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October 11, 2011Junior college recruiting is something most Nebraska fans raise their nose to, but it's hard to imagine where the Huskers would be without Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College right now.
One could argue that without NU's four Fort Scott players the Huskers may not have won Saturday's game over Ohio State.
It was senior linebacker Lavonte David who stripped the football from Buckeye freshman quarterback Braxton Miller which fueled Nebraska's 21 point comeback in the third quarter.
It was converted sophomore corner Stanley Jean-Baptiste that intercepted Ohio State quarterback Joe Bauserman in the fourth quarter to set up NU's game winning touchdown drive. Jean-Baptiste was inserted into the game late in the second half after Nebraska's other cornerbacks opposite of Alfonzo Dennard failed to make plays.
On the game winning scoring drive, it was senior left tackle Jermarcus Hardrick that paved the way for running back Rex Burkhead on his 17 yard touchdown run. Hardrick played a big hand in helping NU rush for 10 first downs and 144 yards on 22 carries in the fourth quarter.
Last but not least, you can't forget about senior wide receiver Brandon Kinnie, who is considered one of the leaders and mouth pieces for the entire football program. Kinnie had just two catches for 14 yards against the Buckeyes, but the intangibles he brings to the locker room are things that don't show up in a stat line.
Kinnie has acted as a valuable mentor to young wide receivers like Jamal Turner, Kenny Bell and Quincy Enunwa. During this young trio's emergence Kinnie is probably the player who's lost the most, but he's actually been their biggest fan.
As Nebraska's coaching staff is on the road recruiting during the bye week, hopefully they can find more JUCO fits like they did with this Fort Scott group. I can tell you after cover recruiting since 1999 that you rarely see a group come in from one school like David, Kinnie, Hardrick and Jean-Baptiste.
"We've done a good of evaluating junior college guys that can come in and help us out," recruiting coordinator John Papuchis told me last week. "If you look at our group, we've got a bunch of guys that have contributed for us. We've been able to have some success in that area.
"Now whether we do that again this year will [be about] who the guy is. We are not going to go out and say that's what we are going to do. If the right guy fits, we'll take him."
Martinez needs to establish a middle ground
I think the biggest beef the critics of quarterback Taylor Martinez have right now is he's either really, really good or really, really bad. And when he's bad, his worst moments are hard to forget.
As Martinez continues to establish himself as a starting quarterback, it's important he has more of a middle ground to his game.
I thought we saw that in the Ohio State game on Saturday, and even in the Wyoming and Washington wins earlier this season.
To use a baseball analogy, at times in Martinez's career it's either been a home run or a strike out for him. I think he's doing a better job of establishing himself though as a consistent hitter. Little things like hitting the check down man or even just sliding or running out of bounds show that. We didn't see that from Martinez a year ago.
Who honestly expected more than 5-1?
When you step back and look at where Nebraska is after six games who honestly expected better than 5-1?
I think any realistic person that follows this program would've accepted 5-1 in a heartbeat back in August. All along I said NU had to get a split out of Ohio State and Wisconsin and they accomplished that.
When you break the season in fours, the third quarter looks very favorable with a road trip to Minnesota and home games with Michigan State and Northwestern. However, MSU is going to give the Huskers all they can handle.
The final stretch with road trips to Penn State and Michigan along with Iowa at home will test this team. If they can get out of that stretch 2-1, I think most people should accept that. I think right now we are looking at either 10-2 or 9-3 for a final regular season record, which should put the Huskers in the hunt for Indianapolis depending how they do in head-to-head games with Michigan and Michigan State.
For the stat geeks
***Wisconsin currently has 21 rushing and 13 passing touchdowns through five games. Both numbers lead the Big Ten. Nebraska is second in rushing TD's with 20.
***Nebraska's defense is currently giving up 4.5 yards per carry on the ground. Only Minnesota is worse in the Big Ten at 4.8 yards per carry. The Huskers have also given up 20 touchdowns this year as a defense, and that ranks 11th, only ahead of the Gophers who have given up 24.
***Is Michigan State's nation leading defense a product of how good they are or a product of their schedule? The Spartans are only giving up 173.4 yards per game, but we'll find out a lot more the next few weeks when MSU plays Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska. MSU has faced the nation's No. 118, No. 88 and No. 105 ranked offenses in three of their four wins, while their other win came against an FCS opponent. Their only loss came against Notre Dame, who's ranked No. 21 overall in total offense.
***Nebraska ranks last in the Big Ten in time of possession at 27:29 per game. That number is more a product of the explosiveness of this NU offense.
***Burkhead is currently the leading rusher in the Big Ten for all running backs with 635 yards. Burkhead is only behind Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
Around the state
***Very rarely do you see a team have to forfeit wins at the Class A level like Millard North had to do this week for having an ineligible player. The good thing for them is they will still get to state by winning their district. What is not fair is they'll probably be the No. 16 seed, which means the reward for a team that goes 9-0 is a first round match-up with the defending state champions.
***Speaking of the Millard North, it's hard not to be impressed with quarterback Isaac Aakre who rushed for 224 yards on 35 carries against Millard West last Friday. It will be interesting to evaluate him more during the in-state tour this February.
***Norfolk Catholic kicker Drew Farlee hit three field goals in a 16-14 win over rival Pierce on Friday.
***Lincoln Southwest and Kansas State quarterback recruit Tavarius Bender had his best rushing game of the season against Lincoln North Star on Friday. Bender rushed for 153 yards on six carries to go along with three touchdowns. In a losing effort, Navigator running back Michael Minter had 24 carries for 152 yards and two touchdowns.
Sean Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.