue missed a field goal and the same score greeted Martinez when he headed back out with 5:45 left in the game.

Nebraska wide receiver Oliver Martin makes a move after a 23-yard reception against Purdue. Husker running back Jaquez Yant (0) is tackled by Purdue’s Jaylan Alezander (left) and Sanoussi Kane during a first quarter run.
Nebraska wide receiver Oliver Martin makes a move after a 23-yard reception against Purdue. Husker running back Jaquez Yant (0) is tackled by Purdue’s Jaylan Alezander (left) and Sanoussi Kane during a first quarter run.

The Huskers were finally driving, but after a nicely thrown ball by Martinez to Austin Allen, his 6-foot-9 tight end, the ball popped into the air after Allen was hit, and the Boilermakers caught it for a fourth interception with just over five minutes left.

Wide receiver Zavier Betts looks upfield while being tackled by Purdue’s Dedrick Mackey.
Wide receiver Zavier Betts looks upfield while being tackled by Purdue’s Dedrick Mackey.

“Frustration for me is at an all-time high because I didn’t control what I can control,” Allen said afterwards. “There were two points in that game where I caught the ball and didn’t tuck it away right away. Got away with the first one. The second one cost us. I let my team down in that situation. We had momentum. Driving down the field. Five minutes left. I didn’t do my 1/11th. On that certain play I let them down. I told the guys that I failed them and nobody was going to work harder this week. … Not only did I let my teammates down, I let the whole state down.”

The Nebraska defense again held and NU got the ball back at its own six with 3:14 left.

Martinez then led the Huskers on the eightplay 94-yard drive that was capped by Rahmir Johnson’s 12-yard touchdown catch with 1:44 left. NU went for the two-point play but Martinez got hit and the pass fell incomplete leaving the score 28-23. With no timeouts left, Connor Culp came out to attempt the onside kick. There was a scrum and initially NU signaled it had it but when the dust settled Purdue ended up with it at the NU 46-yard line.

Betts made a 30-yard reception in the first quarter of play.
Betts made a 30-yard reception in the first quarter of play.

“That’s another one of those plays,” Frost said.

The Boilermakers took three-straight knees to cap the five-point victory and drop Nebraska to 3-6, 1-5 in the Big Ten.

“I thought this was a really big win for our team against a very good opponent that played some really good football this year,” Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm said afterwards.

Leading 17-14, Nebraska punted four times and threw three interceptions on its first seven possessions of the second half.

Additionally, the Huskers ran the ball just 10 times for 15 yards in the second half, and Purdue used short passes – it’s longest play was 21 yards – to hold a 38:38 to 21:22 advantage in time of possession.

Purdue’s TJ Sheffield is wrapped up by Husker defenders Issac Gifford, Phalen Sanford and others on a third quarter punt return.
Purdue’s TJ Sheffield is wrapped up by Husker defenders Issac Gifford, Phalen Sanford and others on a third quarter punt return.

“I’m not sure,” Frost said of the difference between the first and second halves. “We played a really poor second half. We didn’t get very many possessions in the first half. I thought we did a good job offensively with what we had. We did a good enough job defensively. We gave them seven points on a turnover. I give Purdue a lot of credit. They stuck to their plan and won a game on the road in the Big Ten. You can’t go minus four on turnovers and beat very many people in the Big Ten, and we played a poor second half.”

Husker linebacker Garrett Nelson works to get by Purdue lineman Eric Miller.
Husker linebacker Garrett Nelson works to get by Purdue lineman Eric Miller.

By the end of the third quarter in which NU only gained 34 yards, Purdue had taken a 21-17 lead.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Luke Reimer missed a potential sack on quarterback Aidan O’Connell, who instead side stepped him, and passed for a first down. The Boilermakers methodically moved to the NU 20, where they faced a third-and-eight and Anthrop made an 11-yard catch to the nine. Three plays later, Purdue faced a third and nine and O’Connell hit Jackson Anthrop for the score to cap the 14-play, 75-yard drive and make it 28-17 with 10:05 left in the game.

Perhaps the turning point was a missed pass play just before halftime. The Huskers led 17-14 with 20 seconds left in the first half and had a wide open Samori Toure but Martinez overshot him on a for-sure touchdown play.

“The play was there and if we hit that, it’s probably a different game even with the pick -six and giving them seven points in the first half,” Frost said.

Husker quarterback Adrian Martinez looks downfield to throw a pass against Purdue.
Husker quarterback Adrian Martinez looks downfield to throw a pass against Purdue.

Despite Martinez throwing four picks and finishing 14 of 29 for 269 yards, Frost said he never considered benching him and planned to have him as his starter the next week. “No, that’s not a story,” Frost said. “We’re gonna play the guy that we think gives us the best chance to win. Right now, that’s Adrian.” Omar Manning, who finished with four catches for 75 yards, gave NU a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

Purdue, which was held scoreless in the first quarter, tied things on an interception return for a score. Chase Contreraz made his first field gaol as a Husker to give NU a 17-14 lead with 1:20 left in the first half.

Game Recap – Nebraska v. Ohio State

By Darren Ivy

It takes all phases to click to beat a top 10 team, and the Huskers once again showed against No. 6 Ohio State that they are just a few clicks short of getting over the hump.

Each phase let the Huskers down at points in their 26-17 loss before 84,426 at Memorial Stadium against the Buckeyes (8-1, 6-0).

Samori Toure heads for a 75-yard score in the second quarter as OSU defender Lathan Ransom misses the tackle.
Samori Toure heads for a 75-yard score in the second quarter as OSU defender Lathan Ransom misses the tackle.

“This isn’t the record that we planned,” linebacker Garrett Nelson said. “And, like you said, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to make this whole season flip. Instead of 3-7, 7-3. It could have been that easy, but we just have to make the plays when it matters and just finish games. And I think we’re making progress, we’re not quite there yet.”

Husker quarterback Adrian Martinez heads for the endzone for a one yard touchdown run in the third quarter against Ohio State to make it 23-17.
Husker quarterback Adrian Martinez heads for the endzone for a one yard touchdown run in the third quarter against Ohio State to make it 23-17.

On special teams, Nebraska (3-7, 1-6) missed two field goals, had a 13-yard punt that led to an OSU touchdown, were flagged for a kick interference call and gave up a 21yard return that led to another score.

The defense played well, facing 84 Buckeye plays, except for giving up a 75-yard touchdown on the first play after the Huskers scored their first touchdown of the game. Additionally, Ohio State was able to convert 9 of 19 on third down, including several late ones when NU was trying to rally.

The offense answered after the long OSU touchdown and after a second half Buckeye field goal with long catches by Samori Toure, who finished with four catches for 150 yards, Otherwise, the offense struggled to find much consistency going just 2 of 13 on third down conversions. NU ran 65 plays compared to 84 by OSU.

Husker quarterback Adrian Martinez is ripped down by Ohio State’s Cody Simon in the fourth quarter. Martinez ran for five yards and got a first down on the play.
Husker quarterback Adrian Martinez is ripped down by Ohio State’s Cody Simon in the fourth quarter. Martinez ran for five yards and got a first down on the play.

It was revealed after the game that starting quarterback Adrian Martinez has been playing with a broken jaw since the Michigan State game and a high ankle sprain suffered in practice the week before the Minnesota game. He rushed 18 times for 51 yards and one score and finished 16 of 31 for 248 yards and one score, but was sacked five times and was under pressure much of the game.

Husker running back Rahmir Johnson looks to run through the Ohio State defense. Johnson finished the day with 16 carries for 62 yards rushing.
Husker running back Rahmir Johnson looks to run through the Ohio State defense. Johnson finished the day with 16 carries for 62 yards rushing.

“Not good enough,” head coach Scott Frost said of his line’s protection. Trailing 23-10 late in the third quarter, Nebraska’s best two offensive possessions of the second half came on the last drive of the third quarter and first drive of the fourth quarter. Answering the field goal, the Huskers picked up a first down (their eighth of the game) on a pair of runs. The Buckeyes were then called for defensive holding, which moved the ball to the 46. A 53-yard completion to Toure led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Martinez that cut the deficit to 23-17 with 22 seconds left in the third quarter. The fiveplay 75-yard drive took just 1:43.

Myles Farmer intercepted Stroud on the first play of the fourth quarter. On the return, there were offsetting penalties resulting in NU starting at its own 29-yard line. Johnson, who finished with 62 yards on 16 carries, gained 12 yards on first down before Martinez gained 11 yards to the OSU 48. Martinez then gained 17 to the OSU 31. The Huskers then faced third –and–three and Martinez got four to pick up Nebraska’s first third down conversion of the game. Another third-and-four resulted in an overthrown pass of a wide open Levi Falck.

Husker safety Myles Farmer makes an interception during the fourth quarter in front of Ohio State’s Chris Olave as Husker defender Marquel Dismuke watches.
Husker safety Myles Farmer makes an interception during the fourth quarter in front of Ohio State’s Chris Olave as Husker defender Marquel Dismuke watches.

Then Contrarrez missed the 31-yard field goal with 9:47 left leaving the score 23-17.

“That was a chip shot, he’s been kicking really well,” Frost said. “I wish I had it back now, obviously you second guess yourself. But again, to try to make it a three-point game, that’s the right football decision, whether or not it was the right situational decision. Knowing what I know now, I would’ve done something different.”

The defense was able to hold the Buckeyes without points on their ensuing drive and force another punt.

Husker defender Luke Reimer breaks up a pass to Ohio State’s Jeremy Herbstreit in the first quarter.
Husker defender Luke Reimer breaks up a pass to Ohio State’s Jeremy Herbstreit in the first quarter.

The Huskers started at their own 10 with 6:11 left. Martinez rushed for 21 yards on the first play. Betts and Manning were then was unable to catch the next two passes setting up third and 10. On that play, Manning fell down and no penalty was called meaning NU was 1-12 on third downs and had to punt.

The Buckeyes took over on their own 13yard line with 5:17 left. They picked up a pair of first downs and yet another first down reset the downs with 2:20 left with the ball at the NU 34-yard line.

That’s when Nelson, who had been flagged for two offsides penalties, hit Stroud and forced a fumble, which bounced along the field for several seconds before an Ohio State lineman jumped on it at the 45-yard line with 1:42 left to set up second–and–21. The Buckeyes gained five yards on second down and 11 on third down to force a 39-yard attempt, which Ruggles knocked through to make it 26-17 with 1:29 left.

Nebraska’s last drive ended with an interception off a deflected pass near midfield. To start the game, Nebraska stopped Ohio State on downs after Luke Reimer knocked the pass away and NU took over with 11:28 left. Samori Toure caught a 24-yard pass on the first play. Rahmir Johnson ran twice for eight yards before losing two yards on third down. Chase Contreraz, however, missed the 45-yard field goal at the 9:17 mark.

Huskers JoJo Doman drags his feet after making a first quarter interception from Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud.
Huskers JoJo Doman drags his feet after making a first quarter interception from Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud.

JoJo Domann nearly intercepted the second play of the drive but dropped it. Cam Taylor-Britt nearly intercepted the pass on the fourth play. The Buckeyes continued to drive and Domann, who announced his season was over during the bye week that followed, finally intercepted the third opportunity at the NU nine-yard line with 6:45 left in the first quarter.

Neither team scored in the first quarter before Ohio State went up 10-0. After NU cut it to 10-3, Ohio State hit NU back with a 75-yard touchdown on the first play to go up 17-3.

Not to be outdone, Nebraska answered with a two-play, 75-yard drive that was highlighted by a 72-yard touchdown catch by Toure to cut the deficit to 17-10 with 2:53 left in the first half.

Game Recap – Nebraska v. Wisconsin

By Darren Ivy

Barry Alvarez and his 1966 Husker teammates are still the last Nebraska players to beat Wisconsin in Madison.

Alvarez, who went on to be a successful Badger coach and athletic director, was part of the Husker team that claimed a 31-3 victory that season. The 2021 version of the Huskers (38, 1-7) gave No. 15 Wisconsin (8-3, 6-2) all it could handle but lost 35-28 for the eighth straight time in the Freedom Trophy game. Nebraska fell to 1-9 against the Badgers since joining the Big Ten.

Running back Markese Stepp dives into the endzone to tie the score at 7-7 in the first quarter against the Badgers
Running back Markese Stepp dives into the endzone to tie the score at 7-7 in the first quarter against the Badgers

Coach Scott Frost dropped to 0-13 against ranked teams, and Nebraska has now lost 17 straight games against teams ranked in the AP top 25 — the longest such streak in school history.

“We keep putting ourselves in position against really good teams. We got to get it done,” Frost said.

Nebraska, which last won in the series 3027 in 2012, never led but tied the score at 7, 14, 21 and 28 and had four chances in the final minute to once again tie things at 35. A Wisconsin pass interference call moved to the ball to the 11-yard line. However, a holding penalty on NU tackle Bryce Benhart moved it back to the 21 with 30 second left. Two incompletions forced NU to call a timeout with 17 seconds left. Quarterback Adrian Martinez then missed Samori Toure setting up a fourth-and-20. After another time out, Nebraska threw to Zavier Betts, who appeared to be hit before the pass got there, but there were no flags.

Nebraska’s Samori Toure runs past Wisconsin’s Faion Hicks after making a 42-yard catch in the first quarter. He finished with seven catches for 113 yards, which was his fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season, tying a school record.
Nebraska’s Samori Toure runs past Wisconsin’s Faion Hicks after making a 42-yard catch in the first quarter. He finished with seven catches for 113 yards, which was his fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season, tying a school record.

“It was fourth-and-20, I was trying to give him a chance,” said Martinez, who finished 23 of 35 for 351 yards.

Frost, who dropped to 5-19 in one-score games at Nebraska, got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty arguing his case.

Nebraska’s Damian Jackson (left) and Casey Rogers apply pressure to Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz.
Nebraska’s Damian Jackson (left) and Casey Rogers apply pressure to Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz.

“I didn’t get an explanation and I was probably too angry to ask for one,” Frost said in his postgame press conference.

Once again, it was other miscues earlier in the game on special teams, costly penalties on offense at key times, missed opportunities to make big plays and turnovers that played a role in the eighth single-digit loss of the season. “We gotta be a little bit better and make those plays when it matters,” Frost said. “We haven’t won, that is the stat that matters most.” The only drives Nebraska didn’t answer directly after Badger scores were when Wisconsin went up 14-7 and NU was stopped on downs inside the 5, and when the Badgers went up 28-21 late in the third quarter.

NU started the latter drive on its own 6-yard line after Alante Brown muffed the fair catch on the kick off. As Nebraska was trying to drive early in the fourth quarter, Martinez made an ill-timed pass right to Wisconsin’s Colin Wilder for his second interception of the game. His first interception on the first drive of the second half led to the Badgers’ go-ahead 21-14 score at the 11:35 mark of the third quarter.

Marvin Scott III scores on a three yard run in the fourth quarter.
Marvin Scott III scores on a three yard run in the fourth quarter.

After the second interception, the NU defense held on downs to give the offense another chance, which it converted into a 3-yard touchdown run by Marvin Scott III to tie things at 28 with just more than six minutes left.

A key play on the drive was a fourth-and-2 conversion when Martinez scrambled before heaving a 38-yard pass under duress to tight end Austin Allen. The catch gave Allen 143 receiving yards on seven catches on the day, helping him set an NU single-game mark for yardage and single-season record for catches by a tight end with 36. Martinez also became the all-time total yardage leader (10,792) at Nebraska on the drive, moving past former quarterback Tommy Armstrong (10,760 from 2013-16).

Wisconsin also answered after every Nebraska scoring drive except its missed field goal in the second quarter.

On the late Wisconsin fourth-quarter drive, freshman Braelon Allen, who rushed 22 times for 228 yards, gouged the NU defense on a 53-yard touchdown run to make it 35-28 with 3:50 left.

Nebraska’s Austin Allen fends off Wisconsin defenders. Allen made seven catches for 143 yards, which was a new Nebraska single-game record for receiving yards by a tight end surpassing the old record of 137 set by Johnny Mitchell against Oklahoma on Nov. 29, 1991.
Nebraska’s Austin Allen fends off Wisconsin defenders. Allen made seven catches for 143 yards, which was a new Nebraska single-game record for receiving yards by a tight end surpassing the old record of 137 set by Johnny Mitchell against Oklahoma on Nov. 29, 1991.

NU, which put up 87 yards more of total offense (452 total) than any other team against Wisconsin this season, was confident as it went out.

“The guys believed they were going to win today,” Frost said. “I told them before that last drive, we’re going to go for two when we score and we were heading in that direction.” Wisconsin helped by kicking the ball out of bounds to give NU the ball at the 35. Brody Belt made a first down catch, and then Toure caught one to the Wisconsin 35-yard line. Toure, who had seven catches for 113 yards to tie Stanley Morgan for the most 100-yard receiving games in a season with five, then picked up another first-down grab to the 23. There wasn’t a comeback on this particular day as the opening play came back to bite NU on the scoreboard.

With his effort he also increased his season total to 36 receptions, eclipsing the previous record of 34 catches set by Tyler Hoppes in 2017. Allen now has 547 receiving yards this season, 13 shy of the Nebraska tight end record (Junior Miller, 560 receiving yards in 1978).
With his effort he also increased his season total to 36 receptions, eclipsing the previous record of 34 catches set by Tyler Hoppes in 2017. Allen now has 547 receiving yards this season, 13 shy of the Nebraska tight end record (Junior Miller, 560 receiving yards in 1978).

Wisconsin got the ball first, and Stephan Bracey broke several tackles on the return and went 91 yards for a score, giving the Badgers a 7-0 advantage just 13 seconds in.

“You can’t start a game with a kick return,” Frost said.

NU, which had let go of four offensive coaches during its bye week, responded. Toure caught a 43-yard pass from Martinez on the first play of NU’s first drive. Toure caught a 27-yard pass to set up first and goal at the 8. Markese Stepp, who was filling in for the injured Rahmir Johnson, then gained seven yards and one yard to score an answering touchdown and make it 7-7 with 12:41 on the clock.

“There was aggressive playcalling, starting with the first play of the game,” Martinez said. “That trend continued through the game.”

NU’s Marvin Scott III makes a run in the fourth quarter. Head coach Scott Frost and JoJo Domann walk off the field at the end of the game.
NU’s Marvin Scott III makes a run in the fourth quarter. Head coach Scott Frost and JoJo Domann walk off the field at the end of the game.

On the first Wisconsin offensive series, Nebraska stopped the Badgers on downs. NU looked ready to take its first lead, but Omar Manning went the wrong way on a play, the snap hit him in the helmet and NU took a loss of five yards. The blunder ended up stalling the drive as Martinez was sacked on third-and long, and the Huskers had to punt. NU had a chance to down the punt inside the 5 but failed to do so, and a couple plays later Wisconsin was able to break a 71-yard touchdown run by Allen, who went over 100 yards for the seventh-straight game on the play, enabling the Badgers to regain a 14-7 lead with 1:59 left in the first quarter.

Nebraska, which had 157 yards of offense in the first quarter, again moved the ball on the Badger defense that had been giving up only 195 yards a game during its recent six-game winning streak. However, Nebraska failed to gain two yards on three plays after getting inside the 10 as Stepp gained one yard and lost one on second and third down, and Martinez misfired to Allen on fourth down.

After a Wisconsin three-and-out, Toure caught a 4-yard slant pass to tie things at 14 with 6:35 left in the half. After the break and Martinez’s first interception, it was Wisconsin’s turn as Kendric Pryor hauled in a 17-yard pass to put the Badgers up 21-14. The Huskers answered as Martinez completed 5 of 6 passes for 63 yards and then scored his 35th career rushing touchdown from one yard out to tie things at 21 with 6:24 left in the third quarter.

The Nebraska defense, which was playing without senior linebacker JoJo Domann for the first time this season, surrendered several big plays on the ensuing Badger drive. On third-and-goal from the 3, Allen ran over NU’s Luke Reimer at the goal line to give his team the 28-21 lead with 1:30 left in the third.

Red vs. Blue

Nebraska splits annual contests against Creighton

Story by Darren Ivy • Photos by Amarillo Mullen

Nebraska’s Alexis Markowski (40) fights for the ball while guarded by Creighton’s Emma Ronsiek, left, and Rachael Saunders, right, in the Creighton vs. Nebraska women’s basketball game on Nov. 17 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln.
Nebraska’s Alexis Markowski (40) fights for the ball while guarded by Creighton’s Emma Ronsiek, left, and Rachael Saunders, right, in the Creighton vs. Nebraska women’s basketball game on Nov. 17 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln.

The Nebraska women’s basketball team ended a five-game losing streak against in-state rival Creighton with a 67-62 victory over the Bluejays (1-2) on Nov. 17 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln.

“I think we were just ready,” said Sam Haiby, who scored 15 points, grabbed five rebounds, made five assists and added three steals. “There was no talk about losing. It was, ‘When we beat Creighton.’”

Nebraska’s Bella Cravens moves to block the shot of Creighton’s Carly Bacherlor. Nebraska ended up winning 67-62.
Nebraska’s Bella Cravens moves to block the shot of Creighton’s Carly Bacherlor. Nebraska ended up winning 67-62.

It was the first time Haiby and current head coach Amy Williams had defeated Creighton during their time at Nebraska.

Nebraska’s Sam Haiby heads down court during the 67-62 win against Creighton on Nov. 17 in Lincoln. Haiby scored 15 points in the game.
Nebraska’s Sam Haiby heads down court during the 67-62 win against Creighton on Nov. 17 in Lincoln. Haiby scored 15 points in the game.

“We just wanted to give our coaching staff that win,” said Husker guard Ashley Scoggin. “We were so ready for that, and we wanted to be the first ones to do that for them.”

Freshman Alexis Markowski added 11 points, four rebounds and one block.

Bella Cravens and Ashley Scoggin each finished with nine points with all of Scoggin’s coming from long rang.

On Saturday, Nebraska defeated North Carolina Central 113-58 and are is 5-0 on the season. It was first time in NU history that a team has scored 100 three times in the same season. In the men’s game on Nov. 16, the Creighton basketball team continued its dominance over the Huskers winning for the third year in a row and 19th time in the last 23 meetings.

Nebraska’s Isabelle Bourne heads to the hoop around Creighton de- fenders. Bourne scored five points and had seven rebounds.
Nebraska’s Isabelle Bourne heads to the hoop around Creighton de- fenders. Bourne scored five points and had seven rebounds.

The Huskers actually started out with a 5-1 lead in the game, but Creighton then responded with a 28-5 run of their own to take a 29-10 advantage.

“We lost that game in the first five minutes,” NU head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Every day, we put the key on what the games are and the last two we have not gone out and executed. The last game was (offensive) rebounding. They got four of them in the first minute and a half. Tonight was transition and after getting off to a solid start. I think it was 5-1 in our favor, but they got anything they wanted in transition. That is disappointing.”

To Nebraska’s credit, the Huskers responded with their own 26-10 run the rest of the half to get back within 39-36 at the halftime break.

NU trailed by one at 44-43 early in the second half, but never led in the second half and Creighton eventually pulled away for the nine point win. Kobe Webster scored 20 points off the bench, C.J. Wilcher added 15 and Alonzo Verge Jr. tallied 10 points.

Nebraska’s Wihelm Breidenback shoots past Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner in first half action on Nov. 16 as the Bluejays won 77-69.
Nebraska’s Wihelm Breidenback shoots past Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner in first half action on Nov. 16 as the Bluejays won 77-69.

Trey McGowens finished with two points in just under 10 minutes of action before being hurt. Afterwards, it was announced that he broke his foot in the game and already has had surgery done.

“It was devastating news for the heart and soul of our team,” Hoiberg said. “He came down on it wrong and broke the fifth metatarsal. He will meet with our team of physicians and trainers, and we will put a time frame on the rehab and when we can expect him back. We expect him to make a full recovery and be back to normal. We don’t know the time frame of it yet. but it’s just heartbreaking for a guy that has come in here and bought into his role. He is our best leader. He uses his voice every day in practice for the warmup all the way to the end. Really tough loss and really feel for him. He will have a lot of support through this process and hopefully he will be back as soon as possible.”

NU’s Alonzo Verge Jr. drives past Creighton’s Trey Alexander.
NU’s Alonzo Verge Jr. drives past Creighton’s Trey Alexander.
McGowens looks on from the bench during the second half after breaking his right foot during the first half. He has already had surgery and his return to the Husker lineup this season is unknown at this point.
McGowens looks on from the bench during the second half after breaking his right foot during the first half. He has already had surgery and his return to the Husker lineup this season is unknown at this point.
Nebraska’s Kobe Webster shoots past Creighton’s Ryan Nembhard. Webster scored 20 points in NU’s losing effort.
Nebraska’s Kobe Webster shoots past Creighton’s Ryan Nembhard. Webster scored 20 points in NU’s losing effort.
Nebraska’s Lat Mayen tries to block Creighton’s Shereef Mitchell.
Nebraska’s Lat Mayen tries to block Creighton’s Shereef Mitchell.
Nebraska basketball coach Fred Hoiberg shows his frustra- tion during the second half.
Nebraska basketball coach Fred Hoiberg shows his frustra- tion during the second half.
Trey McGowens misses a dunk over Creighton’s Arthur Kaluma.
Trey McGowens misses a dunk over Creighton’s Arthur Kaluma.

Aussie Flavor

Australian Jaz Shelley helping NU put up the points

Story by Shane G. Gilster • Photos by Amarillo Mullen, NU Athletic Communications

The Huskers are benefiting from having more of an Aussie flavor to their team this season. Besides returning Australian players Isabelle (Issie) Bourne and Ruby Porter, Nebraska has added Jaz Shelley, a sophomore from Moe, Australia, who played on the Australian National Team this year. Shelley’s presence has really elevated the Husker offense.

In the first two games of the season, Nebraska scored 100-plus points in back-toback wins for the first time in school history. In the second game against Prairie View A&M, Shelley had her first career collegiate double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Shelley brings an international style of play from Australia, where she was a member of her country’s national team.
Shelley brings an international style of play from Australia, where she was a member of her country’s national team.

The Huskers (5-0) also scored 113 points in the fifth game of the year, which marked the first time in school history that Nebraska has scored 100 points or more three different times in the same season.

Shelley once again came up big with a triple-double (14 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in only 20 minutes of play. It is only the fourth time in school history that a Husker has recorded a triple-double.

Jaz Shelley (1), Isabelle Bourne (34) and Ruby Porter (11) give the Huskers three players from Australia on their 2021-22 roster.
Jaz Shelley (1), Isabelle Bourne (34) and Ruby Porter (11) give the Huskers three players from Australia on their 2021-22 roster.

“Sam [Haiby] was keeping track of me getting close to a triple-double,” said Shelley about her record-setting performance. “She told me at halftime that I was on track to get it. The coaches then wanted me to go and get it. This program means so much to me already and I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else. It is cool to put my name in the books.”

Through their first five games, the Huskers are averaging 95.6 points per game with a field goal percentage of 50 percent. Shelley has become a big part of the reason why the NU offense is rolling.

“Our team is more explosive offensively this year because of the newcomers like Jaz who is a shooter which gives us more scoring options,” Bourne said. “I have known Jaz for five years now. She has always been a great shooter but also a great passer which is why I love playing with her. She is a type of player that makes everyone around her better.

“She works well with Sam and that gives us two really good shooters with Sam attacking and Jaz on the outside knocking down shots. Jaz and I have really good chemistry, she knows where I want the ball down low and I know where she wants it on the threepoint line.”

Shelley feels really comfortable on Nebraska’s team, not only in her role as a player, but also with her communication with teammates. In her two years at Oregon, her desired playing style didn’t fit the Ducks.

“At Oregon, I was more of a spot-up shooter,” Shelley said. “I have more free range here at Nebraska and can be a playmaker, which I like. My ability is to get in the lane and pass the ball and also coming off ball screens and getting to the paint. I played wing at Oregon and didn’t get a chance at point guard. I like setting up people and plays, I’m more of a structure person and playing in a system like Nebraska’s.

Shelley directs traffic against North Caro- lina Central as she went on to dish out 10 assists. Shelley also finished with 14 points and 10 re- bounds to record just the fourth triple double in school history.
Shelley directs traffic against North Caro- lina Central as she went on to dish out 10 assists. Shelley also finished with 14 points and 10 re- bounds to record just the fourth triple double in school history.

“It is nice to be able to play with Ruby and Issie because we can really understand each other. When I was the only Australian player at Oregon, I would say something and no one would have my back because they couldn’t understand me.”

Shelley showed a glimpse of what she was capable of at Oregon appearing in all 33 games as a true freshman in 2019-20. The Ducks won the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles. Shelley averaged 6.3 points, 1.5 assists and 1.0 rebounds, while hitting 42 percent of her three-point attempts.

In her only start of the season, Shelley finished with 32 points in the game while setting the Oregon single-game record by going 10-for-14 from three-point range. Now one of the main starters at Nebraska, she is hoping to have more of those type of performances.

“When I was a senior in high school, I decided between Oregon and Nebraska, so I knew Nebraska was going to be the place to transfer to. The love our team has for each other is a huge difference from Oregon; we just enjoy playing with each other on the court.”

Nebraska head coach Amy Williams was glad she got a second opportunity at Shelley. “It is so rewarding just to see Jaz in a Husker uniform,” Williams said. “A lot went into her coming here. And now to watch her playing with joy and enjoying her teammates; she is really playing free and loose and it is fun to watch.”

Shelley’s shooting prowess before she arrived at Nebraska was sort of legendary to her Husker teammates.

Shelley has a big smile on her face as she is congratulated by head coach Amy Williams following her triple-double.
Shelley has a big smile on her face as she is congratulated by head coach Amy Williams following her triple-double.

“The first thing I heard about Jaz Shelly was that she made 21 three-pointers in a game or some crazy number like that, so I knew Jaz was a shooter,” said NU freshman Alexis Markowski. “Over summer practices she wouldn’t miss and that just confirmed it.”

Through five games this season, Shelley and teammate Ashley Scoggin lead the team in three-point shots made (12). Shelley is 54 percent from three-point land on 12 of 22 shooting. She prides herself in her shooting which shows in the way she practices.

“I practice shooting every day,” she said. “To get ready for games, I do a 30-minute shoot around with Coach [Chuck] Love after our team shoot around. Then Ashley and I will come out 30 minutes before the team does and shoot some more. It locks me in because I like set routines. I shoot mid-range and layups first then move to the three-point line. I want to have the highest assist to turnover ratio on our team this season but also shoot above 40 percent from the three-point line.”

Shelley squares up against North Carolina Central on her way to 14 points.
Shelley squares up against North Carolina Central on her way to 14 points.

Shelley has her own style of shooting from beyond the arch.

“I don’t realize that I shoot so far from behind the three-point line until I notice it later. Defenses guard me pretty close because they know I’m a shooter, so I step back a little further so I can get the shot off,” she said.

Fellow Australians Isabelle Bourne and Ruby Porter play key supporting roles for the Huskers. Porter excitedly celebrated Shelley reaching a triple-double in the North Carolina Central game.
Fellow Australians Isabelle Bourne and Ruby Porter play key supporting roles for the Huskers. Porter excitedly celebrated Shelley reaching a triple-double in the North Carolina Central game.

The Huskers and Shelley are developing into such a close-knit group that they motivate themselves to perform.

“The team has a healthy competition going on with who will be the leading rebounder. Normally it has been Issie, Sam and Bella [Cravens] but now they have to take Jaz seriously,” Williams said.

Shelley currently leads the team in blocked shots (8) and in rebounds (43 total, 8.6 per game), grabbing a season-high 11 in the second game of the season.

“I never used to be able to rack up as many as 11 rebounds in a game before. A lot of them have been defensive rebounds,” Shelley admitted.

The mark of a good team is how well rounded it is, and having multiple players step up to score and contribute in other areas on the stat sheet.

Fellow Australians Isabelle Bourne and Ruby Porter play key supporting roles for the Huskers. Porter excitedly celebrated Shelley reaching a triple-double in the North Carolina Central game.
Fellow Australians Isabelle Bourne and Ruby Porter play key supporting roles for the Huskers. Porter excitedly celebrated Shelley reaching a triple-double in the North Carolina Central game.

“I feel like we are going to have different players be the top scorer in every game because everyone has the ability to score. Our team is pretty similar to an international style that I’m used to, with motion sets and dribble drives,” Shelley said.

Nebraska has the makings of that type of squad and having a player like Shelley is helping make that happen.

“Jaz is playing very confidently and makes our whole team better when she is out on the floor,” Williams said. “There is a confidence when Jaz has the ball in her hands. It hasn’t taken her long to get in tuned with the team. She’s calling out a transition play before I could say it. It shows her IQ for the game and ability to get five people on the same page on the court. There is a comfort level on the whole team when she has the ball in her hands.”

Turning it On

Chad Red Jr. is tough to beat when he’s locked in

Story by Shane G. Gilster • Photos by NU Athletic Communications

One of the most overlooked aspects in sports is the mental game. It doesn’t always matter how talented one is physically. If the athlete is not focused and ready for action,a downfall is inevitable.

That is the case for Husker senior wrestler Chad Red Jr., who goes by C.J. The four-time All-American at 141 pounds has always had the tools to be the best. Coming to Nebraska, he was the No. 1 wrestler in the country at 132 pounds and was the No. 5 pound-for-pound wrestler.

He won four state titles under his father, Chad Red Sr., at New Palestine High School in Indiana and finished his prep career with a perfect 183-0 record.

Chad Red Jr. is a four-time All-American at 141 pounds for the Huskers.
Chad Red Jr. is a four-time All-American at 141 pounds for the Huskers.

“I only considered Nebraska and North Carolina State,” said Red of when he was deciding where to attend college. “I am a huge fan of Jordan Burroughs and liked the fact that all of the Nebraska coaches came to visit me at my home and at high school during practices. They took pictures with my teammates, something that the other college coach didn’t do.” NU coaches noticed the obvious from the beginning.

“I would describe C.J. as a super talented young man coming out of high school,” said NU head coach Mark Manning. “His dad wrestled in college and runs a wrestling academy outside of Indianapolis, so he is a student of the game and made C.J. a student of the game. He wrestled in a lot of national tournaments and was one of the top recruits in the country. C.J. has a unique ability being a gamer and you look for that in recruiting. What I mean by that is he knows when to turn it on.”

That is where the mental game comes into play for Red. When he’s at his best, he is one of the best in the nation. When he slacks, he can get beat by opponents he’s expected to beat.

An example of that happened in the dual against North Carolina on Nov. 17. Red entered the match ranked No. 5 at 141 pounds and faced No. 13 Kizhan Clarke. Red came out flat and allowed Clarke to dictate the match with his style. The result was a 3-1 decision in favor of Clarke.

“It is sometimes difficult to get motivated and feel refueled with energy and that happened when I lost to that guy from North Carolina. It was just the matter of me not being able to get to my offense,” Red said. “I went out there and followed his game plan to a tee. I could have and should have taken more shots; it was just a matter of not pulling the trigger. You are going to get tired but have to keep wrestling. We were both tired and when we were tied up, he had an underhook while I was standing up beside him and he just ran through me and got the points to get the decision.

“Within the first 10 to 15 seconds in the first period of a match there should always be an attack by you. The one thing that I mess up on is wrestling down to my opponent’s level and their style of match, where in reality I should do what I am good at. I perform better when I watch myself rather than watching my competition.”

Red’s less-than-stellar performance that night was criticized by his dad, whose voice could be heard throughout the match giving his son pointers on what he needed to do.

“My dad is usually the loudest person in the building and I can hear him over my coaches all the time,” said Red, who mentioned that after his wrestling career he would like to coach at the Division I level. “He coached me and knows when I am not wrestling like I should. I am used to him yelling but at the same time he is calling out everything that I’m not doing right. I usually hear my dad more than my coaches but as soon as I go out of bounds, I look over at my coaches to see what they have to say, which are things like keep my hands low, move my feet, staying tough on top or getting out quick on bottom.”

Red feels his strengths are best displayed in tournaments rather than duals. “It is a lot different at the national tournament where you are wrestling multiple matches in a day compared to just one match. I am usually not the best during dual season, anyone can tell you that, but come towards the end of the year, I pick up my game,” C.J. said. “Usually those who do well in duals don’t do as well in the tournament and vice versa. Some guys are tournament guys, some guys are dual guys. I am 110 percent a tournament guy but need to also be a dual guy because I don’t want to lose any more of those matches this season.”

Red Jr. prefers to wrestle in tournaments over duals.
Red Jr. prefers to wrestle in tournaments over duals.

Manning wants C.J. to work on his consistency going forward. “He is a competitor and has the ‘It’ factor,” Manning said. “When he’s in big matches he rises up but the issue for him now is all about being consistent in every match and making weight and having energy no matter who he wrestles. To be an elite wrestler you have to be consistent no matter who you are wrestling.”

Red has a chance to finish his career as a national champion – something that he’s come close to doing but never quite finished the job. Red faces tough competition with four wrestlers ranked ahead of him from the Big Ten. To be a national champion, he’ll eventually have to beat Penn State’s Nick Lee and Iowa’s Jaydin Eierman, who are ranked No. 1 and 2 respectively in the nation. “C.J. is one of five super seniors on our team,” Manning said. “He is a four-time All-American, so the next level is to be a national champion. But he has a super tough weight class nationally and in the Big Ten. The Iowa kid is the returning Big Ten champion and the Penn State kid was the national champion last year.

“As a team we need to lean on C.J. because of his experience and to guide the team. It’s about stepping up and being a pro and becoming a World or Olympic Champion someday. He has the potential, but I don’t like that word because it means you haven’t done it yet.”

NU gets a kick out of beating Buffs

Huskers extend win streak over CU to nine games

Story by Shane G. Gilster

Nebraska owned Colorado during the 1990s. It didn’t matter if it was in Lincoln or Boulder, the Huskers had a nine-game winning streak over the Buffaloes with the last five wins from 1996 to 2000 coming by a total of 15 points.

In 1999, NU won 33-30 in overtime. In 1998, Nebraska won 16-14, in 1997 it was NU 27-24 and in 1996, the Huskers won 1712.

The Huskers added a 34-32 score in 2000 to that list, which made many CU players wondering what will it take to beat their rival.

“It seems we did everything we humanly could, and again we came up short,” said Colorado offensive tackle Victor Rogers. “It feels like we’re cursed against these guys, and this has been going on before I came here.”

Eric Crouch both ran and passed for more than 100 yards against Colorado.
Eric Crouch both ran and passed for more than 100 yards against Colorado.

Added CU wide receiver Javon Green, “I tried my whole career to beat Nebraska. The last five years, we tried to beat Nebraska. We’ve come close [the last two years]. But they pulled a trick out of their sleeve in the fourth quarter every time and it comes out in their favor. This is the second year in a row we thought we had the game won.”

But it looked like it might be a runaway for the No. 9 Huskers in the first quarter with NU linebacker Carlos Polk intercepting a pass on the second play of the game and returning it 39 yards for a touchdown. Later, Husker quarterback Eric Crouch ran it in from 27 yards out to make it 14-0. That score was set up after NU blocked a field goal try and defensive end Chris Kelsay returned it for 43 yards.

Crouch had an MVP type of day with 139 yards through the air on 11-of-17 passing, and running for 125 yards and three touchdowns.

CU, however, would score the game’s next 17 points – first a 32-yard field goal, and then a 39-yard touchdown run by Cortlen Johnson, who finished with a game-high 155 yards on 26 carries.

At halftime the Huskers were up 1410. Colorado then went on top on its first drive of the second half after recovering a Nebraska fumble and taking it 73 yards on 12 plays.

From there, both teams would go back and forth exchanging the lead. NU matched the CU drive with a 12-play drive of its own with Crouch running for his second touchdown from two yards out. Back came the Buffs with a 14-play, 75-yard drive culminating with a one-yard scoring run by Johnson to make it 24-21 CU early in the fourth quarter.

The Huskers finally looked like they gained solid control of the game as they scored the next 10 points to go up 31-24 with 5:20 left in the game. Josh Brown nailed a 20-yard field goal and then Keyuo Craver blocked a field goal try on CU’s next possession. Kelsay returned it 12 yards to the NU 43, giving the Huskers great field possession, which led to a Crouch 26-yard touchdown run four plays later.

Bobby Newcombe made two clutch catches to move NU in position for a game-winning field goal.
Bobby Newcombe made two clutch catches to move NU in position for a game-winning field goal.

The Buffaloes were unfazed and methodically drove the ball 68 yards in 11 plays for a score, as freshman quarterback Craig Ochs hit John Minardi with a 14yard touchdown pass. But CU felt they needed to win the game rather than tie it and go to overtime, so they went for two with 47 seconds left.

“I thought that’s what they would do, and when I saw him [CU head coach Gary Barnett] calling his team together on the sideline, every one of them, I knew exactly that that’s what they were going to do. “It was not a surprise to us. I think it was a good call,” said NU head coach Frank Solich.

Another reason Colorado wanted to go for two was the fact that their kicking game was struggling on the day. Their kicker, Mark Mariscal, missed two field goals (29 and 42) and had two more blocked (37 and 41) in his five attempts. The call to go for the win paid off as Ochs rolled right and threw a dart to receiver Green who made a juggling catch in the end zone to put the Buffs up 32-31. The Buffs, who entered the game with a 3-7 record, with five being one-score losses, looked as though they finally exercised their Big Red demons to beat Nebraska for the first time since 1990. But as Lee Corso would put it, “Not so fast my friends.”

Mariscal made another kicking mistake when on the ensuing kickoff his squib kick went right to backup running back Dahrran Diedrick, who fielded it at the 30-yard line and ran it to the NU 41.

“That’s what we expected might happen,” Solich said. “We had told those guys in the fullback position and the tight end position that if the ball is kicked on the ground and you pick it up, get as much as you can. Those are tough kicks to field.” On NU’s first play, Crouch threw a long pass down the sideline to Matt Davison but it was incomplete. He then threw six-yard and nine-yard completions to John Gibson.

Overall, Gibson had three catches for 20 yards with two of the receptions coming on the final drive. He also delivered the key block on Crouch’s second touchdown run, which was a key component in NU’s offense.

“John had a great game,” said NU receivers coach Ron Brown. “He had to make a great block on that one play, and he did. He tied that guy up. I was happy with how all of our guys blocked today. They just hammered people. From what I saw on the sidelines, we executed well all day in the running game.”

Then on first down from the CU 44-yard line, Crouch hit wingback Bobby Newcombe, who hadn’t caught a pass the whole game, for a 13-yard completion. Crouch then ran for two yards to the Colorado 29-yard line and right after called a timeout with 10 seconds left.

The kick would have been a 46-yarder, something Nebraska and its field goal kicker were not entirely confident in making, as Brown’s career long was 42 yards.

The Huskers wanted to try one more offensive play to see if they could get closer. But with no timeouts left, it had to be a pass to the sideline. The play that was called to accomplish that
worked perfectly.

Huskers Illustrated cover from December 2000
Eric Crouch both ran and passed for more than 100 yards against Colorado.

Crouch completed an outside pass to Newcombe for 17 yards and the senior ran out of bounds at the CU 12-yard line. Newcombe’s emergence on the final drive was not a surprise to Solich.

“I think it’s great that he was able to be a big contributor in this win,” he said. “He’s been a very unselfish player throughout his career. He’s got excellent talent. We’ve tried as much as possible to utilize that. When you consider yourself in a running system like we are, sometimes those guys aren’t going to get the ball much. We have things designed for Bobby to be a more important part of, but there are just some things you’re given in a game and some things that you’re not, and you try to take what they’re giving you and you try to build off that a little bit.”

Newcombe’s catch set up Brown’s 29-yard field goal attempt from the right hash mark. It wasn’t a guarantee for Brown as he missed a 32-yarder in the first half and was only 3 of 7 coming into the game. But Solich didn’t lose faith in the sophomore from Foyil, Oklahoma.

“He’s an excellent kicker,” Solich said. “I don’t think there’s a kicker out there who’s not going to miss some. If you go in the tank because you miss a couple, or if there’s no belief in a guy because he misses a couple, or if he doesn’t believe in himself because he misses a couple, he shouldn’t be a kicker. Those things are going to happen to all kickers. It was his time. He’s a very confident young man. He stepped onto the field with confidence.”

And Brown kicked the ball with confidence as he split the uprights easily giving NU a 34-32 win. It was the first time in the last 40 years of Husker football that the Huskers won on the game’s final play.

“It seems like a split second. I kicked the ball, looked up and everybody just went crazy. I don’t know who got me first, but they all tackled me to the ground,” said Brown who was swarmed by his teammates and carried off the field after the winning field goal. “I can die a happy man right now. I’ve waited my whole life for this.”

Making an Impact

Cory Ross loves coaching, teaching the game of football

Story by Shane G. Gilster

Cory Ross finished his Nebraska career in 2005 as one of the best all-around backs in program history.

He is currently just outside the top 10 in career rushing yards at NU with 2,743 yards and holds the school record for most receiving yards (131) and touchdowns (2) in a game by a running back.

Cory Ross fulfilled his dream of playing in NFL with the Baltimore Ravens.
Cory Ross fulfilled his dream of playing in NFL with the Baltimore Ravens.

Named Nebraska’s Offensive MVP after both his junior and senior seasons, Ross was a co-captain in his final year and earned second-team All-Big 12 honors as a senior.

“When I got to college my first two years, I didn’t have to focus on blocking because we ran the option. When (Bill) Callahan came in with the NFL scheme, you had to focus on blocking more,” Ross said. “Randy Jordan (former NU running backs coach) said that if you can’t block, you can’t play. I really liked our offense under Callahan because you had to be able to run, block and catch, which made you a complete back.”

As a senior in 2005, Ross led Nebraska with 882 rushing yards, including a season-high 161 yards in his Husker finale against Michigan in the Alamo Bowl. He also caught a then Nebraska running back record 43 receptions and grabbed three touchdown receptions. Ross also set Nebraska running back records for receiving yards in a game and receptions in a game.

As a junior, Ross ran for 1,102 yards and six scores, along with a pair of TD receptions. His 1,102 yards rushing was the 27th 1,000-yard effort in school history and the 18th-most productive single-season rushing total in Nebraska history. Ross averaged 100.2 rushing yards per game, a total that ranked fifth in the Big 12 and 23rd nationally. He also caught 21 passes, including a pair of TDs. He concluded the season with 138 yards on a then school-record 37 carries in Nebraska’s Alamo Bowl win over Michigan State.

When Callahan was fired at Nebraska in 2007, two years after Ross left, it was surprising to Ross because he felt Callahan was an ideal coach with an offense that worked. But he realized it was the defensive side of the ball that doomed his former head coach.

“I played for him for two years,” said Ross about Callahan. “I knew how focused he was trying to win and bring us back to dominance. It wasn’t like he was trying to lose. I thought he was a great coach. We utilized the running back coming out of the backfield catching the football. We just struggled with the defense. A lot of fans didn’t like Callahan and what he did with the walk-on program but his offense was game-changing.

Ross has become a successful coach in the Indoor Football League.
Ross has become a successful coach in the Indoor Football League.

“But at Nebraska, you have to win so when Tom Osborne came in as athletic director, a change was needed. He (Osborne) brought in coach (Bo) Pelini who was the defensive coach in 2003. He was a special kind of coach. There were times when he was coaching, I wanted to play defense because he made you want to play for him.”

Before arriving at Nebraska, Ross was a highly recruited player coming out of Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver, Colorado.

He was an All-American cornerback and started at running back, where he rushed for over 1,500 yards and 23 TDs as a senior in 2000. He led the state in total offense with 3,700 yards and had 12 touchdown returns (six on kickoffs and six on punts). On defense, he had five interceptions, returning two for scores and was third on the squad with 84 tackles.

“I was recruited by Texas, Texas Tech, Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska. I had a trip set up for Miami (Florida) but later canceled it,” Ross said. “When I took the visit to Lincoln and saw the fans and tunnel walk, that was it, I was sold. Lots of teams recruited me as a cornerback so I narrowed it down to the teams that would give me a chance at running back.”

Current NU running back coach Ron Brown was the receivers coach for Nebraska back then and was the primary recruiter for Ross.

“Anybody who has been around Coach Brown, loves him. He is just a special human being and Nebraska is grateful to always have had him,” Ross said.

After such an illustrious career in high school and college, Ross had to leave his ego at the door when he entered the NFL. Ross didn’t get drafted, but that didn’t deter him from his dream of playing professionally.

Ross was nicknamed “Pork Chop” for his physical stature.
Ross was nicknamed “Pork Chop” for his physical stature.

“I think everyone who isn’t drafted is disappointed and frustrated. Those that are in the league that were not drafted know what it takes to fight for what is theirs and that is what I did. Not getting drafted wasn’t going to stop me,” Ross said.

Ross signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent on May 12, 2006. The transition to the NFL is something you better learn fast, otherwise you won’t make it. The good thing for Ross was he was a fast learner. “You won’t be able to use your speed like you thought you would when you get to the league. Guys are just as fast as you are and are bigger and stronger. It is a game of angles and you got to realize you can’t do too much juking and shaking like you used to. You have to hit that hole hard and get out of there in a hurry,” Ross said.

In his first year (2006) in the NFL, the 5-6, 201-pound Ross got an opportunity to play with the injury to Ravens’ return man B.J. Sams. Ross became the kick returner and displayed good speed with impressive, open-field moves. In 2007, he saw action in six games. His coming out party was when he ran for 72 yards and one touchdown against Pittsburgh in the Ravens’ final regular season game.

“I played against one of the best defenses every day. I played against the best linebacker in Ray Lewis, so when I got to play against Pittsburgh, I was prepared going up against their top-five defense. I had a great time playing that game because I was used to going up against the best every week in practice,” Ross said.

While at Baltimore, Ross competed for playing time against four other running backs – Willis McGahee, Mike Anderson, Musa Smith and P.J. Daniels.

Ross became an all-around back under Bill Callahan’s offense in 2004 and 2005.
Ross became an all-around back under Bill Callahan’s offense in 2004 and 2005.

While I was there, all I could do was practice as hard as I could and go as hard as I could. Coaches and players really didn’t get to see what I could do until I got into that Pittsburgh game.

“I loved Baltimore and its diehard fans. The veterans really helped me out when I got there. Ray Lewis gave me a lot of advice and shared his experience with the younger players. He is an all-around good guy. Ray is a cool, laid-back, relaxed, and fun person. He read his Bible a lot,” Ross said. “But once Sunday rolled around during the season, he is a new man. It made me realize how much he loved the game. He not only got himself going but everyone around him. When he’s doing something he loves, he put all his emotion into it.”

Ross played for the Ravens for three years, but then got hurt and had ankle surgery causing him to get out of football for a year. He then moved on to play for the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League under head coach Dennis Green. For three seasons, Ross showcased his ability as a runner and receiver out of the backfield and was the UFL Offensive Season MVP in 2010. This opened the door to get back to the NFL.

“I signed with the New England Patriots but injuries happened and so they brought in someone else. I then went to Canada and got hurt with the Edmonton Eskimos so I decided my playing career was over,” he said.

Ross came back to Lincoln and became part of the coaching staff in 2013 for the Lincoln Haymakers, an Arena football team and later the head coach of the Omaha Beef (2015-2017).

“I took over a Beef program that was in shambles,” Ross said “I told them it would be a three-year process to turn it around. The first year I took over we went 1-11, the second year was 7-5, then the third year made it to the championship game. After that season I got the offer to come to the Quad City Steamwheelers of the Indoor Football League (IFL) in Moline, Illinois. We made the playoffs the first year going 8-4 but COVID shut us down so now we are in the rebuilding process again.”

After playing only one game in 2020, the IFL season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which the Steamwheelers extended to also include the 2021 season. “This past season I coached the offense with the Bismarck Bucks and helped them make the playoffs. I love coaching. I love teaching, I love being around football,” said Ross, who has been coaching indoor football for seven years now. For the 39-year-old Ross, this has become a full-time job. Besides being a head coach, he does sales for the team by going out and getting sponsors as well as recruiting guys to come play for him. He also helps the players find jobs outside of football to support themselves.

“I enjoy the process of recruiting in this league but it is hard getting players because of the pay they receive,” Ross said. “The salary range for our league is anywhere between $4,000 to $5,000 for the season, which breaks down to $250 to $300 per game. But we offer opportunities to guys who went undrafted to showcase themselves and get looks from CFL and NFL teams.”

Ross has 25 players on his active roster which started at 40 when training camp began. He currently doesn’t have any Husker players on the team but is trying to connect with former Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong, who is being courted by several other IFL teams.

“I have been pretty successful at taking quarterbacks and receivers and allowing them to prosper in my offense, making them all-league in the conference,” Ross said. “Guys also like the fact that I’m honest and up front with them. I tell them that it is a low percentage trying to make the NFL from college, but it is even lower trying to make it coming from the IFL.

“You have to invest in yourself to play great in this league and then get the film you want to show the scouts in the NFL and CFL. We have a great ownership group here, and when you have that, it allows you to help these young men with job opportunities and get them in the workplace if football doesn’t work out.”

Ross said he coaches an exciting brand of football, which is attractive to both players and fans alike.

“Our game is so fast-paced, it gives you the best of both worlds. It showcases the players’ talents with indoor football. It is like bringing outdoor football indoors. It is exciting and the fans love it. Our arena holds 13,000 and we fill it up pretty good. It is like hockey with football.”

Unfortunately, that level of excitement and success isn’t happening for Ross’ former college team.

“There is a culture change that is happening at Nebraska right now,” Ross said. “As a coach, I understand the level of patience it takes to try and change the culture. I had to do that and it took me three to four years and now you are talking college, where you have around 100 or so kids on one team. “I saw some strides this year, especially with the defense, but offensively they just have to put the pieces together and make it make sense. That is the struggle they are having.

Adrian Martinez is so up and down; he’s pushing too much to be great. I have seen players try to do that. That is why mistakes keep happening during the game and makes it so frustrating for the fans, coaches and players. I was at Nebraska during the good and the bad. We played for the national championship my first year and then spiraled downward with losing records and no bowl games.”

But culture isn’t the only issue that Nebraska is facing as it strives to become a winning football program again. There are a handful of other factors according to Ross.

“Everyone else has caught up with the Nebraska football program,” Ross said bluntly. “We had the top-of-the-line facilities, the technology, and the weight training, but now the other schools have invested in their programs and have that as well. Also, joining the Big Ten has been difficult because we lost a big recruiting base in Texas. We had a lot of Texas boys on our roster when I played.

Ross rushed for a game-high 161 yards on 28 carries in NU’s victory over Michigan in the 2005 Alamo Bowl.
Ross rushed for a game-high 161 yards on 28 carries in NU’s victory over Michigan in the 2005 Alamo Bowl.

“From an offensive coordinator perspective, we are not
utilizing the tight end like we should. When I played in the option and West Coast offenses at Nebraska, we used the tight end a lot. We have some pretty good tight ends on the team right now that we can do some things with in those run/play action plays.”

Ross also would like to see the running back become more prominent in the Husker offense, like it was when he played. “As a Nebraska running back, the more you get the football, the more your eyes open up and you get a feel for the game and the defense. I think we have pulled back too fast on guys. If they are doing well, keep them in there to get them that repetition. When I played, I wanted at least 19 to 20 carries. If I didn’t get that, it wasn’t a good day for me,” Ross said. “But you have to have a guy that is a three-down back who is good in pass protection. I don’t know how those running backs at Nebraska are at pass protection, so maybe that plays a part in who they are playing.”

Looking back on his playing career, Ross wished he would have worked on his blocking. So, he has this advice for high school running backs thinking about college and then playing in the NFL.

“If you are being recruited, it means you can run, have the moves and vision. Keep that, but the number one thing to improve on is your blocking. That will keep you on the field longer than you think it will,” he said.

Ross would someday like to coach his philosophies in college, and with his experience, has the ability to coach either quarterbacks, running backs or receivers.

“I would love to coach and mold those young players,” he said. “I just want to make an impact in someone’s life and be able to change it for the better.”

From the Editor

By Darren Ivy

‘NOT BLIND LOYALTY’

Coaching changes follow four-game losing streak, but frost is coming back it has been a wild stretch for Nebraska athletics since our most recent publication during the last week of October.

Nebraska football has continued to be competitive but still not found a way to get over the hump in falling to 3-8, 1-7 in the Big Ten. It’s losing streak has now reached five games in a row with a home contest and senior day showdown against Iowa left the Friday after Thanksgiving.

In case you are wondering, seven losses in a row is the school record back in 194243. Frost’s teams also lost six games in a row to begin his first season back in 2018 before winning four of their final six games that season.

Coming off a bye, the Huskers suffered a 28-23 loss to Purdue on Oct. 30 and a 26-17 loss to No. 6 Ohio State on Nov. 6.

After the Ohio State game, it was announced quarterback Adrian Martinez had been playing with a broken jaw since the Michigan State game and high ankle sprain since before the Minnesota game. Yet no other quarterback had taken any snaps under center since the Northwestern game.

The rumor mill about Frost’s future really heated up after the Purdue and Ohio State losses assured NU a fourth-consecutive losing season under him and fifth in a row – something that hasn’t happened since the Huskers had six losing seasons in a row from 1956 to 1961 and nine losing seasons in a row from 1941 to 1949.

Fan frustrations and apathy also was apparent at the 11 a.m. kickoff against the Buckeyes before the smallest home crowd of the season. Who would have thought at the beginning season that the Ohio State game at 84,426 would be the lowest attended home game of the season, even lower than Fordham and Buffalo?

Two days later on Nov. 8, Athletic Director Trev Alberts announced that despite a 15-27 record in nearly four full seasons at that point, Frost would be coming back in 2022, but with a restructured contract that involved a pay cut and smaller buy out should Frost be let go after next season.

“It’s no secret that I’ve always wanted this to work,” Alberts said. “It would be unfair to say that I wasn’t looking for a way to keep Scott as our coach. I don’t think there is clear definition – there’s not a lot of empirical data out there to suggest this will work, let’s be honest. But I also think, if there’s a decision point – whether it’s football or anything else, you know, Scott’s a brother, he’s a Husker, and he’s a Nebraskan. I thought if, all things being equal, if there’s a decision to make, if there’s some uncertainty, if we’re going to err – while I’m here as the athletic director – we will probably err on the side of loyalty. But it won’t be blind loyalty.”

Along with that announcement, Frost revealed that he had let go offensive coordinator Matt Lubick, offensive line coach Greg Austin, quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco and running backs coach Ryan Held effective immediately.

On Nov. 10 beloved sixth year senior linebacker JoJo Domann announced that he would be foregoing his final two games against Wisconsin and Iowa to have hand surgery and get ready for the NFL Draft.

It was a tough ending for one of Nebraska’s most passionate and liked football players.

After the Purdue loss, Domann had spoken about the state of the Husker program.

“I’m in pain right now,” said the senior outside linebacker. “I don’t really have the words to describe it other than that…I’m going to do my part in bringing everything I have to the table, and to building this, and representing this N, and representing the last

name on my back. That’s what I’m worried about…We play for Nebraska. I take pride in that, and I demand respect about that, and that’s how I play the game. I want to earn respect out there. The wins and losses are beyond me.”

Nebraska then traveled up to No. 15 Wisconsin on Nov. 20 and put up impressive offensive numbers against the nation’s top statistical defense, but came up short in the final minute again and lost 35-28. The Huskers have now lost eight-straight games to the Badgers, who won their seventh-straight game this season, and now sit in first place in the Big Ten West with one week left.

On the volleyball front, Nebraska lost to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio State after starting 10-0 in conference play. Since then, the Huskers have won four in a row and are still in a tie for first in the Big Ten with two matches left. All-American Lexi Sun has made her way back into the starting lineup after being benched. The Huskers are hoping their 40th-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament will result in another national championship.

Women’s basketball has gotten off to a fast 5-0 start that has included three 100+ scoring performances. This feat has never been accomplished three times in the same season. The Huskers also ended a five-game losing streak to Creighton. Additionally, Jaz Shelley turned in just the fourth triple double in school history.

The Husker men lost the season opener to Western Illinois and also dropped the annual in-state game with Creighton for the 19th time in the last 23 years. Team leader Trey McGowens also broke his foot in that loss so wish Fred Hoiberg good luck trying to get his first winning season at Nebraska.