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Published Sunday
September 5, 2004

NU-WIU Notes: Rodgers remembers the good old days when Huskers threw

BY MITCH SHERMAN

 

WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

SLIDE SHOW


»

NU 56, WIU 17

LINCOLN - This is not your father's Nebraska offense. Unless, of course, you are the son of Johnny Rodgers.

The Huskers' 1972 Heisman-Trophy winning wingback, Rodgers may have been among the least shocked of the ex-NU football players in attendance Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.

In some ways, Rodgers said, the pass-happy Nebraska offense reminded him of the system in which he caught a school-record 143 passes from 1970 through '72.

"Not for me, it's not a shock," Rodgers said at halftime, when quarterback Joe Dailey had already thrown for 213 yards and four touchdowns. "We used to run a type of spread offense, and then they went and changed to the darn option.

"So for me, this is kind of like coming full circle."

Not so for many other former offensive stars.

"It's like night and day," said ex-quarterback Eric Crouch, the 2001 Heisman winner. "It really is a complete turnaround, a 180."

Former receiver Matt Davison, second on the career receiving charts behind Rodgers, said he's still learning exactly how to digest the West Coast offense. Davison, who last played in 2000, works as the sideline reporter for Pinnacle Sports, the NU radio network.

"Every year since I've been done playing, I've been able to look at the formation and know what's happening," Davison said. "From a (former) player's perspective, it's just going to be a lot different.

"From the time I was a little kid, the option offense is all I've ever known here."

Former QB Steve Taylor said he won't lose any time reminiscing about the offense of old.

"Nope. Not at all," Taylor said. "I just wish I was about 25 years younger, so I could run this stuff."

Huskers walk the new walk

Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson soaked in the pre-game atmosphere Saturday afternoon outside Memorial Stadium.

Pederson said he walked through the Husker Nation Pavilion, which drew a large crowd to Ed Weir Track northeast of Memorial Stadium. Pederson then watched Nebraska arrive on campus and enter the stadium in its new tradition, The Walk.

The NU buses got to the stadium about 15 minutes earlier than their announced 3:45 p.m. arrival.

"They were early," Pederson said, "but fortunately so were Nebraskans. It was great. It was exciting, and I loved to see the look on our kids' faces."

The Huskers' other walk - the Tunnel Walk - included a new video on the HuskerVision screens complete with an appearance from ex-NU defensive end Mike Rucker. Rucker, now with the Carolina Panthers, pounded a sledgehammer into a wall adorned with a Western Illinois logo.

A different former Nebraska star will appear in the Tunnel Walk video before every home game. The video also featured animated scenes of the in-progress North Stadium construction project.

"The theme, of course," Pederson said, "is that we're building to that next championship."

Brown enjoys aerial view

Former Nebraska Assistant Ron Brown watched from the press box Saturday night - unaffiliated with the NU coaching staff for the first time since 1986.

Brown now works as the Nebraska director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He's also trying a bit of broadcasting and plans to do color commentary on television for the Miami of Ohio-Marshall game this month.

He was impressed with the new-look Huskers.

"They're throwing the ball around awfully well," Brown said. "It's about decision-making. A lot of it has to do with Joe making the right decisions. I think he's done a nice job most of the time."

Some freshmen change status

True freshman Ryan Goodman officially transferred from wrestling to football scholarship with just more than nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter Saturday.

The Huskers' No. 2 quarterback out of Egg Harbor City, N.J., Goodman handed off to fellow rookie Brandon Jackson on four consecutive plays and later completed his only pass for no gain to fullback Dane Todd.

Goodman was recruited to Nebraska to wrestle but beat out four quarterbacks for No. 2 job. Once Goodman played in a game, NCAA rules did not allow to remain on wrestling scholarship.

Other than Goodman and Jackson, true freshmen to lose redshirts Saturday included cornerback Cortney Grixby and wide receiver Terrence Nunn. Nunn became the first offensive true freshman to start a opener in at least 60 years.

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