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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Gameday - You're on Notice

Here’s a Colbert Report-style examination of what is on the line and who needs to step up in today’s game. Keep in mind that I had a tough time limiting the list to just eight.

Offensive Line: Part of me feels they can’t help but improve on last year’s performance. However, the development of this group and their ability to play as a cohesive unit will ultimately determine the success of Nebraska’s season. Technique, footwork and the ability to play numerous positions are important, but at some point it simply comes down to “want to”. You’ve gotta want to embarrass the guy across from you. You’ve gotta want to set the tone from the first snap and you’ve gotta want to keep Zac Taylor’s uniform clean.

Hype of Andre Jones: Jones has been thrust into a starting role sooner than expected after the injury to Zackary Bowman. Indications are that Jones is ahead of where Bowman was at this point last season. Unfortunately we need his game to be where Bowman’s was last November and December if we want to run the table in the Big 12 North. Husker fans will have to be patient with Jones’ development because like it or not, there is nobody behind him ready to step up.

The Running Game: Callahan repeatedly emphasized the running game during the off-season. The Tech game is likely to reflect this emphasis and should provide a measure of our improvement. We have to do better than our 2.74 yards/carry average of a year ago if we expect to push into the Top 10. The talent seems to be there, but we will have to wait and see how it is utilized.

Stadium Expansion: Steve Pederson has championed the need for facility upgrades since returning to Lincoln. Saturday represents the first look that Husker Nation will have at the results of these efforts. The increase in stadium capacity put a small dent in the ticket waiting list and the new suites provide another source of large cap revenue. The locker room renovations mean that the Huskers will enter from the North and the visitors will enter/exit from the south. The south stadium is now responsible for continuing the tradition of applauding the visitors as they leave the field, whether the Huskers win or lose.

Runzas and Valentino’s Pizza: This is a shout-out for us out-of-state fans. I’ll wake up each Saturday in the Fall craving these tastes of Lincoln. There is no better way to warm your hands on a crisp afternoon than a hot and doughy Runza or a slice of Val’s. Most fans probably take these for granted, but just try to imagine a college football season without them.

Bo Ruud: No one has had a more trying year than Bo Ruud. A broken arm during bowl preparations pales in comparison to the pain of losing one’s mother. A surprise #1 on the depth chart according to some, Ruud now has the opportunity to step out of his brother’s shadow on Saturday. A heady player who is always in the right spot, Ruud needs to prove that he can force the issue and make big plays. He’ll also be playing for the first time without one of his biggest fans. I expect the rest of the stadium to pick up the slack.

Expectations of Husker Nation: A strong finish to 2005 and a lengthy off-season have allowed these to rise to uncomfortable heights. Most will only be satisfied with winning the Big 12 North and creeping into the top 10-15 teams in the country. We can probably accomplish that while losing 3 games. Will that record satiate the hunger of Husker Nation?

Jim Rose: Again if you have season tickets you may not understand Rose’s presence on this list. But living out of state occasionally forces one to rely on radio coverage. Rose is a great guy, knowledgeable, and every bit the homer I would expect from a man in his position. Unfortunately his play-by-play is muddled and difficult to follow. From the superfluous crescendos in describing 2-yard gains to the inane and growing list of Rose-isms. At times listeners would be better off having their girlfriends describe the action. We deserve better than that.