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October 26, 2010

Five things we learned on Tuesday

Each week during the fall Huskeronline.com will sum up the weekly press conference with a "five things we learned" feature.

Nebraska will get ready to take on a 7-0 Missouri team on Saturday in Lincoln. Here's the latest buzz from the Huskers as they get ready to play another big game against a ranked opponent.

1 - Fixing the home games woes

Whatever the problem is, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini hopes it gets fixed this week. For whatever reason the Huskers have struggled at home in Big 12 Conference games the last two seasons under Pelini.

To break down the numbers, NU is 2-3 at home in their last five Big 12 games compared to 6-0 in Big 12 games on the road during that same time. One of the main problems seems to stem with offensive execution, as Nebraska has averaged just 11.4 points at home in their last five Big 12 homes games. Their highest scoring number was 17 points, in a 17-3 win in over Kansas State in 2009.

Pelini said on Tuesday that he will do some things differently with his team this week, but he didn't want to reveal them to the media. I think the biggest thing that needs to be figured out though is why Nebraska's offense hasn't clicked at home. NU is going to need to score more than 17 points to win on Saturday.

2- Henery's value is priceless

It practically turned into an Alex Henery press conference for parts of Tuesday. Over four minutes of the total 20 minutes with Pelini were about Henery. Then Henery came up himself and talked for over 12 minutes, which was longer than any other player on Tuesday.

People can't get enough of the quiet Husker kicker who has been nearly perfect over his four-year career.

This past Saturday at OSU Henery showed his value even more by giving the Huskers the early spark they needed on offense with his 27 yard fake punt run that led to NU's first touchdown. Henery followed that up by connecting on three field goals to become the all-time field goal record holder at Nebraska. Henery has made 59 field goals in his career and has connected on 17 straight attempts.

Maybe most impressively he's 53 of 55 over the course of his career from inside 50 yards. I was glad to see him get the record because Henery should be considered NU's best ever at this position in my opinion - especially when you factor in what he's done as a punter.

3 - Missouri's defense could be their strength

When you talk about Missouri, everybody thinks offense but Gary Pinkel's team can play defense too.

Through seven games the Tigers have one of the most impressive defenses in the Big 12 and they've done a great job of stopping the run. That will be the big challenge this week for Nebraska and that's figuring out how to run the football effectively against a Tiger front seven that gave them trouble a year ago.

4 - McNeill's last shot at Mizzou

For senior wide receiver Mike McNeill Saturday's match-up with Missouri is the "rubber match" so-to-speak. Over McNeill's first four years at NU the Huskers are 2-2 against the Tigers and he'd like to finish out 3-2 to get some family bragging rights.

Both of McNeill's older sisters went to Mizzou, along with several of his close friends and family members. In fact, they spend most of their Saturday's watching the Tigers and usually McNeill has to hear about it all the time.

McNeill joked that he would like nothing more than to come out on top with a win over the Tigers. McNeill was a high school teammate of former Missouri wide-out and current Philadelphia Eagle Jeremy Maclin. While most people on Tuesday were trying to downplay what this game means for the 2010 season, McNeill was not. You've got to like No. 44 for that.

5 - This game has plenty of meaning

This game is the Big 12 North Championship game. There's no other way around it. The winner of this match-up will have the all important tiebreaker in the North and be in the driver's seat to earn a spot in the Big 12 Championship game.

Pelini says every game means the same to him, but let's not kid ourselves. The Huskers haven't gotten a win over a quality top 10 opponent in a long time. This is a game Pelini and this program desperately needs to win, otherwise this season could be labeled a disappointment by many if the Huskers don't make the Big 12 Championship game.


Quote of the day

"(This game) is huge. At this point of the season in the latter part of October and November that's when championships begin to get revealed and get won. These are obviously big games - huge games."

-Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson on what the Missouri games means to winning the Big 12 North.


Funniest moment of the press conference

"I coach him. The only problem we have is that I'm a left-footed kicker. I've coached him. No, he has had help and things, but he is pretty much self-coached. I think he has a good understanding of what he is. I just tell him whether to hit a draw or a straight ball. I liken it to golf, so if he starts it a bit right and uses a draw, like a nine-iron, he's fine."

-Head coach Bo Pelini joking how he coaches Alex Henery's kicking like he's talking golf.






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