First downs and second guesses:
Yes, Brian Buschini and Charlie Weinrich can be Bill Busch’s best friends.
A punter who strategically keeps the ball away from pesky return men and kickers who boom it through the end zone help make special teams coaches smart.
But it’s more than that. And a story from last season's Iowa game illustrates the task at hand for Busch.
After the Hawkeyes used a blocked punt to rally and beat NU last November, the hero, Henry Marchese, talked to the media after the game.
Marchese was a fifth-year senior who switched back and forth from receiver to defensive back and found a home on special teams.
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Here’s what Marchese, who was untouched on the block, said:
“We knew that they were going to line up with that,” Marchese said of NU’s punt formation.
“That’s their base formation and we just got a great call, great situation on our left hash. Just going out throughout the week, practicing that and got a little tip on their cadence.
“They (Nebraska) point out their guys who they’re trying to block. I knew they weren’t going to point at me, so I had a free shot at the shield and at the punter.
“So just trying to do my job, trust my coaches for putting me in that situation and executing.”
You couldn’t blame this one on a kicker or punter.
This was Nebraska’s special teams coaches getting out-coached.
This was Iowa’s special teams coaches scouring Nebraska tape for a weakness, finding one and drilling the players to watch for it and then act.
One play. It changed the game. Just like the Wisconsin kickoff return. Just like the punt at Michigan State.
It’s now up to Busch to make sure coaches at Iowa and all the other Big Ten schools can’t find a hole and exploit it. Perhaps while utilizing a heady veteran player who can't find his place on the field.
Busch, who has coached special teams in his long career, was an analyst at NU last season and was unable to coach in practice.
Now he’s in charge of an area that Scott Frost needs to make a marked improvement in 2022.
Everyone will be watching. Husker fans. And opponents.
» My favorite memory of Zach Wiegert is always from the 1994 UCLA game at Memorial Stadium.
The Huskers rolled on the ABC national game of the week, and the Chevrolet Player of the Game wasn’t Tommie Frazier or Lawrence Phillips or any of the other greats on that national title club.
It was Wiegert, the senior right tackle. That’s how dominant the offensive line was in that game. And Wiegert was grand marshal of the smash-mouth parade.
Afterward in the post-game press conference, Wiegert was told he was the Chevrolet MVP.
The Fremont native cracked, “Where’s my car?”
That was Wiegert, the wise guy of the Pipeline. He openly told opponents where plays were headed, daring them to stop it. Eddie Haskell with biceps.
Now he can tell them he’s headed to the College Football Hall of Fame. Well done and much deserved, Zach. No, you don’t get a car for this either.
» Wiegert and his 1994 Pipeline mates took NU’s offensive line reputation and doubled down. They were rock stars, widely viewed as the top group in program history.
Timing is everything. And as Wiegert got the HOF call Monday, my mind wandered to a Husker who was two years shy of that group.
That’s Will Shields, who will be honored Wednesday night with the Tom Osborne Legacy Award at the Outland Trophy dinner at the downtown Hilton.
It sometimes seems like Shields gets lost in the shuffle of Nebraska football history.
Well try this: Is Shields Nebraska’s greatest offensive lineman ever?
He's the most decorated for sure. Check the resume: Consensus All-American, 1992. Outland Trophy winner. A 12-time Pro Bowl selection with the Kansas City Chiefs. Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year winner.
Last, but certainly not least, Shields is one of five Huskers to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Two of the others are former offensive linemen — Mick Tinglehoff and Bob Brown. But neither won the Outland. Like Shields, Brown is in the College Football HOF.
It’s an interesting question. When you think of the great offensive linemen in NU history, you immediately think of the championship teams.
But Shields, who played on two Big Eight champs, wasn’t on a national title team. He never won a bowl game. He won the Outland Trophy while he was flying back from the 1992 Kansas State game in Tokyo, Japan.
Shields will get his due Wednesday night. It’s a good week for linemen.
» What a week for hoops, huh? Creighton got spanked by Villanova, 75-41. Nebraska lost to Rutgers, 93-65.
Afterward I was struck by the reactions from the coaches.
NU coach Fred Hoiberg said, “It’s so disappointing to have that lack of competitiveness when things get difficult out there on the court. Physically, mentally, we weren’t there. And I hate it. I hate it for our fans. I hate it for people who care.”
On Monday CU coach Greg McDermott addressed the loss to Nova, saying:
“Things happen in sports sometimes. We caught Nova on a really good night for them and a really poor night for us. You have to throw it away.
“Whether you lose by one or by 40, it’s a loss. You try to learn from it and move on.”
To me it sounded like one of those coaches is confident in his program’s culture and development, that things are in place for a young team to grow.
The other one did not sound as confident.
I’ll let you figure out which one is which.
» Nicklin Hames, future volleyball coach, is coming back for one last run with Nebraska volleyball in 2022.
She’ll do it while learning a new position and still being one of the Huskers’ leaders as they try to bring home the NCAA championship banner.
Seems like her coaching career will be off to a good start.
» I heard from a lot of Husker fans mourning the loss of Caryl Peters, who passed away earlier this month.
Peters, originally from Nebraska City, owned a popular Husker-themed store in Scottsdale, Arizona, called “Big Red of the Desert.”
Peters was well-known by all the Nebraska “snow birds” in Phoenix. She had a pet parrot named “Cowboy” that she brought to the store and taught to say “Huskers” and “Touchdown.” RIP Caryl.
» One more and I’m outta here: Thanks to all for the comments after I survived the first “Tom’s Press Box” video last week. Apparently the camera and camera man both survived too, and we’ll all be back for more on Wednesday. See you on Omaha.com.