December 1, 2009

Tuesday notebook: Four Blackshirts get Big 12 honors

After putting together one of the program's best all-around defensive seasons in recent memory, it was only fitting that a cast of Nebraska defenders were rewarded for their efforts.

On Tuesday, the Big 12 Conference announced its all-conference teams as well as its players of the year. All together, four Huskers defensive players were named first-team All-Big 12, including senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, senior safety Larry Asante, junior cornerback Prince Amukamara and sophomore defensive tackle Jared Crick.

Despite not having a single offensive player selected, Nebraska's four total first-teamers tied for the most in the conference along with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State.

Head coach Bo Pelini said all four players were more than deserving of the honor, and their selections were not only a credit to their play this season, but also the play of the entire defense.

"I'm proud of how far we have come on defense," Pelini said. "We've come a long way in a relatively short period of time. It's nice to see that our guys were recognized for it. It's been a lot of hard work and perseverance by that group, by the whole group; I'm talking about everybody on defense, not just the guys that got recognized with first-team honors. We've come a long way."

The awards didn't stop there for Suh, either. As was expected since before the season even started, the Portland, Ore., native had as good of an individual season as any player in the country on either side of the ball.

That's why it was pretty much a no-brainer that Suh be named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Pelini said Suh made the most of his decision not to leave school early for the NFL this past offseason and has worked his way to become one of the best players in all of college football.

"I give him a lot of credit," Pelini said. "He came back for a reason and I think he's done it. There were a lot of reasons why he wanted to come back. I'm not going to talk about all of them, but it's good to see when it works out for the young man. He walked away from a lot of money.

"He walked away from quote-unquote, other opportunities, and came back here with a purpose and he played that way. It shows a lot about who he is and the type of character he has."

For Suh, the biggest honor of all was seeing his defense get the credit it deserved from the rest of the conference. However, he said he and the rest of the Blackshirts still have plenty left to prove in their final two games of the season.

"I haven't seen the list, but it means a lot," Suh said. "I feel that we've definitely been working hard. We just want to continue to prove ourselves. We're definitely happy with obviously the accolades and everything, but it's not done just because we got those. We've got to continue to play hard and move forward. You've got to prove it on the field between the white lines."

- Robin Washut

Tuesday practice takes
McCoy one of the best: Not only is Texas senior Colt McCoy the all-time winningest quarterback in college football history, he also holds some other pretty hefty material on his resume. In last week's win over Texas A&M, McCoy passed for 304 yards and rushed for 175 more. The performance made him the first Longhorn ever to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 in a single game, and he became just the third player in NCAA history to pass for at least 300 and rush for 150. Washington's Marques Tuiasosopo (1999) and Clemson's Woody Dantzler (2001) are the only other quarterbacks to ever accomplish the feat.
Ending the streak: When Nebraska takes the field Saturday against the No. 3 Longhorns, the Huskers will get another chance to end one of their ugliest active losing streaks. Since beating No. 2 Oklahoma in Lincoln back in 2001, NU has lost 12 straight games to top-10 ranked teams. Coincidently, two of those 12 losses have come at the hands of Texas. The Huskers suffered a three-point loss to No. 7 UT in 2002 and then a two-point defeat to the fifth-ranked Longhorns in 2006. Under head coach Bo Pelini, Nebraska is 0-3 against top-10 teams (Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas Tech in 2008).
Injury update: Junior quarterback Zac Lee again had his left ankle heavily taped for Tuesday's practice, but Lee said his ankle felt "phenomenal" in spite of it. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said he fully expected Lee to start Saturday against Texas.
What's on tap next: The Nebraska football team conducted a two hour full-padded practice on the grass fields North of Memorial Stadium and inside the Hawks indoor facility on Tuesday. NU is scheduled to come back on Wednesday for another two-hour full-padded practice.

Huskers not intimidated by Longhorns

Third-ranked Texas might be the most-high profile team Nebraska will have played all season, but that doesn't mean the Huskers plan on just handing over Saturday's Big 12 Championship game to the Longhorns.

Despite coming into the game as much as a 15-point underdog, Nebraska is confident it can match-up with Texas, especially with its decorated defense leading the way. In fact, Bo Pelini wouldn't even use the word "underdog" when referring to his team.

"I don't pay attention," Pelini said. "I don't even know what that means. That's for the bookies in Vegas."

Pelini said the Huskers would obviously have to play their best game of the season to knock off the 12-0 Longhorns, but said that's been the case for every team they've played this season.

"It takes your absolute best effort to win any game," Pelini said. "We know we're playing a good football team. We're going to have to play well in all phases. They're well coached in all phases. They're a very talented football team. It will be a great challenge for our football team."

For the Pelini and his players, Texas is merely the next game on the schedule. Though the implications of a win are admittedly a little greater.

"It's a big game," Suh said. "I love playing in big games. I'm not saying that every other game is not any fun, but it's a chance to play for a Big 12 championship, something I haven't been able to do since 2006, which I'm very eager to do and have that opportunity. I think this team has obviously earned it by playing well in these last four or five games. I think we're ready to go out there and challenge Texas."

- Robin Washut

Crick taking early success in stride

In only his second official season and first year as a starter, Jared Crick has made about as big of an impact as anyone could have expected.

Helping anchor Nebraska's dominant defensive line along side Suh, Crick is tied with his fellow defensive tackle for the team-lead with 65 tackles and boasts a team-best nine sacks on the season. He also ranks second behind Suh in tackles for loss (14) and quarterback hurries (14).

That's why it was little surprise that the Cozad, Neb., native was one of only four sophomores named to either the All-Big 12 first-team offense or defense on Monday.

Crick joined Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis and Texas cornerback Earl Thomas as the only three sophomores named to the first-team defense, while Missouri kicker Grant Ressel made first-team offense.

With so much success so early in his college career and considering what Suh was able to accomplish in just two years under NU's coaching staff, Crick said he's had to stay focused on the present and not get caught up what could be in store for him in the near future.

"It's definitely exciting," Crick said. "You see Suh and how far he's come in two years. Definitely I've still got a ways to go before I become the player that I want to be, so I'm just going to take it day by day and just keep getting better and whatever happens will happen.

"If I look ahead to the future than it may screw up everything that I want to do, so I'm not going to do that."

Things will certainly change for Crick next season when Suh graduates and takes his game on to the NFL. However, Crick has proven to be a force in his own right over the course of the season, as he's already been named the national defensive player of the week earlier this year after his five sacks against Baylor.

With another offseason with Pelini and defensive coordinator Carl Pelini under his belt, there's no telling how much better Crick could be in 2010. But all that will come in time for Crick.

For now, he's got more important things to worry about for the next few weeks.

"It's a great feeling," Crick said. "I really haven't let it sink in. We've still got some big games coming up, so I'm going to worry about that. But definitely it's an honor knowing that all that work didn't go for nothing.

"I don't really look in the future. I just take it one day at a time, and if great things happen, that's good. But I never really envisioned anything to this day at the beginning of the season. I just let whatever comes come."

- Robin Washut

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