In the last three years since joining the Big Ten conference, we have seen some incredibly memorable moments. Some incredibly memorable comebacks. Some incredibly gritty wins. Saturday was no exception.
I’m simply not a talented enough broadcaster or writer to accurately describe the guts this team has. I can’t find the right way to explain my own sense of pride watching these kids put it all on the line for their leader every week. Make no mistake: it starts with the head coach. If people want to place all the blame at Bo’s feet every time Nebraska loses, they should at least be fair and heap praise upon him when his team shows the guts, pride and class that it’s shown numerous times over the course of his tenure.
Consider this: Nebraska kicked the game winning field goal in overtime against Penn State on Saturday with defensive tackle Vincent Valentine playing on the offensive line. Nebraska won in Happy Valley with its 3rd string quarterback. It won despite fumbling on Penn State’s 1-yard line and fumbling inside its own 10. That combination alone was a 14-point swing. It won despite a blatant offensive pass interference no-call on Allen Robinson on Penn State’s initial scoring drive. It won despite the most ridiculous penalty called this year in college football (on Sam Burtch) that negated a 62-yard touchdown run by Ameer Abdullah. It won because it’s together. It won because it respects the game. It won, in large part, because of its head coach.
The truth is this program doesn’t hit the panic button. Down on the road? No big deal. Bad call against us? Big deal, but turn the page on move on. It’s as mentally tough of a program as I’ve ever been around. Sorry, for those of you that may refuse to accept this as the fact that it is. You can’t argue with the results. Time and time again, this program finds a way. This program toughs it out. This program ignores the excuses and wins.
You should be proud of what this program represents and is about. There is strong character within it. There has to be to continue to win these tightly contested contests.
A little about the game:
1. Ron Kellogg III provided a very obvious spark to the offense. It was less about his physical talent and more about his excitement and attitude. It was a change of pace and a good one for the unit. Tommy Armstrong Jr. is going to be a very nice quarterback. He’s been a solid starter in the absence of Taylor Martinez this year. However, the reality is that he’s a freshman and is going to go through the rollercoaster at times. RKIII is the more consistent energy guy right now.
2. One guy too few are talking about in the wake of the win vs. the Nittany Lions is Jordan Westerkamp. He simply doesn’t drop the football. Best hands of any Husker I can ever remember. He made some big catches to keep the chains moving on Saturday. He was large!
3. LeRoy Alexander is playing better football by the week. I think he is blossoming into a very nice Safety alongside Junior Corey Cooper. Cooper did not have his best game against Penn State, but don’t fret: He’s been one of the more consistent performers this year for the Big Red on defense.
4. Speaking of Alexander, a redshirt freshman, let’s look at just how many freshman or sophomores are significantly contributing on defense.
- Randy Gregory (Soph.)
- LeRoy Alexander (Frosh.)
- Michael Rose (Frosh.)
- David Santos (Soph.)
- Vincent Valentine (Frosh.)
- Aaron Curry (Soph.)
- Greg McMullen (Frosh.)
- Avery Moss (Frosh.)
- Maliek Collins (Frosh.)
- Josh Banderas (Frosh.)
- Nate Gerry (Frosh.)
5. How about offense?
- Tommy Armstrong Jr. (Frosh.)
- Imani Cross (Soph.)
- Zach Sterup (Soph.)
- Ryne Reeves (Soph.)
- Cethan Carter (Frosh.)
- Jordan Westerkamp (Frosh.)
- Alonzo Moore (injured, Frosh.)
- Sam Burtch (Soph.)
6. Pat Smith told me that when Penn State called a time out to try and ice him that it actually pumped him up. He essentially told me that it makes him feel in control when someone tries to get in his head over something he does with ease every day. He was never concerned after Givens Price jumped prior to his first field goal in OT sailing through the uprights. Smith said guys looked at him nervous after they gathered back into the huddle. However, Smith told them, “I got this, quit worrying.”
That’s 20, yes 20, freshman or sophomores that have had a significant impact beyond just special teams in 2013. Folks, that is exciting. These are talented young kids that have developed this year. The future is bright.
So what’s next? Iowa and then a bowl game. This game against the Hawkeyes figures to be a real battle. I think the Hawkeyes are the most improved team in the Big Ten this year. They are physical and sound. They don’t make many mistakes and they make you earn the W. Nebraska is banged up and tired. They’ve used a lot of energy to keep this thing pieced together through all of these injuries. However, they are still the more talented team. They are still at home. They’ll need a steady hand at quarterback and mistake-free football. Do that and they should be fine. One more win and another season with 9 wins is a reality again. That’s still a big deal in these parts. It should be too.