I know that so many of you have a heavy hunger for Nebraska football talk, as I do. I've been traveling a bit the last two weeks, so while I've got stuff written, I haven't been around to post it, so it's been stacking up.
This weekend we have a baseball series with rival Texas. Nebraska has yet to lose a conference game, and Texas is right behind us at 4-2. I shouldn't have to tell y'all that this is a huge series for the Huskers.
For a preview of the series, I traded questions with the guys over at Burnt Orange Nation, your favorite Texas blog (you have one, don't you?). My answers to their questions are posted at BON for your entertainment.
CN: If you could wave a magic wand and produce instant improvement in one specific area of the Texas team this year to increase your chances of heading to Omaha, what would it be?
No question here: the defense. One of the tough things about having such a young team is that, while you sometimes see these flashes of potential and get a sense of just how good these guys are going to be very soon, you also see just how easy it is to make errors when you're not used to the speed and intensity of the college game. All the newcomers have also forced some guys to play out of position, such as Travis Tucker playing 3rd instead of 2nd.
With the schedule being what it is, Texas had just its 4th practice since Opening Day this week, so we hope this week of work will improve the defensive look.
CN: Who is the Longhorn player about whom you most often think to yourself, "man, I'm glad that guy is on our team!" Why?
This year, that award would have to go to Brandon Belt so far. He's been knocking the cover off the ball, and the guy can pitch! Anytime a Texas fan sees a guy that can pitch and be an everyday player, he immediately things about Huston Street. Belt is obviously no Huston (yet) interms of pitching ability, but he already hits the ball far better than Street ever did. Belt is slugging at a .622 clip with 10 doubles and four dingers while posting a 1.50 ERA in six innings of work.
And he's a sophomore.
CN: The last two seasons in a row Texas didn't make it out of their own regional in the NCAA tourney, after winning the CWS title in 2005. Nebraska's failures the past two seasons has had some question our head coach Mike Anderson's abilities. Has Texas failures lead to any "Augie Garrido is past his prime" kind of talk out of Texas fans? Or is his position comparable to that of "Joe Paterno" - the coaching legend that can pick his own time and date?
It's definitely the latter for the vast majority of Texas fans. The sentiment within the Bunrt Orange Nation community, and to a large extent the Longhorn community as a whole, is that we are really, really lucky to have all 3 of our major-sports head coaches. We love Barnes in basketball for a million reasons, Brown brought us a national championship and runs the football program with class, and Augie may be the easiest to love out of the three. He has produced two national championships and he's such an enjoyable character to have in the athletic program.
CN: Is Augie still complaining about the late start?
Yes, and we love him for it. See "4th practice since opening day" above.
CN: Has the late start and condensed schedule handicapped the Southern teams such that the Northern teams in the cold climate have the advantage?
Well, we're not going to say that the Northern teams are at any real advantage, since they are dealing with the condensed schedule too. We believe that the changes have produced exactly their intended effect: the level the playing field for Northern teams against teams from more favorable baseball climates.
The issue for us is that the new system sucks for teams everywhere. College baseball teams need practice days to work out the kinks and get into top form; 18-year-old kids need coaching to improve. They can't just go out and get better with nothing but game situations the way the pros can.
We understand, of course, that Nebraska and others have been dealing with a lack of good preseason work forever--we just have to get used to it down here.
CN: I attended the 2005 Texas-Nebraska series at Haymarket Park with my oldest son (then 12). At one point, during the game, a streaker appeared running across the outfield. Nobody saw him until the guy was half-way across centerfield. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only time that's happened. It was a special father-son moment that I'll cherish forever.
And your favorite Nebraska - Texas moment would be something that can top that?
We weren't there, but our favorite memory would have to be the 2005 series as well. Nebraska took the Friday game in 16 innings, then Texas came back to get the W on Saturday. On Sunday, Augie pulled his famous "we've got a flight to catch" move to take the victory in eight innings. That was a great one.