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September 19, 2011Nebraska offensive linemen Jermarcus Hardrick and Seung Hoon Choi are about as opposite as oil and water.
Hardrick grew up in the Deep South in Mississippi, while Choi is originally from South Korea and didn't move to the United States until right before high school.
The pair made up the left side of NU's line on Saturday during the Huskers 51-38 win over Washington. Hardrick said he's probably never had more fun playing in a football game than he did this past Saturday next to Choi.
What impressed Hardrick the most about lining up next to Choi was how he stood up for himself and was not intimidated at all by the Huskies imposing defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu.
"I think that was probably the funniest game I've ever played in," Hardrick said. "I heard (Choi) talking every single play just saying 'come on boy, what are you going to do now. You going to call me a fat Asian or something again?'
"Him and (Ta'amu) were talking the whole time. Every time we hit somebody he was just making a whole lot of noises."
Hardrick said after Ta'amu started referring to Choi as a "big fat Asian" it probably motivated him to play even harder on Saturday.
"(Choi) would fire back and say 'fat Asian pancaked you,' and things like that," Hardrick said.
"I think them talking made it worse. I didn't know he was going to play that good. He was just coming off the ball. He had a very good game."
In general, Hardrick said the entire team is proud of how far Choi has come in his time at NU.
Hardrick said they may play around with him a lot off the field, but everybody has a deep respect for how hard he's worked to get where he's at.
"When we go out to eat everybody cracks on him and asks if he is going to order an egg roll," Hardrick joked. "(Choi) texted me one day and asked me if I was going to Popeye's (Chicken) to get thighs and fries and things like that. We just have a lot of fun. It's like a big family.
"I think the whole team is very proud of him. We have a lot of fun with him, but he knows we are all family. I want him to play more. It was a lot of fun playing with him. I have never had that much fun on the field with somebody."
Trip to non-BCS stadium rare for NU
Saturday's trip to Wyoming will be rare for several different reasons. It will not only be Nebraska's first trip to Laramie, but also only their third ever trip to a non-BCS stadium since 1976.
The Huskers traveled to Southern Mississippi in 2003 in Bo Pelini's first year at NU, and they played a game at Hawaii in 1982. Before that, NU's only other trips to non-BCS stadiums for true road games were at Army (1972 and 1957) Air Force (1965) and Hawaii (1954, 1971 and 1976).
Over the next four years Nebraska will travel to non-BCS venues three times. Besides Saturday's trip to Wyoming, the Huskers are slated to head to Southern Miss again in 2013 and Fresno State in 2014.
In today's modern era of scheduling with pricey guarantee games costing well over $1 million, look for NU to do more two-for-one type series to keep costs down. It's not ideal when you look at the history of this program, but either is writing a Sun Belt or MAC school a check for $1.2 million for one lousy game.
NU paid both Tennessee-Chattanooga and Fresno State $475,000 for their trips to Lincoln, while Washington got $300,000. In comparison Georgia is set to pay Louisiana-Monroe $1.2 million for one game in 2015.
Dennard sorely missed on third downs
One number that really puts Nebraska's defensive struggles in perspective this year is their third down efficiency rate.
Through three games opponents have converted 42.3 percent of their third downs on the Blackshirts. Over the previous three years this has been a strong point for Bo Pelini's defenses. The Huskers led the Big 12 in both 2010 (30.0 percent) and 2008 (33.7) and ranked third in 2009 (32.3) in third down efficiency defense.
If you compare that to 2007 under Kevin Cosgrove, opponents converted an astounding 50.3 percent of third downs against Nebraska's defense.
I'm not saying a healthy Alfonzo Dennard is going to bring that number down from 42.3 percent to the low 30's, but I think his return will no doubt make a difference in that area just having a lock down corner to put on other teams top receivers in key passing situations.
For the stat geeks
***For as mighty and powerful as the Wisconsin offense is perceived nationally, Nebraska has only scored 2 points less than them through three games. The Badgers have 135 points, while the Huskers have 133 points to lead the Big Ten Conference by a pretty wide margin.
***I bet nobody would guess that Purdue of all teams leads the Big Ten Conference in rushing with 258.7 yards per game, followed by Nebraska at 252.3 yards per game. Purdue has always been perceived as a passing team in this league, but not anymore. It should be noted though they rushed for 393 yards against FCS opponent Southeast Missouri and put up 627 total yards of offense in that game.
***Nebraska currently is a perfect 15-for-15 in red zone scoring efficiency this year with 11 touchdowns and four field goals.
***NU's opponents have been penalized an astounding 72 yards per game, which leads the Big Ten.
***Your top three rushers in the Big Ten Confernece right now are quarterbacks - Nebraska's Taylor Martinez (384 yards), Michigan's Denard Robinson (352 yards) and Minnesota's MarQueis Gray (328 yards). There currently isn't a running back in the league averaging 100 yards per game.
***NU linebacker Lavonte David currently leads the Big Ten in tackling, while safety Daimion Stafford is ranked eighth in the league. That's why you recruit junior college players - to make an immediate impact.
Around the state
***Millard North 2013 prospect Isaac Aakre continues to put up impressive numbers each week. Aakre rushed for 215 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-0 win over rival Millard South this past Friday. The question with Aakre is where will he play at that next level? My guess is on the defensive side of the ball similar to former Iowa standouts Jeff Tarpinian and Adam Shada who both were Mustang quarterbacks in Fred Petito's offense.
***One under the radar prospect to watch for 2013 around the state is Omaha Burke wide receiver Trevaun Hymer, who stands at least 6-foot-7 tall. Through four games Hymer has caused mismatch problems around the Metro in the red zone and he was one of several Bulldog players that were in attendance as unofficial visitors at Saturday's Washington game.
***Omaha Central appears to be young and talented this year. The Eagles are 3-1 and it sounds like they could have some Division I talent in their 2013 and 2014 classes.
***Blair linebacker and Division I prospect Jake Schany rushed for 217 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-21 win over Plattsmouth.
Sean Callahan can be reached at email@example.com 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.