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President Barack Obama was among those who were inspired by Jack Hoffman's touchdown run.
Courtesy: NU Media Relations
          Release: 12/31/2013
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N-Sider's 13 Biggest Moments for 2013

Randy York's N-Sider

Official Blog of the Huskers

On New Year’s Eve, The N-Sider presented its own customized list of Nebraska-related Big Moments over the past 12 months. To honor 2013, we limited our Big Moments list to 13, but rest assured, there are dozens of worthy memorable moments out there for Husker Nation, so please, share your favorites with us. Here's ours:

1) The inspiration of Jack Hoffman. Can the timing be any better for what we consider the Biggest Moment that emerged from Nebraska’s 2013 Spring Game? The Little Jack who stole every Husker heart and millions more underwent his 16th MRI Monday since he was diagnosed with a brain tumor nearly three years ago. Andy Hoffman, Jack’s father, said the day at Children’s Hospital Omaha was another “horrendously nerve-wracking day of waiting, but we were blessed with some good news from Jack’s oncologist – the residual tumor appeared stable and remains in remission.” There will be a follow-up call Friday with Jack’s neurooncologist, neurologist and neurosurgeon, all based out of Boston Children’s Hospital. Jack’s next MRI is scheduled for April in Boston. “We are so blessed to have an awesome medical team, spanning two states, that work collaboratively,” offered Andy, who is looking forward to watching the Gator Bowl on TV at home in Atkinson, Neb., with family and friends. I think I speak for Husker fans everywhere when I say Go Little Jack before Go Big Red as the family eagerly awaits Friday’s final review of the latest MRI. Video

2) The worldwide domination of Jordan BurroughsNo need to go into great detail here, especially since we’re publishing a three-part series on Burroughs that chronicles his story before he came to Nebraska as a lightly recruited student-athlete. Part II will focus on his time at Nebraska and Part III on the worldwide success he’s having after winning two NCAA Championships. Burroughs is unbeaten internationally and sandwiched a 2012 Olympic Gold Medal in London between two World Championships – 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey, and 2013 in Budapest, Hungary. He has evolved from the Face of Nebraska Wrestling to the Face of USA Wrestling to the Face of Worldwide Wrestling. Video

3) The Hail Mary.  The DriveThe Kick. All three defined the character, commitment and composure of Nebraska football, making 2013 Big Moment No. 3 a combination of three gut-wrenching Big Ten finishes in a 21-day span. The Hail Mary was Ron Kellogg III’s 49-yard desperation pass to the end zone that was tipped into the waiting hands of Jordan Westerkamp. The catch gave Nebraska a 27-24 walk-off win over Northwestern in Lincoln. The Drive featured Tommy Armstrong Jr., Ameer Abdullah and a cohesive line to produce a 75-yard, 6-minute game-winning drive in Nebraska’s 17-13 triumph over Michigan. The road win snapped Michigan’s 19-game winning streak at the Big House. Armstrong’s scoring pass off a forward option pitch gave the Huskers a late lead the Blackshirts protected. The Kick came off the foot of walk-on Pat Smith, whose 42-yard field goal on Nebraska’s first overtime possession capped a strong special teams’ performance that enabled the Huskers to escape Beaver Stadium with a 23-20 victory over Penn State. The Hail Mary, The Drive and The Kick were three pivotal plays that now live in Nebraska folklore and can be considered Big Red football’s seasonal equivalent of a Trifecta. Video

4) Nebraska’s new East Stadium has always been about more than football. That’s why Nebraska Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst praised “the foresight, passion and vision” of UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman and former Nebraska Coach/AD Tom Osborne, plus the generous support of donors who have helped create a state-of-the-art research collaboration facility that Eichorst believes “has put this university at the forefront of progress.” The Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior (CB3), along with the Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory (NAPL), are critical in UNL’s continued pursuit of excellence and in improving the experiences of all student-athletes. The research centers are using more than a combined 52,000 square feet inside the newly expanded East Stadium to create an unprecedented academics/athletics partnership. Video

5) Pinnacle Bank Arena is the new home for Nebraska men’s and women’s basketball, and let the record show that Tim Miles and Connie Yori are equally effusive in their praise of the new facility. Yori described PBA as “jaw-dropping” and called it “the best basketball facility in the country”. Miles described the West Haymarket facility as “unbelievable” and well thought out. What we have here is a men’s team that sold out of season tickets six months before opening tip. Women’s tickets are still available and forward-thinking fans should consider buying tickets to a Lincoln/PBA-based regional that will send a team to the Women’s 2014 Final Four. Yori has coached two teams to the NCAA Sweet 16 in the last four years. She was voted the National Coach of the Year four seasons ago and voted the Big Ten Coach of the Year last season. She deserves every inch of your support. Video

6) The new Devaney Center sold out the entire 2013 volleyball season, and the beauty of that success goes beyond the sport that has hogged all the headlines of why this new world-class facility is so cool. Husker Volleyball Coach John Cook may have put it best after the Huskers hosted four rounds of NCAA matches that created a buzz, even on national television. After coaching his team to its first full season inside the Devaney Center, Cook said: “The Devaney Center turned out better than anyone expected. Our fans love it. It’s a great volleyball venue, and it’s going to be a great venue for gymnastics and wrestling, too.” Nebraska Gymnastics Coaches Dan Kendig (women) and Chuck Chmelka (men) and Husker Wrestling Coach Mark Manning agree that their new home inside the renovated Devaney is a boost for recruiting and an ideal place for fans to watch competitive events. Kendig’s women’s gymnastics team has won three consecutive conference championships and is poised for another run among the NCAA elite teams. The Huskers return senior all-arounder Emily Wong, one of Nebraska’s most decorated individual student-athletes in 2013. The Devaney, of course, also continues to be the home for Nebraska Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field. Husker Coach Gary Pepin’s men’s team won the 2013 Big Ten Outdoor Championship in Ohio. Pepin is also the winningest coach in the history of the Big Eight and Big 12 Conferences in any sport. Video

7) Jordan Hooper takes a giant step from Nebraska’s Sandhills to the world stage.Growing up on a ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills, Hooper never dreamed she would be playing basketball in Kazan, Russia. A player who decided to bypass AAU basketball in high school, Hooper could not have imagined playing in a World Championship game, let alone starting in one. But last July, there she was, scoring nine points and grabbing nine rebounds while making her first international start, powering the USA Basketball Women’s World University Games Team to a 90-71 victory in the gold medal game. A 6-2 Husker senior forward from Alliance, Neb., Hooper has used the international experience to broaden her Husker leadership role. Her career has a parallel to the incremental maturity of fellow Husker Kelsey Griffin, and Hooper hopes to follow in her footsteps, as well as those left behind by point guard Lindsey Moore, who mentored her good friend for three seasons before being a first-round draft choice of the Minnesota Lynx, the 2013 WNBA champions. Video

8) Björn Barrefors is Nebraska’s first and only four-time Academic All-American across all sports. That puts the 2012 Big Ten decathlon champion in a league of his own among the Huskers’ nation-leading group of 307 Academic All-Americans. In a special tribute to Husker Academic All-Americans in November, Barrefors led the 2012-13 Husker Academic All-Americans onto the field at Memorial Stadium. Joining Barrefors were fellow first-teamers Josh Ihnen (wrestling) and Gina Mancuso (volleyball) and second-teamers Morgan Wilken (track & field), Mara Griva (track & field) and Emily Wong (gymnastics). Two football players from this class – Sean Fisher (second-team) and Rex Burkhead (first-team) were also honored, but unable to attend because of commitments to medical school and the NFL, respectively.Video

9) Mary Weatherholt won the NCAA’s highest individual honor and changed the platform of Nebraska tennis. Talk about a trailblazer. In mid-November, the NCAA announced that Weatherholt, Nebraska’s 2013 Female Student-Athlete of the Year, won a Top Ten Award – the most prestigious individual student-athlete honor it gives because it’s based on academic achievement, athletic accomplishment and community service. The Top Ten Award is the king-and-queen-of-the-hill, top-of-the-heap award that Nebraska has claimed more than any other NCAA school. With the announcement that Weatherholt is one of 10 student-athletes to earn the 2013 honor, Nebraska increased its national lead and now has 17 Top Ten Award winners, two more than second-place Stanford. Weatherholt excelled equally on the court, finishing second in the NCAA singles competition to the defending national champion from Stanford. She also led the Huskers to a 2013 Big Ten team championship and their first-ever advancement to the NCAA Sweet 16.Video

10) The Nebraska women’s bowling team won the 2013 NCAA National Championship last spring. In addition, one Husker bowler earned an individual national title. Nebraska’s bowling roster carried just one senior. Despite the relative youth of the team, Coach Bill Straub and assistant Paul Klempa led the Huskers to their fourth NCAA title with a win over Vanderbilt in a nationally televised Saturday night match on ESPN2. It marked Nebraska’s 25th team national championship across all sports. Bellevue, Neb., native Kristi Mickelson was the lone senior bowler. A key figure in the run to the NCAA championship, she went on to earn a near-perfect score of 289 in her final match of the Individual Singles Video

11) The Nebraska softball team re-emerged as a national power in 2013 and the Huskers’ return to the Softball College World Series in Oklahoma City was a watershed moment for Rhonda Revelle, who has coached more wins than any other Nebraska head coach in women’s or men’s sports. The veteran Husker head coach made an unsolicited comment in one of her post-game interviews in Oklahoma City, saying: “This group of young women has restored and returned Nebraska softball to the national stage. Nebraska has spent a good many years on the national stage, but not in recent years. I just really feel the motivation, the drive and the talent not only put them on the national stage right now, but we can continue to grow that motivation to be better and to return here and take it farther.” Video

12) The Husker soccer team also re-emerged as a national power and you would hard-pressed to find anybody who wasn’t elated to see a John Walker-coached team win the Big Ten regular-season championship, then win the conference postseason tournament before advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16. Talk about changing the paradigm. Penn State had won the Big Ten Soccer Championship for 15 straight years until Nebraska’s senior-led team with one of the nation’s top freshman, Jaycie Johnson, ended that decade-and-a-half regular-season streak. It was an emotional turnaround for Walker, who has guided 11 Husker teams into the NCAA Tournament, including two into the Elite Eight and now seven to the Sweet 16. His Nebraska teams have now won nine conference titles, but this was his first regular-season championship in 13 years. Video

13) With the nation’s best indoor facility, Nebraska baseball is primed and ready to contend nationally. Nebraska baseball didn’t finish with a winning record in 2013, but the Huskers came within a few swings of winning the Big Ten Conference Tournament at Target Field in Minneapolis, and with another tough schedule and the nation’s No. 11-ranked recruiting class, look for Coach Darin Erstad’s team to keep climbing the hill, step by step. Erstad has a built a body of proof bit by bit, piece by piece, and coach by coach around the Big Ten. In his two years as head coach, the Big Ten has gone from the nation’s 12th toughest league in terms of RPI to the fifth toughest league, mainly because Erstad led the charge for the league to schedule more aggressively. Smart fans in and around Lincoln are buying season tickets and if you want to really be proactively savvy, start planning now for the 2014 Big Ten Conference Baseball Tournament in the beautiful confines of TDAmeritrade Park in Omaha – the home of the College World Series. Who knows? Maybe the Huskers can win the Big Ten in 2014 and come back  to the same stadium and play for even higher stakes. Video

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