John Mabry: Tight ends have day worthy of song

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BY JOHN MABRY / Lincoln Journal Star

Saturday, Sep 02, 2006 - 10:31:02 pm CDT

Lee Greenwood did a wonderful job with his “Proud To Be An American” performance before Saturday’s game, but with no disrespect intended, I have some new lyrics to suggest:

I’m proud to be a Husker tight end, where at least I know I’m free.

Free as a red balloon in the Nebraska sky.

Did you know that no NU tight end had caught a touchdown pass since the 2004 season? Of course you did. But talk about ending a drought.

We start with Matt Herian, who is just fine, thank you. Herian, the last tight end to catch a TD pass for Nebraska, caught a 13-yarder in the first quarter.

“We were talking beforehand at the team dinner before we came to the stadium,” he said. “I asked the other tight ends, ‘When’s the last time the tight ends scored?’”

The answer, times four, is now Saturday, Sept. 2, in a 49-10 rout of Louisiana Tech.

Herian 13 pass from Taylor

Phillips 6 pass from Taylor

Mueller 6 pass from Taylor

Teafatiller 29 pass from Ganz

“We just had some really good plays for the tight ends,” said J.B. Phillips, who scored in the third quarter. “(Hunter) Teafatiller at the end was kind of the icing on the cake.”

Tight ends coach Shawn Watson said NU’s running game made it happen for the tight ends.

“We rushed the ball really well today,” he said, referring to a 252-yard ground effort. “Whenever that happens, you can use the tight end weapon because the tight ends are the guys who are not accounted for because they’re part of the run structure.”

After seeing Herian on the sideline for so long, working with physical therapists behind the scenes for close to two years, it was really nice to see him celebrating in the end zone Saturday.

“The whole team was excited for him,” Watson said, “because they shared his journey back.”

The return from that broken leg was long and hard, but give the Pierce man credit for seeing it through even when there were times he felt the tug of give-up on his No. 11 jersey.

“There were a lot of times like that,” he said. “But in my head all along I knew my goal was to get back and play for the University of Nebraska one more time and finish this thing out right.”

Life is good for Herian, who married Lynsey Collison, also of Pierce, earlier this summer in their hometown.

“I think most of the tight ends were up there,” Herian said. “We had a good time — a small-town wedding.”

I think most of the tight ends found the end zone Saturday. Phillips, a junior from Colleyville, Texas, said the team watched the movie “Invincible” on Friday, and that was the way it went for the tight ends Saturday against the Bulldogs. All four scores came on play-action plays.

Herian, Phillips, Teafatiller and Josh Mueller combined for eight catches, 108 yards and one “sick” move.

That was the description Zac Taylor provided for Herian’s second-quarter maneuver past Louisiana Tech safety Mark Dillard.

All that really matters, though, is what Mrs. Herian thinks of the day.

“I’m sure she’s pretty excited,” Matt said, “a little relieved that I didn’t get hurt.”

She and about 1.7 million others.

Heroes in the house: Two true guests of honor guarded the new Tunnel Walk gates before the Huskers took the field.

Sgt. Michael Sharples of Fullerton and Spc. Richard DeLancey of Duncan manned the entrance before the game and received handshakes from Husker head coaches Bill Callahan and Doc Sadler once the game was over.

“Thank you all for what you do,” said Sadler, NU’s new men’s basketball coach.

Sharples and DeLancey both received the Bronze Star for Valor for their bravery while serving in Iraq.

“We were under fire (near Baghdad),” Sharples said. “He (DeLancey) was wounded and held off insurgents, and I basically ran to the convoy extracting wounded people while being shot at.”

I’m sure Zac Taylor would be the first to admit his pressure isn’t that kind of pressure.

End zone

*Sadler on his first Husker football game: “It was great. It’s unbelievable. It’s everything that you’ve heard about and more. I don’t think anybody could be prepared for something like this.”

*Love the big screen. I know they’re still working out the bugs, but it’s an impressive TV. It is high-definition ready, but the HuskerVision cameras are not HD cameras. And I thought it was as simple as calling Time Warner for one of those boxes.

Reach John Mabry at 473-7320 or jmabry@journalstar.com.


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