All throughout the spring and summer, the Cornhuskers heard the
rumblings. On campus, at grocery stores, in coffee shops, the
players overheard fans wondering if the Nebraska program has,
like a house with termites, fallen into decay. It's a fair
question to ask after the Cornhuskers' season-ending defeats to
Colorado (62-36) and Miami (37-14 in the Rose Bowl), two lopsided
losses that overshadowed an 11-2 record and an appearance in the
national title game. "Losing those games," says senior running
back Dahrran Diedrick, "was like getting stabbed."
Whether the Cornhuskers fully recover depends on the play of 6'3"
junior quarterback Jammal Lord, who over the last two seasons has
rushed 50 times and thrown 24 passes as Eric Crouch's backup. The
fleet Lord traveled an unlikely path to Lincoln. While growing up
in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, he started playing
football as a 10-year-old on a dirt lot strewn with rocks and
glass shards. After Lord's family moved to Bayonne, N.J., he
developed into a strong-armed option quarterback. "We're still
going to be a running team, but we'll be more well-rounded," says
coach Frank Solich. "Jammal is like [former Huskers quarterbacks]
Tommie Frazier and Scott Frost in that he's very confident."
Under almost as much scrutiny as Lord will be third-year
defensive coordinator Craig Bohl. In both losses last season the
defense was a step too slow, and to help offset that deficiency,
Bohl will employ more zone coverage than in years past. Two
speedy newcomers--linebacker Demorrio Williams, a junior college
transfer, and freshman cornerback Fabian Washington--are being
counted on to make an immediate impact.
Experience may be a problem for the Cornhuskers, who have only
five starters back on each side of the ball, but motivation won't
be. "Our last two games were not easy," says Solich. "But from
within the program there's no sense that we're sliding." --L.A.
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO LINGERING PAIN Diedrick, who led the team in rushing last year, says losing to Colorado and Miami "was like getting stabbed."
2001 RECORD: 11-2 (7-1, 2nd in Big 12 North)
FINAL RANKING: No. 8 AP, No. 7 coaches' poll
Consecutive home games since the Cornhuskers were shut out at
Memorial Stadium. Kansas State won 12-0 on Nov. 9, 1968.
An opposing coach's view
Quick fixes will prevent Nebraska from dropping far
"After what Colorado and Miami did to them, they're going to make
some changes on defense. Switching from man-to-man to more of a
zone concept should help them.... Quarterback Jammal Lord may not
be Eric Crouch, but Crouch wasn't heralded when he started out
either.... That offensive staff has been together a while and
knows how to groom quarterbacks.... The idea that Nebraska is
going to fall this year is baloney. If they do, it will be to,
like, eighth in the nation."
Aug. 24 ARIZONA STATE
31 TROY STATE
Sept. 7 UTAH STATE
14 at Penn State
28 at Iowa State
Oct. 5 MCNEESE STATE
19 at Oklahoma State
26 at Texas A&M
Nov. 2 TEXAS
16 at Kansas State