10 Uplifting Takeaways in another Heartbreaking Loss
Randy York N-Sider
Official Blog of the Huskers
For all Husker fans who flew to Miami and are headed home on Sunday, and for all Big Red fans who were at home Saturday and thought about bailing on Mike Riley’s first Nebraska football team, slow down, take heed, re-calibrate and remember that a bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.
Personally, I think Riley and staff are in the midst of an incredible development process, so they rank near the top of my "10 Uplifting Takeaways" despite another heartbreaking loss, 36-33, in overtime at Miami. Please hit the pause button and listen to "Touchdown" Tommie Frazier, a College Football Hall-of-Fame quarterback and two-time national champion, who asked his Twitter followers to stop all the negative talk because Tommy Armstrong Jr. played one heck of a ball game. Damon Benning, the Most Valuable Player in Nebraska’s lopsided 1996 Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech, tweeted this about Armstrong: “Dude is the consummate competitor” and his “having been in the fire matters.”
Frazier, Benning, Hoffman and Sinclair Never Stopped Believing
For the vast majority who relish a comment from a regular fan who loves the Huskers as much as anyone, let’s ask Andy Hoffman, father of the legendary Jack Hoffman, what he thinks about Nebraska following a second heartbreaking loss in Riley’s first three games as head coach. “Couldn’t be more proud of these kids,” said Hoffman, whose son holds Nebraska's honorary Spring Game record for the longest touchdown run.
The fourth cornerstone in the aftermath of another gut check on national television comes from a retired corporate executive and former Lincoln sportswriter who spent four days at Marco Island before watching Saturday’s remarkable comeback fall short while he, his brother and their wives sat through the tortuous heat in Sun Life Stadium at Miami Gardens, Fla. “Tough game, but the heart of this team is amazing…very proud of them,” Chuck Sinclair said. “This group NEVER gives up. I credit that to the coaching style, character of the players and the ability of this staff to make adjustments.”
Riley, Staff Developing Armstrong into Consistent, Powerful Threat
Armstrong accounted for 358 yards of total offense Saturday. That total moved him past Jerry Tagge, Jammal Lord, Joe Ganz and Tommie Frazier to climb to fourth on the NU career total offense list. Armstrong now has 5,521 career total offense yards and six career games with 300 yards of total offense.
With Saturday's 301 yards passing, Armstrong now has six straight games with at least 200 yards passing. He notched a third 300-yard passing game, all coming in his last four games. In the explosive fourth quarter, Armstrong completed 11-of-20 passes for 184 yards and four touchdowns. He accounted for 204 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter alone, adding 20 rushing yards, including a 16-yard gain on a 3rd-and-13 play that set up his game-tying touchdown pass to Stanley Morgan Jr. two plays later.
Riley (above) knows what life is like on both sides of Saturday's heavy-duty drama. In 2006, in Corvallis, Ore., his Oregon State team upset Pete Carroll's No. 2-ranked USC Trojans, 33-31. The Beavers thwarted a two-point conversion in the final seconds to stave off a maddening 30-point lead that had dwindled exponentially but avoided overtime. The loss snapped USC's 38-game regular-season winning streak and its 27-game conference winning streak.
Saturday, the Huskers trailed by 23 points (33-10) with less than nine minutes on the clock. If Nebraska could have solved the overtime opportunity, the win would have been the greatest comeback in Husker history, replacing the 21-point comeback win over Ohio State four years ago. Harrassed all day and facing a fast pass rush and a number of dropped balls, Armstrong persevered and kept battling "and I love him for that," Riley said. With Armstrong and Riley Nos. 1 and 2, here are eight more uplifting moments from Saturday's non-conference road game:
Despite 1-2 Start, Huskers Building Team Unity, Chemistry, Togetherness
Check out the huddle above in Miami. It represents the very heart of this Nebraska football team, plus the unity, chemistry and togetherness it continues to build despite disappointment. This group of Huskers knows that the only way to overcome hard luck is through hard work. That's what they've done and will continue to do, diligently, selflessly, enthusiastically. Norman Vincent Peale wrote a book about The Power of Positive Thinking in a hotel room in Alliance, Neb., when he was down and out and challenging himself to move forward in his own search of excellence. "Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution," Peale said. "If you don't have any problems, you don't get any seeds."
Armstrong Roommate Jordan Westerkamp Will Do Anything to Win
Junior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp, Armstrong's two-year roommate pictured above, had a 22-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. He also has had a touchdown reception in four consecutive games, including last year’s Holiday Bowl. Westerkamp finished with five receptions for 95 yards at Miami. That increased Westerkamp's career yardage total to 1,263 and moved him up two spots to 11th on the Nebraska career receiving yardage list. He passed Irving Fryar (1,196) and Matt Herian (1,243) Saturday. Westerkamp also had a nifty 24-yard second-quarter punt return. His previous career best was a 19-yard return at Minnesota in 2013.
Big-Play Reilly Continues to Build Confidence, Make Key Contributions
Brandon Reilly, a junior walk-on wide receiver from Lincoln, pictured above, is another Uplifting Takeaway from Saturday's overtime loss. He missed the first half of the season before quickly working his way back into the playing rotation after his return. A two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Reilly is as smart as he is speedy. Saturday, Reilly caught four passes for 83 yards, including a 21-yard TD catch that pulled Nebraska within 33-25 with only 3:46 left on the clock. Big play, big performance, B1G time, he deserves to be in the Top Five Uplifting Takeaways.
Meet Stanley Morgan, Game-Changing Freshman from New Orleans
You want to talk about the future of Nebraska football when Riley and his staff target and recruit the players who can help the Huskers win their first conference football championship since 1999? Meet Stanley Morgan, a game-changing freshman wide receiver from St. Augustine High School in New Orleans. Saturday, Morgan caught four passes for 78 yards, including an 8-yard scoring catch that enabled the Huskers to tie the game, 33-33, with 33 seconds remaining.
Morgan, pictured above, chose only to visit Nebraska because once he saw it, he knew it was the right place for him. But please take the time to read the other schools that offered him a scholarship: Clemson, Georgia, Florida, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Ohio State, Tennessee, Utah and UCLA. Morgan also played basketball and became a member of the National Honor Society. He makes a nice billboard for those who choose to follow him to Lincoln.
Newby Becoming Double Threat as a Runner and a Receiver
Terrell Newby, pictured above doing what he does best, didn't score a touchdown Saturday. His carries also were substantially reduced, but the junior running back from Chaminade High School in Los Angeles is emerging as a dual threat runner/receiver. Saturday, Newby rushed for 83 yards on only 14 carries for a 5.9-yard average. He also caught four passes for 16 yards. He continues to work on those short passes and once he masters the science, look for more breakaway touchdowns down the line as a double-barreled weapon.
Junior Corner Kalu Earns the Confidence of Husker Coaching Staff
Last year, as a true freshman, Josh Kalu, pictured above, earned significant time in the secondary in both the nickel and dime formations. This year, he's making a case for himself as a corner who continues to earn the confidence of the Husker coaching staff. Saturday, he had four tackles, including three solos, and claimed the Huskers' only interception, preventing a touchdown in the end zone. Having played in all 13 games and making two starts last year, Kalu is poised to maintain his status as Blackshirt.
Redshirt Freshman Defensive End Freedom Akinmoladun Making Big Plays
Freedom Akinmoladun, pictured above, is a well-rounded redshirt freshman student-athlete from Grandview, Mo. He came to Nebraska as one of the nation's top tight end prospects, but has found a home as a defensive end. With injuries creating serious issues, Akinmoladun has seized the opportunity. Saturday, he recorded six tackles, including five solos, one of which resulted in a 12-yard loss, Nebraska's only sack of the day. Akinmoladun's cousin, Oladapo, is an All-American on the Husker men's track and field team. Perhaps Akinmoladun has some All-America potential of his own. On Monday, Husker Defensive Line Coach Hank Hughes said film review showed that the freshman defensive end had nine tackles against Miami, three beyond the six for which he was credited.
Through the Years, Big Red Followers Still the Best Fans Anywhere
Drew Brown deserves a kudo. Nebraska's sophomore kicker has the boom back in his leg. His 49-yard field goal and end-zone kickoffs bode well for the Huskers' nine remaining regular-season games, eight of which will define Nebraska's chance to win the Big Ten West Division. Kudos also to Nate Gerry, No. 25 in your program and No. 1 in the uplifting heart of Husker fan Calvin Oberndorfer. "He's been all over the field and seems to hold that defense together when they start to unravel," said Oberndorfer, who works in Des Moines and has two sons who attend UNL. "I'm a Big Red fan for life and can't wait for the next game. Go Big Red!"
As the Huskers advance to their remaining challenges, our 10th and final Uplifting Takeaway from Saturday's crushing loss at Miami is the refreshing loyalty of Husker fans near and far. They stayed the course in a barren stadium and cheered faithfully for Nebraska to pull off the greatest comeback in Nebraska football history. It did not happen, but Husker fans can understand how seeds just might nurture their favorite team's growth.
Southern Miss visits Lincoln for an 11 a.m. kickoff Saturday in Memorial Stadium. Let the learning process continue at practice and enable this young, inexperienced team to get healthy again, so they can win the games that will count the most.
Send a comment to email@example.com (Please include city, state)
Follow Randy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RandyYorkNsider
Voices from Husker Nation
I'm 45 and have been a huge fan of Big Red since the 1983 team’s gutsy, missed two-point try in the Orange Bowl against Miami. I was so impressed with what I saw yesterday. Tommy Armstrong was amazing, and his pain after the interception shows the fire that this young man has. Coach Riley, you have done a great job teaching these guys to never give up…so glad you’re in Lincoln. I have never been to a game at Nebraska, but I’m making my first trip this year for the Northwestern game. I love this team and love that we are the classiest act in the nation! From Southern California to Husker Nation: Go Big Red! David Morrill, Brea, California
Thanks for your uplifting article about our Huskers. I woke up this morning very down, thinking about our team being 1-2. But your article put it all in perspective. The future looks bright with this dedicated coaching staff. Their expertise and positive attitude will bring success. The players will continue to play hard. It's a good day to be a Husker fan! Go Big Red! Pam Davis, Omaha, Nebraska
To me, the 11th best thing is having a much better team than we had last year. I credit the coaching staff and players for that. Nebraska has been and always will be MY team. I was born and raised in Nebraska. I am not – and never will be – a fair-weather fan. Robert Weise, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania
Love your positivity…enjoy your articles and hope that positive outlook creeps into my brain a little bit more. Patrick Sullivan, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
All I can say is Amen and Go Big Red! Allison Kohtz, Lake Elmo, Minnesota
Thanks for the article on the 10 uplifting takeaways of our 1-2 start. I'd like to add that 1981 was the last 1-2 start for the Big Red. Ironically, that year we ended the season in the Orange Bowl playing unbeaten Clemson, which was voted national champion..Sadly, we lost, but I will never give up on this year's Huskers. I see glimpses of the team we can be and stand behind Coach Riley as he leads these young men. Thanks again for the positive writing. James Thomlison, North Platte, Nebraska