November 21, 2011

David remains a constant on NU defense

Nebraska's Big Ten Conference championship hopes came to an end in Saturday's 45-17 drubbing at the hands of Michigan, but it certainly was of no fault of Lavonte David's.

While seemingly everyone else on the team had their share of issues against the Wolverines, David put up the kind of performance that was almost good enough to balance things out.

By the end of the day, the senior linebacker had racked up 17 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a half sack. The total marked the 13th times in David's 25 games as a Husker that he finished with 10 or more tackles, including his fifth so far this season.

Even more impressive, the Michigan game was also the fifth time in his NU career and the second this season that he's had at least 15 stops in a game.

As easy at it is to praise the Miami, Fla., native and all that he's brought to Nebraska's defense over the past two years, he maintained his usual humble approach when asked after the game if Saturday was the best individual outing of his career.

"Not really," David said. "I think everybody played hard, really."

Luckily it wasn't too difficult to find others to put David's play into perspective. Defensive coordinator Carl Pelini has had to try and come up with different ways to praise David after nearly every game since he became a starter just before the start of last season.

"He's a great football player," Pelini said. "He comes and plays every week, and I thought (Saturday), uncharacteristically we made a lot of mistakes in a lot of areas: offense, defense, special teams. But he played another great game. He played up to his standards. He always does."

Despite not even having two full seasons as a Husker under his belt, the Butkus, Bednarik and Lott Trophy semifinalist has already etched his names among some of the best defenders ever to play at Nebraska.

After his 17 stops against Michigan, David now has 266 career tackles to rank seventh on NU's all-time career tackles list. With one regular season game left to play, he needs just eight more tackles to move up into the school's top five.

With 114 stops through 11 games, David became just the fifth Husker defender ever to post back-to-back 100-tackle seasons. He joins Jerry Murtaugh, Clete Pillen, Lee Kunz and Barrett Ruud as the only Nebraska players to accomplish the feat.

In the wake of the loss to Michigan, some have questioned whether Nebraska simply doesn't have enough players of David's caliber to compete in the upper ranks of the Big Ten. Pelini thinks that notion is ridiculous.

"There aren't many Lavonte David's in the country, so if you ask me if we a bunch of Lavonte David's, no, neither does anybody else," Pelini said. "I promise you that. But do we have good enough football players to win the Big Ten? We've proven that. We beat Michigan State. We beat Ohio State. We've shown we can do it, it was just one of those days."

You could go on and on about David's individual statistics, but the numbers are all secondary for the former junior college transfer.

Right now, he has much more important things to worry about, like being a leader for a team that just saw one of its biggest post-season goals vanish on Saturday.

"I've just got to keep everybody's head up, like I've been doing all the time," David said. "Just keep everybody's head up and get ready for the next opponent. I mean, we lost and all, but I mean it's just something that we have to build on."

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