Get to know Nebraska
GETTING TO KNOW NEBRASKA
South Carolina plays Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 2 in Orlando. The Gamecocks have not played the Cornhuskers since a 30-21 loss in 1987. Here's a closer look at the Nebraska football team:
STATS AND STARS
The Cornhuskers are No. 36 nationally in total defense (No. 17 against the pass), No. 37 in scoring defense, No. 59 in total offense and No. 43 in scoring offense.
Sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez, a second-year starter, is not a tremendous passer: 55.9 percent completions, 1,973 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while throwing 22 times per game. But he has 173 rushes for 837 yards and nine touchdowns.
Nebraska's top defensive performer is senior linebacker Lavonte David, a junior college transfer who is from Miami. He led Nebraska with 122 tackles, including 11 for a loss. He had 3 1/2 sacks, two interceptions, two pass break-ups, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. He was named a first-team All-America by the American Football Coaches Association.
THE CURRENT TREND
This Nebraska team didn't contend for the national title - the Cornhuskers have won or shared five of them - but coach Bo Pelini has now won nine games twice and 10 games twice in his four seasons in Lincoln. He has finished 5-3 in conference play twice and 6-2 the other two years.
Nebraska did go 8-4 and 9-5 in Bill Callahan's middle two years (2005 and 2006), but his four-year tenure was book-ended by 5-6 and 5-7 records. In his first season, 2004, Nebraska missed a bowl game for the first time since 1968, after going 10-3 in 2003.
Younger fans might not remember that former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne had, for years, a reputation that he couldn't win The Big One.
Osborne was the offensive coordinator for Bob Devaney's undefeated national title teams in 1970 and 1971. Osborne became head coach in 1973, and from then until 1993, Nebraska finished in the top 15 every year but one. The Cornhuskers won 10 games 11 times. But Osborne couldn't lock up a national title, and he lost his bowl game every year from 1987-93.
Then he won national titles in 1994 and 1995, going 25-0. He went undefeated in 1997 and shared the title with Michigan after beating Tennessee 42-17 in the Orange Bowl. Osborne retired after that game, at the age of 60. In his final four years, he went 49-2, with four bowl wins and three Big Ones.
His god-like status cemented in his home state, Osborne was a Nebraska Congressman from 2001-07. Osborne, 74, has been Nebraska's athletic director for the past four years. He hired Pelini, the former defensive coordinator at LSU.
SOMETHING YOU MIGHT NOT: HOW THE BLACKSHIRTS BEGAN ...
Nebraska's Memorial Stadium (capacity: 81,067) has sold out an NCAA-record 318 consecutive games dating back to 1962. So the school does not lack for football traditions. None is more famous than the Blackshirts, which started in 1964.
Devaney, in his third season, wanted a way to distinguish his defensive players from his offensive players, because the NCAA had just changed its rules to allow for different players on offense and defense, rather than everybody playing both ways.
So, as one story goes, he sent assistant Mike Corgan to a sporting goods store. Corgan had a reputation for bargain-hunting, and the store cut him a good deal on black jerseys, which weren't selling well. Another version of the story says that defensive players had worn gray practice jerseys, but the black ones were given only to starters, which provided motivation for backups.
However the Blackshirts began, Nebraska's defenders had to earn them every day. A player might get a black jersey one day, but not the next, if he didn't perform well enough.
Pelini adjusted the tradition and has usually waited until midseason to award the Blackshirts to his best defenders, because he believes they must earn them. This year, they got them after the eighth game, a 24-3 win over Michigan State.