With two full steps on the Longhorn defender and Zac Lee's pass arcing right on target, it appeared that Brandon Kinnie as poised to effect a huge shift in momentum. Memorial Stadium saw was happening and, with the exception of those in burnt orange, rose to their feet as one. Well, almost as one, but in the this case, scattered octagenarian screehes of "Down in front!" were thankfully unheard and/or completely ignored. Kinnie cruised right under the ball and -.
Of course, everyone remembers. That was the potential 38-yard TD pass that would have closed the Huskers to within seven of Texas. What people often forget was that there were enough butterfingers on THAT day to cover two deep on most any depth chart. At least eight balls bounced off the hands of receivers and backs including Niles Paul and Rex Burkhead.
Drops, while not as frequent this year, have still been an occasional problem for Kinnie, but his attitude and work ethic have won over many Husker fans who now find themselves fully behind him instead of deriding each mistake. Following the Texas game, a simple quote seemed to embody both his regret and his determination at once
"It messed with me a whole lot, because I just don't do things like that," Kinnie said. "But the way to get over something like that is just to catch way more balls before and after practice."
He worked and caught plenty of balls in practice and came back to lead the Huskers in receptions in 2010. He appeared poised to take over as the dominant receiver this season, but in early games, the drops started coming again. It would have been very easy to push the panic button or wallow in self-pity, but Kinnie simply isn't made that way. Ask his teammates.
"BK's a thermostat. He's not a thermometer," (Kenny) Bell said. "He stays at the same temperature whether he's doing great or not as great. He keeps himself level-headed. I knew he was going to pull out of it."
Despite the dropsies rearing their ugly head again, Kinnie stayed kept his cool and refused to alter his habits or the way he prepared for each game. At 6'3" 225, he had also formed himself into a physical blocker, and his ability to repeatedly open the way downfield in violent fashion for Burkhead and company kept him on the field regularly while he solved the hands problems.
After being virtually invisible in the first three games, Kinnie has gotten more touches, sprung the occasional big play and provided one of the offense's few bright spots with six catches against Northwestern tying his career single game highs. On a windy day in Lincoln, he caught everything thrown his way. OK, that certainly doesn't make up for a bitter upset at home, but with a few tough games to go it doesn't hurt to know that the senior is dialed in again.
Considered one of the top junior college prospects in the country after a huge season at Fort Scott CC, the Huskers signed the highly sought-after wideout from Grandview, MO. Expectations from fans were high, with some even going so far as to compare him to Michael Crabtree.
Those comparisons proved to be a bit excessive, but that is par for the course when attempting to project the future of new recruits. Or perhaps I missed the Marlon Lucky and Harrison Beck Heisman ceremonies. It's not a reflection on Kinnie that 62 catches a season in junior college didn't auto translate to the same numbers in the Big12/Big 10. Only proof that predicting the success of kids 20 and under remains a crapshoot at best.
When Brandon Kinnie's name is called at Senior Day this year, fans will, of course, remember the drops - especially the one against the hated Longhorns. But I'm hoping and betting that they'll also remember that he never stopped working to solve the problem, never stopped trying to improve himself and turned into a rock-solid leader for a young corps of receivers who will likely provide jaw-dropping highlights for the next three plus years. When they go through their inevitable trials, hopefully they'll remember the lessons imparted by Kinnie and pick themselves up when the game knocks them down a little.
This is the reason fans will stand a cheer a little louder when Kinnie's comes out of the tunnel for the last time. Heart and attitude count for something in Nebraska and Brandon Kinnie embodies these traits.
"There's no one else like him," Rex Burkhead said. "I love B.K. He's always got a smile on his face. He's always laughing and having fun."