Nebraska Football: The Hard-Hitting Huskers Face Collision Questions

Brandon Cavanaugh@ INovember 2, 2010

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 30: Missouri Tigers quarterback Blaine Gabbert #11takes a moment after taking a hit from Courtney Osborne #12 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers during second half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska Defeated Missouri 31-17. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Now it’s just getting silly.

During Nebraska’s Oct. 23 game versus the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Cormhusker linebacker Eric Martin nailed the Cowboys’ Andrew Hudson.

After recently returning from back surgery, Hudson was taken off the field, suffering a concussion from the hit. No penalty was called.

ABC commentator Ed Cunningham had plenty to say about the helmet-to-helmet collision. "That was targeting a defenseless player," Cunningham said. "This is just part of the game we have to get out of here." Cunningham would continue while Hudson was attended to.

The NFL had been plagued during the week with these collisions and now, attention has seeped down to the NCAA’s level, but it’s not going to stop there. This is a sport-wide issue.

Martin took center stage and Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe handed down a one-game suspension to be served this past weekend as the Cornhuskers put away Missouri.

The only problem is, the argument didn’t die there and worse yet, not for the Cornhuskers.

Up 31-17 in the fourth quarter, corner back Courtney Osborne rushed on a blitz that rocked Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert so hard that he dropped the football in what was thought to be a fumble and a subsequent touchdown for Nebraska via return.

A review was conducted to see whether the fumble had actually occurred, but Cunningham was again calling the Cornhuskers’ contest and he would not let the force of the hit go unnoticed. Cunningham called the hit, “targeting.”

"That clearly was an illegal hit by Osborne," Cunningham said.

As the Lincoln Journal Star’s Steve Sipple wrote, “These debates are going to get old quickly, if they haven't already.” Osborne’s hit was as clean as clean could be as evidenced by the media in this very article.

The 6’4” Gabbert saw the 6’3” Osborne coming like a freight train, ducked down and was tackled violently. The 85,000+ in attendance groaned at the collision. Nebraska fans know big hits as they’ve seen a few.

The fumble was nullified, though the debate presses on, even getting some to question whether Nebraska actually teaches techniques to harm other players.

Admittedly, it does seem coincidental to have the topic come up twice in two weeks about the Huskers, but with fans across the country walking on eggshells, somewhere, someone was going to make a tackle just close enough. Unfortunately, he again played for Nebraska.

Cornhuskers’ head coach Bo Pelini was asked if the Huskers would change their techniques at all due to the negative press over the past weeks.

"It won't," he said.

Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel requested that the Big 12 look at the hit again.

"They gotta do what they gotta do," Pelini commented. "Like I said, (Gabbert) ducked a little bit at the last second. It was a good hit. The Big 12's going to do what they have to do, I don't know. I can't control that."

Is a suspension forthcoming for Osborne? As of this writing, nothing has come through.

Perhaps due to there being legitimate question as to whether or not the hit was illegal has to do with that; perhaps it is because the hit was legal.

Nebraska’s fan base and no doubt administration waits anxiously to hear what their soon-to-be-former Commissioner has to say about the hit.

The game of football is a violent one. Collisions and crashes happen. Unfortunately, sometimes they can be devastating, as we have witnessed during the past couple of weeks on the NCAA and NFL levels.

This is no avocation of helmet-to-helmet shots, but where does it end?

The Revolution-style helmet produced by Riddell was first distributed in 2002. Marking the first significant remodel to the helmet style in over a quarter of a century, analysts looked for a way to cut down heavily on concussions due to heavy hits, much like those being argued.

First, various skill players on the professional and collegiate level primarily began wearing them, but after it became apparent that all players were susceptible to big hits (See: OSU’s Hudson), you see them standard on nearly every NCAA player.

83% of the National Football League currently utilizes these helmets. You can find the helmet used on just about every level of the sport.

Is it time to go back to the drawing board on the Revolution?

Helmet-to-helmet collisions aren’t good for the sport, but it’s doubtful that many are done with intent to cause harm. Naturally, some are, but sometimes physics just isn’t a football player’s friend, much like Nebraska’s Martin.

It’s situations like the one between Osborne and Gabbert that can lead to a very slippery slope.

Oklahoma State’s Brodrick Brown was penalized for a hit that above the shoulders during the Cowboys’ game versus Kansas State this past weekend. Can Brown expect a suspension? If Beebe lets it go, doesn’t it appear to be some kind of grudge?

Remember, Nebraska is leaving for the Big 10 after this season and that doesn’t do the Big 12 any favors, after all.

Where to draw the line?


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