Ameer Abdullah

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Nebraska restores weight room records following complaints

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A lack of consistency in testing procedures led to a decision by Nebraska to remove weight room records from a screen at the Suh Strength Complex. This was a decision that did not go over well with players, both past and present, but fortunately those records have been restored.

The Nebraska Twittersphere caught wind of the decision to remove the old records courtesy of former Nebraska wide receiver Kenny Bell, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Bell went on a mini-monologue about the Huskers essentially removing history and the memories of those who put in work for the program, including running back Ameer Abdullah (now with the Detroit Lions).

The records in thew weight room were removed because there was a lack of consistency between training and workouts over the years those records were kept and shared. That makes some sense, but it is not as though we are talking about recognizing a running back’s career rushing yards that includes postseason bowl games when the postseason stats for players like Barry Sanders and Herschel Walker are not retroactively included (not to mention those players played at a time when regular seasons were a maximum of 11 games long). These are weight room records. Over time, how a player trains evolves and new workouts and exercises come along that are believed to be more beneficial. That could be a part of the reason for any inconsistency in the weight room.

In any event, the voices were heard and Nebraska has restored the previously removed records in the weight room.

Mangum Miracle at Memorial: BYU stuns Nebraska on last-second Hail Mary

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Nebraska (0-1) fans had to feel concerned when one second was left on the clock as BYU’s (1-0) last offensive possession was running out of time. Just as it did in 2009 in the Big 12 championship game against Texas, that last second came back to haunt Nebraska. BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum, in relief of an injured Taysom Hill, unloaded a Hail Mary pass to the end zone, and Mitch Matthews somehow came down with it across the goal line for a wild 33-28 lead and the win. The officials needed to review the final play, but it did not take long to confirm the call on the field for the game-winning touchdown. It was Mangum’s only touchdown pass of the game.

After the game BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said Hill is done for the season. The quarterback was roughed up at times and needed to leave the game twice for medical attention. That will put the offense in the hands of Mangum moving forward, and that is a tough blow to BYU.

BYU established some dominance in the first half by taking a 24-14 lead into halftime, but the Cornhuskers roared back in the second half to take a 28-27 lead into the fourth quarter. But BYU clamped down and prevented Nebraska from tacking on any more points. Meanwhile, the offense chipped away and moved into position to pull the stunner on Nebraska.

Hill ended his day with 268 passing yards and a touchdown pass to go with his 72 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. His counterpart, Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong, had 318 passing yards and three touchdowns, while the running game split contributions in the post-Ameer Abdullah era.

For Nebraska, at least it wasn’t the worst loss of the day suffered by a Big Ten team (that distinction belongs to Penn State). It did, however, do nothing to help boost the Big Ten’s sluggish start to the season’s non-conference action. Michigan and Minnesota each lost to power conference teams on Thursday night. Penn State just went down to Temple. Now Nebraska had a setback against BYU. These are the types of games the Big Ten could not afford to lose to carry over momentum gained from a nice postseason run last year. But hey, at least Northwestern topped Stanford today, so it’s not all bad for the Big Ten and Big Ten West (Wisconsin vs. Alabama pending).

For BYU, this is a great start to a very challenging September. The Cougars have Boise State, UCLA and Michigan still to play, but breaking even with a 2-2 record was always viewed as a realistic possibility and a positive start to the season. That’s still in the fold for BYU. Heck, a winning record may not be impossible to grab.

Ole Miss’ upset of ‘Bama, Marcus Mariota claim ESPYs

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In somewhat of an upset given the others in its category, it was a 2014 college football game that claimed one of the numerous honors handed out at Wednesday night’s ESPY awards show.

And, fittingly enough, it was Ole Miss’ shocking of Alabama last year that claimed the ESPY for Best Upset. The others in the category were Georgia State stunning Baylor in March Madness this past spring and the Kansas City Royals sweeping the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series last fall.

Heading into Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in early October last year, the Tide was cruising through the first half of its slate at 4-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country in the coaches’ poll. An hour of game time after kickoff, however, the goalposts came tumbling down as the Rebels claimed a 23-17 win over the Tide.

That win provided a couple of firsts for the Rebels football program: first win over the Tide since 2003, and its first-ever over a team ranked No. 1 in the country.  As the season wore on, though, it looked less and less like an upset as the Rebels finished the regular season at 9-3 and ranked ninth in the final College Football Playoff rankings. The fact that the ESPYs were voted on via online fan voting, though, may have something to do with this SEC team coming out on top in its category.

Additionally, former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was named the Best Male College Athlete.  The 2014 Heisman winner — as well as the winner of the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien and Unitas awards — Mariota left the Ducks as the all-time passing leader in nearly every major statistical categories and led Oregon to the brink of the first national championship in the program’s history.  This past April, Mariota was the second overall pick of the Tennessee Titans in the NFL draft.

The other male college athletes up for the award were Boston University hockey player Jack Eichel, Wisconsin basketball player Frank Kaminsky, Ohio State wrestler Logan Stieber and Vanderbilt baseball player Dansby Swanson.

There were five college football individuals/teams up for four other awards, but they didn’t fare as well as Ole Miss and Mariota.

Ohio State’s Cardale Jones was up for Best Breakthrough Athlete; Ohio State’s Urban Meyer for Best Coach/Manager; the entire Ohio State squad for Best Team; and Central Michigan’s Hail Mary in the Bahamas Bowl and Ameer Abdullah‘s touchdown run vs. McNeese State in the tournament-style Best Play.  The awards instead went to Little League sensation Mo’ne Davis, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, the U.S. Women’s World Cup title team and former LSU and New York Giants star Odell Beckham Jr.‘s ridiculous one-handed catch, respectively.

The night may or may not have been a total loss for Jones, though, depending on the response he received to the Twitter request sent out to a fellow ESPY nominee.

Urban Meyer, Cardale Jones, Mariota, Abdullah & CMU Hail Mary nominated for ESPY Awards

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Oh, you thought award season was over and award watch list season was in full swing? Well, you are mostly right. The midsummer award fest manufactured by ESPN known as the ESPYs are coming up in a couple of weeks, and Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones and head coach Urban Meyer are among the nominees for various awards from the world of college football.

Jones was nominated in the Best Breakthrough Athlete category. Others up for the award are New York Giants wide receiver, and former LSU Tiger, Odell Beckham Jr., golfer Jordan Spieth and Little League Baseball standout Mo’ne Davis. Jones may have a solid case to be made as the biggest breakout player last season, but that is some tough competition in the category. Beckham Jr. may end up snagging this one by the tips of his fingers, and Davis had an incredible story proving girls can be as good as any on a Little League Baseball field last summer.

Meyer may not have taken home many coach of the year honors last season despite the accomplishments of his Buckeyes squad, so we will see how he stacks up against a pretty solid field of nominees for Best Coach/Manager. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski and UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma are also nominated.

Ole Miss also received a nomination for best upset. The victory over Alabama was chosen as the best college football upset of last season and is up against Georgia State’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament victory over Baylor and the Kansas City Royals winning the American League pennant. Ole Miss should have a tough time winning that award up against those two nominees. Also, was this really the biggest upset of 2014? If so, it must have been a pretty weak year for upsets around college football. I asked my Twitter followers for the biggest upset in college football last season while writing this up. Among the responses I received, one said Ole Miss beating Alabama. The majority suggested Virginia Tech upsetting Ohio State, although that loss gets the benefit of hindsight to help its argument. Arizona beating Oregon received a few mentions, as did Christian Hackenberg avoiding injury.

There were some other college football mentions among the rest of the ESPY nominations. Central Michigan’s Hail Mary in the Bahamas Bowl and Ameer Abdullah‘s touchdown run vs. McNeese State are entered in a tournament style Best Play category. Former Oregon Duck and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota is the only college football player nominated in the Best Male College Athlete category.

Quick offseason schedule thoughts: Can Big Ten carry over momentum?

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Go back to Week 2 of the college football season last year. This was the Big Ten’s big opportunity to make a statement in nationally televised spotlight games, and the conference came up empty. Ohio State lost at home to Virginia Tech. Michigan State let one get away from them at Oregon. Michigan was no match for Notre Dame. On top of that, Nebraska needed Ameer Abdullah to provide a miracle to avoid overtime against McNeese State and Northwestern was defeated at home by Northern Illinois. It was a rough day for the Big Ten, and many around the country were quick to write the conference off as a result. Well, we know how that all worked out.

This offseason has been nothing short of renewed praise for the Big Ten’s resurrection, but the conference is still quite top heavy at the moment. Sure, the Big Ten may be heading in a positive direction and the expectations are high for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan and continue to rise with James Franklin at Penn State, but there is still plenty of work to do to follow-up the way last season ended for the Big Ten. Following up one of the more successful postseason runs by the conference, highlighted by Ohio State’s national championship and supplemented by Michigan State’s tremendous effort in the Cotton Bowl, the Big Ten is now tasked with keeping the momentum going.

Here are some of the key games the Big Ten will need to win in order to keep things going its way at the start of the 2015 season.

Michigan at Utah (September 3): The Harbaugh Era kicks off in Pac-12 territory. Utah roughed up Michigan last season so there is a bit of a revenge factor at stake. And winning against the Pac-12 to open the season always helps with the image.

Minnesota vs. TCU (September 3): On the same night, Minnesota hosts Big 12 favorite TCU. The Horned Frogs may very well leave with a win, but the Gophers can put up a fight. If they can’t win it, keeping it competitive and close will still represent the Big Ten well in this one.

Nebraska vs. BYU (September 5): BYU may not be in a power conference (as much as they would love it), but they are not exactly a cupcake either. A win by Nebraska over BYU is worth respect, especially now that conferences like the ACC and SEC recognize the Cougars as a power conference-equivalent opponent.

Northwestern vs. Stanford (September 5): The academic bowl between the Wildcats and Cardinal could be a tough one for Northwestern, but they get the home field advantage. A win against one of the top programs in the Pac-12 the last few years would not go unnoticed.

Wisconsin vs. Alabama (September 5): Here is the biggie of the opening week. The Badgers take on defending SEC champion Alabama and will hope to be able to do what Ohio State did in the Sugar Bowl. It would also give Wisconsin the rare opportunity for a Big Ten team to have consecutive wins against Auburn and Alabama. A win would be huge for the Big Ten on the big stage in Arlington.

Ohio State at Virginia Tech (September 7): The Buckeyes take on the Hokies in primetime looking to avenge their only loss from last season. This Ohio State team should be much better than the one that stumbled last season, but a road victory in an ACC stadium would be a good way to cap the opening weekend.

If everything goes well for the Big Ten, and that is a big if, the conference could own wins against the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC (including wins against defending champions or co-champions in the SEC and Big 12) after just one week of play. Just putting together a winning record in those games would be a nice bragging point for the conference and would help carry over the momentum from last season. And that is just the start for the Big Ten. Week two sees Michigan State host Oregon and Michigan hosting Oregon State. Rutgers hosts Washington State to get in on the fun, and Iowa visits Iowa State. Iowa will also face Pittsburgh and Illinois will take on North Carolina. These are the types of games the Big Ten needs to win to move up the conference power rankings and prove the depth of the conference goes beyond the Buckeyes and Spartans.