Welcome!

Big Red Bunch Fan ClubThe Big Red Bunch is a special offering between the Nebraska Lottery and the Husker Sports Network.

Benefits include unique knowledge of Nebraska athletics, and a chance to win football game tickets and Nebraska Lottery prizes. The Nebraska Lottery is proud to sponsor broadcasts of Nebraska athletics, and to share the excitement and fun of each game with Big Red fans everywhere.

UNIQUE POST-GAME ANALYSIS

Lane Grindle provides a weekly look at Nebraska athletics. Installments of Lane’s blog will appear on this page after each week’s gridiron contest.

SPORTS NIGHTLY AUDIO CONTEST

Each week, a special audio clip from the last Nebraska football game will be loaded here. Sports Nightly listeners will be asked to identify the clip on Thursday night for a chance to win great prizes from the Nebraska Lottery. The program airs weeknights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Central Time).

GAME 12 VS. IOWA

What a weekend in Husker Nation. A great Thanksgiving meal. A thrilling overtime win against Iowa to finish off the regular season. A coaching change. This place is always interesting isn’t it?

Let’s start with the game. It was a microcosm of the season in many ways. Nebraska did not play a complete game. Nebraska showed that trademark heart they’ve always shown when backed against the wall. They fought back, when most had counted them out, and reclaimed the Heroes Trophy.

I was very proud of Tommy Armstrong’s toughness. Clearly, Tommy still has room for improvement and needs to take additional steps in his game. However, I would argue that the talent is there. No one would argue against the fact that the heart and toughness is there. The kid is tough as nails. He took some shots, he made some mistakes, but he kept pushing forward and made the plays at the end to earn an exciting win.

I also want to tip my cap to Jack Gangwish, a walk-on and a great character kid with an incredible motor. He was more than anyone could have hoped for filling in for Randy Gregory on Friday. He’s the epitome of a true Husker. Nebraska born, proud, try-hard kid. He’s not blessed with incredible ability, but he makes up for it with determination.

One of the plays that changed the game was the 53-yard scamper by Ameer Abdullah in the 3rd quarter. That run was tough and almost superhuman. It seemed like it was Ameer’s way of waking up the sideline and getting the team back into the game.

All in all, Friday was a fun day. It was a fun game. It ended up being an appropriate finish to the Bo Pelini era as well.

Let me say this: I liked Bo Pelini. Bo was a different guy behind the scenes than the one portrayed more regularly on television. He was loyal, and he knew how to get his team to play hard for him. He won nine games every year that he was the head coach here at Nebraska. That’s something. However, a good chunk of Husker fans wanted more. They wanted hardware. I think that following the 59-24 loss to Wisconsin, and perhaps to a degree the 28-24 loss to Minnesota, it started to become clear that Nebraska would have a tough time taking that next step. That’s why Shawn Eichorst stepped in.

Make no mistake about it; Shawn Eichorst took zero pleasure in dismissing the coaching staff and making this tough decision. These are tough days for everyone. I do, however, have the utmost faith that Shawn will do what’s best for this University when it comes to selecting the next head coach of the Huskers. He’s a smart and measured man. He’ll get this right.

Thanks to Bo Pelini for seven years at the helm of this great program. He took it from 5-7 to a consistent winner. We should always appreciate that. We should also look ahead and be optimistic about what the future holds.

GAME 11 VS. MINNESOTA

Nebraska returned to Memorial Stadium this past Saturday for its final home game of the season. Coming off of the disappointment of the Wisconsin game the week prior figured to be a challenge. Facing an under-the-radar Minnesota squad that is fundamentally sound in every phase of the game was a tough draw following the Badgers.

This game started fine enough. The defense got a stop, and then Kenny Bell got behind the defense for a 73-yard reception. Ameer Abdullah found the end zone quickly after that, and the Huskers had the quick start they were looking for. Later, the Huskers Randy Gregory would block a field goal, and Nate Gerry would pick up the ball and weave his way down the sideline for a score. The Husker would enter the half up 21-7.

The problem is this: it could have been more. The Huskers fumbled inside the 15 yard line toward the end of the half when they had a chance to go up, at a minimum, to 24-7. Against teams like the Gophers, you have to take advantage of all the opportunities. Against a team that makes very few mistakes, you have to limit yours. Nebraska made a couple big mistakes in this game: two big turnovers. That PROBABLY kept the Huskers from the W on Saturday. However, there was more at play than just those two turnovers for sure.

Nebraska did not tackle well. People will point to the previous week against Wisconsin as a poor tackling effort because of the stats. I get that, but to me, this was the lesser performance in terms of tackling. The Huskers gave up too many yards after contact, or what Bo often refers to as “leaky” yardage. It kept drives alive, and gave the Gophers manageable downs and distances throughout the contest.

Minnesota is a good football team. They are in position defensively almost always. To be honest, considering the injuries to Abdullah and playing essentially the entire game without Kenny Bell (he left after his 73 yard reception in the 1st quarter,) I thought Nebraska played pretty well on offense. They didn’t explode for a bunch of big plays, but they found a formula that allowed them to sustain drives and grab a lead in the game. I don’t put this loss on the offense.

Minnesota put two big drives together late, without their all-conference caliber running back David Cobb. Those drives completed the comeback and gave them the W. They earned the win. So what’s left for the Huskers? A trip to Iowa City to search for that 9th victory of the 2014 season. The team, and the state, would like to put one more in the win column before they get too busy with their Christmas shopping.

GAME 10 VS. WISCONSIN

I’m not going to lie: this is a tough blog to write this week. I love Nebraska football. I’m passionate about it. I get upset when Nebraska loses just like those of you reading this. Saturday’s result was a tough pill to swallow.

I really believed that Saturday’s game was going to be a big challenge for Nebraska. Wisconsin runs the ball better than anyone in the country. They have an aggressive defense that’s identity is to confuse the offense. Wisconsin seemed to be hitting stride just as Nebraska was coming to town. Anyone that thought Nebraska would waltz into Camp Randall and have an easy go of things was crazy. That’s why with a 17-3 lead in the 2nd quarter, I did not feel comfortable. I’m sure no one else did either. You knew that Wisconsin had the ability to break some runs and make this game interesting. Unfortunately, they made it interesting in ways the Huskers will remember for the wrong reasons. 56 unanswered points later, and the Huskers were staring through the snowfall at a scoreboard and outcome that had to seem nightmarish. The quiet disbelief from the sidelines said it all.

On one hand, tip your cap to Melvin Gordon and their tremendous offensive line. He’s a special back, maybe the best I’ve seen at the collegiate level. That’s a great offensive line. 408 yards in one game is just straight up incredible and Heisman-worthy for sure. However, it’s just not okay for Nebraska to surrender that kind of yardage. Keep in mind, Nebraska had been 14th in the country in stopping the run coming into this game. They had faced Duke Johnson of Miami & Jeremy Langford of Michigan State already this season. They had proven that they could slow down a good rushing attack. That’s what makes Saturday so befuddling. This was more than a talent issue on Saturday. The Huskers boast no less than four future NFL defensive linemen. They have a couple of nice athletes at linebacker, and two very solid safeties. They are capable of playing better. They have played much, much better. So why did this happen? One can only imagine that it has something to do with confidence being sapped from this team when they were hit with adversity. Was the ghost of the 2012 Big Ten Title game at play? Strange, cause none of these defenders really played in that game. Let’s hope the Huskers get back into their previous mold this coming week against another good rushing attack in Minnesota.

Offensively, the Huskers were inefficient, and lost on 1st & 2nd down far too often. Tommy Armstrong (like most quarterbacks) is a much better QB when his team is on schedule and he’s not being asked to convert 3rd and 8. Tommy missed receivers and had a hard time figuring out where the blitz was coming from for much of the day.

Ameer Abdullah looked good but certainly didn’t look like he did versus Miami and Illinois, for example. The Huskers must find ways to effectively move the ball beyond just getting it to number 8.

The College Football Playoff is no longer in the discussion. Nebraska could still technically win the Big Ten West. They’d need help though. All they can do is pick themselves up off the mat at try to win their final two games. A 10 – 2 record with one very forgettable Saturday in Madison is still something this program can continue to build off of.

GAME 9 VS. PURDUE

Well, the only thing you can do is win the games on your schedule. That’s exactly what Nebraska has done in eight of the nine games they’ve played this year. It hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s the first time since 2010 that the Huskers have started 8-1. In fact, it’s only the 2nd time since 2001 that they’ve had a start as good as or better than that mark. Last week Bo Pelini was not pleased with his squad’s effort versus Rutgers. One week later, his team got off to a quick start against Purdue.

The Huskers quickly pitched a 3 & out on defense and blocked a punt. A few plays later, DeMornay Pierson-El was hauling in a Tommy Armstrong touchdown pass in the back corner of the north end zone. Just minutes later, Pierson-El had returned a punt deep into Purdue territory, and the Huskers had drove down to the 1-inch line. It was 4th and goal. Nebraska would mishandle a shotgun snap, and Ameer Abdullah would pick it up and do his best to turn it into 6 points. He failed to get in and got up from the pile with a limp. The fast start was no more. The score could be 100-0 or 0-0 and it wouldn’t matter at that moment. Every Husker fan knew that the only thing that mattered was #8’s health. No doubt that throughout the game every fan scoured Twitter, listened to the radio, or watched Ameer with binoculars from the stands trying to learn just how serious the injury was. It became apparent from the sidelines that it did not appear to be “overly” serious almost right away. Ameer seemed to want to get back into the game, and then did return for one play. In the end, the staff and Ameer felt it best to shut it down for the rest of the game. Later we found out that it was a “mild” MCL sprain and a bruise to the knee also. Anybody say “bye week?”

We can break down Nebraska’s 35-14 victory over Purdue on Saturday, sure. It was not a clean effort offensively, and certainly the Huskers will need to execute at a higher level against the likes of Wisconsin and Iowa if they want to win the West Division. This is something the Huskers know; Bo Pelini talked about it, and so did Tommy Armstrong. The reality is this: whether you want to admit it or not, Nebraska won a game by three touchdowns without its best player. That means something.

The Husker defense was, in my opinion, its best version of itself on Saturday. Don’t let the fact that Purdue had scored 30 + in 3 straight games get lost on you. Reminder, one of those defenses was Michigan State! The Husker defensive line continues to dominate up front, and the secondary held Purdue to 18-46 through the air. Those numbers aren’t by accident – Nebraska has always been amongst the top teams in the country in opponent completion percentage. It would appear that this year will be no different.

Back to Ameer. It sure sounded like from everyone around the program following the game that there is a strong belief he will be able to play against Wisconsin. Bo Pelini didn’t guarantee it; he used the term “optimistic” when asked about Ameer’s status in two weeks. Others seemed confident that he’ll be okay. After all, this is Ameer Abdullah we’re talking about. The kid is the toughest and grittiest competitor I’ve covered. It’ll take more than a two-week-old sprain and bruise to keep him out of perhaps the biggest game of the season. I’d be shocked if he isn’t his old self on November 15th.

GAME 8 VS. RUTGERS

We need to appreciate greatness when we are in its presence. That’s exactly where we’re at when it comes to Ameer Abdullah. 341 yards of all-purpose on Saturday set a Nebraska record, and added to the long list of accomplishments in this young man’s legacy. He’s the kind of kid you wish you could clone for his character, not to mention his talent. He’s special, folks. Everyone knows it. It doesn’t take a genius. He’s right back in the Heisman mix again, and will stay there as long as he continues to put up big numbers. He should do exactly that. The remaining defenses he’ll face can be had. Purdue has had its struggles against the run, as has Iowa. Wisconsin and Minnesota are a bit stouter, but considering these games are on turf, I feel good about Nebraska’s ability to run the ball versus both. Ameer deserves to be in NYC in December, and his character (on top of his gaudy stats) will get him there.

Now on to the game. You heard by now that Bo Pelini was none too pleased with his team following the game. He was happy with the win, but Bo has bigger plans for this team than beating Rutgers (no offense intended). He wants a championship. He knows that this team has to clean up some of its recurring mistakes if it is going to have confetti rain down on it in Indianapolis in December. If this team wants to make the CFB playoff (something that right now is still absolutely on the table,) it must get better. I honestly think it is tougher today to get 18-22 year old kids to stay “locked in” for 4 quarters than it used to be. Blame it on social media, blame it on video games – I am not really sure why. It does seem to be more difficult.

That being said, this game was never really in doubt. Tommy Armstrong continued his solid play at quarterback, and Kenny Bell caught 6 more passes to break Nate Swift’s all-time receptions mark at NU. A great kid that plays with a smile: I’m very pleased for him.

The defensive line dominated much in the same fashion we’re growing accustomed to. The secondary made plays on the football when the opportunity presented itself. By the way, Nate Gerry is rounding into an all-conference-caliber safety.

It was a workmanlike day for Nebraska as they improved to 7-1. The march to Indianapolis is still 100% in the hands of the Huskers. They look like the favorite to get there too. Buckle up; here comes the stretch run. It figures to be a blast!

GAME SEVEN VS. NORTHWESTERN

Finally! Finally Nebraska and Northwestern didn’t play a game that came down to the final minute. It was nice to sit back and enjoy a comfortable lead in the 4th quarter against the Wildcats. Although we should never be upset with the incredible finishes we’ve seen in this series, comfort should be appreciated!

Nebraska did much of what I expected on Saturday night, especially in the 2nd half. They shut down Northwestern’s offense (28 yards on 26 snaps), and earned their points but were efficient enough to put up 38 points on the road.

I really respected the game that Tommy Armstrong put together. The sophomore was efficient and pretty much mistake-free. That’s how you win games on the road from the quarterback position: You take care of the football and you make the plays that are in front of you. I thought he did exactly that. This kid’s toughness never fails to amaze me. He is a natural leader, and it shows up on the field in the 4th quarter every week.

Ameer Abdullah didn’t look as comfortable on the wet grass at times, but he hung in there. He eventually (along with his offensive line) wore down that Wildcat front and saved his best for last. Nebraska was the stronger team at Ryan Field.

I really felt like Nebraska sent a statement to the rest of the West Division in this game. They served notice that despite what Minnesota has done or Wisconsin and Iowa haven’t done, the Huskers are the team to beat in this division.

It was great to see Demornay Pierson-El get more involved on offense. He caught a slant and took it down the field for an explosive play. He threw a touchdown pass to Tommy Armstrong on the famous “Black 41 Flash Reverse” play that Mike Stuntz and Eric Crouch had previously made so famous. Pierson-El is a difference maker. The Huskers are lucky to have him. He’s worth an extra win or two on your schedule with the way he can impact a game. Here’s hoping his increased role continues.

I think this team is ready to get back home and play in front of its home crowd. It’s been awhile! There are five games left. The Huskers goal is to win them all and see what happens in Indianapolis. IF the Huskers can accomplish that, EVERY goal for this team may still be out there. Next up? Rutgers.

GAME SIX VS. MICHIGAN STATE

Well, if you do the job I do long enough you realize that no two games are the same. In fact, some games feel like they have two different games in them! That’s how Saturday felt in East Lansing. The first game included the Huskers with chances and opportunities that they failed to capitalize on, while their defense hung tough against one of the nation’s top offenses. The result was a 27-3 deficit. The second game was a flurry of heart and toughness that nearly overcame that 27-3 deficit and had the Spartans leaving the field asking themselves what had just happened. Nebraska lost this game 27-22. The Husker will get infinitely better from this experience though.

Let’s breakdown what went wrong first. I’m not sure you need to be an expert analyst to understand that the biggest problem was the inability to block up front. Nebraska’s offensive line just flat out got outplayed by Michigan State’s front seven. Tip your cap to the Spartans, as I’m not sure their linebackers missed a run-fit all night long. There was literally nowhere for Ameer Abdullah to run, and virtually no time for Tommy Armstrong to throw. That’s a bad combo. On top of that, when the Huskers had time to throw, the Big Red receivers had a hard time getting free. The result was 3+ quarters of very little offensive success.

Defensively, Nebraska created turnovers and held the Spartans down for the majority of the night. They got bit by three big plays – two involving future NFL wide receiver Tony Lippett and the other a long TD run by Jeremy Langford. Otherwise I think you’d have to tip your cap to the Blackshirt D. That’s a good offense they faced, and they gave their team a chance in this game despite the offense’s inability to sustain drives.

So what happened in the 4th? How did Nebraska not only make Mark Dantonio’s team nervous, but downright panicked? How did Nebraska overcome a 27-3 deficit in the 4th quarter to have the ball on the Spartan 37 with :42 seconds remaining with a chance to win the game? The answer, although a bit corny, is heart. This team has great leadership. It has a strong drive. They have a toughness about them. They have heart. They put it on display and nearly pulled off the most incredible comeback in school history. Tommy Armstrong took hit after hit and yet came back into the game and got his team back in it. Ameer could have pouted about his numbers, but instead he did everything he could with what he had and pushed into the endzone twice. DeMornay Pierson El quieted the fans in the stadium with another electrifying punt return for TD. Alonzo Moore caught a pass down the Husker sideline to set up what seemed to be fate; a Husker winner. Later Armstrong would connect with Moore in the endzone… if for only a moment. Moore couldn’t possess the ball long enough for it to be a catch. If he had, Nebraska would be a Top 10 team today. The ball popped free. The next play was a pick. The Spartans took a knee. Game over. It was another classic game between Nebraska and Michigan State. Here’s hoping we get to see another in December.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.