Nebraska will open a much-anticipated 2004 season this Saturday evening when the Huskers entertain Division I-AA power Western Illinois at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff for the season opener for both teams is set for 6:10 p.m., in a game that will mark the 263rd consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised on a pay-per-view basis by Fox Sports Net.
The matchup with Western Illinois ushers in a new era of Husker football. Head Coach Bill Callahan took over the Nebraska program in January and brought with him the West Coast Offense. Defensively, the Huskers return seven Blackshirts from a unit that led the nation in interceptions and pass efficiency defense.
Nebraska will be looking to extend its opening day success at Memorial Stadium. Last season’s season-opening win over Oklahoma State marked the 18th straight victory in a home opener for the Huskers, dating back to a 1985 loss to Florida State. Nebraska has won each of those 18 contests by 10 points or more.
This marks the second straight season, Nebraska has opened the season just outside of both major national polls. Nebraska received enough votes in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll to lead the list of other teams receiving votes and would have ranked 27th in the Associated Press Poll. Last year, Nebraska used its victory in the season opener to move back into the national polls and it remained in the rankings the rest of the season en route to a 10-3 record.
Western Illinois is one of the top programs at the Division I-AA level, having been to the playoffs in six of the past eight seasons, including a semifinal appearance in 1998. Last fall, the Leathernecks posted a 9-4 record and advanced to the national quarterfinals. The matchup with Western Illinois is the first between the two schools and Nebraska’s first against a Division I-AA foe since a 38-14 victory over McNeese State in 2002.
Season Opener Marks Start of Demanding 2004 Slate
Nebraska faces a daunting schedule in 2004, as it looks for its 35th nine-win season in the last 36 years and its NCAA-record 36th consecutive bowl trip. Overall, the Huskers will face seven teams that participated in bowl games in 2003, including five Big 12 foes that appeared in the postseason a year ago.
Western Illinois opens a solid non-conference schedule that includes a Division I-AA quarterfinalist from 2003, and a pair of 2003 bowl teams.
The Huskers will complete a three-game contract with Southern Miss when the Golden Eagles travel to Lincoln on Sept. 11. The Huskers won 38-14 last season in Hattiesburg, but the Eagles rebounded to post a perfect league record and win the Conference USA, before playing in the Liberty Bowl. A trip to Pittsburgh will complete the 2004 non-conference schedule. Nebraska will visit Heinz Field on Sept. 18 to take on the Panthers, who played in the Continental Tire Bowl last fall. Pittsburgh is scheduled to travel to Lincoln on Sept. 17, 2005.
Nebraska will open Big 12 Conference action against Kansas (Tangerine Bowl) on Oct. 2 in Lincoln. Other conference home games include Baylor (Oct. 16), Missouri (Oct. 30, Independence Bowl) and Colorado (Nov. 26). The Huskers face a difficult league road slate, traveling to Texas Tech (Oct. 9, Houston Bowl), defending league champion Kansas State (Oct. 23, Fiesta Bowl), Iowa State (Nov. 6) and 2003 South Division champ Oklahoma (Nov. 13, Sugar Bowl). Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma rotated onto the Huskers' schedule this fall, while Nebraska will not face Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State this season.
Seven of Nebraska's 2004 opponents won eight or more games last season, including Western Illinois, Southern Miss, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Missouri and Oklahoma.
Scanning the Polls
Nebraska is unranked entering the season for the second consecutive year. The Huskers received enough points in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll to rank 26th and were 27th in points in the Associated Press listing. This marks just the second time since 1969 that Nebraska has began the season unranked in the Associated Press Poll (also 2003).
Three teams on the Nebraska schedule are nationally ranked in the preseason, including No. 2/2 (AP/Coaches) Oklahoma, No. 12/13 Kansas State and No. 17/18 Missouri. Texas is the fourth Big 12 team in the preseason rankings, as the Longhorns check in at No. 7/8.
Huskers Boast Nation’s Best Win Streak in Season Openers
Nebraska will be looking to continue a long run of dominance in season openers on Saturday night against Western Illinois. The Huskers have been victorious in their last 18 season openers since a 17-13 setback against Florida State in 1985 at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska’s 18-game win streak in season openers tops the nation, followed by Florida State with 15, and Kansas State and Florida with 14 each.
Nebraska has won each of those 18 games by at least 10 points, and owns an 83-26-5 all-time record in season openers. Since 1973, the Huskers are 26-4-1 in season openers, including 21-2 at Memorial Stadium, with losses to only Florida State in 1985 and Washington State in 1977. In all-time home openers, Nebraska is 92-17-5, including 64-14-3 at Memorial Stadium. The Huskers are 28-2 in their last 30 home openers.
Callahan Poised to Continue Success of First-Year Husker Coaches
The Nebraska football program has a history of success under first-year head coaches. Bill Callahan is the 27th coach in the 115-year history of the program, but just the fourth head coach since the start of the 1962 season.Each of Nebraska's past three head coaches began their Husker coaching career with nine-win campaigns. Bob Devaney posted a 9-2 record and led NU to the Gotham Bowl in 1962, following six consecutive losing seasons; Tom Osborne guided the Huskers to a 9-2-1 record and a Cotton Bowl bid in 1973, and Frank Solich's first squad in 1998 finished 9-4 and played in the Holiday Bowl.
Historically, first-year Nebraska head coaches have gotten their Cornhusker careers off to a good start from the outset. Nebraska’s 26 previous head coaches are 18-7-1 in their Husker sideline debuts, including a remarkable 14 shutouts. The Huskers’ first nine official head coaches posted shutouts in their initial game on the sideline. Callahan is the seventh straight Nebraska head coach to open his Cornhusker career at Memorial Stadium.
Construction at Memorial Stadium to Continue Throughout 2004 Nebraska is in the midst of a major building and stadium improvement project on the north end of Memorial Stadium. The $50 million project includes an addition of more than 6,000 seats to Memorial Stadium, which will raise Nebraska’s average crowd to 80,000 fans per game.
The project also includes the Tom and Nancy Osborne Athletic Complex, which will include a new locker room for the Husker football program. The building will include new football offices, a new strength complex, new training room, water therapy pools and administrative offices. The improvement project also features a new indoor workout facility, giving the Huskers two full-sized indoor practice areas adjacent to two outdoor grass fields. The project will not be completely until the 2006 season, leading to a few changes for Husker fans and opponents this fall.
The demolition of the north fieldhouse has forced the relocation of opposing teams to East Stadium. Husker opponents will locker in the south end of the East Stadium and will enter Tom Osborne Field from the southeast corner. Nebraska will continue to enter the playing field from the southwest corner for the next two seasons, before moving to the North Stadium for the 2006 season.
Husker fans will also see minor changes in their game-day routine, beginning this Saturday. Gate 14 on the northeast corner of the stadium has been combined with Gate 15. Fans previously using that entrance will now use Gate 15.
Ruud Earning a Permanent Place in Cornhusker Tradition
Nebraska senior Mike linebacker Barrett Ruud has enjoyed a memorable first three seasons in the Husker program and his senior season figures to add to the memories. The 6-2, 240-pound Lincoln native had a record-setting 2003 campaign when he racked up 149 tackles, the most ever in a season by a Husker defender. Ruud had 78 unassisted tackles among his total, the second most in a season in Nebraska history, trailing only 2003 teammate Demorrio Williams who racked up 83 unassisted tackles.
Ruud enters his senior year just 53 tackles behind Nebraska career tackle leader Jerry Murtaugh, who collected 342 tackles from 1968 to 1970. During his record-setting 2003 season, Ruud raced past his father, Tom, on the Nebraska career tackles list.Tom Ruud finished his Husker career (1972-74) with 202 career tackles, including a team-leading 104 tackles in 1974.
The father-son Ruud combination own several Husker defensive milestones.
- Tom and Barrett Ruud are the only father-son combination to both lead Nebraska in tackles in a single season.
- The Ruud's are the only family combination to both rank in the top 25 on Nebraska's career tackles list.
- Barrett and Tom Ruud have a combined 491 career tackles entering Barrett's senior season.
During fall camp, Barrett Ruud was elected as one of four team captains for the 2004 season, allowing the Butkus Award candidate to join his father in the fraternity of Husker captains. The Ruuds are the first father-son duo to serve as captains during their respective Husker careers.
The family connections continue beyond the father-son relationship for the Ruud family. In addition to Tom and Barrett Ruud, several other family members have made their mark at Nebraska. Barrett's great-grandfather, Clarence Swanson, was an all-conference selection during his Nebraska career (1918-21), while two of Barrett's uncles, Bob Martin (1973-75) and John Ruud (1978-79) also played for Nebraska. Both Swanson and Martin also served as Husker team captains. This fall, the Ruud family connection grows, as Barrett's younger brother, Bo, is a redshirt freshman Sam linebacker and could line up alongside his brother.
Secondary to None
The Nebraska defensive backfield returns three starters for the 2004 season–free safety Josh Bullocks, strong safety Daniel Bullocks and cornerback Fabian Washington. Also back is fifth-year senior Lornell McPherson who has played in 38 games and made nine starts during his Husker career.
The secondary has earned recognition for its talents. The Sporting News listed the unit as the top defensive backfield in the nation, while Lindy's ranks the unit second and Athlon Sports tabs the NU secondary sixth. Josh Bullocks earned first-team All-America honors last season when he intercepted a school-record 10 passes. This summer, Bullocks has been named to nearly every first-team All-America list and is a leading contender for the Thorpe Award. Washington was a third-team All-Big 12 pick last season and is listed as the No. 1 corner in the conference and No. 6 cornerback in the country by The Sporting News heading into the 2004 season.
Numbers back up the preseason hype. As a group the Bullocks' brothers, McPherson and Washington have played in 115 career games at Nebraska with a combined 61 starts. They have also combined to intercept 27 passes, led by Josh Bullocks' 11 picks, and break up 45 passes, including 23 by Washington. McPherson is the only senior among the group, while the other three all have two seasons of eligibility remaining.
The Blackshirts have a history of outstanding defensive backs, but never before has a Nebraska defense featured a secondary with a chance to make such a significant dent in the school record book.
Josh Bullocks enters the season third on the Nebraska career interception list with 11 picks, three behind career leader Dana Stephenson and just one pick behind Bret Clark, who is second with 12 interceptions. Washington's eight career interceptions are just one outside the top 10, while McPherson has the top 10 in his sights with six career picks, including four in 2004.
The 1969 Husker team featured a threesome that completed their careers with 33 interceptions (Stephenson, 14; Bill Kosch, 10; Jim Anderson, 9), while Kosch, Anderson and Joe Blahak were all members of the 1970 and 1971 national championship teams and completed their careers with a combined 29 interceptions. Josh Bullocks, Washington and McPherson need nine combined interceptions this fall to become the top trio of teammates in career interceptions.
The 19 combined interceptions of Josh Bullocks and Fabian Washington are Nebraska's most since teammates Mike and Ralph Brown combined for 20 career interceptions from 1996 to 1999. Stephenson and Kosch were teammates on the 1969 team and finished their careers with a combined 24 picks.
Blackshirts Hope to Continue Opportunistic Ways
Nebraska’s Blackshirt defense has a well-deserved reputation as traditionally being one of the nation’s most dominant defenses. Last season, the hallmark of the Husker defense was forcing turnovers, as the Blackshirts took the ball away from the opposition 47 times on the season, the second-best total in the country. The takeaways helped Nebraska to a nation-best +1.77 turnover margin in 2003.
The 47 takeaways last season tied the Nebraska school record, also set in 1972, while Nebraska’s 32 interceptions set a school record. Last season continued a long trend of Nebraska being among the nation’s best in the turnover department. Over the past 30 years, Nebraska has had a positive turnover margin in 27 of those seasons and was even in another season.
Dailey Expected to Take Reins of Callahan’s West Coast Offense
Sophomore Joe Dailey is expected to be under center when the Husker offense hits the field on Saturday night. Dailey served as Jammal Lord’s backup as a true freshman last season and played in eight contests. Recent Husker quarterbacks have made a strong impression in their first start under center. Below is a list of how several of Nebraska’s recent quarterbacks fared in their starting debut.
2002, Jammal Lord vs. Arizona State, Nebraska won 48-10
Passing–5-13-0, 33 yards, 1 TD
Rushing–17 carries, 103 yards
1998, Eric Crouch vs. UAB, Nebraska won 38-7
Passing–11-17-0, 127 yards, 1 TD
Rushing–7 carries, 69 yards, 2 TD
1998, Bobby Newcombe vs. Louisiana Tech, Nebraska won 56-27
Passing–9-10-0, 168 yards, 1 TD
Rushing–12 carries, 12 yards, 2 TD
1996, Scott Frost vs. Michigan State, Nebraska won 55-14
Passing–5-12-0, 74 yard, 1 TD
Rushing–10 carries, 58 yards, 1 TD
1992, Tommie Frazier at Missouri, Nebraska won 34-24
Passing–9-20-0, 157 yards
Rushing–14 carries, 77 yards, 3 TD
1981, Turner Gill vs. Colorado, Nebraska won 59-0
Passing–9-14-0, 178 yards, 4 TD
Rushing–6 carries, 46 yards
Husker Personnel, Injury Update
Several Husker newcomers have made their mark during fall camp and could see their first action against Western Illinois. Freshmen quarterbacks Ryan Goodman and Beau Davis figure to be the top backups to sophomore Joe Dailey at the start of the season. Freshman wideout Terrence Nunn has impressed the Nebraska coaching staff throughout the fall and is likely to be in NU’s regular receiver rotation. In the backfield, freshman Brandon Jackson could compete for significant action. Defensively, cornerback Cortney Grixby made a strong impression throughout the month of August and could see immediate action.
Nebraska suffered the usual share of bumps and bruises during training camp, but enters the 2004 season in relatively good physical condition. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Adams, a transfer from Grossmont (Calif.) College, had his spleen removed on Friday, Aug. 27 and has been ruled out of action for the season opener.
NCAA Record 262 Consecutive Sellouts
Nebraska boasts an incredible NCAA-record 262 consecutive sellouts at Memorial Stadium. The sellout streak dates back to Hall of Fame Coach Bob Devaney's first year in 1962 (vs. Missouri on Nov. 3). Notre Dame is second in all-time consecutive sellouts with 173, 89 fewer than Nebraska.
The Huskers are 233-29 during the 262 sellouts. The mark includes a 38-20 record against ranked teams. Nebraska is 5-0 in the five milestone sellouts during that period (50th, 100th, 150th, 200th and 250th sellouts), including a 24-7 win over No. 2 Colorado on Oct. 29, 1994 (No. 200) and a 44-13 victory over Utah State on Sept. 7, 2002 (No. 250).
The fan support at Memorial Stadium has led to a dominant home advantage for the Huskers in Lincoln. Nebraska has won at least six home games in each of the past 17 seasons and is a remarkable 145-13 at Memorial Stadium since 1981, with eight of those losses coming against teams that finished the season ranked in the top eight of the Associated Press Poll.
Nebraska will play host to six home games in 2004, which should bring the sellout streak to 268 games by season's end.
Memorial Stadium Magic
Nebraska’s record home sellout streak is testament to the Huskers playing in front of the nation’s best college football fans. On the field, Nebraska has rewarded the loyalty of the Husker Nation with incredible success at Memorial Stadium through the years.
Nebraska had a nation-leading 26-game home winning streak end with a loss to Texas in November, 2002. The loss ended the third-longest home winning streak in school history and Nebraska’s third home win streak of 20 games or more since 1980, including a school-record 47-game home winning streak from 1991 to 1998.
The Huskers finished 6-1 at home in 2003, and have now won at least six home games in each of the past 17 seasons. Nebraska is 101-6 at home the last 16 years, including a pair of losses to teams that went on to win shares of the national championship–Colorado in 1990 and Washington in 1991.
The Huskers are 468-125-20 (.780, 613 games, 114 years) in Lincoln, 343-102-13 (.763, 458 games, 81 years) in Memorial Stadium (since 1923). The 2002 season marked the first time Nebraska has lost two home games (Texas, Colorado) in a season since 1980.
Since 1986 (18 seasons), NU is 112-8 in Lincoln, with losses to Colorado (twice), Washington, Oklahoma (twice), Texas (twice) and Kansas State. Nebraska has not been shut out at home since a 12-0 loss to Kansas State in 1968 (228 games). NU has posted 40 unbeaten and untied home seasons. Husker faithful set a new attendance record in Memorial Stadium in 2002 against Texas with 78,268 fans.
Nebraska Tops Elite Programs in Consistency
Nebraska ranks third among Division I-A schools in all-time football victories with 781 wins. The Huskers have the nation’s best record since 1962, posting a 415-88-5 record in the last 42 seasons. In that period, Nebraska has easily been the most consistent program in the nation. That is evident when comparing the Huskers’ record to the other nine programs among the top 10 in all-time victories.
The Huskers have had just three seasons since 1962 with eight or fewer victories. Eight of the other nine schools in the top 10 have had at least 15 seasons with eight or fewer wins in that span. Nebraska’s last losing season occurred in 1961. Michigan has not had a losing record since 1967, but the other eight schools on the all-time top 10 wins list have all had losing seasons since 1988, including six programs with losing campaigns in the past seven seasons.
Nebraska finished 10-3 last fall and was one of seven of the nation's top 10 all-time programs that finished the season nationally ranked.
Huskers Own An Unprecedented Winning Tradition
Nebraska, the nation's third-winningest program all time (fourth by percentage), boasts a 781-311-40 record in 1,132 games (.708) in 114 years of football. In the last 35 years, NU is tops, posting a record of 347-70-5 for an .828 winning percentage (422 games), an average of nearly 10 wins per year.
NU has won 10-or-more games 24 times since 1962, has gone undefeated and untied through the regular season seven times, played in 13 national title games (for at least one of the teams) and won the championship five times. Since the first Nebraska season in 1890, Husker teams have won 11 or more games 12 times, including seven of the last 11 years. NU has won 12 or more games seven times, and 13 games three times (1971, 1994 and 1997).
Nebraska (702), Michigan (705), Alabama (728) and Notre Dame (736) were the only four programs to win 700 games in the 1900s. NU became the first Division I team to win 100 or more games in consecutive decades, ranking first in the 1980s (103-20-0, .837) and second in the 1990s (108-16-1, .890) and posted a nation’s best 309-56-5 record in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
Huskers To Bid for NCAA-Record 36th Consecutive Bowl Appearance in 2004 Campaign
Nebraska’s visit to the 2003 Mastercard Alamo Bowl marked the Huskers’ 35th consecutive bowl game, the nation's longest current streak and an all-time NCAA record. Michigan’s streak of consecutive bowl appearances reached 29 last year, the second-longest streak in NCAA history. Nebraska's 42 overall bowl appearances is tied for fourth best with USC, trailing Alabama's 51, Tennessee’s 44, and Texas’ 43.
Nebraska played the first of its 42 bowls in the Rose Bowl, when No. 7 Nebraska lost to No. 2 Stanford, 21-13, following the 1940 season. NU's 35 consecutive bowls began with a 45-6 win over Georgia in the 1969 Sun Bowl. The Huskers are 21-21 all-time in bowl games.
NU Owns 42 Consecutive Winning Regular Seasons
The Huskers' 10-3 record in 2003 marked Nebraska's 42nd consecutive winning regular season and its 41st winning season in the last 42 years. Nebraska saw its streak of 40 consecutive winning seasons end with a 7-7 mark in 2002. Nebraska’s streak of 40 consecutive winning seasons fell two years short of Notre Dame’s NCAA-record run of 42 straight winning campaigns from 1889 to 1932.
The Huskers boast 42 consecutive winning regular seasons and 42 straight years with a .500 or better finish. Nebraska’s 42 straight non-losing seasons is tied for second all-time in NCAA Division I-A, with Notre Dame's 42 (1889-1932), trailing only Penn State’s 49 (1939-87). Since Nebraska’s 42-year .500-or-better streak began, the Huskers have averaged nearly 10 wins per season with a 415-85-5 record (.827).
Nine Wins a Regular Occurrence for Huskers
Nebraska’s amazing run of nine-win seasons came to an end at 33 consecutive years in 2002. The streak is even more remarkable when considering that Texas and Miami now share the lead for most consecutive nine-win seasons with six apiece.
Texas’ current run of six consecutive nine-win seasons is the longest in its proud history. Miami reeled off 10 straight nine-win campaigns spanning the 1980s and 1990s and Florida State had a 14-year streak that ended in 2000.
However, among a group of other long-time powers, including Notre Dame, Penn State, Oklahoma, Michigan and Ohio State, the longest streak of nine-win seasons is eight years by both Oklahoma and Ohio State.
Nebraska has won nine-or-more games in 39 of the past 42 seasons. Only back-to-back 6-4 records in 1967 and 1968, and a 7-7 mark in 2002, have fallen short of the nine-win plateau.
All-Americans Call Nebraska Home
Free safety Josh Bullocks and punter Kyle Larson are the latest players to add their names to Nebraska's prestigious list of All-Americans, receiving honors in 2003. Larson was named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association, while Bullocks was tabbed by The Sporting News.
Larson and Bullocks' All-America selections added to Nebraska’s long list of All-Americans, beginning with tackle Vic Halligan in 1914. The Huskers have had at least one All-American in all but two (1991, 1998) of the past 34 years. Overall, Nebraska has seen 92 different players earn first-team All-America honors from at least one recognized source with 14 winning double honors for a total of 106 first-team awards. Nebraska had its most All-Americans in one season when six Huskers earned first-team honors in the 1971 national championship campaign. The offensive line is Nebraska’s most honored position, with 26 players earning 31 first-team All-America certificates.
Huskers a Fixture in National Polls
Nebraska is unranked in the preseason 2004 Associated Press poll, but is a regular visitor to the national polls. Including the 2004 preseason poll, Nebraska has been ranked in 538 of 554 AP polls since 1969 (all but one week in 1977, two weeks in 1981, the final 11 weeks of 2002 and the 2003 and 2004 preseason polls). Additionally, Nebraska has been ranked in the AP top 10 for at least one week in each of the last 34 seasons and 40 of the last 41 years.
The Huskers saw an AP Poll record streak of 348 consecutive weeks in the poll end after a 2002 loss at Iowa State. Nebraska appeared in every weekly poll from Oct. 17, 1981, to Sept. 22, 2002.
Nebraska a Regular Supplier to NFL
Nebraska had five players selected in the 2004 NFL Draft, led by Demorrio Williams who was a fourth-round selection of the Atlanta Falcons. In addition to Williams, Jammal Lord (Houston), Josh Sewell (Denver), Trevor Johnson (New York Jets) and Ryon Bingham (San Diego) had their names called during the 2004 draft. Six other Huskers signed free-agent contracts with NFL teams after the draft.
The Huskers had a total of 48 former players on NFL rosters at the start of 2004 training camps. In all, 23 teams had at least one former Husker on their 2004 training camp rosters, with San Diego and Houston with five former Huskers each, while Green Bay and Kansas City each had four former Nebraska players on their roster. Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro offensive guard Will Shields and Oakland Raiders defensive tackle John Parrella are Nebraska's most experienced NFL veterans, both entering their 12th season in the league in 2004.
Huskers Continue Nebraska Tradition of Award-Winning Excellence in Classroom
The Husker football program has a tradition of winning that can be matched by few in college football. Off the field, Nebraska has established a tradition of academic excellence that is matched by no one.
Huskers Continue to Lead Nation in Academic Honors
Nebraska continues to lead the nation in CoSIDA Academic All-Americans for all sports and all teams with 217; in first-team winners for all sports with 109; and also leads the nation in football academic honor winners with 59 first-team certificates and 81 football all-teams certificates. The 217 overall honorees is 61 better than second-place Notre Dame, while the 59 football honorees is 21 more than second-place Notre Dame's 38.
The Husker football program also leads the nation with nine NCAA Today's Top Eight Award winners, 31 NCAA postgraduate scholarship winners, including Judd Davies in 2004 and 20 National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Scholar-Athletes, most recently Chris Kelsay in 2002.
Kriewald, Cooper to Play 2004 Season as Graduate Students
Two members of Nebraska's 20-player senior class will compete in their senior seasons as graduate students. Fullback Steve Kriewald picked up his degree in construction management this May. Linebacker Ira Cooper graduated with his degree in sociology at the close of summer school in August. In addition to Kriewald and Cooper, nine Huskers are on track to finish their undergraduate work in December. Another eight are scheduled to graduate in May of 2005, putting 19 of 20 Husker seniors on track to earn their degrees by next spring.
4.0 GPAs not Uncommon to Husker Football Team
Three Husker players carry a perfect 4.0 cumulative grade-point average into the fall semester. Senior linebacker Chad Sievers (business administration) has completed his first eight semesters of college without a blemish on his report card. In addition to Sievers, sophomore offensive lineman Kurt Mann and sophomore fullback Dane Todd have each completed four semesters of college with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages.
During the spring 2004 semester, a total of seven players had 4.0 grade-point averages. Joining the three players listed above were quarterback Garth Glissman, defensive lineman Nathan Krug, safety Brandon Rigoni and safety Blake Tiedtke. A total of nine players had perfect 4.0 semesters in the fall of 2003.
Huskers Top Big 12 in Graduation Rates
Nebraska has led the Big 12 in graduation rates four times since the conference was formed eight years ago. In addition, Nebraska’s Exhausted Eligibility Graduation Rate increased for the fifth consecutive year and is currently a Big 12-leading 91 percent. The Exhausted Eligibility Rate surveys the graduation of scholarship student-athletes who entered the University of Nebraska from 1988 through 1997 and exhausted their athletic eligibility at Nebraska.
Nebraska’s football averages are higher than the national average and are higher than the general student population at UNL as well. Nebraska’s one-class average for football students entering school in 1997 is 72 percent, which is ahead of UNL's 59 percent for all students. Nebraska was one of 30 schools honored by the American Football Coaches Association, when the school received the 2004 Academic Achievement Award in late June. Nebraska was recognized for graduating 70 percent or more of its football student-athletes from the freshman class of 1998-99, as its graduation rate was 77 percent.
Two members of this year’s senior class (Steve Kriewald, Ira Cooper) have already earned their degree with nine more set to pick up their diplomas in December.
2004 Nebraska Outlook
Nebraska enters the 2004 season with ample experience to contend for a Big 12 North title. Coach Bill Callahan welcomes back 15 starters from last year's 10-3 team, including eight on offense and six on the defensive side of the ball.
On offense, Nebraska has four receivers with extensive experience, easing the transition to the West Coast Offense, and also returns three starters on the line. Defensively, seven Blackshirts return, including four in a secondary generally regarded as one of the nation's best heading into the 2004 campaign.
There will be a lot of familiar faces on the Husker offense this fall with eight returning starters from the 2003 season. That is where the familiarity will end.
Coach Bill Callahan has implemented the sophisticated West Coast Offense in Lincoln, replacing the option running attack Nebraska favored for more than two decades. The new offense will allow the Huskers to attack opposing defenses, both through a controlled passing game and a power rushing attack.
New defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove inherits a talented defense that includes six returning starters. The 2003 Blackshirts were among the nation's top defenses in several categories, and led the country in takeaways, interceptions and pass efficiency defense.
All-America safety Josh Bullocks is at the heart of a secondary considered by most to be among the best in the nation. Meanwhile, senior Barrett Ruud will man the middle of the linebacking corps for the third straight year after setting a school season record for tackles as a junior.
Special Teams To Feature New Faces in 2004
Nebraska has a strong tradition of special teams excellence, and Callahan has stressed the importance of that aspect of the game since taking over in January.
The Husker special teams will be re-tooled in several areas. Punter Kyle Larson has moved on to the professional ranks after three seasons as a starter, including an All-America campaign in 2003. Josh Davis has also graduated, after he set school records as a kick returner and handled the punt return duties as a senior.
Two experienced kickers return to battle for the starting place-kicking duties. Sophomore David Dyches emerged early as a true freshman, making 14-of-21 field goals and all 32 of his extra-point attempts in 2003. Dyches will be challenged by senior Sandro DeAngelis who has extensive experience in his NU career. Junior Sam Koch performed well on kickoff duties last fall and is the front-runner to take over for Larson at punter.
For a full Husker outlook, including a position-by-position breakdown, please see pages 74-77 of the 2004 Nebraska football media guide.