Well lucky me gets to do a nice blog post the eve of the last day of 2009. Much to dive into this evening...so lets begin.
THE HOT LIST:
1. Holiday Bowl Grade Outs
2. Reflection on 2009
3. Looking to 2010
1. Well what can you say about the Holiday bowl. Nebraska clearly came on with a mission to pound Arizona into submission. It was well needed and well deserved for a season filled with ups and downs. To the Grade Outs
Offense: Holy Cow, could you have imagined that this offense would have made a statement like they did last night. I would of thought probably not, but give tons of credit to Shawn Watson for creating a successful gameplan that gave Nebraska a legit chance to dominate their opponent. What's exciting is that this offense gashed Arizona for 223 rushing yards and dictated the tone of the game from the beginning when Zac Lee bootleg out for a diving touchdown. Nebraska threw the ball at will and kept Arizona on its toes and confused all night long. Sometimes you finally get in the zone...it was great to see that this young group of kids can execute to a high level. They end 2009 on a high note and can raise the bar higher in 2010.
Defense: This group sealed what has been a remarkable turn around in the past 2 seasons. They picked off Nick Foles early and set up their explosive offense with a short field. They kept Foles uncomfortable in the pocket and really had no running game of any kind that whole night. They allowed 109 yards of total offense stamping a complete domination to a quality Pac-10 team. This group simply came out with the idea that Arizona wasn't going to do anything against them and they sealed Nebraska's first bowl shutout in 46 bowl games. Simply awesome job boys.
2. A Reflection of the 2009 Nebraska Football Season:
Biggest Point of the Season: Beating Oklahoma
Beating OU, Nebraska hadn't beat the Sooners since Eric Crouch caught a flee-flicker pass that won him a Heisman trophy in 2001. Nebraska used 5 interceptions to create havoc for Landry Jones and won a gutty backyard brawl with OU 10-3. That win arguably propelled Nebraska to the Big 12 championship game. Nebraska's Bo Pelini showed a blueprint that Nebraska finally has the talent and coaches to beat its big time rival from down South.
Lowest Point of the Season: Losing to Virginia Tech 16-15.
Looking back this is the lowest point of the season because Nebraska extended a poor losing streak of playing ranked teams in the top 15. Nebraska lost it's 34th straight game to those opponents and the national media that saw the game began to cellar Nebraska in the ratings. Nebraska used it's defensive mishaps to formulate a team confidence that this defense would not surrender big plays and give up the lead. It also started a trend, which at the time no one really paid attention too, that against high quality competition Nebraska's offense simply couldn't produce touchdowns to win games. This would ultimately cost Nebraska 2 more games against Iowa State and Texas.
Offensive MVP: Alex Henery
In a season where Nebraska went with a conservative game plan for 5 games to simply just win football games. Alex Henery provided Nebraska with well needed points in the kicking game. He arguably should have been on the first team all Big 12 and kept Nebraska in nearly every game this season with his leg. It's always nice to know that there's an automatic 3 points when you get into the 30 yard line. In three games this season Henery booted 4 or more field goals to keep Nebraska in the game. Clearly in a year with a young offense....Henery provided automatic points and has a chance to solidify himself as the kicker in Husker history next season.
Defensive MVP: Ndamukong Suh
Clearly this was the most dominate defensive lineman that College Football has ever seen. In games where Suh didn't put up huge numbers, he repeatedly drew 2 or 3 lineman to defend him. Above all he'll be remembered as a great team player, who prided himself on the team winning than having flashy stats. Suh showed that this coaching staff and produce elite lineman just like Tom Osborne and his staff did before. He'll be missed, he'll be admired, he'll be loved, but most of all he built up Nebraska's defense into something fierce in 2 seasons....he's set a platform for this program and for that I'm forever greatful for what he did. He'll be the #1 pick in the NFL draft. Best of Luck Suh. Best of Luck
Final Thoughts: "What Could Have Been"
"What could have been" will echo as the quote of this season. Husker fans are used to saying that when Nebraska comes ooo so close to winning National Titles...not losing 3 games by a combined 4 points. What could have been if Nebraska finished 12-1 and earned a big to a BCS bowl likely playing Boise State. What could have been if Nebraska had a more productive offense and injuries didn't riddle offensive playmakers causing Shawn Watson to re-evaluate how this team could continue to win games. This was a tough year to be a Husker fan as we questioned the Husker Offense each week in the middle of October. Credit Bo Pelini for keeping his head up and his heart right, he had faith in his staff and put his trust into them to deliver wins. They put an exclamation point in their bowl game. Nebraska can look back at this season as one that helped them build character. Character is an aspect that the elite teams have...its the swagger that you can't be touched....it the body language that says I'm gonna light you up tonight. Nebraska was tested in 4 games this season and used each one of them to develop the tough character that it takes to be an elite program again. For that and looking ahead to the future you can't deny that this season will benefit Nebraska in many many years to come.
3. Looking ahead to 2010
Now that we've completed this season I can officially look into the crystal ball and talk about what I think Nebraska can accomplish for next season.........
Nebraska enters the 2010 season with a load of talent on both sides of the ball. Nebraska loses just 5 defensive starters and only 1 starter on offense. Nebraska is poised to make a National Title run in 2010. Here's why: They'll likely be a pre-season top 10 team (I'm thinking at least #8)...they'll be favorites to win the crappy Big 12 North...they'll match up very well against OU in the title game (and win)....they have a very manageable schedule with Big 12 homes games against Texas, Missouri, Colorado, and Kansas with road games at OSU, A&M, Iowa State and K-State. Nebraska's non conference schedule has Western Kentucky, Idaho, and South Dakota State at home with a nice road trip at Washington. The hardest games on the schedule are at Washington with Jake Loecker back, and at A&M. Nebraska faces a rebuilding Texas at home and OSU on the road and both are very winnable for this team. Nebraska's talent and speed on defense arguably should have them excited for 2010. They could be faster and better than the 2009 defense with Suh as young talent will get a chance to shine in 2010. The offense returns all of its playmakers and will have a nice quarterback competition with Cody Green and Zac Lee in the spring which should help both kids grow and be more seasoned for next season. Roy Helu, Burkehead, Robinson give Nebraska a three headed monster in the backfield with Young, Cotton, McNeil, and Reed all back at TE. Nebraska will be deep, talented, and have much to prove as they climb back up into the elite in College Football once again.
Predictions for the season will come next summer when I break down the Big 12 again after Big 12 Media Days in July. This wraps up the College Football season..I shift my focus now to Husker Basketball and Husker Baseball. Preview of my preseason Big 12 baseball outlooks will come in February...I'll have a final top 25 when the bowl season wraps up next Thursday.
I'm out for the rest of the week...I'll return next Tuesday to blog about the upcoming Big 12 Basketball season that starts on January 9th for the Husker Basketball team...we'll also dive into the Womens team as well...since they are currently 14th in the country...Till Then...Happy New Year...Skocz Out!!!!