In case the other Q&A with Big Red Network didn't give you enough background on this weekend's K-State/Nebraska tilt, I came up with more questions for corn blight and Husker Mike over at Corn Nation. Mike also runs the blog Husker Mike's Blasphemy, so named because of his disagreement with the general Husker fanbase on the topics of Steve Pederson and Bill Callahan. Of course, they also had some questions for me, so hit that link and check out/critique my answers for them.
BOTC: We will gather on Saturday to witness the dying breath of a matchup that was great for a short period of time. What is your favorite memory of the brief life of the K-State/Nebraska rivalry?
Husker Mike: 1994. Nebraska goes into Manhattan with Matt Turman as the starting quarterback after Tommie Frazier was shelved with blood clots and Brook Berringer was hampered with a collapsed lung. Nebraska grinds out an ugly 17-6 victory basically running between the tackles the whole game. The defense clamps down hard on Chad May, causing Husker linebacker Ed Stewart to proclaim "Nebraska is still Nebraska, K-State is still K-State."
Corn Blight: Arrgh. Mike always gets his answers done before I do, so I’m forced to pick something else in the interest of not being redundant. I’ll go with 2001, Frank Solich’s best year as a head coach. Ell Roberson comes in, attempts 11 passes, completes one and throws two picks. It was especially nice because Nebraska had to come back after being down at half. Hee heee heeee.
BOTC: Now that we've remembered the dead, let's look to the future. Bo Pelini, my favorite coach this side of Nick Saban, has Nebraska bowl-eligible in his first year, and poised for an eight-win season. What's the biggest difference thus far?
Husker Mike: Before we get too ahead of ourselves with accolades for Bo Pelini, remember that Ron Prince also got a team into a bowl game his first season. But there's no doubt that Pelini has improved this team from last season. I think the #1 factor is simply passion. Last year's team started to fold after getting beaten down by USC, then became simply awful after getting drubbed by Missouri. Then a complete joke in the fourth quarter of the Texas game. This team still seems to be slow learners, as they slowly progress each week.
But as they gain confidence, they generally play better each week (Oklahoma and Missouri being the obvious exceptions.) As time goes on, they'll continue to break old bad habits and get a better understanding of what it is they are supposed to be doing. Especially on defense, it's a matter of reacting faster, and at times, guys are thinking too hard as to what they need to do.
Corn Blight: The biggest difference is that we now have a head coach and coordinator who know how to play defense and how to teach it. And they know the difference between college and the NFL. And their head and their ass.
Last year Bill Callahan was so obsessed about proving his offense was the greatest invention in the history of mankind he could only think about scoring points and gaining yardage. This year Shawn Watson is calling the plays. The offense is relatively the same, but the difference is Watson recognizes that with a ball control methodology he can assist a weak defense. Bill Callahan was too insecure to do that.
Some day, some where, a NFL owner will be convinced to make Callahan an offensive coordinator again, the NFL is full of arrogant bobos like that. Hope it’s not a team you like, I wouldn’t wish Bill on anyone.
BOTC: Sounds like Nebraska is thin at linebacker thanks to injuries and general bone-headedness (I'm looking at you, Cody Glenn). Please tell me they're going to put about three walk-ons out there this weekend.
Husker Mike: Well, Nebraska plays a lot of nickel, so you probably wouldn't see three linebackers much anyway. But yeah, you'll be see walk-on Tyler Wortman starting, possibly along side true freshman walk-on Matt Holt at times. Wortman was the surprise of the spring, while Holt was the surprise of the Texas Tech game on defense. Wortman had one of the unsung game-changing moments of the game against Kansas. On the opening play of the 4th quarter, KU tried a reverse to Kerry Meier on 2nd & 1. Wortman snuffed it out and nailed Meier for a big loss. The 3rd & long pass was incomplete, KU was forced to punt, then Roy Helu went 52 yards for the touchdown.
Corn Blight: Given Phillip Dillard is out and Cody Glenn gone, yeah, we’re going with walk-ons. Little known NCAA rule - if you’re playing all walk-ons in the same unit on defense in November you can play more than 11 guys at once, so we’ll have about 15-16 guys on defense on the field*.
You should know that the Blackshirts were given out this week. One of them went to Tyler Wortman. Walk-on plus blackshirt = ninja powers. You can only hope that he’s merciful and everyone in purple survives the game.
BOTC: Did somebody forget to tell Joe Ganz that his last name is not Montana?
Husker Mike: Joe Ganz is the classic West Coast quarterback. He's not so much Joe Montana as much as Rich Gannon. Nobody thought much of the guy as he bounced around the NFL as a backup until he got his shot due to an injury in Kansas City. Then went to Oakland and took the Raiders to a Super Bowl. He's mobile and very efficient throwing the short pass. And what's more... he's simply a gamer.
Corn Blight: Just another great quarterback named Joe, along with Namath, Theisman, and Kapp. What separates Ganz from these guys is Ganz’ mobility. He doesn’t have Freeman’s arm strength (who does, the guy is a freak), but he’s pretty decent throwing on the run.
BOTC: Who was the safety who tried to lay the wood to Todd Reesing last week and failed? I hope Pelini informed him in no uncertain terms that such a tactic will likely result in his premature death if attempted on the man-mountain that is Josh Freeman.
Husker Mike: Eric Hagg is the guy you are thinking of. He's been a decent nickel back this season, but he went after the big blowup highlight reel hit instead of the tackle. Reesing merely stumbled, but if Hagg tries that against Freeman, it'll be like Randy Quaid's jet figher against the alien ship in Independence Day. Won't even leave a mark. Hagg knows his mistake; he had to watch that hit over and over and over again in the film room after the game.
Corn Blight: Didn’t Randy Quaid’s fighter blow up the alien ship? Hmmmm.…
There are two particular items about playing walk-ons of which you should be aware. One, we have a lot of them. Two, they’re like volunteer kamikazes. They want to be there, and they want to die for Nebraska football. This does not bode well for your man-mountain.
And forget safeties. Last week nose tackle Ndamukong Suh chased down an option-pitch man and squashed him near the sideline. I’ll take our mountain man against your man-mountain and we’ll see who wins. Could be the collision of the game!
Thanks again to corn blight and Husker Mike for providing double the answers to my questions. If you have anything else about Nebraska you want to know, click on corn blight's FanPost on the right sidebar and leave a comment for him there.