Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Black Friday Red Tag Special - New BHF Editorial by Mark Solomon

Collapse
X
Collapse

  • Black Friday Red Tag Special - New BHF Editorial by Mark Solomon

    Click image for larger version  Name:	msolomon60x80.jpg Views:	52 Size:	7.6 KB ID:	151548

    “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” – Mark Twain, 1906



    Twain sent this characteristically-pithy retort via cable from London to the press in the United States after he’d caught wind of his obituary having been erroneously published in several newspapers back home.

    He’d persist for several more years, passing away in 1910. He’d quipped that he’d arrived with Halley’s Comet in 1835, and that he’d be both surprised and disappointed if he didn’t depart with it, as well.

    Sure enough, he died the day after the Comet’s closest approach to the Earth, April 21st, 1910.

    Talk about calling your shot!

    The point is that the press is far from infallible, and what makes for a sensational lede in a newspaper isn’t worth much if the underlying facts are incorrect or incomplete. (2016 has been quite a year for demonstrating the truth of that assertion).

    For the last week, following Nebraska’s blue-collar dispatching of Maryland in Lincoln, most of the media has been declaring the Huskers’ impending doom at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City tomorrow. These breathless assertions have been based on two premises or presumptions, one that’s shaky at best, and the other that had yet to be determined at all.

    The first premise is that since Iowa upset Michigan, they’d obviously found their groove, and would be more than a match for Nebraska. Anyone who watched that game knows that it was as much or more a matter of Michigan losing the game than of Iowa winning it. Furthermore, in case you hadn’t noticed, there are a lot of upsets in college football, every week, every year, without fail.

    But the media puts far too much stock in upsets. Just look at Penn State’s current ranking. Seeing that squad so highly ranked makes the old Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the other…” play on an endless loop in my head.

    The second presumption on which they’ve been basing the reports of Nebraska’s impending demise is the absence of quarterback Tommy Armstrong. Well, the line was set just after the end of play last week, but before Tommy practiced every day last week. He’s playing, folks. He’s starting, and given what we know about both this young man’s toughness and the prudent manner in which Nebraska’s coaching and training staffs handle injuries, he’s ready.

    He’s had two weeks of rest and rehab – and film study of Iowa. It was decided very early on that NU could handle Maryland with a solid performance out of Ryker Fyfe at quarterback, a strong ground game, and a stout effort by the Blackshirt Defense. They got all three, and they were so certain of it that Tommy didn’t practice all week, and didn’t even suit up for Senior Day.

    By all appearances and reports, it was a minor tweak of his hamstring, and with two weeks to recover, I’d be a little surprised if we don’t see Armstrong operating at near 100% tomorrow.

    Funny thing about minor injuries, too. They often force players to focus more on the little things – the fundamentals. Some of it’s conscious, and some is subconscious, but knowing that you have to squeeze every bit of potential out of every snap, that your margin for error is much smaller than usual, you fall back on the “muscle memory” drilled into you through all those countless hours of practice. Sometimes, it’s almost a surreal experience; an odd serenity amidst the fury of the game’s ebb and flow. Don’t be surprised if Tommy plays an exceptional game tomorrow.

    He had to sit out Senior Day, after all. He’s earned a last regular-season big moment in Iowa City.

    He’ll get it.

    Senior Day in Lincoln last week was a day for others to have their moment, and they took full advantage.

    Ryker Fyfe was everything NU fans could have hoped for, making savvy decisions and gashing the Maryland defense through the air, and even on the ground a time or two. He played most of the second half with a broken bone in his wrist, as well, carrying on the tradition of toughness among Nebraska signal callers.

    23-of-37 for 220 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, plus 2 runs for 35 yards (he absorbed 3 sacks for -25 yards). It was yeoman’s work, and one hell of a first/last home start for a young man who overcame so much to earn his moment.

    NU’s placekicker extraordinaire, Drew Brown, was knocked silly on the very first play of the game, whisked away to undergo the initial phases of the mandatory concussion protocol. Enter Spencer Lindsey, another walk-on stepping into the breach. He had a field goal blocked through absolutely no fault of his own, but nailed all four extra points, and was solid on kickoffs.

    I had to single out each of these young men because of their special connections with the day’s Guest of Honor, Sam Foltz.

    Most Husker fans know of these connections, but they’re worth recalling anyway.

    Fyfe was Sam’s quarterback in high school, and the two were a deadly pitch-and-catch combo for Grand Island.

    Lindsey was Sam’s roommate, and one of his closest friends.

    Senior Day started with an incredibly touching, completely appropriate “farewell” to Sam Foltz, as all of the Seniors walked onto the field after their introduction carrying two roses, paused to hug Sam’s parents, handed one rose to their family, then headed over to the 27 yardline to lay the other rose on an “SF 27” flag laid on the turf.

    One of the biggest personal moments as Huskers, and to a man, they shared it with their fallen friend.

    A sprinkle of red balloons was released as the flag and roses were bundled up. One of them lost its helium, and drifted back onto the field and landed on the opposite end of the field – on the 27 yard line.

    Some things make you wonder.

    Some things don’t. At all.

    As I said, what followed was a blue collar, meat-and-taters effort by the Huskers. As is so typical of this 2016 squad, it wasn’t always pretty, but it ended up a big, beautiful “W”, the ninth this season, meaning that Mike Riley has reached the long-held “minimum acceptable number” of wins, with at least two games remaining.

    That’s one hell of a turnaround, and a tribute to Coach Riley, his staff, and his players.

    HIS players.

    Some are adopted sons, but they’re all his now. Next year, the majority of the players in Scarlet and Cream will have played the bulk of their careers under Mike Riley.

    It’s no small thing that Mike Riley has embraced the Nebraska culture, despite a long coaching lifetime outside of it. To be sure, many of his admirable characteristics just fit in naturally, but his openness to accepting the often-ridiculous expectation and invariably sky-high standards, and going about his business full-throttle and with a smile is a tribute not only to his professionalism but to his personal integrity.

    Nebraska’s Head Football Coach, like it or not is probably the most powerful man in the State, in terms of shaping and moving public opinion. I’ve often joked with friends as we made our way around the 9th Street exit, where you can see both Memorial Stadium and the Capitol Building, “There is the most important building in Nebraska…and right behind it, you can see the State Capitol Building.”

    It might not be reasonable, but it is true.

    Coach Riley has earned the embrace of NU fans that he’s receiving. While some might quibble over an Assistant Coach or Coordinator, but they also saw him pull the plug on an Assistant and replace him with a massive upgrade between Years One and Two, so there is evidence that he won’t stand pat if he feels there is a need for the betterment of his program.

    He’s on the verge of doubling his team’s win total from Year One to Year Two, as well.

    The quest for that 10th victory begins in Iowa City tomorrow – Black Friday. (You can bet there’ll be plenty of signs in the stands and puns from the broadcast booth tomorrow playing off of that).

    Riley’s team will be aiming to turn Black Friday Husker Red.

    We’ve read plenty of reports on the Husker’s impending demise.

    They’re “greatly exaggerated”.

    Two teams have defeated Nebraska in 2016. Wisconsin, with a defense that has proven all but impenetrable to just about every opponent – even to Ohio State’s across-the-board speed, which still needed overtime to put the Badgers down – and those same Badgers needed overtime to beat the Huskers.

    The other was, of course Ohio State, where the Buckeyes' greasy-fast speed, NU's inadequate game-planning, poor execution, and an untimely injury to Tommy Armstrong turned it into an embarrassing blowout.

    Well, Iowa’s defense, while solid, isn’t in Wisconsin’s league. Teams don’t score all that much against them, but that’s in no small part a function of the teams they’ve played. They’re middle-of-the-pack in terms of yardage allowed, and Nebraska has an offense that scores when it piles up yards.

    Offensively, the Hawkeyes rank 121st out of 128 FBS teams. The magic that quarterback CJ Beathard seemed to have last year has been notable only in its absence in 2016. They’re 113th in passing and 79th in rushing.

    Nebraska is 21st in total defense, and the Blackshirts have been a big, black wall in the 4th quarter in 2016 – the very best 4th quarter defense in the country in terms of opponents’ scoring, (or lack thereof).

    When you look at the matchups – Nebraska’s Offense vs. Iowa’s Defense, and Nebraska’s Defense vs. Iowa’s Offense – it’s hard to see where the pundits are finding such certainty in favoring Iowa in this matchup.

    I chalk it up to laziness, frankly. They looked and NU without Tommy Armstrong, gave extra credit for Iowa’s upset of Michigan, (who I see losing in a big way tomorrow in Columbus), anointed the Hawkeyes the favorite, and haven’t bothered to revisit the situation since.

    Armstrong playing shifts the calculus considerably, and considering that the Hawkeyes were getting JUST over the usual 7-point home field advantage spread awarded in evenly-matched games, it’s a factor that cannot be overlooked.

    The Huskers also have tape of FOUR Iowa losses to study – Penn State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, and FCS North Dakota State. Where Iowa doesn’t have the horses to match the formulas that beat Nebraska, NU can emulate what any of those four teams offensively, as well as defensively, though to a somewhat lesser degree than Wisconsin.

    There are exploitable chinks in Iowa’s defensive armor. Nebraska’s receivers will be able to find holes in coverage, though some of the windows will be tight. Nebraska doesn’t need to make its living through the air; it needs to keep Iowa’s defense honest with timely, effective passing. Tommy Armstrong in a mobile pocket, with Run/Pass option passes would provide that.

    Cethan Carter could and should be a huge weapon tomorrow. Iowa’s Defensive Backs are solid, and NU’s wideouts and slot receivers will have to work hard, but there is no linebacker or safety who’ll be wearing black and gold tomorrow who can man-up on Carter effectively. Look for him to play a key role.

    Terrell Newby’s abilities as a receiver should be deployed through the screen game, as well as in check-down situations. There should be a good 50 yards or more out there for Newby, with the Iowa Secondary otherwise occupied.

    Tommy’s legs have to hold up, and they have to provide a good 10 or 12 solid runs, as well as his trademark extension of plays from the pocket. I’d rather see him on planned, controlled rollouts than being forced into scrambling, for the sake of that hamstring. I’ll be honest; I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re being sandbagged a little, and it turns out he’s essentially 100%, or close to it. If he IS in that 90-100% range, then 15 or 20 runs wouldn’t be out of the question.

    Nebraska’s offensive line won the battles last week against Maryland. Iowa is a better group, and won’t be pushed around nearly as easily. Jerald Foster looked like he truly has come all the way back from that knee injury, and line play was crisp across the board for the bulk of last week’s game. They’ll need to dial it up against the Hawkeyes, and create some daylight for NU’s running back corps.

    That corps will have to hit the hole, get small and vertical, and take what’s there, especially early on in the game. If Devine Ozigbo is really back this week – we’ve heard that for two straight weeks, and it hasn’t been so – then he should see a few snaps to test Iowa’s interior. Both Newby and Tre Bryant have the speed to get the edge on the Hawkeyes, as long as the line can minimize pursuit and penetration.

    Again, the uncertainties created by Tommy Armstrong’s rushing abilities are worth a block or two on most any Option, Zone Read, or Run-Pass Option. That needs to be exploited and leveraged as much as possible.

    Misdirection could also work, but it has to go beyond the generic “Jet Sweep” action that’s a staple of NU’s offense. De’Mornay Pierson-El was a High School quarterback. I have to wonder if there might be a gadget or two involving him as a passer.

    Northwestern put up 38 on the Hawkeyes. Purdue posted 35, and Penn State gashed them for 41.

    They can be had, and Nebraska’s offense has as much or more firepower than any of those three.

    The danger for the Blackshirts lays mostly in the Iowa rushing game, anemic though it’s been at times.

    Last year in Lincoln, Nebraska beat Iowa in every statistic, and by all rights should have won by a couple of touchdowns. But 4 interceptions, including a pick 6, allowed the Hawkeyes to manage an 8-point victory.

    The Blackshirts didn’t allow a single 3rd Down conversion all day – Iowa was 0-for-9 – but two long touchdown runs, 29 and 67 yards, on consecutive snaps, (which also appeared to be the same playcall), accounted for the bulk of Iowa’s rushing on the day and half of its scoring. Kirk Ferentz is a creature of habit, so the Blackshirts will see that play again tomorrow.

    It is imperative that NU’s defense recognize it, and that the run fits are correct. Last year, two players were out of position on both runs, and handed 14 points to the Hawkeyes. Even with 4 interceptions, you take out those two plays, and Nebraska likely wins.

    Let’s put it simply: Nebraska Defense is MUCH better in 2016, and Iowa’s Offense is FAR less efficient or effective. The Blackshirts win this matchup.

    Special Teams will be vitally important tomorrow.

    Punter Caleb Lightbourn must grow up. NOW. His team cannot afford the constant shanks or tentative short punts. NU is dead last in net punting in the nation. That is unacceptable, Freshman or not.

    Schematically, NU Special Teams Coordinator Bruce Read needs to shore up his line play on both Punt and Field Goal Units. NU has had more kicks blocked this year than in any I could find in the records, and most of them have been enabled by unforgivable lapses in play or head-scratching formations that leave huge gaps, all but inviting an unimpeded rush.

    This cannot happen tomorrow.

    Nebraska cannot help the Hawkeyes again. Not through turnovers or undisciplined play or Special Teams follies.

    It would also be helpful if Nebraska’s return teams could actually do something to help the cause. The Punt Return game has been brutally disappointing this year, with a thoroughbred like De’Mornay Pierson-El as a returner, there is no excuse for the blocking to be as non-existent as it has been all year.

    The opposing “gunners” are wholly unimpeded, and little to nothing is done to slow the overall advance of the coverage team. This leaves Pierson-El on an island, with ten spectators, rather than a wall of blockers to run behind. That we’re at the season finale and still talking about this is borderline criminal.

    It’s a shameful waste, and it could cost NU dearly one more time. (It already did, at Wisconsin).

    Two years ago, DPE broke the Hawkeyes’ back, when Ferentz was foolish enough to allow not one, but two punts to be kicked straight to him. Barring a change in NU’s return game, he needn’t fear doing so this year.

    Drew Brown should be good to go tomorrow, but it’d be nice if his brethren on the kickoff team would tackle the return man prior to his feeling the need to get involved.

    He’s money on Field Goals, and NU might need a couple tomorrow. I’d wager the gaping hole in the blocking that allowed an easy block of Spencer Lindsey’s attempt last week was quickly addressed, and hopefully, corrected.

    This will be a close game. I agree with the pundits on that count.

    But NU’s Offense is a far better match-up against Iowa’s Defense than Iowa’s often-anemic Offense against the Blackshirts. And Tommy Armstrong will be playing. I look for a hard-fought, very close start to the game, but I believe Nebraska will find the openings it needs on Offense, and that the Blackshirts will stifle Iowa’s physical attack.

    NU’s Secondary can cover Iowa’s receivers, and NU has the speed to minimize their running game to the outside. It’s the physical aspects of the Hawkeye ground attack that could do the most damage. NU’s front seven MUST be sound. Eye discipline and sound tackling are essential tomorrow, as yards-after-contact are mother’s milk for Iowa’s running game.

    The weather won’t be much of a factor tomorrow, and the relatively warm weather is very good news to a running Quarterback with a tender hamstring.

    And that’s very bad news for a 7-4 team trying to limit its precipitous slide from a 12-2 season in 2015.

    Nebraska 27, Iowa 20

    Black Friday turns bright Husker Red.

    No exaggeration necessary for that report.

    GO BIG RED!!!
    Click image for larger version  Name:	msolomonbanner572x70.jpg Views:	110 Size:	36.1 KB ID:	151547

      Posting comments is disabled.

    Categories

    Collapse

    article_tags

    Collapse

    There are no tags yet.

    Latest Articles

    Collapse

    • Memorial for Solly
      BHF Administrator
      I want to extend my appreciation to everyone for the...
      06-15-2017, 10:03 AM
    • Sad Day for BigHuskerFan.com
      charlie
      As I small memorial to our departed friend I have I re-published...
      06-02-2017, 01:52 PM
    • The Long, Dark Path Back to the Light - New BHF Editorial by Mark Solomon
      Solly


      The Long, Dark Path Back to the Lig...
      12-30-2016, 01:14 AM
    • Black Friday Red Tag Special - New BHF Editorial by Mark Solomon
      Solly


      “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” – Mark Twain, 1906



      Twain sent this characteristically-pithy retort via cable from London to the press in the United States after he’d caught wind of his obituary having been erroneously published in several newspapers back home.

      He’d persist for several more years, passing away in 1910. He’d quipped that he’d arrived with Halley’s Comet in 1835, and that he’d be both surprised and disappointed if he didn’t depart with it, as well.

      Sure enough, he died the day after the Comet’s closest approach to the Earth, April 21st, 1910. Talk about calling your shot! The point is that the press is far from infallible, and what makes for a sensational lede in a newspaper isn’t worth much if the underlying facts are incorrect or incomplete. (2016 has been quite a year for demonstrating the truth of that assertion). For the last week, following Nebraska’s blue-collar dispatching of Maryland in Lincoln, most of the media has been declaring the Huskers’ impen...
      11-24-2016, 11:59 PM
    • Closing Ranks - New BHF Editorial by Mark Solomon
      Solly

      “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead.”
      1. Henry V, Act III, by William Shakespeare
      The battle rages all around, and comrades and foes alike fall all about you. But the line must hold, or all will be lost, so you do the only thing you can; you fill the hole with the next available able bodies, and as they fall, the next. And the next. At some point, the bodies aren’t so able, but they still step forward, some grimly, some with an odd serenity, some even with a smile…because it’s duty. It’s dedication to something larger than themselves. Something worth the risk, the pain, the sacrifice. Oftentimes, the sacrifice of the fallen themselves creates the motivation for the living to fill the breach and fight on, so that their sacrifice will not have been in vain. With few exceptions, history richly rewards the peoples or countries whose best shone through when things were at their worst, those who fought on from battle to battle until the greater war was won, be ...
      11-18-2016, 09:56 PM
    • Burn the Film…Burn the Boats. New BHF Editorial by Mark Solomon
      Solly
      Well…that didn’t go very well. Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer, after striding off the field following a 62-3 shellacking of Nebraska, stated flatly during his postgame press conference, “I didn’t see this coming.”, and “That’s not what we saw on film.”. He wasn’t referring to the outstanding athleticism and very sound execution from his own Buckeyes, which had been on display all evening long, as they laid ruin to a heart-wrenchingly-hapless Husker squad. He was talking about the sheer ineptitude, incompetence, and, sadly, hopelessness that bled from every pore of the NU team, as they stood like a deer in the headlights while OSU went up and down the field at will…all…night…long. 11 of 15 on third down conversions, plus 1 for 1 on fourth down – that’s 12 of 15 drives where NU’s defense couldn’t seal the deal – ZERO punts, 37:18 time of possession, 86 plays, 590 yards of total offense, 6 trips into the red zone, six scores, one long, debilitating “explosive” play after another, and, again, SIXTY-TWO POINTS. And that was just the offense. Two pick-sixes by the Buckeye defense – one on the very first NU offensive series of the game, adde...
      11-12-2016, 01:01 AM
    Working...
    X