November 22, 2009

Henery, Kunalic do their part in win over Wildcats

Nebraska place kicker Adi Kunalic and kicker/punter Alex Henery certainly executed their parts of the Huskers' gameplan Saturday night against Kansas State.

Their assignment was to limit the impact of senior Brandon Banks, the Wildcats' explosive kickoff and punt returner. Kunalic and Henery carried out their assignment to near perfection.

Three of Kunalic's four kickoffs on the night reached the end zone, with one going for a touchback. Henery kept Banks in check by placing two punts out of bounds inside the K-State 5-yard line at critical times of the game.

"I thought he (Alex Henery) did some good things. He did some good things for us," Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said after the 17-3 victory. "I'll tell you, also, I thought Adi Kunalic kicked really well on his kickoff. (Brandon) Banks is a dangerous returner and he (Kunalic) kicked it deep. We executed well."

Henery said the Huskers spend a considerable amount of time working on special teams during their weekly preparations, but coverage and containment of Banks received some special attention this week.

"There's always a lot of emphasis on special teams, but this week it was mainly controlling him and keeping the ball away from him," Henery said. "Adi did a great job and I didn't do too bad. I gave him a few, but we pretty much held them in where we wanted them."

Banks attempted to return three of Kunalic's kickoffs, including two from inside his end zone, but never made it out any further than the 20-yard line.

Henery averaged 45.5 yards on six punts, including a booming 61-yarder that went out of bounds at the K-State 3 early in the fourth quarter. In the second quarter, he bounced one out at the Wildcats' 1.

"It's a lot of luck and a lot of working on it at practice," Henery said of his ability to get the ball to bounce toward the sideline. "I didn't know if they were going to turn because they were flying with a spiral. The first one I couldn't see from where I was at. I thought it was a touchback. The second one, in the air, I thought it was going too far and I didn't think it was going to turn right on me. I was kind of surprised."

Henery compared punting to using a wedge to control the spin of a ball on the golf course.

"You can work on it. I know if you bring your toe up, you can kind of get a backspin on it," he said. "I didn't know if they were going to turn for me because they were both spirals. You kind of have to get it the right rotation to get them to go out. It's just something you have to work with to know how to control it."

Henery's ability to set the Wildcats up with less-than-ideal field position drew praise, appreciation and some good-natured ribbing from Husker defensive coordinator Carl Pelini.

"You know, he (Alex) pinned them down on the 1," Pelini said. "We wanted him to hit it on the one-half yard line. He's got to work on that, but we'll take it where he put it.

"(Seriously), he had a great game punting. He's such a weapon for us, as a punter and as a kicker. You can't say enough about how important he is for this ball club."

In addition to his punting duties, Henery also knocked down a 34-yard field goal that tied the game at 3-3 in the first quarter and he was in on a tackle of Banks in the second half.

Henery joked that the tackle probably won't be enough to earn a Blackshirt.

"I just kind of hold on. It was my third (tackle) this season," Henery said. "I had one against Baylor and Oklahoma, too."

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