Mad Chatter: Are Huskers healthy enough to win?; a local LB quietly leads the nation; Big 12's one true division

UNK linebacker Tyke Kozeal has 560 career tackles, second all-time in college football.

It’s Friday! And Mad Chatter is packed with Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We’ll cover Melvin Gordon and Jim Harbaugh, Kirk Ferentz and Larry Doby, the Big 12 and Dwyane Wade, plus plenty of Husker football.  

But first, a little attention for a player that doesn’t get enough

How many of you have heard of Tyke Kozeal, the pride of Sargent, Nebraska? Well, the Nebraska-Kearney senior linebacker leads the NCAA with 130 tackles, 16.3 per game. Here are his game-by-game numbers:

17

16

19

18

12

14

15

19

Kozeal, who played eight-man football in high school, has 560 career tackles, second all-time in college football. The only guy ahead of him, Connor Harris of Lindenwood, has 599. 

Who do the Lopers host Saturday in Kearney? Lindenwood. How ‘bout that?

For the record, entering 2016, these were the NCAA career leaders by division (tackles weren’t recorded as an official NCAA stat until the late 90s):

D-1: 545—Tim McGarigle, Northwestern, 2002-05 (48 games)

1-AA: 550—Boomer Grigsby, Illinois St., 2001-04 (44 games)

D-2: 517—Deric Sieck, Winona St., 2000-03; Per-game record—13.95, Jason Ocean, Livingstone, 2000-03

D-3: 545—Kyle McGivney, Luther, 2008-11 (255 solo, 290 assisted); Per-game record—13.41, Tavarski Wallace, Adrian, 2003-06 (429 in 32)

Kozeal won’t catch his Lindenwood rival, but he’s on pace to finish with 600-plus. Pretty amazing.

* * *

>> One year ago this weekend, Nebraska fell behind 42-16 at Purdue, a team that had dropped 18 of its previous 19 Big Ten games. The Huskers were 3-6 and reasonable voices were calling for Riley’s termination.

Since that Saturday, the Huskers are 10-1. How often do you see a shift so dramatic without dramatic tangible changes? Riley didn’t overhaul the roster. He didn’t fire coordinators or bench his quarterback or binge on junior-college prospects.

Nebraska has developed comfort and confidence in their schemes. But just as important: the Huskers bought in to a new way of leadership. I examined that in the OWH today.

>> I think Wisconsin wins Saturday night and my primary reason is Nebraska’s crummy health. 

I just don’t know if the offensive line can hold up. You saw those guys on the field against Purdue. You saw Nick Gates and David Knevel. By game’s end, the Huskers were playing three former walk-ons, Dylan Utter, Sam Hahn and Cole Conrad. And Gates was limping badly. 

How is that a formula for success in the run game? It’s not. Which means Nebraska must hope the pass protection holds up and beat the Badgers through the air. As Mike Riley said Monday, when the big plays are available, the Huskers can’t miss. That puts a lot of pressure on Tommy Armstrong, who hasn’t played his best football the past two weeks. 

>> Armstrong broke Taylor Martinez’s career completion record over the weekend. Next up is Martinez’s total offense record. Armstrong stands at 9,989, 245 short of Martinez. If he reaches 245 at Wisconsin, that's a good sign for NU.

>> If you have flashbacks of Melvin Gordon running down the sideline Saturday, you won’t be alone. I looked up Gordon’s famous 408-yard performance. Here’s the carry-by-carry:

1st quarter: six carries, 49 yards

minus-1, 3, 5, 42, 1, minus-1

2nd quarter: 10 carries, 189 yards

2, 2, 62 TD, 8, 3, 16, 39, 44, 9, 4

3rd quarter: nine carries, 170 yards

9, 4, 43, 1 TD, 68, 6 TD, 7, 6, 26 TD

Honest to goodness, Gordon could’ve rushed for 600 that day if Gary Andersen would’ve allowed it. 

>> In case you missed them, two excellent reads on the Huskers from ESPN.com's Liz Merrill and SI's Lindsay Schnell. They do great work.

>> I have a hunch the Cubs finish the World Series at Wrigley Field in Game 5. Can you imagine the scene? Our Matthew Hansen will be at Wrigley to write columns the next two nights. 

>> This story about cover charges at Wrigleyville bars will blow your mind. Here’s a look at one bar at 7:45 this morning!

>> Les Carpenter writes some fascinating stories. Here’s one about Larry Doby, the black baseball pioneer in Cleveland who’s overlooked in history.

>> How A-Rod and Pete Rose, two of baseball’s biggest villains, teamed up to make fascinating TV

>> Dan Wetzel says the problem with college athletics isn’t Jim Harbaugh’s $9 million salary. It’s the way athletic departments spend all their money on themselves rather than the actual athletes:

Not sharing the increased revenue is how an athletic department grows by more than a quarter in half a decade. Or how over a seven-year span the number of Michigan athletic department employees making six figures went from 30 to 81.

>> With an early signing period, college football recruiting will look more like college basketball courtships. That’s a potential nightmare, Pete Thamel writes.

>> USA Today’s annual coaching salary package focuses on Kirk Ferentz’s ridiculous buyout.

Ferentz, by the way, reportedly donated $2,700 to Chris Christie’s presidential campaign. There’s an ironic joke somewhere there about Ferentz making a bad investment, but I’ll leave it alone.

>> How life changed for Villanova’s Kris Jenkins and North Carolina’s Nate Britt, who grew up like brothers, after the national championship thriller.

>> So let me get this straight: The Warriors get blown out on Opening Night. The Lakers beat the Rockets. The Bulls make 11 3s, including a dagger from Dwyane Wade, to beat the Celtics.

What the heck is going on here?!? Small sample sizes, I know. I do hope it’s an omen for an unpredictable NBA season. 

>> A heartbreaking, incredible story of a star sportswriter who drank herself to death.

>> Finally, the Big 12 has ditched the concept of divisions. Instead, they'll match the top two teams in the standings for its conference championship game. On the surface, this seems like a harmless discrepancy. Until you start thinking about it.

Consider a three-way tie at 7-2 in which they all go 1-1 against each other. That would be fun. Or let me throw another one at you.

Oklahoma faces Oklahoma State in the regular-season finale. Let's say OU is 8-0, OSU is 7-1 and Texas is 8-1. The Sooners can beat the Cowboys and give hated Texas a berth in the Big 12 title game ... or lose to OSU and meet the Cowboys again the following week. 

One thing you can be certain of: It's the Big 12 and there will be chaos.

>> Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend

Reporter - Sports

Dirk writes stories and columns about Husker football in addition to covering general assignments and enterprise for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @dirkchatelain. Phone: 402-444-1062.

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