Defensive Redemption: Why One Cornhusker Deserves My Apologies

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Defensive Redemption: Why One Cornhusker Deserves My Apologies

Maybe I was the only one to chastise Matt O'Hanlon this season.

But I don't think so.

Matt O'Hanlon had become a name synonymous with a last second disaster.  Up until Saturday Matt O'Hanlon's legacy was comprised of blown coverages at inopportune times, such as a certain game against Virginia Tech this season.

If Saturday spelled anything for any Nebraska players it was redemption for the defense.  And not just because this defense gave up sixty-two points last season to the same Sooner team.

Sure the same could be said for a myriad of players on the defense, like Phillip Dillard or Larry Asante.  But no other player needed it more than Matt O'Hanlon.

I, myself, openly criticised O'Hanlon after the Virginia Tech debacle.  Saying that he may be the worst free safety in the Big 12 this season.  Saturday night, he couldn't have proved me more wrong.

There is a story about O'Hanlon after that Virginia Tech loss, he walked right into the coach's office and said, "I don't want to feel like that again.  What do I have to do to get better?"

Whatever advice was given, was taken and applied during the next few games, but most noticeably against Oklahoma this weekend.

O'Hanlon told Larry Asante the night before the game that he was going to intercept two passes on Saturday night.  He delivered on his promise, adding one more to ice the cake.

But it wasn't just interceptions for Matt that redeemed him.  It was his fast hitting and fearless play that led to 12 tackles, most of them solo, on DeMarco Murray arguably one of the toughest running backs to bring down one on one in the Big 12.

Matt O'Hanlon played with fearless tenacity.  He moved faster than I had ever seen, and at the end of the game I was left wondering where this All-American type safety came from.

Then I realized that I didn't care, as long as he sticks around.  So I want to be one of the first to say I'm sorry Matt O'Hanlon, you have turned me into a believer. 

While I'm not completely on the band wagon yet, I think that Matt O'Hanlon epitomizes what this defense has become: resilient, tough, and unforgiving. 

It's the attitude that I love to see in a defense, and it's that attitude that claimed a career high 12 tackles and three interceptions.  O'Hanlon may never have another game like this, in fact, he probably won't.

The fact is, he doesn't really need to.  His legacy has been spared.  No longer is Matt O'Hanlon a screw up, the guy who blew the big game.  He should now be known as a man who strives only to better himself day in and day out. 

He has turned around his career, and with it, perhaps Nebraska's season.

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