Wildcats catch Huskers napping 28-25
Player(s) of the Game: Taylor Martinez
28-37 289 yds, 2 TD, 12 car, 53 yds
Turn your head and cough…it up…
Ball security, a fundamental, often overused term. For most teams this is the one message, the most basic message that the coaching staff will convey. Keep ahold of the ball. Sounds simple, right? Seems our Huskers could use some additional instruction in this area.
Our Huskers fumbled the ball away twice, once by the normally sure-handed Burkhead, and along with it, fumbled away a very winnable game -- and possibly a shot at a spot in the B1G Championship game.
The ball-security issues that have plagued this team over the last several years have been well documented, and once again came back to bite our Huskers in the butt.
One of the worst things about the game was the stellar yet wasted performance by the much-maligned Martinez. Martinez was on target most of the day, and save for a few dropped passes, would have finished with over 300 yards passing -- awkward throwing motion and all. Add in another 53 yards rushing and you really couldn’t have asked for more out of the fading sophomore phenom.
Martinez has been lit up by the media worse than hippie at a Grateful Dead concert, that much is true, but this week he was far from the problem. Too many times the offensive line was getting pushed off the ball and failed to open any significant holes for Burkhead to run through. Mix in the short-side option for a five-yard loss and we have the recipe for losing to an unranked team at home for the fifth season in a row -- no, that is not a misprint.
On the other side of the ball, there was just as much blame to go around. One week after a fantastic performance against another top ten team, what do our proud Blackshirts do? They go out and lay a giant egg. Not the kind that you find at your local grocery store, we are talking about the kind you find on the Emu farm -- an egg of epic proportions.
Ten weeks into this season and we still do not know what kind of team we have. There seems to be a consistent rhythm, a consistent theme to the Pelini legacy -- not one for which he wishes to be remembered for, I’m sure.
Bottom line is at some point this Husker team will need to perform -- on a consistent basis. We cannot go from wining games against top fifteen competition, and turn right around and lose to less talented teams with losing records. This is not what Bo was hired for. Yes, I know that Osborne was nearly run out of town, and by no means am I suggesting that we entertain a coaching change.
My only point is this: Good to great teams do not showcase these characteristics, they do not lose these types of games. Will there be letdowns along the way? Sure, but in the end, good coaches will seek to cure the illness, and hold on to the ball….
After a week of celebrating one of the best wins of the Pelini era, we were treated with an equally embarrassing loss. Nebraska had control of its destiny and promptly turned the keys back over to the Spartans. Maybe they were the designated driver, that would be the only plausible excuse, right?
Does this mean the season is lost? No, there is still a lot to play for, and given the parity that exists in the B1G, NU reaching the title game should they win the remainder of their games is not out of the question.
In order to accomplish this, however, the Huskers must become a bit more balanced. The O-line needs to build on the improvement it has shown in some of the prior games. Martinez took a big step forward Saturday, and hopefully some of this will carry over this week against the Nittany Lions.
NU should have a good chance to win out. PSU features a solid defense and an average offense. Michigan is beatable, and you never know which Iowa team will show up (sounds familiar…hmmm).
While Nebraska is not in the driver's seat anymore, we still own the tiebreaker over MSU should they lose one of their remaining three games. This week will go a long way in determining how we will remember this season, and could either serve as a jumpstart to 2012, or the beginning of the end of an era. I hope for our sake that it is the former, not the latter…