Nebraska Football: Power Ranking the Hardest Hits of the Bo Pelini Era
President Barack Obama has spoken. Kristin Cavallari has spoken. Sports media is buzzing again about player safety in the NFL as well as collegiate ranks.
While many will undoubtedly embark onto intellectual, moral and philosophical discussions about the essence of the game of football and its history, let's take the moral low ground, be the smaller man and simply celebrate the physicality that has drawn the ire of many fans.
Without further ado, here are the Nebraska Cornhuskers' most breath-taking, cringe-inducing hits of the Bo Pelini Era. And the best part: they do not all come from defensive players.
10. Suh Being Suh
Ndamukong Suh's sack of Colt McCoy in the Big 12 Championship Game gets downgraded a bit for not being "cringe-inducing" per se. However, what it lacks in that regard, it more than compensates in its "breath-taking" quality.
The ease by which Suh effortlessly hurls McCoy across the field and the distance McCoy travels is simply astonishing. Suh abandoned roughly every aspect of textbook-tackling, instead relying on pure strength to dispose of the overmatched Longhorn quarterback.
Although certainly impressive, this hit's lack of brutality keeps it lower in than rankings than one might expect.
9. Eric Hagg Abuses an Aggie Running Back
On a roster overflowing with NFL-caliber talent, Eric Hagg stood out in that forgettable contest in College Station a few years ago.
Matched up against standout back Cyrus Gray, Hagg gets an incredible jump on the pass out into the flats. Meeting Gray shortly after the ball arrives, Hagg throws Gray to the ground with awesome force.
Let's give credit where credit is due, however. Gray popped up like a man and seemed somehow unfazed by the vicious lick he had just received. His apathy to an otherwise apparently harsh hit drops Hagg in the rankings a few notches.
8. Courtney Osborne Pours Salt in the Wound
Blaine Gabbert cannot like Nebraska very much. After showing strong interest in the program, he backed out late in the recruitment process to attend divisional foe Missouri instead.
Unfortunately for him, the Blackshirts did not seem to forget. The Nebraska defense harassed him in every meeting as they forced him into sacks, fumbles and interceptions.
And this 2010 game was no different. On an afternoon when Roy Helu Jr. stole the show, the understated headline was Blaine Gabbert's struggles against the Cornhusker defense. Courtney Osborne's bone-crushing, albeit penalized, hit was just salt in the wound amidst a long day at the office for Gabbert.
7. The Assassin
Well, let's keep the illegal-hit trend going. And what better way to do so than with a tribute to the king of penalized hits: Larry Asante, the Assassin.
To be clear, this hit was dirty. Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing had obviously already taken himself out of the play and there was no excuse for Asante to still tee off on him.
Lucky for Asante, the legality of the hit has no bearing in this ranking, so he gets the nod. The blow he dealt Reesing was nothing short of brutal and punishing. No wonder it drew a suggested ejection from the commentators.
6. Daimion Stafford Lays the Lumber
Welcome to FBS ball, Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Daimion Stafford officially does not care who you are or what conference you play in. He is simply there to demolish ball-carriers.
And demolish he did.
Picking his way through a barrage of blockers, Stafford laid a mighty hit upon the Chattanooga back. The whiplash-inducing hit, jarring the ball loose and the lengthy celebration aided by his teammates land Stafford at the six spot.
5. Jared Crick Eats Keith Price
Everyone knows dual-threat quarterbacks have been torching the Blackshirts in recent years. Luckily, for all the scrambling they have done against Nebraska's defense, every once in a while they scramble the wrong way.
And that is just what happened when Keith Price cut directly into the path of a pursuing Jared Crick during his 2011 visit to Lincoln.
Crick bulldozed Price in a rare mid-scramble blindside hit. It is clearly a big-time hit when the Washington linemen are that agitated with Crick following the collision.
4. Suh Rocks Columbia
The hit occurs at 1:18, although the rest is well worth watching.
It is tough to identify a single moment in which Ndamukong Suh catapulted himself from key player to national superstar. But that rainy night in Columbia, Missouri in 2009 may have been it.
Suh was an absolute terror as he frequented the Tiger backfield as well as helping in pass defense as shown here.
If there is a player one would hate to get blindsided by, it would have to be Suh. The poor Missouri receiver was a sitting duck as the pass came in high. And Suh took full advantage, plastering the wideout into the ground in brutal fashion.
3. The Many Talents of Mr. Enunwa
Among the stereotypical and repetitive conversation pieces commentators love to mention during Nebraska games are the many tasks and responsibilities of Nebraska receivers.
Since the Tom Osborne era, it has been no secret that Big Red receivers were there to block as much as run routes and catch. But tackle?
That may not be something Pelini and his staff look for during the recruiting process, but after the lick dealt out by Quincy Enunwa against Fresno State, they may start. Enunwa demolished the unsuspecting Bulldog defender, jarring the ball loose in the most violent of ways.
2. Eric Martin Makes His Mark
When the Huskers headed for Stillwater in 2010, few knew much about the young special-teamer Eric Martin, but boy did he make a splash in a hurry.
Martin made headlines when he was handed a suspension for his cringe-worthy hit on a defenseless Oklahoma State player.
Truthfully, the inclusion of this hit in these rankings may be a little insensitive and heartless. Then again, there is nothing in the criteria that says injuries or suspensions preclude a hit from mention. So, the second spot seems appropriate.
1. Kenny Bell Goes Huge
And the biggest hit in the Bo Pelini era goes to...a wide receiver?
It certainly sounds ridiculous, but there is no denying how enormous this hit was.
Bell came out of nowhere to spring Jamal Turner for a touchdown by utterly destroying Wisconsin's Devin Smith. The first parts of Smith to hit the ground following the collision were his hand and his head. At that moment, his feet were at the height of Bell's chin.
Even though this hit was ultimately (and questionably) penalized, its magnitude lands it easily atop the list of biggest hits in the Bo Pelini era.