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A large rock with an engraved sign on the top that reads “POUND THE ROCK” sits outside the Nebraska football locker room at Memorial Stadium.

Tim Cassidy vividly remembers the big boulder — the one sitting alone and largely unnoticed inside Memorial Stadium near Nebraska's locker room.

However, Cassidy, NU's associate athletic director for football under former head coach Bill Callahan, can't recall exactly how it got there.

"I know it was an ordeal," said Cassidy, who now has a similar title at Arizona State.

The ordeal apparently went down sometime before the 2006 season, when Callahan brought in the boulder to emphasize the seriousness of his "pound the rock" theme for the offense.

In fact, a bronze plate affixed to the boulder reads "POUND THE ROCK."

Nebraska did in fact run the ball effectively that season, finishing 23rd nationally at 170.5 yards per game en route to the Big 12 Championship Game.

The theme seems particularly fitting at the moment, with the Huskers rushing 113 times for 618 yards (5.5 per carry) in their last two outings.

"All I remember is Coach Callahan wanted (the boulder), and the facilities guys had to drag it in there — and it's sat there ever since," said Jay Terry, Nebraska's head equipment manager since 2002.

"I mean, nobody's really done anything with it other than when Callahan was here."

That seems a shame, in part because the boulder appears to be, well, a bit lonely.

I admire that boulder because it never complains — at least not that I've heard.

I mentioned the boulder to Nebraska running backs coach Reggie Davis.

"What boulder?" he said.

Told of its significance, Davis seemed to appreciate Callahan's idea. After all, Davis preaches strong upfield running. He tells his backs, "If you see daylight, no matter how small, get to it fast and be physical."

"All through fall camp, Coach Davis talked about wide cuts and instead of continuing on a wide path, get upfield," said Husker running back Devine Ozigbo, whose rugged style produced 103 yards last week against Fresno State.

Ozigbo sometimes hurdles the boulder on the way to the locker room.

Terry said a forklift was used to put it in place.

"It was very, very heavy."

It's hopefully there to stay, so maybe stop and say "hi."

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING

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Michigan hasn't punted since the first quarter of the Citrus Bowl against Florida last year. That spans 16 drives, during which the Wolverines have scored 11 touchdowns, kicked two field goals, kneeled-out the game clock twice and thrown one interception. Next up: Central Florida, coached by Scott Frost.

UPSET ALERT

This week's choice — Utah State at USC — actually should be labeled "Upset Red Alert." Or perhaps "Upset Special of the Year." My editor shot down those ideas. At any rate, USC will be severely tested. Bank on it. The Trojans are beat up physically, mentally and emotionally after being throttled 52-6 by Alabama. The Aggies will run the ball effectively against the Trojans' inexperienced line, and therefore will be able to play keep-away. Look for a tight game well into the fourth quarter.

THUMBS UP, DOWN

Thumbs up to Fresno State for its part in the moving tribute to Sam Foltz that unfolded during the first quarter Saturday night, when Nebraska's punt team sent only 10 players to the field and took a delay-of-game penalty. Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter declined it. Meanwhile, his players clapped and implored the crowd to cheer. What a scene. "If we can't teach our guys to do something classy like that, then what is college for?" DeRuyter told reporters.

Thumbs down to the mighty SEC, which went only 6-6 last week. This from a conference that since 2006 had gone 496-110 in nonconference games (regular season and bowls) for an .818 winning percentage that led all leagues. To be fair, Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M came up with impressive victories. And let's be real, there still is no better conference in the country.

FIVE TO GO

Five rising stars in the assistant coaching ranks

1. Sterlin Gilbert, offensive coordinator, Texas. He managed his team's two-quarterback system like a virtuoso in Sunday's monumental home triumph over then-10th-ranked Notre Dame.

2. Sonny Cumbie, co-offensive coordinator, TCU. Gilbert has the Texas job because Cumbie turned it down in December. A former Texas Tech quarterback, Cumbie groomed former Horned Frog QB great Trevone Boykin.

3. Dave Aranda, defensive coordinator, LSU. Aranda's defense certainly wasn't the problem in Saturday's 16-14 loss to Wisconsin. In fact, the Tiger defense made several big plays and forced game-changing turnovers. Look for more of the same under the former Badger coordinator.

4. Trent Bray, linebackers coach, Nebraska. The exemplary work he's done with his crew flies under the radar nationally. But more and more people are beginning to notice.

5. Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator, Alabama. Did you really think we'd create such a list and not include Kiffin? It's time for a Power 5 school to give him (another) chance to lead a program. Heaven knows he's earned it.

FIVE WHO COULD GO

Weekly hot-seat list

1. Les Miles, LSU (12th year). Miles' seat is hotter than New Orleans in the dead of July. But it would be unwise to count out the Mad Hatter.

2. Mark Stoops, Kentucky (fourth year). Kentucky opened the season with a 44-35 loss to Southern Miss. Adding insult to injury, USM's offense is coordinated by Shannon Dawson, fired from the same position by Stoops in mid-December. Ouch.

3. Steve Addazio, Boston College (fourth year). BC has lost 11 of its last 12 ACC games, including last week's 17-14 loss to Georgia Tech in Dublin, Ireland. The Eagles' offense remains an issue, and Addazio at this point really has no good excuses.

4. Clay Helton, USC (second year). As former USC athletic director Mike Garrett used to say, "There are no honeymoons at USC." In Helton's case, this may be a tad early for hot-seat talk. On the other hand, a 52-6 loss to Alabama is extremely embarrassing for such a tradition-rich program.

5. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado (fourth year). He has only two Pac-12 victories in his tenure. But he says this is his most talented CU team. Maybe he's on to something. The Buffs squashed Colorado State 44-7 last week.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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