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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).


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.


The Huskers needed a win: that was for sure. One half into the game with Southern Miss on Saturday, and it looked like Nebraska would cruise to their 2nd win of the season. A 22-0 lead and 5 field goals from Drew Brown had given the Huskers a commanding lead.

However, in the second half the Golden Eagles tweaked their offensive approach, and got more aggressive in the passing game. The Huskers’ secondary continued their season long struggles, and allowed over 300 yards passing in the 2nd half alone. The result was a nail-biting 36-28 win over the inferior Golden Eagles.

Four games into the season, Nebraska’s struggles are pretty simple. They are struggling to run the ball when it matters, and are currently ranked last in FBS in pass defense. Not a good combo. The Huskers inconsistency in the run game has put added pressure on Tommy Armstrong. Armstrong has answered the call and then some this year, but if the Huskers have to keep putting this much on him every week, eventually he’s going to make some mistakes (see overtime against Miami).

Here’s the good news: If Nebraska can survive next weekend’s road tilt with Illinois (a team that can throw the ball fairly well), they should not face many more dynamic passing attacks in the second half of the season. Teams like Minnesota, Iowa, and Rutgers should not test the Huskers pass defense the same way that BYU or Miami did.

This group has to get better. I did like the quote from Mark Banker at the conclusion of the game on Saturday. To paraphrase, he said that the struggles were concerning but that they wouldn’t be changing the players, instead finding the right scheme and coverages to help them realize their potential. That’ll be important if Nebraska wants to contend for the West Division championship.

How about Jordan Westerkamp? 11 catches? A TD reception for his 5th consecutive game. He’s one of the more consistent players that I’ve covered. It’s really a pleasure to watch him bring his lunch pail to work each and every Saturday.

Another fast favorite of mine is Brandon Reilly. He has heart and an abundance of talent. Love it when Nebraska kids prove that they were overlooked in high school.

Nebraska racked up 610 yards of offense on Saturday. Not too shabby! However, they attempted 7 field goals. Yards matter a lot less if you aren’t finishing drives and throwing “6” more on the scoreboard. I think that Nebraska will ultimately be fine in this regard.

Road game #2 next weekend in Champagne, Illinois. The Huskers need this one. If they can get it (and show marked improvement in pass defense), let the hype for the Wisconsin game begin.


Heartbreak: it can happen so many different ways. An upset. A last-second loss. Getting beat soundly by a team with similar or lesser talent. Getting dumped by your sweetheart. Every form of it stinks. The worst form of it, at least to me, came on Saturday. In a game that most had written off by halftime, Nebraska stormed back in a historical 4th quarter rally against Miami to send the game to overtime. The Huskers were down 20-3 at half, and down 33-10 entering the 4th quarter. They tied the game at 33 by the time regulation was over, only to lose in overtime.

You can’t fault the team’s tenacity and grit. They showed heart beyond words on Saturday in South Florida. However, if the Huskers want to avoid this kind of heart break in the future, they’ll need to look in the mirror and fix their own issues.

Too many procedural penalties! Flat out too many. I can live with a late hit now and then, or even a horse-collar tackle. Those are called aggression plays, and aggression, whether you like it or not, has a central role in the game of football. I can’t excuse pre-snap procedural mishaps. Those are organizational issues. Those have to be cleaned up for the Huskers to win against the likes of Wisconsin, Michigan State, or Minnesota. I suspect they will be fixed.

Nebraska was not the aggressor for the first three quarters on Saturday. If they want to win the West Division in the Big Ten, they’ll have to start throwing punches first. It just has to happen.

Had Tommy Armstrong not thrown the pick in overtime, I think a very legitimate argument could be made on his behalf that his performance would go down amongst the best in a Husker uniform in the last decade, maybe two decades. He was under duress all day long. He escaped pressure and made plays with his arm and legs. He was inspiring. Any criticism of his play is literally crazy. Nebraska would not have been in position to win either the BYU or Miami games without #4. I’m glad he’s got the “N” on his helmet.

I liked that when I walked into the Nebraska locker room after the game, the position groups were all huddled amongst themselves and the seniors were giving impassioned speeches and talks. That bodes well for the direction of this program and its culture.

The secondary is struggling; it’s been well documented. Whether it’s personnel or execution, it has to start turning the corner soon. This weekend’s matchup with Southern Miss should actually be a good litmus test for the Big Red back seven on defense.

The question will be moving forward, can this team learn from two heartbreakers and move forward stronger? Or will they hang their heads? If the 4th quarter on Saturday was any indication… this team will keep fighting.


Week two has been an interesting week in year’s past. Last year’s thriller versus McNeese State, a closer-than-expected match-up with Fresno State in 2011, a tight ball game in the 2nd half versus San Jose State in 2008: those are a few examples. The 2nd game of 2015, though, had no such drama. Nebraska, motivated by their heartbreaking loss a week earlier at the hands of BYU, showed up motivated and took care of business right out of the gate. The result: a 48-9 victory – the first of the Mike Riley era.

The Huskers cleaned up a few issues from week one. Notably, less penalties, better blocking, and better pursuit to the football on defense. However, there are still plenty of talking points in terms of what needs to get better in the coming weeks.

If you want to pinpoint one major concern, it’s definitely pass defense. The Husker secondary has a few very good playmakers, specifically Nate Gerry. That group has to perform at a higher level overall next weekend against Miami. They have to provide better coverage yes, but also must play the ball better when it is in the air. South Alabama had far too much success through the air.

I really liked the improved play on the offensive line. That group seemed to take their game to another level. Many people will talk about Terrell Newby’s success (198 yards on 28 carries) – but that credit should go mainly to the line. The holes opened up for Newby were massive. The coaching staff said they wanted to let one guy get into a rhythm, and they held true to that promise by riding Newby for a career high in carries and yards. Newby ran as well as he has in a Husker uniform.

My favorite part of this offense is the short and intermediate passing game. The design of the plays is pretty to watch develop. There seems to always be someone open. The high-percentage pass plays seem to have upped the confidence in Tommy Armstrong Jr. also. Tommy’s improved. You cannot argue that. Danny Langsdorf is a VERY good coach, and if we’ve learned anything through two weeks, it’s that Langsdorf is going to be a tremendous asset to Nebraska’s quarterback development.

How good was it to see Michael Rose-Ivey out there making plays? He looked faster and more decisive than at any point in his career. I could say the same thing for Josh Banderas last week. I really think the linebackers could prove to be the surprise group of 2015. Keep your eye on that group.

Next week is a highly anticipated match up with the “U” down in Miami. Miami is not as good on the offensive line as a year ago, and are not overly imposing on the defensive line either. However, Brad Kaaya is a very talented and proven quarterback, and could give Nebraska’s secondary problems if the defense does not provide some pressure of front. Miami has good skill speed, and is certainly not short on talent. This one should be a good one.


Well, let’s be honest. The Huskers had lived a good chunk of the last few years on the good side of fortune. Whether it was RKIII’s desperate heave caught by Jordan Westerkamp in 2013, a furious 2nd half rally in Iowa City in 2014 or any of seven comebacks during a march to the Big Ten Title game in 2012, the Huskers had used up some luck. Nebraska, while showing a lot of heart and grit over the years, has had the ball bounce its way more often than not. In short, we were due some misfortune.

Those were the thoughts racing through my mind before a pressed the button that sends my voice live out across Memorial Stadium. “Ball caught in the endzone by #10 Mitch Mathews, touchdown Cougars. The final score: BYU 33 Nebraska 28.” It was hard to utter those words when I was still in such a state of shock. What a tough way to open up this new era. However, I think if you can look past the heartbreak you will see that there was a lot to like in the 2015 season opener.

Let’s start with the good and then we’ll touch on the “room for improvement.” I am sure there are plenty of critics in regard to Tommy Armstrong’s play. I would tell those critics that they are wrong. I’m not sure what else you could have asked from him on Saturday. Yes, he had a rough 2nd quarter. The reality is, BYU’s blitz pressure was disrupting his timing and footwork and Nebraska could not get a running game established at all. How would most quarterback’s fare in that situation? The other three quarters, Tommy was near perfect. I’d grade him at an A- for the game.

I really like the wiggle and burst from running back Mikale Wilbon. Keep an eye on #21. I think you’re going to see him separate himself from the pack as the next month unfolds. Nebraska HAS to have someone step up in that area.

It was a tough 1st half for the Blackshirts. The 2nd half was a different story. The defensive line was more disruptive, the secondary was vastly improved (albeit a couple of key plays) and we saw two linebackers emerging in front of our eyes. Perhaps the most exciting development was Dedrick Young and Josh Banderas’ play. Those two were quite impressive in the 2nd half.

I loved Danny Langsdorf’s use of Alonzo Moore and Jordan Westerkamp in the screen game. It was refreshing to see the screen game (both WR and RB) have such a big part in the overall game plan. There are timing issues to work out for Nebraska still but I think there is reason to have high hopes for this offense as long as they continue to improve.

The Huskers struggles to consistently generate a pass rush will be something to watch in the coming weeks. They may have to toy with moving Maliek Collins out to defensive end and/or keep getting Freedom Akinmoladun more up to speed off the edge also. I think Freedom has a chance to be a very nice player.

Nebraska’s secondary had its moments in the second half, but most play a much tighter game overall. Aaron Williams has a real chance here too. I love Joshua Kalu’s athleticism and think he will make some big plays this year while also struggling through growing pains here and there.

The Huskers play in the 2nd half was inspired and encouraging. That team, the 2nd half team, will win a lot more than they lose. There is still a great deal to learn about this team. I can’t wait to find out about it some more this weekend against South Alabama.


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.


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.


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