Alex Henery will never be replaced at Nebraska. What he brought to the school was a fascination to fans in the kicking game. When he got in the game and when his time mattered, he made his mark. It didn't matter if it was a 50-yard kick. That was without any doubt in the Sea of Red.
And it sure was sad to see the Omaha native go. He was automatic. The impression Henery left for Huskers fans is something they hadn't seen since Kris Brown. When any amount of points mattered, there was Henery. A mop-up duty type of player.
But what waited in the wings for the next couple of years was just as special as Henery, now with the Philadelphia Eagles. Just unknowingly. As Huskers fans latch on to an 8-2 start, they aren't being fooled by the current kicker.
Brett Maher can do exactly what Henery did. And after 10 games, Maher has done everything to a T.
Imagine handling that adversity. How do you replace the most accurate kicker in Cornhuskers history?
That's the definition of tough. It's like Aaron Rodgers replacing Brett Favre. Not easy.
But making field goals isn't tough for Maher, the junior from Kearney, Neb. He boasts a Big Ten leading 16 made field goals. He's perfect in point after attempts. He's third in the league in points scored. And there's much more to it that it doesn't stop there.
Maher leads the league in punting. Just as Henery was good with the boot, Maher has followed suit. When Henery averaged 43.2 yards a punt in his senior year, Maher has averaged 45.4 yards this season.
He's a leg specialist. Pinning opponents deep. His impact was noticed this last week.
Against Penn State, the games final score of 17-14 was because of Maher. Without his field goal, what's the chances the Cornhuskers walk out with a win?
And in between it all was the understudy by Maher and the influence Henery left. After all, you could always spot the two on the sidelines together before.
But even more impacting is that the two roomed together. They were literally following each other around. Eating. Sleeping. Playing football.
Henery and Maher have made special teams play a gimme at Nebraska within recent years. Kicking the ball through the net and away from return men. It's not as easy as it seems.
Especially when special teams play has been a factor of many 2011 games. Often unnoticed, look at the special teams encounter from the last two weeks. Alabama kicked its way to a loss against LSU two weeks ago. And Boise State lost their first home field game on the smurf turf in 11 years by missing a field goal as time expired. Out like that was Boise from the National Championship picture.
What's in store can only be better and better for Maher and the Big Red. Another year of eligibility remains. Which means more sure points.