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Posts Tagged ‘Rex Burkhead’

Wisconsin, Nebraska Leave the Picture

Well, when your marquee win comes against Vanderbilt, as highly as we all think of the Commodores, you haven’t had a good day. It was a terrible day for the Big Ten, actually – one of the conference’s worst non-conference weekends in recent memory, trumping last weekend, which was defined by only one bad loss, not multiple losses. It was one weak game after another, beginning at noon, gaining steam around midday and then culminating, at nearly midnight, by an unforgivably bad performance from a program once defined by the pride it took in getting stops on the defensive side of the ball. From this entire group, a clutch of sour showings tinged with feel-good victories, two losses stand out above the rest.

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    P.S.R. Heisman Watch: Week 2

    This week’s moving and shaking has not impacted the top group: the four or five leading contenders remain in place, with little movement. But along the back end, opening-week showings from several under-the-radar skill players – not too far under the radar, to be honest – has led to a retooling of the second tier. Who knew that Taylor Martinez had that sort of arm? Who knew that Denard Robinson was going to lay such an egg? The latter question raises another interesting idea: What does Robinson need to do to leap back into the mix for the Heisman? It won’t be merely about numbers for Michigan’s senior, though that’s certainly part and parcel of any player’s candidacy – Robinson needs to cut down on interceptions, do more with his legs, score touchdowns, what have you. But Robinson also needs highlight-reel moments, the sort that could remind the voting public why he remains one of the most dangerous players in college football; beyond that, he needs wins. A run to Pasadena would put the bloom back on Robinson’s rose. Before getting to the list, another installment of This Date in Heisman History:

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      For Martinez, Night and Day Strides

      How to describe Taylor Martinez’s throwing mechanics over his freshman and sophomore seasons? Start with a word: ugly. No, start with his feet. Everything that went wrong would begin with his feet, then travel up his legs to his hips, then to his shoulders, then to his eyes, and finally, at long last, to his right arm. It all started with his feet.

      To be more precise, on a step-by-step basis, Martinez’s woes would begin with his back foot. As he raised his first arm, his throwing arm, Martinez’s back foot, his right foot, would take a wobbly step away from the line of scrimmage. If he was dead-center in the middle of the pocket in the middle of the field, Martinez’s back foot would stray towards the right pylon – off target, in other words.

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        P.S.R. 2012 Heisman Watch: Preseason

        Remember when Andrew Luck was a lock for the Heisman? His Heisman campaign took off roughly midway through his sophomore season, when Luck led Stanford to its first major breakthrough, and then reached a fever pitch once he opted to return for one more season with the Cardinal. At this point a year ago, Luck was the odds-on favorite to not only win the Heisman but to win it with ease – going wire-to-wire unlike any Heisman winner in recent memory. That Luck didn’t was not a reflection on his own level of play, which was superb, but rather an illustration of just how hard it is to maintain your grasp on the top spot while dozens of other qualified candidates state their case over the three months of the regular season. Last fall, Luck’s early lead evaporated once Robert Griffin III led Baylor to its finest season in decades, if not the finest season in school history. A year later, Matt Barkley finds himself in a similar situation. Before getting to the leading contenders, the first installment of This Date in Heisman History:

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          No. 16: Nebraska

          You can sense the desperation from miles away: In Lincoln, the smell of fear – fear that there will be no renaissance, no climb back into the national picture – permeates every fiber of Nebraska football, from Taylor Martinez’s delivery to Barney Cotton’s offensive line to Cotton himself, with the Cornhuskers’ line coach drawing as much ire as any figure in the program’s proud history. There’s the fear that nine-win, four-loss seasons are the new norm; the former is a program birthright, but the latter is new. The fear that this current staff doesn’t have the answer. The fear that Nebraska bit off more than it could chew by hopping to the Big Ten. In Lincoln, the sense of impending doom stems from the idea that the offense will sputter, that the quarterback will throw off his back foot, that the defense isn’t up to par, that the pass rush lacks punch. Fear’s an ugly thing: Nebraska’s fan base is petrified. Good thing they play the games.

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            The Year in Review: Nebraska (9-4, 5-3)

            For all that’s changed, the bedrock hasn’t moved an inch. Nebraska still preaches the sort of old-school values that formed the backbone of its generation-long dominance of college football. Toughness is back in vogue. There’s tremendous continuity on the coaching staff – this remains one of Nebraska’s most underrated assets, as it was under Tom Osborne. The defense has regained most of its lost swagger, albeit in fits and starts. The offense has adopted an old-school mentality with a new-school feel, with a spread-based, run-first system filling the role of the option offense. Nine-win seasons have become the norm.

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              P.S.R. Heisman Watch: Week 10

              So we still don’t know the answer to whether Andrew Luck’s Heisman campaign could survive a loss, and we may not know for sure — if at all — until Stanford hosts Oregon in two weeks. The bigger question might be whether Kellen Moore could survive a defeat: it doesn’t seem likely that his team will drop a game in the regular season, but Boise State did lose to Nevada last fall when few thought the Broncos would be upended on their road to the Rose Bowl. Even with that loss, Moore still came in fourth, a distant fourth, in last year’s voting. Would he still be invited to the Heisman ceremony if his team loses to T.C.U. in November? And is any running back other than Alabama’s Trent Richardson have any chance of taking home the hardware? Before addressing these pressing concerns, here’s another installment of This Date in Heisman History:

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                Friday to Saturday, A Legend Grows

                Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead is a Friday night legend, a walking, talking character from “Friday Night Lights” come to life minus the soap opera twists. At powerhouse Plano High School in Texas, Burkhead was nicknamed “Superman” not just for his on-field exploits, which were otherworldly, but also for his leadership qualities, which were nearly as legendary. Any number of kids in Plano — say, anywhere from age 1o to 16, 17, 18 — have pictures of Burkhead on their bedroom wall, emulating not just his record-setting rushing output but also the way he seemed to embody the all-American qualities born and bred in the boys in that football-crazed state. He’s a legend on Fridays, a TV character come to life, and his legend is growing on Saturdays.

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                  The Countdown

                  A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.