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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.


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 Wednesday 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).


Two wins in a row. It seems crazy to think that it has been over a year since Nebraska had experienced that. It was, though. No more. The Huskers raced out to a quick 21-0 lead on Rutgers on Saturday afternoon and, albeit for a brief moment in the late 2nd quarter and early 3rd quarter, never looked back in route to a 31-14 win. The win improved the Huskers to 5-6 and 3-4 in the Big Ten. The Big Red now enjoys their only bye weekend of the season (a much needed one), a weekend off that they’ll use to get healthy and prepare for the currently undefeated Hawkeyes of Iowa on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

So that’s the quick overview. Let’s get into the details and then talk about bowl scenarios.

Nebraska ran the ball early and effectively on the opening drive. There was more of the Imani Cross we saw from the Michigan State game. It helped the Huskers really establish themselves in this one. Cross finished with 90 yards on the day and delivered his second consecutive solid day carrying the ball.

Tommy Armstrong began 8-8 and looked to be really on his game. Then he overthrew a receiver, and it got picked and returned to the 6 yard line. Two more interceptions followed. For a while there in the early goings of the 3rd quarter it felt like Nebraska was inviting Rutgers to be a part of this game.

Rutgers, though, is a bad football team right now. Their coach is embattled. Their players are discouraged. Their best player is not 100%. It showed on Saturday. Even when the Huskers made a mistake or left the door open for the Scarlet Knights, they did virtually nothing with those opportunities.

For the Huskers to take that next step, and to be a consistent football team that doesn’t ride the roller coaster (many times within the games), Armstrong has to limit the big mistakes and become a more efficient quarterback. I still believe he can do it. He needs to play his best game of the year against the Hawkeyes. He’s a tremendous competitor, and I think he will.

Big kudos to the defensive line on Saturday. Six sacks and eleven tackles for loss is a good day at the office. It’s an even better day for a defensive front that has struggled to generate a pass rush this year. It was nice to see not only Maliek Collins, but guys like Ross Dzuris and Greg McMullin getting after it off the edge. It’s amazing how much better a pass defense looks when you’re getting pressure, isn’t it?

Speaking of the secondary, Chris Jones & Josh Kalu are going to be good ones. Yes, they’ve taken their licks this year. However, these two are not short on confidence, and keep coming back and competing. I think their future is very bright. Nate Gerry is also playing at a higher level over the last few weeks.

At 5-6, even if the Huskers don’t beat Iowa and get to bowl eligibility, a bowl game is still likely. A number of 5-7 teams are sure to get bowl waivers this year, and Nebraska is sure to be one of them. However, a 5-7 record probably sends the Big Red to Ft. Worth and the Armed Forces bowl vs. a Mountain West opponent. If the Huskers can get to 6-6 with a 2nd win over a top 10 opponent in their final three games, I think it’s much harder to figure out. Most likely you are looking at the Pinstripe Bowl in NYC, the Foster Farms Bowl in San Francisco, or perhaps maybe even the Music City Bowl in Nashville, TN (although less likely.)

Regardless of bowl selections/assignments, the big key for Nebraska is the opportunity at Memorial Stadium next Friday. It’s a chance to knock off a top 10 team and perhaps ruin their perfect season. It’s a chance to legitimately change the narrative of the season to undeniable momentum. It would be a VERY valuable win, and a turn of events on the recruiting trail for Mike Riley’s bunch.


I can’t recall a better atmosphere at Memorial Stadium in the past 10 years. I can’t recall a more needed performance from the Huskers. Man, we all needed that didn’t we?

The unbeaten and top 10 ranked Michigan State Spartans came calling on Saturday night, and very few outside the Husker locker room gave the Big Red a chance.

On paper, the Spartans had some serious advantages: an NFL quarterback versus a Husker secondary that has struggled, a run defense that is among the best in the country, and a 19-3 road record in the Big Ten conference since 2010. Those aren’t stats that favored Nebraska. However, the Huskers finally put together as complete a performance as anyone could have asked for.

To win this game they needed the following: 1. Fast start, shake off those negative vibes from the week prior. 2. Play even in the turnover category. 3. Establish a semblance of a running game. The Huskers accomplished two of those three (they were negative in the turnover category). Nebraska raced out to a 10-0 lead, and played well pretty much all night. They never quit. They eventually turned the tables on the last-second narrative that has haunted them all year. This time, it was the Huskers that broke the hearts of the Spartans and ruined a perfect season in the process.

Kudos to Tommy Armstrong. In my ten years on the sideline, I’ve not seen a better competitor. There’s been some great ones. He’s perhaps the best. He’s imperfect, sure. But he has toughness and heart that can’t be taught. It’s really fun to watch, and we should appreciate what we have under center right now.

Brandon Reilly and Jordan Westerkamp are dudes. They are special. They are reliable. It’s been fun to watch this entire unit step up.

I also think that while the secondary has been criticized, two young corners are going to be special. The athleticism of Josh Kalu and Chris Jones should not go unnoticed.

Yes, Nebraska is still 4-6, and no, that’s not the record that anybody wants. However this win, this top 10 upset on national TV, this win that sent Memorial Stadium into a frenzy, should be looked at as the official jumping off point for the Mike Riley era.

Nebraska needs now to run the table. Win the final two. Do that, and you officially will capture the attention of the country. Recruiting should explode, and the momentum should be evident. That’s the goal. That’s what Nebraska is playing for: a solid foundation to build upon for the future.


Another week, and another tough loss for the Big Red. It’s weird to think that two weeks ago it appeared this team had turned a corner after their dismantling of Minnesota.

The Huskers traveled to Purdue to take on a team that had one conference win over the past three seasons. Now it has two. Purdue took advantage of two major things on Saturday: Nebraska’s injuries, and the Huskers’ turnovers. Make no mistake about it; both played a big part in the final outcome. However, both are also a part of the game. Purdue was also playing without their starting running back and leading tackler. Purdue had a redshirt freshman quarterback. Purdue scored 55 points. Turnovers or not, that’s too many, obviously.

I’m not really sure where Mike Riley and his staff go from here as they search for answers. Some will call for a youth movement and at 3-6, that is a legitimate conversation. However, I’m not sure that will have a profound impact. This is much more about the Husker players, whoever is on the field, finding a way to play better football, period. The penalties, missed tackles and missed assignments are largely correctable. Instead of letting a 3-6 record and disappointing season to this point drag you down further, leaders need to step up and stop the bleeding. Focusing on the little things and letting the rest fall in place is how good teams become great. Nebraska has to get locked in on the little things. If they don’t, this season could continue in a difficult direction. We can talk about Xs and Os all you want. Right now, the rest of this season is on the leaders (coaches, captains, etc.) to find a way to pick this team up off the mat and compete at a high level over the final three games.


Sometimes I feel like my iPod is stuck on “repeat” mode. This Huskers season feels like it’s on a loop. Nebraska, coming off of a convincing victory over Minnesota the week prior, couldn’t establish a running game in route to a 30-28 loss to Northwestern. As solid of an outing as the week previous was, it was a step backward in front of 89,000+ fans in Memorial Stadium this past weekend.

The Huskers could never get into rhythm offensively. On a day in which the defense played about as well as it has this year, the offense just couldn’t get untracked. Tommy Armstrong struggled again with accuracy and making the right reads. He seemed to be speeding himself up at times. The screen game continues to be out of whack also. All of these things contributed to the difficult day for the offense. However, it was the inability to run the ball, particularly on first down, that was the most frustrating part. The Huskers have a consistency issue on offense. There’s no other way to spin it.

Defensively, Nebraska let QB Clayton Thorson get loose for 60+ and 40+ yard “scrambles.” Other than that though, it was a very solid first 3 quarters for the unit. They stopped the tailback run game and defended the pass better than they have at any point in the season. Open field tackling though, was not at its finest.

DeMornay Pierson-El has to be a bigger factor for the Huskers moving forward. He has essentially been bottled up so far. Outside of a touchdown catch and a punt return for about 40+ yards, his first 4 games back have seen him with a limited impact. He’s too good and too important for that to remain that way.

The team seems a bit shell shocked by 5 losses by a combined 13 points. It’s hard to explain really. They have to keep fighting and improving to try and lay a foundation for this program moving forward. What they do over the final 4 regular season games will impact the 2016 season greatly. Character will show over this final stretch run.


Nebraska football needed a win. That’s an understatement. After 4 losses in their first 6 games, all by the narrowest of margins, the Huskers needed a heaping of “feel good.” They got it on Saturday in the Twin Cities.

This one started a little nervously. The Gophers went right down the field, and made it look easy for their opening score. However, Terrell Newby would run 69 yards untouched a few plays later to tie it up. Shortly after that, Nebraska took control of the game, and would eventually finish the game with a 48-25 domination.

What impressed me in this contest were two main things. #1: the offense. It’s pretty hard to critique Danny Langsdorf’s unit on Saturday. They were balanced, efficient, and downright dominant for much of the game. Kudos to the game plan overall, but especially to work Jordan Westerkamp into the game early and often. He simply had not been targeted enough in the first two weeks of conference play. Also vastly improved was the offensive line play. While not perfect, I would argue that it was their best day of 2015. Also good to see Demornay Pierson-El get into the fun returning punts and catching a tipped touchdown pass. The Huskers just had a rhythm about them, like we saw in the 4th quarter against Miami, or we saw in the 2nd quarter against BYU. We saw that same rhythm for pretty much all 4 quarters at TCF Bank Stadium.

Defensively Nebraska continued to stuff the run. However, Mitch Leidner and the Gopher offense threw for 301 yards. It was the first time in the Jerry Kill era that the Gophers surpassed 300 yards through the air. The secondary just plain has to improve. I’m not sure the answer there, but Mark Banker and Brian Stewart are likely working overtime to try and fix it.

Good news though: Nebraska created turnovers and drastically reduced the penalties. It was very clear that this team was focused from the start.

Okay, #2. Did you think I’d forget the other thing the really impressed me? It was the demeanor of the locker room following the win. Coach Riley’s speech was solid and to the point. The team seemed somewhat relieved to walk off the field with a meaningful win. They also seemed like a group that knows right now they have to stay “locked in” and keep grinding toward another solid performance next week vs. Northwestern.


The truth is, it feels like I could just plagiarize myself from any selection of three previous losses for Nebraska in this blog. The Huskers have been in the lead or tied within the final minute of every game this year. Yet, it’s gloomy in Husker Nation, because the Big Red is 2-4.

How have we gotten to this point? What reasons lead to the latest last minute loss? These are the questions most Husker fans are asking themselves.

Let’s start with the close losses as a theme, and then dive into the 23-21 loss at the hands of the Badgers.

When you lose close games repeatedly, it’s easy to shrug your shoulders and just say, “We’re snake-bit.” However, I think that’s an irresponsible way to approach it. The Huskers lost these games for a reason. Things happened that put them in this predicament.

#1 – Clock Management. In two of the four losses (BYU and Illinois), the Huskers could have done a better job managing and milking the clock late in the game. I am not very critical of the Huskers clock management against Wisconsin; they ran the ball late, didn’t convert the 1st down, and gave Wisconsin another chance.

#2 – Defensive breakdowns late. In 3 of the 4 losses (BYU, Illinois, and Wisconsin), Nebraska gave up an explosive pass play on the final drive.

Those two things are really the primary culprits. Nebraska CAN fix those two things. However, this season is slipping away in a big way.

The good from this past weekend:

Chris Weber – This kid can flat out play football. I am so impressed with him as a person and as a player. He has a chance to be a good one.

Marcus Newby – The young linebacker is doing some very good things, and showing off his athleticism. When you think about Dedrick Young, Marcus Newby, Chris Weber, Josh Banderas, Michael Rose-Ivey, among other names at linebacker… it’s easy to conclude that this could eventually be the deepest position on the team in another year.

Alonzo Moore – His ability to “go get it” when the ball is in the air is so, so improved. Alonzo is really starting to turn the corner and let his production match his ability.

Andy Janovich – As hard as this season has been on Husker fans, the fact that “Jano” keeps toting the rock is one of the big bright spots.

Nebraska has to start creating turnovers if they are to win games against quality teams. It’s just not happening right now. They also need to take advantage of short fields when they get them. Too often Sam Foltz has flipped the field and the defense has actually gotten a stop, only for the offense to not take advantage of the short field.

At 2-4, the concern now is on whether the Huskers can get to bowl eligibility or not. That means a minimum of 4-2 finish over the last half of the season that includes home games against Northwestern (5-1), Michigan State (6-0), Iowa (6-0), and road games at Minnesota, Purdue, and Rutgers. All three road games are very winnable, and Nebraska is more than capable of winning two of the three home games. However, improvement needs to be made in key areas or the Huskers will be home for the holidays.


I have been on the sidelines for the Husker Sports Network since 2007, and been a member of the broadcast team since 2006. I can honestly say that I have not experienced a more frustrating loss during these 10 seasons.

Have there been more heartbreaking losses? Yes. Texas in 2006. Virginia Tech in 2009. Texas in 2009’s Big XII title game. Oklahoma in the 2010 Big XII title game.

Have there been more humbling? Yes. 2012 Big Ten title game against Wisconsin (hello 70+ points), at Wisconsin in 2014 (hello 400+ rushing yards allowed) and of course you can take your pick of losses back in 2007.

This game – this loss to Illinois – I rank it as the most frustrating loss. Nebraska didn’t play well. The Huskers didn’t help themselves with continuing to push the ball down field in the passing game in 25+ mph winds. The Huskers mismanaged the clock at the end of the game. Frustrating.

I fully realize that Illinois had schemed to take Nebraska’s short passing game away. They were successful at it too. However, in a game like Saturday’s against the Illini, you can’t fall into that trap and start chucking the ball downfield like the Huskers did at times. Nebraska ran the ball as effectively as they had in any of their five games this season. More than South Alabama? More than Southern Miss? Yes, I believe the running game was more effective than those games, if Nebraska would have allowed it to have been. In the Big Ten, you have to stay committed to the run, and the Big Red did not. Frustrating.

I won’t get into the final minute of the game. It’s been documented. It was poorly managed by the Huskers, and I’m sure they would do it completely different if given the chance to do it over again.

In a game full of frustration, there were positives:

Devine Ozhigbo – The freshman running back just may emerge as Nebraska’s feature running back before it’s all said and done.

Kevin Maurice – He responded in a huge way in the absence of Vincent Valentine and Kevin Williams and delivered 8 tackles.

Maliek Collins – The All-American candidate looked like his old self on Saturday, pushing o-lineman into the backfield and harassing Illinois QB Wes Lunt.

Chris Weber – The walk-on Linebacker was some kind of special on Saturday. He may be another in a long line of inspirational Husker walk-on stories.

No time to lick the wounds if you’re a Husker. 2-3 is not anywhere near the record you had hoped for, and yet here come the Badgers: the Big Ten nemesis of the Big Red. Wisconsin is smarting themselves. They’re mad also. This is going to be a game between two teams, trying to jumpstart their seasons and create some momentum.


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