It’s Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We have Mark Emmert and Mike Rice, Tommy Armstrong and Anthony Tolliver, Gregg Marshall and Brittney Griner. But first, the greatest individual quarterback season in Husker history.
If all goes well in Lincoln, Taylor Martinez will stake his claim to that title this fall. But right now, it’s an open competition. Probably more open than I imagined when I posed the question in Wednesday’s Chatter. Here’s just a sampling of the responses:
“Zac Taylor in 2006. The man had no offensive line, took hit after hit, and still put up unreal numbers for a Nebraska QB,” says Jake Sorensen.
“Taking into account (lack of) talent around him, as well as success, I’d go with Crouch in 2001,” says Josh Peterson.
“Frost 1997,” says Josh Dilo.
“Ganz’s final season. I know we didn’t win anything, but that guy was insanely money that year. If only we had the 2010 D,” says HuskerGuy.
“If the majority of fans feel that Frazier 1995 isn’t the top QB season at Nebraska, I’d be stunned,” says Derek Johnson.
“I would throw in Gill’s 1983 season…Unlike 1995, Gill didn’t have a defense to bail him out,” says Tom Kozeny.
“In 1989 Gdowski was almost a 1000-1000 guy. 974 yds rushing, 1326 passing, 19 touchdowns, 2 ints,” says Paul Jacobsen.
“You cant discount Martinez last season. Almost 4,000 total yards? 33 tds? All the late game heroics?” says J.P. Flaxbeard.
Quite a range, huh. Everyone has an opinion and mine certainly isn’t the last word. But here’s my honorable mention, followed by the top five.
Jerry Tagge, 1971
Vince Ferragamo, 1976
Steve Taylor, 1987
Joe Ganz, 2008
Taylor Martinez, 2012
5. Turner Gill, 1983
His 2,047 total yards and 25 touchdowns (in 12 games) was outstanding for his era. His 152.7 passer rating would’ve been good for third nationally, but he was just shy of the threshold for attempts. He also just missed the NCAA career record for lowest interception percentage. At one point during the ’83 season, he threw 125 passes without a pick. But statistics don’t describe Gill’s contributions. He was the maestro of arguably the greatest offense of all-time. Had he completed the two-point conversion in Miami, he’d have an argument for No. 1.
4. Gerry Gdowski, 1989
How ‘bout this for efficiency: 19 touchdowns and two interceptions. One of every 3.7 completions was a TD. His passer rating of 177.3 would’ve set an NCAA record, but he barely missed the attempts threshold. Gdowski also ran for 925 yards, a school record for QBs at the time. He averaged 7.9 yards per carry, another school record. In the only regular-season loss, at Colorado, Gdowski had 280 total yards and threw three touchdowns. He’s downgraded only for a poor bowl game (a blowout loss to Florida State) and a lackluster regular-season schedule.
3. Eric Crouch, 2001
The best running quarterback in school history. Crouch rushed for 1,115 yards and threw for 1,510. Lacking playmakers at running back and receiver, he was the closest thing to a one-man offense the program has ever seen. His run at Missouri and his catch against Oklahoma stand out on the highlight tapes, but his week-to-week effort is what made his 2001 season special. On the other hand, he threw more interceptions than touchdowns (10 v. 7), the schedule was generally weak and his Heisman was really a testament to his three years of greatness rather than one standout campaign.
2. Scott Frost, 1997
After a rocky junior season, Frost established himself as the perfect QB for Tom Osborne’s physical offense. He threw only five touchdown passes in 13 games, but he rushed for 22 and was the first quarterback in NU history to pass and rush for 1,000 yards. Frost played great in big games, leading the charge at Washington, spearheading the comeback at Missouri and rolling over Tennessee. Bonus point for good politicking in the post-Orange Bowl press conference.
1. Tommie Frazier, 1995
Frazier is widely viewed as the greatest quarterback in school history. But his performance in the ’95 season may be underrated because 1) he didn’t win the Heisman and 2) his supporting cast was an all-star roster. Frazier threw for 17 touchdowns and four interceptions pre-Fiesta Bowl. He rushed for 600 and 14 TDs. He produced two of the best quarterback games in school history on the absolute biggest stage. At Colorado, Frazier threw for 241 yards and two scores as the offense produced 44 points with no turnovers, no penalties and no sacks. Against Florida, he rushed for 199 yards and threw for 105 more. Crouch may own a Heisman. Frost may have led a last-minute rally. But Frazier has the best overall body of work.
That’s my list. Where did I go right and where did I go wrong?
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>> I don’t have many expectations for the spring game. I don’t anticipate walking away knowing who Bo Pelini will start at linebacker, or whether he’s found the next Prince Amukamara in the secondary. But I do hope Saturday to see a good dose of Tommy Armstrong.
Pelini’s gamble to redshirt Armstrong last year paid off — Taylor Martinez stayed healthy. But as a result, we haven’t seen Armstrong yet. The program really needs a strong No. 2 this year. I want to see if Armstrong is the field general we’ve been hearing about.
>> Thursday, about the time Mike Rice got fired, I mentioned to a friend a curious omission from the story. Where are his players? What do they think? Well, USA Today got in touch with two of them, who backed Rice.
It supports what Anthony Tolliver and Andy Markowski expressed when I interviewed them separately Wednesday:
“At the end of the day,” Tolliver said, “I’m sure all those players, as crazy as it sounds, respected him and actually probably liked the guy. I’m sure he’s not a bad guy.”
You’re taking a dozen video clips over a two-year period, Markowski said. Rice might generally be a positive coach. You don’t win at Robert Morris, as Rice did, without motivating your players to buy in.
Both Tolliver and Markowski condemned Rice’s behavior, but their views reflect a level of nuance that hasn’t gotten much attention.
>> It’s easy to replace Mike Rice. But the deeper issue is changing a coaching culture, says Joe Posnanski.
>> A really interesting piece by Patrick Hruby on the code of silence in college athletics. It pays not to blow the whistle on your employers. Speaking of Hruby, here he compares the NCAA system to an overseas sweatshop.
>> Mark Emmert got a little prickly with CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd at Thursday’s Final Four press conference. Dodd’s column.
>> I should start a weekly feature where I share my favorite emails and Twitter messages. I wrote a story this week quoting Grant Gibbs and others about the Rutgers mess. A reader responded with this:
“I can not imagine why you would not interview Etchaneate the Creighton player who transferred from Rutgers rather than Gibbs who transferred from Gonzaga? EXPLAIN It was a natural story tie in We have a former Rutgers player in Omaha!!!!!!!!! I have a journalism degree . Do you? This is reporting 101. You got a F”
For the record, Gregory Etechaneate left Rutgers the year before Mike Rice arrived.
>> This is pretty funny: Forty years ago, four college kids at William & Mary created a fake college basketball All-America team. It worked.
>> A profile of Ray King, a North Carolina Central guard playing with cancer.
>> Let me get this straight: There is serious doubt among basketball experts about Doug McDermott’s ability to excel in the NBA. And yet very serious people — Mark Cuban and Shane Battier — say a female basketball player will make the league? I can’t fathom Brittney Griner beating out guys like McDermott for a roster spot. ESPN columnist Kate Fagan can’t either.
>> Detroit’s Doug Anderson is the best dunker you’ve never heard of. Wow.
>> Could this be the best all-sports weekend of the year? Spring Game. Final Four. First weekend of MLB. And the Masters starts Monday.
>> For our golf section that comes out next week, I’m examining the belly putter phenomenon. If you switched to the belly in the last year, shoot me an email and tell me why.
>> Why is it so hard for a school like UCLA to hire a coach? Because great coaches — more than ever — aren’t willing to mess with happiness. Look at this quote from Gregg Marshall:
“I’m already making seven figures. You can eat a lot of steak and hamburger and pizza for what we’re making at Wichita State . … I live on the golf course. We have a beautiful backyard. My wife has four dogs. She gardens. We fly around on private planes to Napa and back to South Carolina. We have a good life, man.”
>> A USA Today panel ranks all 75 Final Fours. Their top five goes like this: 1979, 1966, 1983, 1985, 1957. I won’t attempt to rank Final Fours pre-88. But since then, my top five would be ’93 (Carolina), ’88 (Kansas), ’08 (Kansas), ’01 (Duke), ’91 (Duke).
>> I’ll take Louisville and Michigan in Saturday’s Final Four. But if Wichita State has a shot in the second half, I’ll be rooting for the upset.
>> Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.