Huskers Open Big 12 Action Against Kansas
The 2-1 Nebraska Cornhuskers open Big 12 Conference play against Kansas on Saturday, Oct. 2 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. The game is set for a 6:10 p.m. (CDT) kickoff and will be televised on a pay-per-view basis. The Huskers are coming off an a bye week on Saturday, Sept. 25.
The Huskers will enter conference action following a 24-17 victory at Pittsburgh in their 2004 road opener. The victory allowed Nebraska to bounce back from a 21-17 setback the previous week against Southern Miss and NU’s 2-1 record marks the 23rd straight year the Huskers have completed non-conference action with a winning record.
The 2-2 Jayhawks opened Big 12 Conference play last Saturday in Lawrence, dropping a 31-30 contest against Texas Tech. The loss dropped KU to 2-2 on the season, as it opened the season with victories over Tulsa (21-3) and Toledo (63-14), but dropped a 20-17 decision at Northwestern on Sept. 18, before the loss to the Red Raiders.
The matchup with the Jayhawks will be the 111th in the all-time series between the two schools, the most of any Husker opponent. The Nebraska-Kansas series is the nation’s longest continuous series, with next week’s meeting marking the 99th straight year the schools have met on the gridiron. Nebraska holds a commanding 86-21-3 edge in the all-time series and has won each of the last 35 meetings, marking the second-longest win streak against an opponent in Division I-A football. The Oct. 2 meeting between the Huskers and Kansas is the earliest ever between the schools. The traditional rivals have met in November each of the past four years and 15 of the past 21 meetings.
Scouting the Kansas Jayhawks
While the matchup with the Jayhawks will be the conference opener for Nebraska, Kansas opened league play last weekend against the high-flying aerial act of the Texas Tech Red Raiders. KU ran to a big early lead and was ahead 30-11 at the intermission, but Texas Tech kept chipping away at the lead before coming out with a 31-30 victory in Lawrence. The loss dropped KU to 2-2 (0-1 Big 12) heading into Saturday’s contest with the Huskers.
The Jayhawks head into the weekend averaging 32.8 points per game behind an offense that has gained 347.0 total offense yards per contest this year. On the other side of the ball, KU has given up just 17.0 points and 328.5 total offense yards per game, including just 110.2 rushing yards per contest. Opponents are converting just 25 percent (15-of-59) of their third-down attempts while the Jayhawks have made it 36 percent (24-of-66) of the time.
Much of the Jayhawks’ offense has come through the air where quarterback Adam Barmann has connected on 56.6 percent (90-of-159) of his pass attempts for 927 yards. He has tossed nine scoring strikes against five interceptions. Brandon Rideau has been Barmann’s favorite target early in the season, as the pair have hooked up on 23 receptions for 233 yards and four touchdowns. Mark Simmons (17), John Randle (16) and Lyone Anderson (10) also have at least 10 receptions.
Randle leads the team in rushing with 57.0 yards per game. He has averaged 3.6 yards per carry and has turned in a team-best three rushing touchdowns through three games.
Greg Heaggans, who is fourth on the team in receiving yards, leads the special teams. Heaggans has averaged 33.2 yards on four kickoff returns, including a season-best 55-yarder. Randle has also excelled on kickoff returns, averaging 27.3 yards on six returns.
Kansas Coach Mark Mangino
Kansas Coach Mark Mangino is in his third season guiding the Jayhawk program and third season overall as a head coach. The New Castle, Pa., native took over the reigns in 2002 and has produced a 10-19 record heading into this weekend’s matchup in Lincoln.
Last year, Mangino helped the Jayhawks to a 6-7 record, the most wins by a KU squad since it went 10-2 in 1995. The Jayhawks set 12 single-season school records last year, including most points (384), most touchdown passes (25) and most yards gained (5,479).
Before taking over at KU, Mangino established himself in the Big 12 Conference by spending eight seasons (1991-98) at Kansas State and three at Oklahoma (1999-2001). He was assistant head coach for Bill Snyder’s Wildcats in 1998, and was assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Oklahoma (2000-01).
Nebraska-Kansas Series...NU leads, 86-21-3
The matchup between the Huskers and Jayhawks will be the 111th in series history dating back to a 12-0 Kansas victory in Lincoln in 1892. NU and KU have played every year since 1906, making it the longest-running continuous series in NCAA history (98 games). The only years the teams have not faced off since the start of the series are 1904 and 1905.
The Huskers own a 35-game series winning streak dating back to 1969. The Huskers’ last loss to KU came in a 23-13 setback in Lincoln in 1968 when the Jayhawks were ranked sixth nationally and the Huskers were ninth.
Nebraska has allowed the Jayhawks to score more than 17 points just twice in the last 25 meetings, while KU has managed more than seven points just twice in the past nine contests. The Huskers hold an average scoring advantage of +16.1 (25.1-9.0) in the series.
Huskers Successful in Season’s First Road Trip at Pittsburgh
Nebraska’s Blackshirts played dominant defense and the offense played turnover-free football for 55 minutes to build a 24-7 lead, before the Huskers survived a furious Pittsburgh rally in the final five minutes to escape from Heinz Field with a 24-17 victory.
After cruising to a 24-7 lead and maintaining a 24-10 lead with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Joe Dailey’s pass was intercepted by H.B. Blades and returned to the Husker 34. The Panthers capitalized on the next play with a 34-yard touchdown strike from Tyler Palko to Greg Lee to cut NU’s lead to 24-17 with 4:44 remaining. The Huskers maintained a seven-point lead after picking up a crucial first down to leave Pittsburgh with just 1:18 to play and 76 yards of field to cover in order to send the game to overtime. Pittsburgh converted a fourth-and-long situation and reached the Husker 14-yard line with less than 10 seconds remaining, but on the game’s final play, Palko’s desperation jump ball was batted to the ground to give the Huskers the win.
The Huskers forced four Pittsburgh turnovers, including three interceptions and a fumble recovery on special teams. Fabian Washington’s interception and 19-yard return to the Pittsburgh 4-yard line set up a 26-yard field goal by Sandro DeAngelis that gave NU a 3-0 lead with 7:16 to play in the first quarter.
Minutes later, Wali Muhammad snagged his first career interception and returned it four yards to the Pittsburgh 2-yard line. That Panther turnover set up a two-yard touchdown run by Cory Ross to give NU a 10-0 lead. Although Nebraska dominated the first 14 minutes, Pittsburgh struck quickly with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Marcus Furman to trim NU’s lead to 10-7 with 52 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Huskers’ ensuing drive stalled across midfield, but Sam Koch’s punt was mishandled by Allen Richardson and was covered by Kellen Huston. Nebraska capitalized immediately with a six-yard touchdown strike from Dailey to Ross Pilkington to expand the lead to 17-7. After the Blackshirts forced a Panther punt, the Husker offense responded with a scoring drive, marching 70 yards in eight plays capped by Dailey’s 17-yard scoring run to put NU firmly in control at 24-7 with 5:46 to play in the first half.
Pittsburgh’s Adam Graessle added a 38-yard field goal with four seconds left in the first half to trim NU’s lead to 24-10, before both defenses dominated the next 25 minutes to set up the excitement of the final five minutes.
For the day, Nebraska gained 265 yards of total offense, including 142 passing yards and 123 yards on the ground. Pittsburgh managed 258 total yards, including 228 yards passing while managing just 30 yards rushing. The Panthers were limited to 108 total yards in the game’s first three quarters.
Ross finished the day with 73 yards on 24 carries, despite slippery field conditions left in the aftermath of heavy rains caused by Hurricane Ivan in the Pittsburgh area. Dailey closed the day with 142 yards on 11 completions in 22 attempts. He added one touchdown passing and threw just one interception.
Recapping Game Three...Nebraska 24, Pittsburgh 17
Sophomore quarterback Joe Dailey passed for one touchdown and rushed for another in the victory and has now accounted for 10 touchdowns in three games.
Junior free safety Josh Bullocks intercepted a second-quarter Pittsburgh pass, marking his first interception of the season and the 12th of his Nebraska career. Bullocks’ 12 career interceptions tie him for second on the Nebraska career list with Bret Clark, just two behind career leader Dana Stephenson’s 14 interceptions.
Fabian Washington’s first-quarter interception was the 10th of his Nebraska career and the first of four Husker takeaways on the day. Washington’s 10 career picks rank in a tie for seventh place on the Nebraska career list.
Senior linebacker Barrett Ruud made 12 tackles to increase his career total to 320 tackles, just 22 tackles behind Nebraska career leader Jerry Murtaugh who recorded 342 tackles from 1968 to 1970.
Nebraska limited Pittsburgh to just 30 rushing yards, marking the fifth straight game Nebraska has held the opposition to less than 100 yards rushing. NU has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season, and the longest rush by an opponent has been 14 yards.
The Blackshirt defense’s four takeaways pushed NU’s season total to 10, including five against Western Illinois and one vs. Southern Miss. NU has had three or more takeaways in 12 of 16 games since the start of 2003. Nebraska converted its four takeaways into 17 first-half points.
Tight end Matt Herian caught two passes for 26 yards. His 26 receiving yards in the game give him 991 yards in his Nebraska career, leaving him just nine yards shy of becoming the 12th Husker with at least 1,000 career receiving yards. Herian now has 46 career receptions, tied for the fifth-most career receptions by a Nebraska tight end.
Junior receiver Ross Pilkington caught a career-high tying five passes for 81 yards, including four receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown before halftime. Pilkington now has 45 career receptions to rank in a tie for 26th on the Husker career receptions list.
Pittsburgh’s first offensive snap in NU territory occurred with 47 seconds remaining in the first half. The Panthers did not have an offensive snap beyond their own 17-yard line in the first quarter.
Nebraska’s victory was its second straight in a road opener and Nebraska’s 18th in its past 22 road openers.
The victory allowed Nebraska to complete non-conference play with a winning record for the 23rd straight season, dating back to a 2-2 non-league record in 1981.
Three Huskers made their first career start against Pittsburgh, including freshman cornerback Cortney Grixby, sophomore defensive end Jay Moore and redshirt freshman I-back Tierre Green (NU opened with two I-backs).
Nebraska passed for 142 yards vs. Pittsburgh and has passed for 562 yards in the first three games of the season. Nebraska’s 562 passing yards in the first three games of the 2004 season is its most in a three-game season-opening stretch since 1993, when the Huskers recorded 577 yards.
Huskers Look to Continue Success in League Openers
Nebraska has made a tradition of opening conference play in a winning fashion. The Huskers have won 28 of their last 29 conference openers since 1974, with the lone loss a 36-14 setback at Iowa State in 2002. Last season, Nebraska opened Big 12 play in its first game of the season and posted a 17-7 victory over Oklahoma State at Memorial Stadium.
In addition, Nebraska has won its last 26 conference home openers since a 24-21 setback against Iowa State to begin the 1977 home Big Eight campaign. Nebraska is 88-18-2 all-time in conference openers, including a 38-6-1 mark in Lincoln. Since the inception of the Big 12 Conference, Nebraska is 7-1 in league openers. The last time Nebraska met Kansas in a conference opener was in 1988 when the Huskers won 63-10 in Lawrence.
Nebraska Owns Remarkable Run of Dominance Against Jayhawks
Nebraska will look to extend its winning streak against Kansas to 36 games with a victory next Saturday in Lincoln. The Huskers’ 35-game win streak against the Jayhawks is the second longest in Division I-A, trailing only Notre Dame’s 40-game win streak over Navy.
The Huskers have completely dominated Kansas during the 35-game win streak, with the Huskers scoring 40 or more points in 26 of the 35 games in that stretch. Conversely, the Blackshirt defense has limited Kansas to single digits 23 times in the 35-game win streak, including 10 shutouts. The Jayhawks have scored just 17 combined points in the last three meetings with Nebraska.
West Coast Offense Fits Nicely in Heartland
Nebraska fans who may have been nervous about seeing a new offense in Lincoln have had their fears calmed quickly by outstanding offensive production early in the 2004 season.
The Huskers took just 1:53 to reach the end zone on the first drive of the game in the season opener against Western Illinois, mixing the run and the pass. By the end of the first quarter against WIU the stat sheet exhibited the precision, potency and versatility of Nebraska’s West Coast Offense.
13 first downs
13 rushing attempts for 110 yards
13 passing attempts for 105 yards
215 total offensive yards, the most by Nebraska in an opening quarter since the Huskers piled up 224 yards in the opening quarter of a 41-31 victory over Texas Tech in 2001 (NU led 21-13 after first quarter)
The offensive masterpiece continued in the second quarter, as NU rolled up 398 yards before half. The Huskers finished the game with 581 yards of total offense, their most since posting 595 total yards in a 38-14 victory over McNeese State in 2002. The Huskers’ 56-point output was the most by a Nebraska team in 41 games, dating back to a 66-17 victory over Northwestern in the 2000 Alamo Bowl.
Despite falling to Southern Miss in game two, the offense again moved the ball with consistency and showed the balance Callahan expects from his West Coast Offense. Against the Golden Eagles, Nebraska racked up 476 total yards, including 274 yards rushing and 202 passing yards. The Huskers rushed the ball 46 times in the game and threw a school-record tying 42 passes on the day.
Through three games, Nebraska ranks 27th nationally in total offense at 440.7 yards per game. The move to the West Coast Offense has not signaled the end of power football in Lincoln. In fact, Nebraska ranks 12th nationally in rushing offense at 253.3 yards per game.
The "200-200" Club
Nebraska topped 200 yards in both rushing and passing in each of the first two games this fall. Entering the season, Nebraska had not had a game in which it has recorded both 200 yards rushing and passing since Sept. 5, 1998, when the Huskers accomplished the feat against UAB.
The consecutive "200-200" games marked the first time the Huskers posted back-to-back games with 200-plus totals in both rushing and passing since the 1993 season. In 1993, Nebraska opened with victories against North Texas and Texas Tech and topped 300 yards in both games on the ground, while producing 215 and 217-yard passing efforts, respectively.
Sophomore Dailey at Control of Husker Offensive Attack
Sophomore Joe Dailey has been the man under the microscope as Nebraska’s starting quarterback. Dailey was plagued by turnovers in the first two games, but has also shown the ability to successfully direct the West Coast Offensive attack that Bill Callahan has installed in Lincoln.
Dailey topped 200 yards passing in the first two games. He scorched the Western Illinois defense for 218 passing yards and four TDs in a 56-17 victory, with all four of his passing scores and 213 yards through the air before halftime. A week later against Southern Miss, the Jersey City, N.J. native threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns, while attempting a school-record tying 42 passes. Dailey threw for 142 yards at Pittsburgh and through three games has completed 51 percent of his passes for 562 yards, with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Head Coach Bill Callahan was impressed by the performance of his young quarterback in his first career start against Western Illinois.
"I think he learned some invaluable lessons and until you get under the gun as a quarterback in this system you just don’t know. He came out very focused tonight. His preparation was very thorough. I thought he managed the system very well and I will tell you that there aren’t very many quarterbacks in the National Football League that can handle what he handled here tonight mentally."
While Callahan will continue to stress better ball security, the 6-0, 205-pound Dailey has recorded several passing accomplishments to start the year, including...
Dailey’s 218 passing yards against Western Illinois marked the first time a Husker had passed for more than 200 yards since Eric Crouch threw for 204 yards at Texas on Oct. 23, 1999. Dailey threw for 213 yards in the first half, the most by a Husker player before halftime since Scott Frost threw for 220 yards against Kansas in 1996. Frost had 254 yards passing in the game and the Huskers threw for 273 yards as a team in that contest.
Dailey passed for four touchdowns against WIU, marking the first time a Husker had thrown for four touchdowns since Eric Crouch passed for five touchdowns against Iowa in 2000. His six touchdowns in a two-game stretch were the most since Crouch connected for seven TD passes in 2000 in consecutive games vs. Iowa (5) and Missouri (2).
Dailey is the first Husker since World War II to throw six touchdown passes in the first two games of a season.
Dailey added two rushing scores against WIU, giving him six total touchdowns in the game. His six total offense TDs tied a Nebraska school record, joining quarterback Gerry Gdowski who accounted for six touchdowns in a 1989 win over Iowa State (4 rush, 2 pass), and I-back Calvin Jones who rushed for six touchdowns at Kansas in 1991.
The 218 passing yards were the most ever by a Husker in a season opener, bettering the 168 by Jerry Tagge against Wake Forest in 1970 and Bobby Newcombe against Louisiana Tech in 1998. Dailey’s 420 passing yards in the first two games of the season are the most since at least 1946, and the most passing yards by a Husker in any two-game period since Brook Berringer threw for 460 yards in consecutive games against Kansas (267) and at Iowa State (193) in November of 1994. The last time a Husker had passed for 200 yards in two straight games prior to Dailey was Vince Ferragamo against TCU (218) and Miami (264) in 1976.
Tight End Herian Perfect Fit in West Coast Offense
Junior tight end Matt Herian made a strong impression during his first two seasons, becoming known as a big-play threat while earning first-team All-Big 12 honors. The 6-5, 240-pound Herian hauled in seven touchdown catches in his first two seasons and figured to be one of the main beneficiaries of Nebraska’s new offensive attack.
Western Illinois defensive coordinator Vince Okruch witnessed a pair of Herian touchdowns in the past two seasons as Colorado’s coordinator. Herian’s ability scared Okruch entering the season-opening matchup with Nebraska.
"I think he’s the best tight end in the country. It doesn’t always look like he’s running that fast, but then he’ll just run past people. He can run as fast as any safety in the country."
Herian did nothing to change Okruch’s opinion after Nebraska’s 56-17 victory. The junior caught seven passes for 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including six catches by halftime. Herian did not let up in game two against Southern Miss, tying the Nebraska single-game record for receptions by a tight end with eight catches for 71 yards and a third touchdown of the season. The Mackey Award candidate has posted an award-winning start to the season, including...
Herian’s seven and eight-catch efforts to open the season rank as two of the five best receiving days by a tight end in school history. Herian’s eight receptions tied Dennis Morrison’s eight receptions at Colorado on Oct. 22, 1966, and his seven-catch effort is tied for third on the single-game tight end list.
Herian has 17 catches in three games, after pulling down 22 receptions in 13 games during his sophomore season. Through three games, Herian is more than halfway to the Nebraska season tight end receptions record of 31, held by Johnny Mitchell in 1991.
Herian’s 10 career touchdown receptions are just four shy of the Nebraska career record for TD catches by a tight end, held by Todd Millikan (1985-88). The Nebraska season record for TD catches by a tight end is seven, while the record for touchdown catches by any player is 11 by Johnny Rodgers in 1971.
Herian and wide receiver Willie Amos each had two touchdown receptions vs. Western Illinois, marking the first time a pair of Husker receivers caught two touchdowns apiece in the same game since Tracey Wistrom (3) and Matt Davison (2) accomplished the feat against Iowa in 2000.
Herian’s 15 receptions in the first two games were the most in a two-game stretch by any Husker since Johnny Rodgers caught 15 passes in consecutive games at Kansas State (10) and at Oklahoma (5) in 1971. Jeff Kinney caught 17 passes out of the backfield in a two-game stretch against Missouri (8) and Kansas (9) in 1969.
Herian, a Pierce, Neb., native, is closing in on another Nebraska milestone. Herian’s 195 receiving yards this season have pushed his career receiving yardage total to 991 yards. With nine receiving yards, Herian will become the 12th Husker with 1,000 career receiving yards and just the third tight end to reach that total, joining Tracey Wistrom (1,150) and Junior Miller (1,045).
Herian’s 46 career receptions are tied for the fifth-most ever by a Husker tight end, and just 15 shy of the career tight end record of 61 catches, set by Jerry List from 1970 to 1972. Additionally, Herian is tied for 24th on the overall receptions list, just 15 catches shy of moving into the top 10.
Ross Leading Productive Nebraska I-Back Committee
Junior I-back Cory Ross is the featured back in Nebraska’s offensive attack, but he has plenty of capable help at the position as evidenced by the Huskers’ ground production early in the 2004 season.
Nebraska churned out 363 rushing yards against Western Illinois, its most since rushing for 383 yards in a 38-31 win at Texas A&M in 2002. The Huskers posted 274 yards on the ground against a tough Southern Miss defense, and currently rank 12th nationally in rushing offense at 253.3 yards per game.
While running backs coach Randy Jordan has employed a committee-like rotation, there is no question that Ross is the chairman of the I-back committee. Ross is averaging 122.3 yards rushing per game, highlighted by a career-high 169 yards on 27 carries against Southern Miss.
Ross had a career-long 52-yard run on his first carry of the second half against Southern Miss. On that carry, he pushed his career rushing total to 1,001 yards and became the 54th Husker to pass 1,000 career rushing yards. Ross enters the Kansas game with 1,126 career rushing yards, 44th in school history.
With 100-yard games in the first two contests of the season, Ross has now rushed for 100 or more yards in five of his last seven games and totaled 803 rushing yards in that seven-game stretch (114.7 ypg).
Ross’ 122.3 yards per game average through three games places him 13th nationally in rushing offense, while his 146.0 all-purpose yards per game rank 21st in the nation.
Ross’ 294 yards in the first two games was the best two-game start by a Husker since I-back Dan Alexander churned out 320 yards in the first two games of the 2000 season.
Redshirt freshman Tierre Green has also been a strong force early in the season, while true freshman Brandon Jackson and junior David Horne give Nebraska four excellent options at the I-back spot. Horne gives Nebraska a pair of 1,000-yard career rushers, as he has 1,104 career rushing yards. The "committee" appears to have Nebraska’s running game in excellent hands.
Green rushed for 112 yards on seven carries (16.0 ypc) against Western Illinois, including two touchdowns. His rushing total is believed to be the most rushing yards by a Husker in a varsity debut since Tony Davis ran for 147 yards in the 1973 season opener against UCLA. Green has totaled 202 yards on 23 carries (8.8 ypc) and ranks 23rd nationally in all-purpose running with 145.0 yards per game.
The double 100-yard performance by Ross and Green against WIU marked the 70th time in school history that NU has had a pair of 100-yard rushers in the same game.
Jackson combined with Green to carry the bulk of Nebraska’s second-half rushing load vs. Western Illinois. Jackson carried 13 times for 79 yards. His 79 yards are the most by a Husker true freshman since David Horne rushed for 122 yards against Kansas in 2002, and is the most by a Husker true freshman in a season opener since at least 1973.
The I-back committee has combined for 661 yards on 107 carries, an average of 6.2 yards per attempt.
No Running, Please
The Nebraska Blackshirt defense has quickly established itself as one of the nation’s top units in 2004. The Huskers rank first in the Big 12 and sixth nationally in total defense, allowing 239.0 yards per game. The Huskers also lead the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense and rushing defense.
Nebraska’s defense has been especially dominant against the run. The Huskers are allowing just 41.3 yards per game to rank second nationally, trailing only Rice. Opponents have averaged just 1.33 yards on 93 rushing attempts against the Blackshirts, also second-best in the country. Overall, the Husker defense has succeeded in its goal of making opposing offenses one-dimensional.
Nebraska held Western Illinois to minus-three yards rushing, Southern Miss to 97 yards and Pittsburgh to just 30 yards rushing. Dating back to last season, the Huskers have held five consecutive opponents to under 100 yards rushing. Nebraska has not allowed a rushing touchdown in the season’s first three games and in five straight games overall. The Husker defense has not allowed a run of 20 yards or more in the same five-game stretch and the longest opponent rush this season is just 14 yards.
The effort against Western Illinois marked the 19th time in school history the Huskers held an opponent to negative rushing yards. The previous time Nebraska had held an opponent to negative rushing yards was against Troy State on Sept. 1, 2001, when the Trojans had minus-25 yards rushing.
Part of Nebraska’s rush defense excellence has been the negative yardage piled up as a result of sacks. The Huskers have recorded 11 sacks this season, including two each by junior defensive end Wali Muhammad, senior cornerback Lornell McPherson, and sophomore defensive end Adam Carriker. The Huskers have 28 total tackles for loss, led by four apiece by defensive end Benard Thomas (14 yards), defensive tackle Le Kevin Smith (10 yards) and linebacker Barrett Ruud (9 yards).
2004 Blackshirts Exhibit Same Ball-Hawking Ability
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.
The Blackshirts got off to the same type of disruptive start in 2004. Nebraska forced five Western Illinois turnovers in a 56-17 victory, including four interceptions. Nebraska scored 14 points off the five Leatherneck turnovers, and the Blackshirts’ five takeaways marked the second straight year Nebraska had forced five turnovers in the season opener.
Nebraska forced just a single turnover against Southern Miss, but had four takeaways, including three interceptions at Pittsburgh, all before halftime. Nebraska converted the four takeaways into 17 points. The Husker defense has now caused five or more turnovers four times in the past 16 games after not having a five-takeaway game in the previous 43 games. In 16 games since the start of the 2003 season, Nebraska has forced at least three turnovers 12 times.
Nebraska’s eight interceptions rank in a tie for second nationally, and the Huskers 85.01 pass efficiency defense ranking is sixth in the country.
In addition to causing turnovers, the Blackshirt defense has responded well to Nebraska’s own turnovers. The Husker offense has committed 12 turnovers in three games, while the kickoff return unit mishandled two kicks against Western Illinois for a total of 14 "sudden changes" through three games. Off those opportunities, the opposition has scored just 28 points, with six of those points coming on an interception return for a touchdown by Southern Miss.
Ruud Closing in on Nebraska Career Tackle Record
Nebraska senior Mike linebacker Barrett Ruud has enjoyed a memorable career 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 entered 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 Butkus Award candidate is off to a strong start to open the 2004 season, leading Nebraska with 31 total tackles through three games. Ruud had double-figure tackle totals against Western Illinois (10) and Pittsburgh (12), and now has 13 games in his career with 10 or more tackles. Ruud’s first tackle against Southern Miss gave him 300 career stops and he now has 320 total tackles, just 22 behind Murtaugh.
In addition to leading the 2004 Huskers in total tackles, Ruud’s four tackles for loss are tied for the team lead. He now has 36 career tackles for loss to rank seventh on the Husker list.
The father-son Ruud combination owns several Husker defensive milestones.
Tom and Barrett Ruud are the only father-son combination to both lead Nebraska in tackles in a single season. Barrett accomplished the feat last season, while Tom’s 104 tackles in 1974 were a team-high.
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 522 career tackles.
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 who saw the first action of his career against Western Illinois.
Secondary to None
The Nebraska defensive backfield returned 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 had played in 38 games and made nine starts entering his senior season.
The secondary earned significant 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 was named to nearly every first-team All-America list and is a leading contender for the Thorpe Award and the first annual Lott Trophy, presented to the nation’s top safety. 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 126 career games at Nebraska with a combined 72 starts. They have also combined to intercept 32 passes, led by Josh Bullocks’ 12 picks, and break up 52 passes, including 25 by Washington. McPherson is the only senior among the group, while the others are in their junior seasons.
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 is tied for second on the Nebraska career interception list with 12 picks, including his first interception of 2004 at Pittsburgh. Bullocks is tied with Bret Clark for second place, just two interceptions behind career leader Dana Stephenson. Washington picked off his second pass of the season at Pittsburgh, giving him 10 career interceptions, good for a tie for eighth on the Husker career list. McPherson and Daniel Bullocks have the top 10 in their sights with six and four career picks, respectively.
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 six more combined interceptions to become the top trio of teammates in career interceptions.
The 22 combined interceptions of Josh Bullocks and Fabian Washington are the most since Stephenson and Kosch were teammates on the 1969 team and finished their careers with a combined 24 picks.
The Husker secondary has also exhibited its depth early in the season. McPherson missed the Pittsburgh game with an injury and Washington left with an injury in the second quarter. With two starters sidelined, true freshman Cortney Grixby and fifth-year senior Kellen Huston were pushed into starring roles against the Panthers. Both responded well, as Grixby had three tackles and two pass breakups, while Huston made six tackles, had a tackle for loss, recovered a fumble and broke up five passes, tying for the second-most pass breakups in school history.
‘55 Orange Bowl Team to Gather for Kansas Game
The Nebraska football program will honor the 50th anniversary of its first Orange Bowl team next weekend when the Huskers play host to Kansas. The 1954 Husker team that played in the 1955 Orange Bowl is having a reunion on Friday, Oct. 1 and will be recognized during pre-game ceremonies before Saturday’s game with Kansas.
Thirty-four members of the 1954 team are scheduled to be in attendance for the weekend’s festivities, in addition to Head Coach Bill Glassford. The Huskers lost 34-7 to Duke in the 1955 Orange Bowl, but the contest marked the first of 17 trips to Miami for the New Year’s Classic. The 1954 Cornhuskers finished second behind Oklahoma in the Big Seven race, but went to the Orange Bowl under the no-repeat rule. Part of Nebraska’s 4-2 Big Seven record in 1954 was a 41-20 victory over Kansas in Lawrence.
2004 Husker Schedule Full of Challenges
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 opened a solid non-conference schedule that includes a Division I-AA quarterfinalist from 2003, and a pair of 2003 bowl teams.
The Huskers completed a three-game contract with Southern Miss when the Golden Eagles traveled to Lincoln and NU’s trip to Pittsburgh was the first in a two-game series. The Panthers, who played in the Continental Tire Bowl in 2003, are 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 was 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).
This week, Nebraska received 11 points in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and no points in the AP poll. Oklahoma (Nov. 13) is the only team on Nebraska’s 2004 schedule that is currently nationally ranked as the Sooners check in at No. 2 in both polls. Texas is ranked No. 5 in both polls, while Oklahoma State entered both rankings at No. 25 on Sept. 19. Six other Big 12 teams, including Nebraska, received votes in this week’s polls.
Huskers Continue Nation’s Best Win Streak in Season Openers
Nebraska continued a long run of dominance in season openers with a 56-17 win over Western Illinois. The Huskers have been victorious in their last 19 season openers since a 17-13 setback against Florida State in 1985 at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska’s 19-game win streak in season openers tops the nation, followed by Kansas State and Florida with 15 each.
Nebraska has won each of those 19 games by at least 10 points, and owns an 84-26-5 all-time record in season openers. Since 1973, the Huskers are 27-4-1 in season openers, including 22-2 at Memorial Stadium, with losses to only Florida State in 1985 and Washington State in 1977. In all-time home openers, Nebraska is 93-17-5, including 65-14-3 at Memorial Stadium. The Huskers are 29-2 in their last 31 home openers.
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 completed 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. The opponent will travel under East Stadium and enter the field from the northeast corner, but will exit the field on the southeast corner near their locker room. 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. 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.
Husker Personnel, Injury Update
Several Husker newcomers made their mark during fall camp and six Husker first-timers made their debut in the opener against Western Illinois. Offensively, five first-timers saw action for Nebraska, including starting wideout Terrence Nunn, who became the first Husker offensive player to start the first game of his true freshman season since World War II.
Other Husker offensive newcomers who saw action against Western Illinois included true freshman quarterback Ryan Goodman, true freshman I-back Brandon Jackson and junior college transfers Shamus McKoy (WR) and Cornealius Thomas (OT). Defensively, true freshman Cortney Grixby made his Husker debut at cornerback against Western Illinois and made the first start of his Nebraska career at Pittsburgh in place of the injured Lornell McPherson.
In the second game of the year, three more true freshmen saw action, including receiver Santino Panico who served as NU’s punt returner, and linebackers Michael Keenan and Lance Brandenburgh who played on Husker special teams. All three continued in their special teams roles against Pittsburgh.
Nebraska entered 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 but returned to practice on a limited basis the week before the Pittsburgh contest. His playing status is still undetermined. Cornerback Lornell McPherson and defensive end Adam Carriker missed the Pittsburgh contest because of injury, while cornerback Fabian Washington left the game in the second quarter.
NCAA Record 264 Consecutive Sellouts
Nebraska boasts an incredible NCAA-record 264 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 174, 90 fewer than Nebraska.
The Huskers are 234-30 during the 264 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 field advantage for the Huskers in Lincoln. Nebraska is a remarkable 146-14 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 Nebraska is 102-7 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 469-126-20 (.779, 615 games, 115 years) in Lincoln, 344-103-13 (.762, 460 games, 82 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 (19 seasons), NU is 113-9 in Lincoln, with losses to Colorado (twice), Washington, Oklahoma (twice), Texas (twice), Kansas State and Southern Miss. Nebraska has not been shut out at home since a 12-0 loss to Kansas State in 1968 (230 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 783 wins. The Huskers have the nation’s best record since 1962, posting a 417-89-5 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.
Huskers Own An Unprecedented Winning Tradition
Nebraska, the nation’s third-winningest program all time (fourth by percentage), boasts a 783-312-40 record in 1,135 games (.707) in 115 years of football. In the last 36 years, NU is tops, posting a record of 349-71-5 for an .827 winning percentage (425 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 417-89-5 record (.821).
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.
Huskers a Fixture in National Polls
Nebraska was unranked in the preseason 2004 Associated Press poll, but is a regular visitor to the national polls. Including the Sept. 19 AP poll, Nebraska has been ranked in 538 of 557 AP polls since 1969 (all but one week in 1977, two weeks in 1981, the final 11 weeks of 2002; the 2003 preseason poll; and the first four polls of 2004). 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.
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 Playing 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 in 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.
Nebraska Unveils Hall of Distinction
The University of Nebraska Athletic Department unveiled the Hall of Distinction on Thursday, Sept. 2 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Hall of Distinction, which is located in the Hewit Center in West Memorial Stadium, honors every Husker letterwinner who has graduated and those who have earned national academic honors.
Nebraska men’s sports date back to 1890 and its women’s sports began nearly 30 years ago. During that span, 4,625 letterwinners have earned their degrees. Nebraska currently carries a 91 percent graduation rate for student-athletes who complete their eligibility at Nebraska.
The graduation display, which honors every student-athlete who lettered and earned their undergraduate degree, is in the same hallway as the academic All-American portraits, and a display honoring Nebraska’s nation-leading 14 NCAA Today’s Top Eight Award winners. Since the award began, Nebraska leads the nation in academic All-Americans with 217 first-, second-, and third-team honorees from all sports and also leads the nation in with 109 first-team academic All-Americans.
NU Athletic Director Steve Pederson said the display was the brainchild of Associate Athletic Director for Academic Programs and Student Services Dennis Leblanc. Approximately two years of research went into tracking the letterwinners to verify names, graduation dates and degrees.