After slow start, Huskers power past Louisiana Tech Haarberg, Grant lead pounding NU ground game 

By Steve Beideck 

LINCOLN – Going with the tried-and-true offensive formation that Nebraska all but trademarked in its glory years helped show the way Saturday for a hard-fought victory over Louisiana Tech. 

After being stymied most of the first half by the feisty Bulldogs, the Huskers (2-2) went with power running out of the I-formation to break free from a 7-7 halftime tie on the way to a 28-14 win at Memorial Stadium that thanks to a 55-minute rain delay ended with a score that made the game appear closer than it was. 

Officially, 87,115 fans showed up, but only about 15,000-20,000 were there after the second-half delay that started with NU up 28-7 and in full control in the fourth quarter. 

Lightning strikes recorded within eight miles of the 100-year-old stadium forced the delay, clearing the stadium of fans and sending both teams to their locker rooms. 

By then quarterback Heinrich Haarberg and running back Anthony Grant had taken over the game offensively for the Huskers, who finished with 419 total yards on 66 plays.

After the delay, Louisiana Tech began its 10th drive of the game and scored an all but meaningless touchdown to make the final score 28-14. 

Haarberg, the Kearney Catholic graduate who was making his second start, led all players with 157 yards rushing on 19 attempts. That total included a 72-yard TD run with 11:13 remaining in the fourth quarter that sealed the Husker win. 

Those 157 yards are the most by a Nebraska quarterback since Adrian Martinez had 157 yards against Rutgers in 2020. Haarberg’s performance was the 18th 150-yard rushing game in school history by a quarterback. 

Grant gained 135 yards on 22 carries and scored on a 2-yard run in the third quarter. The Huskers finished the game with 312 rushing yards while the Blackshirts limited the 2-3 Bulldogs to 46 rushing yards. 

The Blackshirts now have held their first four opponents to less than 60 yards rushing. The last time the Huskers held four straight opponents under 60 yards on the ground in the same season was during the first four games of 1999. That’s also the last time the Huskers won a conference championship. 

Until its final 54 seconds, the first quarter had all the excitement of a log-sawing competition with the two teams combining for just 99 yards of offense on 30 plays for an average of 3.3 yards per play. 

Things got better for Nebraska on the first play of its third drive when Haarberg moved to his left and turned an option keeper into a career-long carry of 43 yards down the west sideline.

A pair of rushing plays by Grant totaling 11 yards got the Huskers to the Louisiana Tech 25 before the end of the scoreless first quarter. 

Grant opened the second quarter with an 8-yard run, but the Bulldog defense hung consecutive 1-yard losses on the Huskers, setting up a fourth-and-4 from the Louisiana Tech 19. 

Nebraska lined up for a 37-yard field goal, but went into its bag of tricks with holder Timmy Bleekrode hustling up the middle for 10 yards and a first down. 

Two plays later, receiver Billy Kemp went the final nine yards around left end for Nebraska’s first touchdown with 11:31 remaining in the second quarter. 

The Bulldogs tied the game with 6:07 remaining in the half. Freshman running back Jacob Fields went 14 yards around left end, shedding one tackle and reaching paydirt for the second touchdown of his career. 

Nebraska missed a chance to take the lead going into halftime when a 41-yard field goal attempt by Tristan Alvano slid wide left, keeping the score an uncomfortable 7-7 at intermission. 

With an emphasis on power running, the uneasiness disappeared quickly in the second half even as two long Husker runs that would have produced touchdowns were called back by penalties. Still, NU scored three touchdowns that did count.

The first came on the opening drive of the third quarter. It was a nine-play, 85-yard march that ended with Grant’s 2-yard TD run through the right side of the line. 

All the plays came out of the I-formation as Husker blockers overpowered the Bulldogs defense. Grant had runs of 14, 34, 7 and 19 yards in the drive, and the Huskers overcame two fumbles, including one on the opening kickoff by Tommi Hill that he recovered himself. 

Nebraska started its third scoring drive in the final minutes of the third quarter and scored a touchdown on the first play of the fourth. Again, primarily out of the I-formation, Grant carried twice, and after the Bulldogs were hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Haarberg hit tight end Thomas Fidone on the left side of the field for a 29-yard touchdown pass, making it 21-7. 

Fidone, the 6-foot-6, 250-pound sophomore, jumped to snare the pass with his fingertips and then evaded a pair of Louisiana Tech defenders to reach the end zone. The grab made Fidone the first Husker tight end to have a receiving touchdown in three consecutive games since Mike McNeill accomplished that feat in the final three games of the 2008 season. 

Haarberg put the game out of reach on NU’s next drive. Following runs of 7 and 3 yards by Grant, Haarberg went to his left on an option keeper out of the I and ran away from Bulldogs defenders for 72 yards. 

Louisiana Tech’s final touchdown came after the weather delay on a 20-yard pass from Jack Turner to Cyrus Allen for 20 yards with 5:17 remaining. The Bulldogs had another drive into Nebraska territory with

time ticking away that ended in a tipped-ball interception by NU’s Isaac Gifford. 

Nebraska hosts No. 2 Michigan Sept. 30 at 2:30 p.m. The game is scheduled to be televised nationally by Fox.

With Haarberg at the Helm, Huskers Hammer Huskies With Only One Turnover, NU Wears Out Northern Illinois 

By Steve Beideck

LINCOLN – Heinrich Haarberg had one of the best first starts by a Nebraska quarterback in recent memory, and the Huskers’ defense limited Northern Illinois to 149 yards of offense Saturday in Nebraska’s 35-11 nonconference victory. 

It was the first win for Matt Rhule as Nebraska’s head coach. The Huskies (1-2) didn’t score a touchdown until just four seconds remained in the game played before a crowd of 86,875 at Memorial Stadium. 

Heinrich completed 14 of 24 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore from Kearney was also Nebraska’s leading rusher, gaining 98 yards on 20 carries as the Huskers (1-2) finished with 382 yards of total offense. 

The Blackshirts defense showed dominance with its front seven and allowed just 26 yards rushing on 22 attempts.

Quarterback Rocky Lombardi, who was sacked three times, carried the ball five times for minus-18 yards. 

Haarberg engineered a nearly perfect first drive as a collegiate starter. 

Three option keepers to his left and a quarterback sneak for a first down gave the Kearney Catholic graduate 19 yards rushing. Two pass completions, including a 10-yard TD strike to Billy Kemp, accounted for the other 36 yards on the six-play drive. 

It was the first time the Huskers scored a touchdown in the first half this season. 

Nebraska’s defense in the first half was dominant, allowing just five first downs while limiting the Huskies to 58 yards of total offense. The most impressive statistic: NIU had a net of just three yards rushing on 15 attempts by halftime. 

Even when Northern Illinois made its field goal with 3:08 remaining in the first quarter, Nebraska’s defense was the unit in the spotlight. It’s not often a drive of four plays for minus-8 yards produces points. 

That’s how Nebraska minimized the effects of its lone first-half turnover. Haarberg lost the ball under heavy

pressure when his arm was hit attempting a pass, and the ball was recovered on the NU 5 by Skyler Gill-Howard. 

The Huskers had five of their final six drives of the half stuffed by a more tenacious defensive effort from the Huskies that included four three-and-outs. 

But in the middle of that the Huskers took advantage of a short NIU punt and scored a second TD on a 16-yard pass from Haarberg to tight end Thomas Fidone. 

Nebraska put together its best and most complete drive of the season in the third quarter. It included bouncing back from an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty – the kind of mistake that stifled scoring opportunities in the first two games. 

It was an old school NU drive: 15 plays, 76 yards, ending in a touchdown. It included four third-down conversions, zero fumbles and the first rushing touchdown of the season. 

Gabe Ervin scored – his first of the season – on a 3-yard run up the middle after Haarberg converted a third-down situation with a quarterback sneak.

The two biggest gainers were both third-down completions by Haarberg – a rope down the sideline to Fidone for 20 yards and a 33-yard catch-and-run to Alex Bullock that was shortened to 18 yards because of the 

unsportsmanlike conduct call on center Ben Scott. 

Nebraska added two more TD runs in the fourth quarter. Haarberg went around right end and finished a 20-yard run just inside the pylon to put the Huskers ahead 28-3. 

Anthony Grant then took a handoff from Chubba Purdy and went around left end for an 11-yard TD run following an interception by Javon Wright. 

NIU’s lone TD came against NU reserves when quarterback Ethan Hampton completed a 4-yard pass to Chris Carter with four seconds remaining. 

The Huskers will host Louisiana Tech Sept. 23 at 2:30 p.m. (CDT). The game will be televised by the Big Ten Network.

Husker offensive miscues fuel Buff stampede

By Steve Beideck 

BOULDER, Colorado – Nebraska had several chances in the first half to make Colorado play at a deficit. 

Unfortunately for the Huskers – just as they did nine days earlier at Minnesota – Nebraska let the No. 22-ranked Buffaloes hang around long enough to gather themselves and earn a 36-14 victory. 

The only difference Saturday at Folsom Field was that instead of winning on the final play of the game, as the Gophers did in the season opener, Colorado steadily wore the Huskers down in the second half on the way to the win between the former Big Seven/Eight/12 conference foes. 

It was a crushing setback for the Huskers after they had legitimate chances to earn a victory in both games. 

Instead of 2-0 or even 1-1, Nebraska heads into a stretch of three consecutive home games looking to post its first victory of the Matt Rhule era. 

Nebraska will host Northern Illinois Sept. 16 in a 6 p.m. prime time game on FS1.

With its list of game-changing offensive errors growing longer, however, the Huskers do not appear to be ready for prime time. 

Colorado, meanwhile, has proven ready for the bright lights quicker than the Huskers just two games into their own program rebuild under coach Deion “Prime Time” Sanders. 

Both NU losses, and how they happened, are stinging reminders of just how far the Nebraska program has fallen since NU and the Buffs played meaningful games as conference rivals. 

Sanders, meanwhile, has already helped erase frustrations the Buffaloes had in an abysmal 1-11 campaign in 2022. Such a quick fix doesn’t appear to be the path the Huskers will take this season. 

Big plays by Colorado’s explosive offense did the trick against a Nebraska defense that put up a strong effort in the first half, only to not get enough help from its offense in the final 30 minutes before a sellout crowd of 53,241 at Folsom Field. 

How Colorado was able to make the big plays in the second half – those that make end-of-the-year highlight

tapes – was kindled by the Nebraska offense in the first half. 

The Huskers committed three turnovers and had four ill-timed penalties that once again short-circuited scoring chances. Other mistakes also helped Colorado score 13 points in the final 4:20 of the first half to take a halftime lead that easily could have belonged to the Huskers. 

Much of the blame must be put on the shoulders of quarterback Jeff Sims, who threw the interception and lost one of the two fumbles. The Georgia Tech transfer also inadvertently aided the 2-0 Buffaloes with a mental mistake in the final minute of the first half. 

Instead of staying in bounds after running for eight yards on a third-and-17 from NU’s own 30, Sims ran out of bounds, essentially saving the Buffaloes a timeout. Following a 25-yard punt by Brian Buschini, Colorado took possession on its own 37 with 49 seconds remaining before intermission and ended up kicking a field goal. 

But Sims also showed some flash, giving the Huskers hope early in the third quarter. After NU stopped the Colorado offense on its opening drive of the second half, Sims ran through the right side of the Buffs line and raced down the sideline for a 57-yard touchdown that cut CU’s

lead to 13-7. That’s when Colorado got its offense on track, scoring 10 points and taking a 23-7 lead into the fourth quarter. 

Nebraska sputtered through the final 15 minutes as Colorado and quarterback Shedeur Sanders got enough out of CU’s offense for two more touchdowns despite intermittent struggles with their own with penalties. 

After throwing for 134 yards in the first half, Sanders finished the game with 393 yards passing and two touchdowns by completing 31 of 42 passes. 

Sims completed 9 of 15 for 106 yards for Nebraska before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a minor injury. Heinrich Haarberg and Chubba Purdy combined to go 2 of 7 for 13 yards in the final minutes. Nebraska added a TD with one second remaining on a 4-yard TD pass from Haarberg to tight end Thomas Fidone.

New coach, but same old story for hard-luck Huskers 

By Steve Beideck 

MINNEAPOLIS – Those things Nebraska worked all spring to avoid – turnovers, penalties and substitution infractions – ultimately left the Huskers to ponder an all-too-familiar result in their 2023 season opener. 

A 47-yard field goal by Dragan Kesich as time expired Thursday night gave Minnesota a 13-10, come-from-behind victory over the hard-luck Huskers before a crowd of 53,629 at Huntington Bank Stadium. 

Four turnovers by the Huskers, including three interceptions thrown by new quarterback Jeff Sims, were the toughest blows for the Nebraska faithful to take. Those mistakes left Nebraska with a fourth consecutive loss in a season opener and spoiled Matt Rhule’s debut as head coach. 

All those defeats came away from Memorial Stadium in Big Ten Conference games at Ohio State (2020), Illinois (2021) and Northwestern last season. That game with the Wildcats was a Northwestern home game that was played in Dublin, Ireland. Nebraska hasn’t won a season opener since a 35-21 victory over South Alabama on Aug. 31, 2019. 

The Huskers also were whistled for seven penalties totaling 55 yards. One of those penalties was a substitution infraction on the offense. The Huskers were also flagged for a disturbing signals penalty. 

While Sims, a transfer from Georgia Tech, finished as Nebraska’s leading rusher, the three interceptions at crucial junctures tarnished an otherwise decent first game in a Husker uniform. 

Sims ran the ball 19 times for 91 yards, with a long of 26. He also completed 11 of 19 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown. Despite the three interceptions, Sims finished with a quarterback rating of 94.1. 

Nebraska’s lone touchdown came on a play that seemed destined for disaster early in the third quarter. Sims handed the ball off to running back Anthony Grant, who went to his right before turning to throw the ball back to Sims. 

Fortunately for the Huskers the pass was a lateral that went behind Sims, who scooped it up after Grant’s toss went over his head. After picking up the ball, Sims threw it to the end zone where wide receiver Alex Bullock was standing by himself. 

The 34-yard pass was the first TD reception for the sophomore from Omaha Creighton Prep. Bullock was NU’s leading receiver with three catches for 56 yards. Receiver Marcus Washington also caught three passes for 31 yards. 

The touchdown play was set up by a 63-yard kickoff return by Rahmir Johnson to open the second half. It was a career long for the junior from New York City.

Nebraska’s defense had one of its best performances in recent years by limiting the Gophers to 251 total yards. That’s the fewest number of yards allowed since Nebraska held Maryland to 206 yards on Nov. 23, 2019. 

Minnesota, which now has won five consecutive games over the Huskers, took a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 34-yard Kesich field goal. 

The Huskers were in position to tie the game or take a halftime lead in the final minutes of the first half. That drive was short-circuited by a false start penalty on Ethan Piper and the Sims interception from the 6-yard line with seven seconds remaining before the intermission. 

Freshman kicker Tristan Alvano gave Nebraska a 10-3 lead with the first field goal of his career, a 27-yard boot with 12:42 remaining in the game. After the teams traded three-and-outs, Nebraska was driving toward a potential game-clinching field goal when Grant fumbled after a 9-yard gain. 

It was the break Minnesota needed, and the Gophers tied the game with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Athan Kaliakmanis to Daniel Jackson on fourth-down with 2:32 remaining in regulation. Jackson managed to drag his back foot in the end zone before landing out of bounds. 

Nebraska had one last chance to put together a game-securing drive, but Sims threw his third interception of the game. That turnover eventually led to the game-winning field goal by Kesich.

Pierce Is Producing Another Budding Star Set to Rise in Lincoln

By Shawn Ekwall

Mark Brahmer has coached his share of talented football players.

Over his 27 seasons as the head man at Pierce High, which has gone 221-66 under his tutelage, two players stand above the rest.

One is tight end Matt Herian, who possessed an uncommon combination of size, speed and athleticism that eventually landed him at Nebraska where he was on the edge of stardom in the early-2000s before a nasty leg injury all but derailed his career.

The other is Brahmer’s son, Ben, also a tight end, who plays a little receiver, too. He has size (6-foot-6, 220 pounds), speed and athleticism. Ben will head to Nebraska on scholarship next fall. The comparisons are hard to avoid.

“Matt … we had to move him around more,” Coach Brahmer said. “The game has changed for Ben. He learned wide receiver play as a young guy, where Matt was a more straight ahead kind of guy early on. We had to move Matt around as he got older and he learned the receiver position later. Both had those attributes – good speed, could jump and catch.”

Herian’s years under Brahmer at Pierce were from 1998-2001. In that span, the Bluejays earned a pair of Class C-1 runner-up finishes in 1999 and 2001.

Ben and his 2022 senior teammates will be looking to add a second state title in their four years. They finished as runner-up a year ago, losing to Columbus Lakeview in the finals at Memorial Stadium.

* * *

At first, Coach Brahmer had a tough time convincing people how good Herian was.

He posted eye-popping stats, sure, but the conventional wisdom was that he was doing it against small schools.

“Nobody believed how good he was,” Brahmer said. 

That changed one day in 2001, when Herian and his coach were at a summer football camp at NU. After one session, Husker receivers coach Ron Brown asked Herian to stay late with a few other receivers and tight ends.

“I think it was Day 2 of camp, and Coach Brown asked Matt to stay back and run one more drill,” Brahmer said. “Coach was throwing behind receivers forcing them to adjust to make a tough catch. He throws high and way behind Matt, and Matt reaches back with his left hand and makes a one-handed, bare-hand catch.

“I was standing by (recruiting coordinator) Jeff Jamrog and prior to that play, he asked me point blank, ‘Can Matt play here?’ I told him, ‘Yes, I believe he can.’

“After that play, Jamrog grinned and shook his head and said, ‘I think you’re right.’”

Herian, while vaguely recalling the moment, said it was indeed the summer camp circuit prior to his senior year that elevated his stock.

“I had a breakout year my sophomore year (1999) but didn’t go to camps that summer because I pulled a hamstring in track that spring,” Herian said. “So the next summer I was on a few schools’ radars and had an offer from Coach (Dan) McCarney after Iowa State’s camp. Then I went to camp at UNL and really put my best foot forward and tested out well. That’s when Coach Solich told me I’d be getting a letter in the mail and to make sure I read it.”

Herian went on to play for the Huskers from 2002-2006. He was on pace for a monster year in 2004 before suffering a compound fracture of his left leg against Missouri in late October. The injury forced him to miss the entire 2005 season before playing in 2006 as a senior.

He finished with a modest 12 catches and two touchdowns as a senior after tallying 46 catches for 792 yards and six TDs his sophomore and junior years.

Tampa Bay signed him as a free agent in 2007, but an Achilles injury at the tail end of training camp ended his hopes of making the team.

Herian has since made peace with his unfortunate injury situations.

“There’s always what-ifs in the back of your mind,” Herian said. “But by that time Coach Callahan was on board and they brought in some other guys like Maurice (Purify), Nate (Swift) and Marlon (Lucky).

“They maybe depended on me more before my injury, but things happen.”

* * *

Like so many small-town Nebraska kids, Ben Brahmer’s life-long goal was to play for the home-state Huskers.

That dream will become a reality after Ben committed to Nebraska back in April of 2021.

Growing up with older sisters Jaci and Maggie, both college volleyball players, along with mom Carmen, a former Doane track standout, it was the ladies of the household who many times set the tone for Ben as far as work ethic.

“It’s every little kid’s dream growing up to play in Memorial Stadium,” Ben said. “And I credit my sisters who helped me become a better athlete. They showed me early on how hard you had to work. I knew I had to put that work in to get where I wanted.”

Jaci and Maggie both were standout athletes at Pierce High and both continued their volleyball careers at Wayne State. They spent many hours in the gym, practicing not only volleyball, but also basketball while training to build speed and agility.

Ben credits his parents for providing him the support he’s needed over the years, saying they’ve “pushed me to work hard and helped me become a man.”

Coach Brahmer says wife, the former Carmen Kapke,  provides the “softer” side of the two. He admittedly tends to have a rougher edge. And he readily acknowledges that whatever athletic talents his kids have comes from mom.

“She was a great athlete in high school (Fairbury High) and in college. An All-American,” he said. “A lot of the kids’ abilities come from her. I was a two-hour a day weight room guy just to keep up.”

* * *

One of Ben’s favorite plays is one his dad put in years ago for Herian. It’s a play the Bluejays still use today. Its name won’t be revealed here due to the up-tempo offense and vocal calls the Bluejays make at the line of scrimmage. But it’s no surprise it’s still successful with Ben as the target.

“We still run it quite a bit and even scored a TD against Wahoo,” Ben said. “We run a no-huddle offense so we can make the call right at the line.”

Ben’s 142 receiving yards and two TDs on an opening-night 38-7 win over the Warriors showcased his growth over his four years in high school.

While his receiving stats have logically trended upward each of his three seasons, he will have his hands full improving on last year’s 63 catches for 1,119 yards and 13 TDs.

In a Week 2 win over Columbus Scotus, Ben lined up not only at tight end, but receiver, H-back and punt returner.

Speed and strength gains are evident. Hard work in the weight room will do that. Time spent lifting continues to push his game to higher levels.

Herian, who spends many Friday nights on the chain gang at Pierce games, has noticed the continued growth.

“He’s probably a bit taller than me, but he’s definitely a more defined route runner than I was,” said Herian, who was listed at Nebraska in 2004 at 6-5, 240. “I was more straight away, speed, off play-action. Ben is just so technically sound in what he does.

“He’s still developing. You can see his body has more muscle mass, and he’s not afraid to mix it up.”

There are similarities, sure, but Coach Brahmer also sees differences between Ben and Herian.

“Ben has good agility and can change directions,” the elder Brahmer said. ”Both those guys jump really well and are physical blockers. Both catch it real well. Matt’s hands were so soft. They both did, and do, so many things well.”

For Ben that includes running intermediate routes or beating the defense over the top. With his added size, he’s also a ready and able blocker on running plays.

“I feel like I’m pretty versatile,” Ben said. “We run the ball a lot here, and I’m the main blocking tight end, but I can also get behind the defense on my routes if needed.”

* * *

Having your father as your coach can test one’s resolve. There are highs and lows. It isn’t always smooth sailing.

But Ben wouldn’t have it any other way. Playing for his dad has been a great experience, even if it’s not always easy.

“He has to be harder on me,” Ben said. “If he wasn’t, others wouldn’t have as much respect for me.”

Said his dad: “It’s been very enjoyable, but it hasn’t been easy on us. He knows I’m not going to play favorites and he’s had to earn it. But I think it’s helped prepare him for the next step to be coached up hard.”

That next step is fast approaching. And Ben feels like he’s ready to take his game to the next level in Lincoln.

“I know the competition is a lot better, but as long as I can catch the ball and get open, I can fit in,” Ben said. “I talk with Thomas (Fidone, an NU tight end) quite a bit, and he’s a great guy. In talking with Coach Whipple, he loves to use his tight ends. I just need to get down there and get some more weight on me. I hope to add 20 pounds and still run pretty well.”

Before graduating to his life as a Husker, a senior season full of individual and team goals at Pierce plays out. The ultimate aspiration? Capturing another state title.

“Personally, I’m kind of a quiet guy,” Ben said. “I want to get out of my shell and be more of a vocal leader. But as a team our two goals are simple: go undefeated and win state.”

According to Coach Brahmer, his son is blessed to play with a talented group of senior teammates.

“Ben’s fortunate he has a lot of good athletes in his class,” Brahmer said. “(Quarterback) Abram Scholting’s been pitching to him for a while. We have good running backs, are lucky to have a good line and some other talented receivers. Ben’s fortunate things have fallen into place for him.”

* * *

Herian knows the leap from Class C-1 high school football to a Power Five school is difficult. Yet he sees the tools Ben brings to the table. He’s convinced he has what it takes to succeed at NU.

“You can see each year he’s built better,” Herian said. “Personally, I see him as a possession receiver at Nebraska. He’s not gonna blow the top off a defense, but he’ll be that guy that consistently gets open on those 5-, 8- and 10-yard routes.”

Herian also mentioned the culture of the Pierce community and the work ethic ingrained in the kids for decades as being factors that will help Ben at NU.

Visit with anyone from Pierce, he says, and sooner or later a consistent theme will surface: Hard work.

The northeast Nebraska town of 1,973 is proud of its hard-working, punch-the-clock culture, whether it’s working in agriculture or in a large plant in nearby Norfolk. Culture is one of the reasons the Bluejays are always at or near the top of Class C-1. And also why many Pierce alumni come back rather than leave their small town for perceived greener pastures.

Herian has returned home to farm and raise a family of four children with wife Lynsey.

“There’s just a lot of pride here. A blue-collar mentality,” he said. He points out that there are a lot of dads who played in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s whose sons also played or are playing now. It’s tradition. “You have so many believers in the program, and Coach Brahmer has a special talent in bringing out the best in his players.”

“Sometimes people will say to me, ‘Pierce is a football town,’ Brahmer said. “I don’t see it that way. We’re a community that wants to do well in everything we do, not just football.”

Herian played his part more than 20 years ago. An example for future Bluejays. Now it’s Ben who carries the torch.

“We both grew up in Pierce as small town kids,” Ben said. “We’re just hard workers that go to work every single day.”

Somewhere the next great Pierce tight end is watching.

Big Ten Announces 2023 Football Schedule

Nebraska Sports Information

Big Ten Announces 2023 Football Schedule

The Big Ten Conference announced its 2023 football schedule Wednesday morning, with Nebraska set to play host to five conference games next fall.

Nebraska will begin the season with a Big Ten game for the fourth consecutive season, opening at Minnesota on Thursday, Aug. 31. Nebraska played at Ohio State in 2020, traveled to Illinois in 2021 and met Northwestern in Dublin, Ireland, to open the 2022 season.

Following its season opener against Minnesota, Nebraska will play three non-conference games beginning with a Sept. 9 game at Colorado, followed by home contests against Northern Illinois (Sept. 16) and Louisiana Tech (Sept. 23).  The Sept. 16 home opener will be Nebraska’s latest in full-season schedule since also opening on Sept. 16 in 1995.


Nebraska resumes Big Ten play with a Sept. 30 home game against Michigan at Memorial Stadium. The Huskers return to the road for an Oct. 7 game at Illinois, followed by their lone bye week of the season on Oct. 14.

Following its bye, Nebraska plays three of its next four contests in Memorial Stadium, starting with a two-game October homestand against Northwestern (Oct. 21) and Purdue (Oct. 28). The Huskers travel to Michigan State on Nov. 4, before returning home to face Maryland on Nov. 11.  

For the third straight year, Nebraska will finish with Big Ten West foes Wisconsin and Iowa. Nebraska will travel to Madison on Nov. 18, before the Huskers finish the regular season by hosting their traditional Black Friday matchup with Iowa on Nov. 24.

The 2023 football season will be the initial season with the Big Ten’s recently announced media rights partners, CBS, FOX, NBC, Peacock and BTN. Plans regarding the format of future Big Ten football schedules for 2024 and beyond will be announced at a later date

The 2023 season will mark the 100th Anniversary of Memorial Stadium. Fans interested in becoming Nebraska season ticket holders should visit and join the 2023 Season Ticket Request List.

2023 Nebraska Football Schedule

Aug. 31—at Minnesota (Thursday)

Sept. 9—at Colorado

Sept. 16—Northern Illinois

Sept. 23—Louisiana Tech

Sept. 30—Michigan

Oct. 7—at Illinois

Oct. 14—BYE

Oct. 21—Northwestern

Oct. 28—Purdue

Nov. 4—at Michigan State

Nov. 11—Maryland

Nov. 18—at Wisconsin

Nov. 24—Iowa (Friday)

After NU’s Quick Start, Sooners Leave Huskers In The Dust

By Steve Beideck

Once upon a time in Lincoln, Nebraska fans eagerly anticipated the next time Oklahoma would roll into town for a Big Eight or Big 12 showdown.

Everyone fortunate enough to have a ticket knew they would be treated to a competitive game, one that often-decided which team and its fan base would get to go to Miami for the Orange Bowl as conference champions.

Two Orange Bowl representatives were in Lincoln Saturday, but they were focused on only one of the combatants in the latest iteration of one of college football’s most historic rivalries.

That focus was on No. 6 Oklahoma, primarily because it wasn’t a competitive game.

After scoring on its opening drive Saturday, elevating the hopes of Husker fans in the Memorial Stadium crowd of 87,161, Oklahoma controlled the action for the final 56-plus minutes while rolling to a 49-14 victory.

“This comes back to me,” Interim head coach Mickey Joseph said. “It’s not my kids’ fault, it’s not my assistant coaches’ fault, this is on me. I’ve got to accept responsibility for it, and I have. We’re going to get better next week. We’ve got eight games left. We’re going to get ready to win some games.”

Oklahoma now has won the last three games between the two teams. The Sooners lead the all-time series 47-38-3. Nebraska still has a 22-19-2 advantage in games played in Lincoln after losing the 88th game in the series, and this was just the second loss for the Huskers to OU in the last nine games played in Lincoln.

The loss dropped Nebraska’s record at the start of its 133rd season of football to 1-3, a record that includes a 1-2 finish in the nonconference schedule. The final eight games of the season are against Big Ten foes.

Following a bye week, the week in which Nebraska would have traveled to Evanston, Illinois, to play Northwestern if the teams had not opened the season in Dublin, Ireland, the Huskers play two games in six days.

Indiana travels to Lincoln for the Huskers’ Oct. 1 homecoming game, which will begin at either 6 or 6:30 p.m. Then it’s a short week to get ready for the first true conference road game on Friday, Oct. 7 at Rutgers. That game will kick off at 6 p.m. CDT and be televised on FS1.

There’s plenty for the Huskers to work on during the bye week as Joseph will be able to make more adjustments leading up to the final eight games.

Joseph said the focus during the bye week – and even beyond, if necessary – is more drill work instead of team work.

“We have to do some individual work, some more drill work next week, less team work and get some fundamentals straightened up,” Joseph said. “More 9-on-7 drills, more turnover drills, less team work. Because the teamwork doesn’t matter if they don’t do the individual work.

“Nobody played very good with a score like that. We’re going to dissect this film. We’re going to find the kids who were doing what we asked them to do, kids that can tackle and that can block.”

Oklahoma made the necessary in-game adjustments to overcome being stopped on its opening drive, a stop that was followed by Nebraska’s only touchdown drive until the final four minutes of the game.

The Sooner offense racked up 355 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes to put themselves in position to reset the program’s record 656 yards offense the 1956 Sooners hung on the Huskers nearly 66 years ago.

As both teams turned to their backups for the final 20 minutes, that 1956 mark still stands. The 3-0 Sooners had third-team offensive linemen in the game for the final few plays after the Huskers scored their second touchdown.

The final total for the Sooners, after taking a knee on the final two plays, was 580 yards on 84 plays. The totals were evenly distributed – 312 rushing and 268 passing.

NU gave up 642 last week in a 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern. Combine that with OU’s 580 yards, and that’s 1,222 total yards allowed by the Blackshirts the past two games.

Senior running back Eric Gray led the Sooners with 113 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns. Ten different players had at least one reception for OU, with Marvin Mims leading the way with four catches for 66 yards.

Quarterback Dillon Gabriel dissected the Nebraska back seven through the first three quarters, completing 16-of-27 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. The junior transfer from Central Florida, who hails from Mililani, Hawaii, also scored a rushing touchdown and finished with 55 yards on six carries.

It was Gabriel’s 61-yard TD run down the west sideline that muted any momentum Nebraska had after scoring its first touchdown. That score came just 1:49 after Casey Thompson finished the Huskers six-play, 77-yard opening drive with a 32-yard TD pass to Trey Palmer.

Oklahoma did what none of Nebraska’s first three opponents could do – slow the Huskers’ running game. In the first half, NU’s Anthony Grant was limited to 30 yards on 11 carries.

In Nebraska’s first three games, Grant averaged 142.7 yards per game. Ajay Allen was Nebraska’s leading rushing in the first 30 minutes, gaining 40 yards on nine carries.

Gabe Ervin Jr. finished as Nebraska’s leading rusher, gaining 60 yards on seven second-half carries. Allen finished with 49 yards on 11 carries while Grant gained 36 on 13. NU totaled just 163 rushing yards on 45 carries.

NU’s passing game netted just one more yard than the running game. Thompson completed 14-of-20 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown; he also was sacked four times.

Chubba Purdy saw his first action as a Husker quarterback. The Florida State transfer was 7-of-11 with one interception for 35 yards. Purdy also scored Nebraska’s second TD on an 8-yard run around the right end with 3:17 remaining in the game.

Joseph said Purdy played in the second half because he needed some reps, not because Thompson was hurt.

“I thought Chubba played OK when he got in there,” Joseph said. “He made some mistakes, but I thought he was aggressive and he gave us a chance to sustain drives.”

Does that mean there might be a change at quarterback on the horizon to give Purdy a bigger opportunity to show what he could do?

Would Joseph be bold enough to try what Jim Harbaugh did at Michigan at the start of the season, giving his top two quarterbacks a chance to start one game and decide on a starter for the final six games?

It’s the kind of decision an interim coach faces with the primary goal of finding the best way to win games.

And right now, Nebraska seems a long way from winning anything.

During A Whirlwind Week, Mickey Joseph Stepping Up To Lead Huskers And Has Already Made Some Tweaks

By Steve Beideck

It was clear during Mickey Joseph’s news conference in front of about 80 media members Monday who he is worried about most in the sudden upheaval of the Husker program.

The players.

“Right now my number one focus and the staff focus is the boys,” he said. “The players. That we make sure that they are OK.”

The Huskers are 2-11 against FCS opponents since the start of the 2021 season. Each of those losses, all by nine or fewer points, has been a punch in the gut. And now the coach that recruited them is gone.

In his place is Joseph, who seemed to intuitively hit the right notes in his first meeting with the media as interim head coach.

“This is about Nebraska football. It is bigger than me or than anyone else,” he said. “I want you all to understand that. It is bigger than me or than anyone else.”

He thanked fans for sticking with the team and recognized his family for supporting him.

But he said the players come first as he shared the first menu items he has fed his charges prior to Saturday’s 11 a.m. showdown against No. 6 Oklahoma.

“Confidence and let them know that I believe in them,” he said. “Block out the noise of what everybody’s saying and come to the building every day prepared to win that practice knowing that you’re capable of getting the job done and don’t doubt yourself.

“That’s what I’m feeding them. I’m feeding them confidence.”

Two losses – by a combined six points – in the first three weeks have a way of robbing any swagger the team managed to muster in the offseason.

Preaching a fresh start and a few new ideas are just about the only things on which an interim coach can hang his hat.

“We tell them we start from scratch,” Joseph said. “We move everything to the past and we start from here. We have nine more opportunities, and we are capable of winning games, and that is why they understand the first opportunity is this weekend against OU, a really good football team.”

One structural change Joseph announced is that practices will be held on Sundays. Under former head coach Scott Frost, Sundays were the off day. For the next two-plus months, Monday will be the day the Huskers don’t practice.

Joseph’s answers to the questions he fielded Tuesday were direct and succinct. When Joseph says something, there won’t be a need to guess what he means. Athletic Director Trev Alberts alluded to that during his Sunday press conference.

“Mickey is an energetic guy,” Alberts said. “He is pretty black and white. I think he has an infectious personality. I think that is important. He had a very poignant conversation with the team (Sunday) that I thought they took really well.

“At the same time like Scott, Mickey will love them and seek to serve them.”

An immediate concern for players, coaches and fans alike is what can be done to fix a Nebraska defense that gave up 642 yards of total offense Sept. 10 in a 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern that eventually led Alberts to fire Frost the following day.

Joseph said the defense is  going to “play faster” and will tackle in practice. The biggest defensive coaching change is having Erik Chinander coach the safeties and Travis Fisher coach the corners and nickels.

“If you look around the country, everybody in the country has two defensive back coaches because it is two different positions. Safeties and corners,” Joseph said. “If you look at the NFL they have two defensive back coaches. We were the only one in the country I think that had one defensive back coach.”  

Joseph said that his background as primarily an offensive coach won’t hinder his ability to make suggestions for changes when the Blackshirts take the field.

“When you’re an offensive coach, you better understand defense and what it should be,” Joseph said. “And I always use my brother (Vance) for example. He was a college quarterback, but he was a defensive back in the NFL … and now he’s a defensive coordinator in the NFL.

“You have to know what’s going on on the other side of the ball. You know what it should be. It’s football, guys. It’s either fourth down or third down. It’s either two high or one high.”

On offense, Joseph, the former receivers coach, said Mike Cassano, a four-year offensive analyst at NU who had worked under Frost for seven years, will handle the day-to-day operations at receiver, “but I’ll still be involved with it.”

When asked if Cassano is now a full-time assistant, Joseph said, “Yes sir.” 

Keeping a one-game-at-a-time approach is the way Joseph said is best to determine how the next nine games will turn out.

“As a coach, you have to stand up and say we’re trying to win nine games, but you’re not worried about nine games right now,” Joseph said. “We’re worried about this game, this week. So we have to take it one week at a time and we’ll see where we’re at. But this week, the most important thing is preparing to get ready for OU.”

The Letter Trev Alberts sent to season ticket holders Monday

Husker Fans,

First and foremost, thank you again for your passion and loyalty for our football program and for all Husker teams. Your support is unmatched in college athletics, and it will never be taken for granted by our athletic staff, coaches and student-athletes.

Sunday was a difficult day for Nebraska football and one that I hoped would not come. Coach Frost poured his heart and soul into our program as both a player and head coach, and I appreciate his hard work and dedication to Nebraska. Scott will always be a Husker and a Nebraskan, and I hope you join me in thanking him for his service to our program. College athletics is a bottom-line business and ultimately, we did not win enough football games, and it was necessary to move in another direction.

I appreciate Mickey Joseph’s willingness to step into the interim head coach role for the remainder of this season. Mickey and our staff will work tirelessly to serve our players and help our team improve. We still have nine opportunities ahead in the 2022 season and our players deserve the best opportunity to have a successful season.

Moving forward we will have the benefit of time to do a thorough national search for our next head coach. In large part thanks to our great fanbase, this is a special place that provides a great opportunity to build a successful program. We will find a coach that shares the values of the people of this great state – qualities such as hard work, discipline and servant leadership.

There is no doubt the circumstances are different than we expected, but this will be an exciting week in Lincoln and a great Saturday at Memorial Stadium. College football is tradition-filled, and Nebraska-Oklahoma can’t help but make you think of the great history of the sport.

In addition to welcoming our visitors from Oklahoma and Fox Big Noon Kickoff, we will also have some great celebrations on Saturday. Our 1970 and 1971 national championship teams will have a reunion on Friday night and be recognized on Saturday at the game. We will have a special recognition for Johnny Rodgers on the 50th anniversary of his Heisman Trophy, and Zach Wiegert, our newest College Football Hall of Famer, will be recognized with an On-Campus Salute.

Thanks again for your support. Go Big Red!

Trev Alberts

Frost is out, Mickey Joseph is in and a search will start

By Steve Beideck

Following the announcement Sunday that Scott Frost had been fired as head coach of the Nebraska football team, there was only one remnant on Level 6 of Memorial Stadium of the native son’s 47-game tenure as the leader of the storied Husker program.

A large, framed photo of Frost leading the Huskers onto the Memorial Stadium field was still hanging on the wall between the south and north entrances to the room where weekly media conferences are conducted.

In the photo, Frost is wearing a gray Nebraska football sweatshirt and that stern, determined look that defined his time as both a Husker player and coach.

Removed was the sign by the door of Suite 612 that let people know this was the suite reserved for members of Frost’s family and guests.

That suite will now be occupied by family and friends of interim head coach Mickey Joseph, who was elevated to that role Sunday by Athletic Director Trev Alberts. Nebraska’s next game is Saturday at 11 a.m. against historic rival Oklahoma.

“I want to thank Mickey Joseph for taking on this role,” Alberts said during a hastily called news conference that summoned about 80 members of the media Sunday afternoon. “There’s nine games left in the season. I think we owe it to the players, we owe it to our fans, to give these players an opportunity in these last nine games.

“We have good players on this football team. So having a different voice and having some new energy and enthusiasm we’re hoping can make a difference for this team.” 

When announcing his decision to fire Frost after a 1-2 start to the 2022 season, Alberts, himself a decorated Nebraska football legend, said it was a long night trying to decide what was best for the program following the Huskers’ 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern.

Frost was notified of his dismissal by Alberts just more than 12 hours after the Huskers had lost their second game of the young season, both against underdogs.

That loss was the first time in the 100-year history of Memorial Stadium that the Huskers had dropped a game in which they had scored at least 35 points. Before Saturday, Nebraska had won 214 previous games when they had reached that 35-point milestone.

Alberts said that kind of performance wasn’t good enough for one of the nine college football programs that have won at least 900 games.

“At the end of the day there has to be accountability,” Alberts said. “We run a professional organization that has high standards. Accountability has to matter. Scott and I talked about this; 16-31 (Frost’s four-plus-year record) obviously was not at a level that was acceptable to us.”

Alberts said he met with Frost at 11 a.m. Sunday and informed him of his decision to end Frost’s time as Nebraska’s 33rd head football coach. The two of them then went to the NU locker room to meet with the team. Alberts said the players were notified via email to come to North Stadium for the meeting.

“I think the team really cares about Scott, and Scott really cares about the team,” Alberts said. “It’s been a tough day for Coach Frost, our coaching staff and our players. This is a day that I hoped would never come.”

After addressing the team, Alberts said he and others with him then left the locker room so Frost could privately address the team.

“Scott spent time with the team, and those conversations will remain with the team and Scott,” Alberts said. “Finally, I invited Mickey Joseph, and he came in about 11:45 and spoke to the team. He walked them through some of the changes he envisioned.”

Alberts told Joseph that he was the head coach and that he wouldn’t meddle in his decision-making process over the next nine games.

“I encouraged Mickey to be the head coach and make decisions as the head coach,” Alberts said. “I think there will be some changes, some structural changes. He will explain that to all of you.”

Joseph didn’t attend Sunday’s news conference. The previously scheduled Monday press conference also was canceled later in the afternoon. The first time Joseph likely will be available to field questions from the media is Tuesday.

There were no other staff changes made Sunday, but Alberts did say that if Joseph believed he needed to make some changes to the coaching staff, he was free to do so.

“If he chooses to make some of those additional changes, we will support those changes as well,” Alberts said. “But I’m not aware of any of those that he anticipates at this time.”

Frost is due to receive a $15 million buyout because he was fired before Oct. 1. Had Alberts waited until after that date, the buyout would have been reduced to $7.5 million. Alberts said Sunday there were no changes to that agreement.

“There is no negotiated settlement,” Alberts said. “The University of Nebraska has a long history of living up to what they agreed to, so the contract is what the contract is, and of course, the university will comply as we always do.”

Alberts said he landed on Joseph to be the interim head coach after reviewing what some of the other members of the coaching staff were responsible for, especially with the next game just six days away and being one of the featured matchups of the weekend.

“Mickey’s not calling the plays,” Alberts said. “Coach (Mark) Whipple is (and) there’s a lot of responsibilities for the head coach that lie outside of football. We need to have Coach Whipple focused on game planning and play calling all week.

“And obviously defensively we have some very significant adjustments to make so (defensive coordinator Erik Chinander) has got to be really focused there.”

The Huskers gave up 642 yards of offense to Georgia Southern, which was just 14 yards shy of the Nebraska school record for most yards allowed in a single game of 656 set by Oklahoma in 1956.

A national search will be conducted for Frost’s permanent replacement. Alberts said third-party help would be used, primarily for logistics. He also knows this search will generate a lot of speculation and rumors.

“There’s going to be a lot of innuendo,” Alberts said. “I want you to know that these sorts of decisions and processes are not made in a silo. I have a lot of great mentors and friends that we’ll be working with.

“I intend to reach out to a lot of people. So if you hear that Trev Alberts reached out to XYZ coach, it doesn’t mean that I’ve offered the job to XYZ coach. It might very well be true (about reaching out) but that doesn’t mean I’m trying to hire that coach.”

Finding out what others think about the Nebraska head coach job is a process he’s looking forward to undertaking.

“I think there’s some fabulous coaches out there that have a perspective about our job that I can benefit from,” Alberts said. “So I’m going to reach out to a lot of people. I’d like to get a perspective of a coach who isn’t here right now about our job, and what the uniqueness is and the needs and those sorts of things.”

For the next two-plus months, Alberts said the top priority needs to be on the next nine games.

“We have said all along I would just love to see this team continue to grow and compete and make progress,” Alberts said. “Be tough. Win the line of scrimmage. Do the fundamental things that teams need to do to win games. I think we can get there.”

Alberts also said tempering of expectations also should be a part of the process.

“We will stop talking about championships,” Alberts said. “We will stop talking about things we used to do. We will just get really process-oriented and detail-oriented. Ultimately when you start doing those fundamental championship-type things, those types of wins follow.

“We need to stop focusing on that and start focusing on those small fundamental things that ultimately lead to those types of things. So those are the things we will do.”

Alberts tabbs Joseph to lead Huskers

By Lincoln Arneal

After firing Scott Frost, Nebraska Athletic Director Trev Alberts had multiple options on who to name as the interim head coach. 

However, with No. 6 Oklahoma coming to Lincoln on Saturday for a nationally-televised game, Alberts said most of the staff has much on their plates this week. Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple would need to devote his attention to developing a game plan to attack the Sooners. In addition, the defensive staff needed to make adjustments after the Huskers were shredded for 45 points and 642 yards by Georgia Southern. 

In the end, Mickey Joseph, associate head coach and wide receiver coach, was promoted to interim head coach on Sunday. Alberts said Joseph’s personality, energy and enthusiasm should serve him well as the program’s leader.

“We needed a different voice. We need to provide hope for these young men,” Alberts said. “Football is a tough sport. You have to force yourself to do things you don’t want to do physically. Having somebody that can pull that out of you and motivate you to do that, in my observations of Coach Joseph, I think he has some of those attributes. I’d like to see him function in that role.”

Joseph faces a tall task to right the Huskers’ ship after a 1-2 start. While no other personnel changes were announced, Alberts said Joseph has the full authority to reorganize the staff. 


Alberts and Joseph met with the players on Sunday morning to discuss the path forward with Frost no longer involved with the program. 

“There’ll be some immediate, fairly significant changes in his approach,” Alberts said. “He had a very poignant conversation with the team today that I thought they took very well.”

Nebraska hired Joseph, a New Orleans native, in December after spending the past five years at LSU under Ed Orgeron, including the last two as assistant head coach.

Joseph served as the head coach at Langston University, an NAIA school in Oklahoma, from 2011-12. He went 13-7 before leaving to coach at Alcorn State. Joseph also made stops at Grambling State and  Louisiana Tech. In addition, he was the head coach and athletic director of Desire Street Academy in New Orleans for four years from 2005-08 before the school closed.

Alberts and Joseph overlapped during their playing careers at Nebraska. Joseph started nine games for the Huskers, rushing for 1,091 yards and 16 touchdowns while passing for 909 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Going forward, Alberts said he plans to conduct a national search and talk to many people, but Joseph could make himself a candidate with how he leads the program during the next few months. 

“I think we have an opportunity to hire an outstanding coach that can lead the program,” Alberts said. “I’d love to see Mickey grow into that, and we’ll see where it goes. But again, we’ll do a national search, and at that point, if Mickey is an obvious candidate, he will be part of that conversation as well.”

In the interim, Joseph and the Nebraska staff will have to solve many challenges to turn around the season. Still, Alberts said he plans to keep a consistent approach and offer any support they need, including contacting recruits.

“I’ll do whatever Mickey and the staff ask me to do,” Alberts said.