Fifteen Nebraska players were honored by the Big Ten Conference on Monday, earning all-conference honors as announced by the league office. Five Huskers were named first-team All-Big Ten selections by either the conference coaches or a media panel.
Junior offensive guard Spencer Long was a first-team selection by both the coaches and the media, the lone Husker to receive first-team accolades on both teams. Long was a second-team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore in 2011. The Elkhorn native has anchored a Nebraska offensive line that leads the Big Ten in rushing offense and total offense, while ranking second in scoring offense. Long is just the second Nebraska offensive lineman to earn first-team all-conference honors since 2003.
AUDIO Bo Pelini’s press conference (11:00)
Joining Long on the coaches’ first team was junior quarterback Taylor Martinez. He leads the Big Ten Conference in total offense and passing efficiency and has guided Nebraska to four double-figure second-half comebacks in 2012. Martinez has accounted for 3,316 yards of total offense this season, the second-highest total in school history and his 2,483 passing yards ranks fourth on the NU single-season list. Martinez is the first Nebraska quarterback to earn first-team all-conference honors since Zac Taylor in 2006.
Three Huskers joined Long on the media’s All-Big Ten first team. Place-kicker Brett Maher was the first-team selection for the second consecutive year. Maher has connected on 18-of-24 field goals this season, including three field goals of at least 50 yards. He has also made three-or-more field goals in three games this season.
The other two Huskers are senior defensive end Eric Martin and senior safety Daimion Stafford to pick up first-team accolades. Martin ranks among the Big Ten leaders in sacks and tackles for loss with 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss.
Stafford ranks second on the team in tackles with 83 total tackles. Stafford has a team-high four interceptions, all in Big Ten play and leads the conference in interceptions in league games.
Nebraska was also well-represented on both the second-team and honorable-mention listings from both the coaches and the media.
Offensively, those selected to the coaches’ second team included I-back Ameer Abdullah, wide receiver Kenny Bell and offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles. Abdullah leads Nebraska with 1,071 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns this season, including six 100-yard rushing games. Bell is on track for one of the most prolific receiving seasons in school history with team-leading totals of 44 catches for 789 yards and eight touchdowns. Sirles has started every game at tackle to help Nebraska produce one of the nation’s top offenses.
The coaches’ second-team defense included Martin, Stafford, defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler and linebacker Will Compton.
Martinez, Bell and Sirles were each selected to the second-team offensive unit by the conference media panel.
Several Huskers received honorable-mention all-conference honors from one or both of the sources. Tight end Ben Cotton, cornerback Ciante Evans, center Justin Jackson and safety P.J. Smith earned honors from the coaches, while Abdullah, Compton, Cotton, Evans, Jackson, Maher (punter), tight end Kyler Reed, Smith and Steinkuhler were honorable-mention All-Big Ten selections by the media.
In addition, senior I-back Rex Burkhead was chosen as Nebraska’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree.
Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year: Brett Maher (co-recipient with Northwestern’s Jeff Budzien)
First-Team All-Big Ten: OG Spencer Long (Media and Coaches); QB Taylor Martinez (Coaches); PK Brett Maher (Media); DE Eric Martin (Media); S Daimion Stafford (Media)
Second-Team All-Big Ten: WR Kenny Bell (Media and Coaches); OT Jeremiah Sirles (Media and Coaches); IB Ameer Abdullah (Coaches); PK/P Brett Maher (Coaches); DE Eric Martin (Coaches); DT Baker Steinkuhler (Coaches); LB Will Compton (Coaches); S Daimion Stafford (Coaches)
Honorable-Mention All-Big Ten: Coaches—TE Ben Cotton, CB Ciante Evans, C Justin Jackson, S P.J. Smith; Media—Abdullah, Compton, Cotton, Evans, Jackson, Maher (punter), TE Kyler Reed, Smith, Steinkuhler.
Nebraska travels to Indianapolis this Saturday in search of the program’s first conference title in 13 seasons, as
the Huskers meet Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. Kickoff from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis is
set for 8:17 p.m. ET, with national television coverage provided by FOX.
The Huskers are making their third conference title game appearance in the past four seasons, after appearing in the 2009 and 2010 Big 12 title games in NU’s final two seasons in the conference. Nebraska earned its trip to the Big Ten Championship Game by winning the Legends Division crown with a 7-1 conference record and a 10-2 overall record. Nebraska secured its third 10-win season under Bo Pelini with a 13-7 victory at Iowa last Friday.
Nebraska will carry a six-game win streak into its matchup with the Badgers, the Huskers’ longest since winning their last game in 2009 and first five games in 2010. The Huskers head to the Big Ten Championship Game ranked 14th in the Associated Press Poll, 13th by the Coaches and 12th in the BCS standings.
Wisconsin will go to Indianapolis with a 7-5 record and a 4-4 mark in the Big Ten. All five of Wisconsin’s losses this season have been by seven points or less, with three setbacks in overtime. The Badgers will be looking for their third consecutive Big Ten title after appearing in the Rose Bowl each of the past two seasons. The Badgers won the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game over Michigan State last season with a thrilling 42-39 victory.
The winner of Saturday night’s matchup in Indianapolis will earn the Big Ten’s bid to the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1. A trip to the Rose Bowl would mark NU’s first BCS berth since the 2001 season.