Ex-General counts on Nebraska redemption

Ndamukong Suh says Huskers’ sour season should act as incentive
Ndamukong Suh (right) started all but one game as a Cornhusker last season, which saw Nebraska go 5-7. Coach Bill Callahan lost his job and has been replaced by Bo Pelini.

During Nebraska’s bizarre three games to end the football season, Ndamukong Suh says he stopped looking at the scoreboard. “I let the coaches worry about the scoreboard,” says Suh, a defensive tackle from Portland’s Grant High. “I played as hard as I could, did what I thought was the right thing.” Riding along at 4-1, Nebraska fell apart and finished 5-7. The slide cost coach Bill Callahan and his staff their jobs. And the way they suffered their final two losses probably sealed their fate. At Kansas, the Cornhuskers lost 76-39, giving up 11 touchdowns. The next game, QB Joe Ganz threw for 510 yards as Nebraska beat Kansas State 73-31. But with the opportunity to go 6-6 and be bowl eligible, the Huskers went to Colorado and gave up eight touchdowns in losing 65-51. “It was definitely frustrating,” says Suh, who will be a junior next season under new coach Bo Pelini. “I honestly couldn’t pinpoint one thing and say it was the reason we were giving up the yards and points and losing games. It seemed like a combination of things; fix one thing, and another thing would break down. It was a never-ending cycle. “I don’t even think it was the coaching. We were shutting people down, but teams figured out what we were doing and beat us to the punch.” Strategy follows strength Suh started all but one game after playing in all 14 Nebraska games the previous season. He played in two games in 2005, his freshman season, before needing knee surgery; he got the year of eligibility back on a medical appeal. Now he is sitting out spring ball after another knee surgery last month. Pelini says that “there won’t be an issue” as to Suh’s ability to keep playing. The 6-4, 305-pound Suh has compiled 14 tackles for loss, including 4.5 sacks, in his two seasons — not stellar numbers, but he does play D-tackle, plugging up the line, after being recruited to play both tackle and end. He’s still a work in progress. “I don’t think I’ve had the greatest technique,” Suh says. “I’ve been strong, and I’m just refining that, but my quickness, explosion and technique need work.” Indeed, Suh has done two reps with 420 pounds on the bench press. He can do one-leg lunges with 405 pounds on his back. He has the strength; now, he just needs to get better at playing the game. He started football as an eighth-grader and skipped his freshman season at Grant. “I’ve progressed pretty well, but there’s still tons of stuff I have to learn,” he says. “I haven’t played football for very long.” The Cornhuskers made bowl games in Suh’s first two years in Lincoln. Then, last year … “If you had asked anybody during summer workouts about expectations,” he says, “we would have said, ‘To go to the Big 12 championship game and a BCS game.’ ” Now, it’s up to Pelini to get the storied program back on track. He served as defensive coordinator at Nebraska and then took the same position at LSU, helping the Tigers win the national championship. When Callahan got canned, Nebraska went calling on Pelini, whose brother, Carl, will serve as defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. “From what I’ve seen, we’ll have more of a balanced defense,” Suh says. “(Bo Pelini) can definitely blitz you. He can also sit in base (defense) and just play as well. The opponents are always going to be guessing.” As for the team, “he doesn’t want this to be a rebuilding year,” Suh says of the new head man. “We’re coming out to win games and go to a bowl game. I have two years left, I want to get to a BCS game, and that game being the national championship. I don’t see a problem as long as everybody buys into what he wants. We still have loads of talent.” Portland exerts a pull Suh doesn’t regret going to Nebraska and passing on the likes of Oregon and Oregon State. He returns to Portland when he can, spending three weeks here during the holidays and hanging out with his best buddy from Grant, former all-PIL basketball player Dominic Waters, who is at Portland State. “School’s going good,” Suh says. “I’ll have the opportunity to finish my undergraduate degree before my last year of eligibility. That’s a plus.” Suh is majoring in construction management. After his playing days, which he hopes will include the NFL, Suh says he might return to Portland and start his own business or work with his father, who is a mechanical engineer. He hopes Nebraska turns it around this football season. “We have new coaches, and it’s time to move forward,” Suh says. “We need to take a lesson from last season. Let that taste sit in our mouth and use it as fuel.” This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.