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October 15, 2011
Nebraska's midseason highlights and awards
As Nebraska heads into its first bye week of the season, HuskerOnline.com has decided to recap the some of the highlights of the first six games, as well as hand out our awards for the Huskers' top performers and performances thus far.
Here are the different players and highlights we've decided to honor after the first six games of 2011. NU travels to Minnesota to start the second half of the season next Saturday.
Offensive MVP: Rex Burkhead, RB
Just as expected, junior running back Rex Burkhead has been Nebraska's most consistently productive threat on offense. While others might provide more home run ability, Burkhead has been the guy to churn out the tough yards and keep drives alive, particularly in the final minutes of games like Fresno State and Washington. He leads all Big Ten Conference running backs and ranks second overall with 105.8 rushing yards per game, and his nine rushing touchdowns are second in the league only to Wisconsin's Montee Ball.
Defensive MVP: Lavonte David, LB
Nebraska was supposed to have some of the best defensive star power in the country at all three levels, but senior linebacker Lavonte David has been the only member of the "Big Three" that's actually been on the field for all six games this season. The good news is he's played as well as anyone could have hoped. The preseason All-American has continued to rack up tackles, as he currently ranks third in the Big Ten with 9.7 stops per game to go along with two sacks. He's also come up with some huge individual plays, including his interception against Washington and his strip-recovery last week against Ohio State.
Biggest offensive surprise: Quincy Enunwa, WR
Many people wondered if Nebraska made a mistake by burning Quincy Enunwa's redshirt last season, as he only had one catch as saw spot playing time. This year, it's looking like that experience as a freshman is playing off big time as a sophomore. Enunwa ranks second on the team with 10 catches for 176 yards, and he leads the Huskers with two touchdowns receptions. His blend of size, strength and speed makes him a dangerous weapon for NU's offense. Maybe his most underappreciated talent is his run blocking, as he's helped break several huge plays for teammates this season.
Biggest defensive surprise: Daimion Stafford, S
Everyone knew junior college transfer Daimion Stafford would eventually make an impact on Nebraska's defense this season, but not many expected he'd become such a factor so quickly. By the second game of the season, Stafford had supplanted Courtney Osborne has the starting safety opposite Austin Cassidy. He even made a start at peso against Wyoming's spread offense. Stafford is second on the team only to David with 44 tackles on the year, and he's also tied for the team lead with four pass breakups.
Best offensive play: Martinez's 46-yard TD vs. Fresno St.
This play has become somewhat lost in the shuffle over the past few weeks, but it undoubtedly saved Nebraska from potential disaster in the second game of the season. Leading the Bulldogs 35-29 with just 2 minutes left in the game, the Huskers faced a critical 3rd-and-3 from FSU 46-yard line. Needing a big play, Nebraska got it from sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez. When the offense got to the line, Martinez audibled to an option to the left, which turned out to be the perfect play. He ran left and then cut up field and went untouched all the way to the end zone to seal the win for the Huskers.
Best defensive plays: David's strip and recovery vs. Ohio St.
There might not have been a bigger play for Nebraska all season than David's incredible individual effort in the third quarter last week against Ohio State. After the Buckeyes bumped their lead up to 27-6 with a touchdown run on the first drive of the second half, the Huskers desperately needed someone to step up and make a play. When Ohio State got the ball back, quarterback Braxton Miller rushed off the right tackle for what appeared to be another first down. Before the play was dead, though, David came in and stripped the ball away from Miller and recovered it at the OSU 23-yard line. Two plays later, Martinez ran for a touchdown, and thus began the biggest comeback in school history.