Admittedly, I wasn't that jazzed about the prospect of watching Georgia play Nebraska for the second bowl season in a row. Oh, I was plenty excited to see the 'Dawgs return to the Gator Bowl since Vince Dooley's final season on the Georgia sideline. And I'm pleased as punch for our young team to get one more game against a quality, physical BCS conference opponent. But on the whole, not so chipper about it. Not a lot of novelty to playing the same team for the second year running. Call it Husker fatigue, if you will.
But I am excited to welcome back to the site the guys from Corn Nation, SB Nation's Nebraska community. I did a brief Q&A with them about the Bulldogs, which you can find here. Imagine my surprise when I received the responses to questions I propounded to the Nebraskans and got responses from not one, or two, nor even three, but four separate writers. Reproduced below are those responses from Corn Nation's Jon, Andy, Brian, and Husker Mike. I hope that you find their responses as informative and entertaining as I did.
MaconDawg: Now that Taylor Martinez has been officially ruled out for the bowl game it looks like either freshman Tommy Armstrong, Jr. or Senior Ron Kellogg, III will run the Husker offense. What are the relative strengths of each? Will we see both?
Jon Johnston: Armstrong (whom we refer to sometimes as TA2) is strong in running the option. He has shown some great moves early in his career and his decision making is better than you’d expect from a freshman. His passing needs work, however, as some of his passes sail on him. Kellogg (RK3) has been around long enough to understand the full offense, but isn’t much of a running threat. His passing is fairly accurate and his decision making while throwing is pretty decent.
I would expect that you’ll see TA2 start, and RK3 come in for a series if TA2 struggles. It’s hard to tell what Bo Pelini and offensive coordinator Tim Beck are planning here, and that should make preparation a little more difficult. TA2 had an ankle injury, but reports are that he’s shown no sign of problems there.
Brian: TA has run a version of this offense since HS, when he led San Antonio Cibolo Steele to two Texas 5-A State title games in consecutive years. He does make the Freshman mistake at times, however, and as Jon mentions, his passes tend to float. RK3 can run if he absolutely has to, but his best run of the year was when Jordan Westerkamp caught that Hail Mary to beat Northwestern at the gun. Look for some traditional option and some zone read from TA, while RK will be zone and straight handoffs from under center and pistol.
Andy K.: Maybe I’m just grumpy, but there aren’t very many strengths for either. People fell in love with Armstrong after he put up some good numbers against two horrifying defenses (South Dakota State and Illinois), but since then he has basically been awful (42% completion, 4 TD’s, 7 INT’s, several fumbles) although folks tend to forget that when watching the Michigan drive highlights for the 20th or 30th time. People point to his option & running skills as a strength but with 57 carries for 176 yards (3.1ypg) and a long run of 15, I don’t think he’s striking too much terror in anyone’s heart with his feet.
Kellogg, a walk on until put on scholarship this season, is probably 30 lbs. heavier than the 220 he’s listed at and his 23 carries for -11 yards seems to reflect that. The Dawgs probably shouldn’t worry about Beck dialing up any option with him like he did against Iowa. He’s a decent passer but does like to stare his primary receiver down at times. A couple of picks would not be shocking, but he does have a solid arm and some big plays against a defense loaded up to stop Abdullah are a possibility.
MaconDawg: With Martinez's Nebraska career over, what is the Cornhusker fanbase's take on him? Where does he stand in the pantheon of Nebraska quarterbacks (other than behind Frazier and Frost, we got that part)?
Husker Mike: Heck, Scott Frost was booed his senior season, and there are still a few Husker fans who don’t think that Eric Crouch should have started much of his career. We’re a tough crowd. Some fans will remember the incredible runs and incredible comebacks; others will remember the turnovers and the aloofness on the sideline and never forgive him. He’ll probably end up in the top ten of Husker quarterbacks when it’s all said and done.
Jon: There are many, many Husker fans who feel a sense of disappointment for Martinez, and hoped that he’d make it back for the Gator Bowl. He entered the season with 29 school records. He leaves with 37. I’d say over time that most will consider him in the top five or right around there. Mostly, though, now it’s sad that he didn’t get at least the chance at winning a Big Ten title or a bowl game.
Brian: I talked about this before the season and asked our readers about Martinez's legacy if he doesnt win a conference title. With how Martinez finished w/o any type of hardware, personally I think it is a very good but not great career with a disappointing finish.
MaconDawg: In addition to Martinez, are there any other Huskers out for the Gator Bowl who Bulldog fans should be aware of?
Jon: Freshman defensive end Avery Moss isn’t with the team but is home in Arizona dealing with a “personal issue”. Moss had played well towards the end of the year, including intercepting a pass for a pick six in the Northwestern game. Linebacker Jared Afalava won’t make the trip either, but he hadn’t played much towards the end of the season. Offensive lineman Mike Moudy should be back, as should playmaker Jamal Turner, who’d missed much of the season due to injury. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention All-Big Ten and second-team All-American guard Spencer Long who suffered a knee injury in mid-October and is out for the season. Overall, Nebraska is healthier than they’ve been in a while.
Andy K: Spencer Long is the biggest miss by far. The guys behind him have shown a lot of heart sucking it up in his absence, but injured All-Americans generally can’t be replaced by a cheer of “Next man up!” The only other injury that really concerns me is Armstrong. Anytime a Husker QB says he is fully recovered from a foot/ankle/knee injury, I take it with a grain of salt. Eisenhower was far less paranoid protecting battle plans from Nazi spies than Pelini is with injury info on key players.
MaconDawg: Both Nebraska and Georgia have struggled with turnovers this season (both around 100th in the nation in turnover margin). Are Nebraska's woes related to the injuries at quarterback, or is there something more there? What has the Nebraska coaching staff had to say about addressing those turnover issues?
Husker Mike: Last year, Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah were the Huskers with the biggest turnover problems. Abdullah increased his touches by 20% and cut his fumbles almost in half. Martinez also improved his ball security in the games he did play in. But with him out, Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg III have turned the ball over way too much. It killed Nebraska against Michigan State (five turnovers - all by freshmen) and didn’t help against Iowa. Some of it is clearly youth and inexperience this season. But I think some of it is systemic, especially in the passing game where Nebraska’s quarterbacks sometimes throw the ball ill-advised into coverage.
Brian: Nebraska has had at least one turnover in every football game since the season opener. Of 2012. Mike is right that it is systematic, because the bug went widespread. I would be more shocked if Nebraska had zero giveaways more than a victory.
Andy: Kellogg & Armstrong haven’t been much at ball protection, but there are still a few out there who are convinced that those turnovers are Martinez’ fault as well. As mentioned above, Abdullah has cut back on his fumbles, but that problem is still not solved. The staff has sworn that they’re addressing the problem. However, at this point, I’m pretty sure witchcraft or voodoo is part of the equation and if I was a Jacksonville resident with chicken ownership or a virgin daughter over 16, I’d be very, very concerned until New Year’s Day rolls around.
MaconDawg: From press conference pyrotechnics to wacky Mack Brown-to-Nebraska rumors, Bo Pelini has had an interesting year. What is the state of Pelini's relationship with the Nebraska administration? Is 2014 a make or break year for him? Or, much like Mark Richt at Georgia, are the rumors of his hot seat status greatly (and perennially) exaggerated?
Husker Mike: Considering how Bo Pelini gave Shawn Eichorst every reason to fire him in the Iowa game, I suspect that the relationship is a lot stronger than anybody - even Pelini - realized. Maybe Eichorst realized that hiring a coach better than Pelini was going to be awfully difficult. Maybe Eichorst didn’t realize just how strong the media frenzy against Pelini was. Either way, it’s clear that the Pelini hot seat was greatly exaggerated.
Brian: This is where I disagree with Mike. Yes, the relationship with Eichorst has to help with what happened with Bo post Iowa game, but then again, there is no way anyone in any sort of job, much less a HC of the only D1 football school in the state does something like that and keep full ownership of his job. The media has very little to do with what happens with the football team, no matter what Bo would lke to tell you. As much distain like Mitch Sherman of ESPN or Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World Herald gives Bo, guys like Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star make up for it. The media is not responsible or fumbles, or swiping a hat at an official, or losing to Minnesota or Iowa. Neither are message boards or "Biff the Blogger", as Bo likes to call folks on the internet. Is the seat warm? It wont be if he gets to the 9 win mark a vast majority of the folks who cheer for the program set as the goal because that is how many Tom Osborne won every year.
Andy K.: Unknown to most, Harvey Perlman is a raging alcoholic and his insistence on not drinking alone eventually led Osborne to a taste for Southern Comfort. They enjoy nothing more than getting plastered and giggling at Pelini’s antics. The hiring of Eichorst didn’t even cause a bump in the road as he has running bet of Omaha Steaks vs. cocaine with Florida AD Jeremy Foley on whose head coach gets more YouTube hits each season.
MaconDawg: Bonus... How much corn could a Cornhusker husk, if a Cornhusker could husk corn?
Jon: I grew up in farm country, so I’m qualified to answer. When I was young, my dad used to say it was only five or six corns a day. By the time I left for the University of Nebraska, it was in the thousands. Now, given the massive increase in the productivity of the typical farmer, more than most nations, probably about four billion corns a day. Certainly more than those lazy people from Kansas and Iowa. Those people should just turn their states over to us. They are worthless.
Hey, how come nobody ever asks us about good old Nebraska corn-fed beef
Brian: Dont sweat the corn. Eat a Runza, and then the next day go for Chili and Cinnamon Rolls. You will fit right in.
I want to once again thank the gang from Corn Nation for stopping by. Remember that you can find more Nebraska sports coverage of all shapes, forms, and persuasions over at Corn Nation, up to and through kickoff of the Gator Bowl. Until later . . .