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  • Is there a playmaker in the house? NU defense needs to show up

    So, that West Coast trip idea didn't turn out real well for Nebraska.

    Looking back, here's a list of what the Cornhuskers accomplished Saturday night as they fell 36-30 to UCLA, dropping to 1-1 on the season:

    • Getting beat up on both sides of the line of scrimmage in the second half by a pastel-tinted football program that has a well-deserved decades-old reputation for backing down from a fistfight. Check.

    • Converting fewer than 10 percent of your third downs on offense. Check.

    • Losing the kicking game to a team that has an erratic, half-scared freshman placekicker. Check.

    • Laying an egg in front of California recruits and their families, plus a national television audience. Check.

    If you think you were embarrassed by the way the Nebraska defense played Saturday night in Pasadena, think about defensive end Cameron Meredith, who came up with more than 200 tickets to get his friends and relatives into the Rose Bowl to watch him and his Blackshirt teammates get schooled by the inexperienced but athletic UCLA offense.

    It boggles the mind. UCLA piled up 653 yards of total offense. That's an end-of-the-Bill-Callahan-era figure. If anyone and everyone associated with the Nebraska defense wants to avoid lifelong comparisons with Kevin Cosgrove's 2007 "Blackskirts," they have a lot of work to do.

    To be fair, it's obvious that this UCLA – which came into this season with a 48-54 record since 2000 – is well on the way to becoming a much more physically and mentally tough outfit than it has been lately. But this was a very winnable game for the Big Red.

    If you want to point fingers, start with two seniors who have been mentioned as potential all-conference selections: Baker Steinkuhler, who supposedly anchors a defensive line that got pushed around much of last season and looks even worse after two games in 2012. Steinkuhler had one tackle against the Bruins, and it came at the end of Johnathan Franklin's 54-yard run in the fourth quarter. Or safety Daimion Stafford, another California native who was out-positioned and outfought on several occasions by UCLA receiver Joseph Fauria, most notably on a 4-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. And add Meredith, who seems to have all the physical gifts you could want but has never been a disruptive force coming off the edge his entire career.

    Along with middle linebacker Will Compton, those are probably the most talented upperclassmen on the defensive side of the ball. That's a bit frightening as you look ahead to Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.

    Nebraska did not put much defensive talent on the field against UCLA. That in itself is not a big surprise after losing Jared Crick, Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard. But coming into the season, we heard a lot about how the seniors had come together and were showing leadership, plus looking much improved on the field of play. My hope was that their experience, cohesiveness and communication would offset their lack of talent. But when you give up 344 yards rushing, it really calls into question just how much stomach you have for the game of football.

    Nebraska is not very physical up front on defense. That's very disappointing, when you stop and consider how much emphasis Bo Pelini put into building up his offensive and defensive lines in his last few recruiting classes. Pelini's recruits simply are not doing the job on the defensive side of the ball.

    Pelini redshirted most of his 2008 recruiting class, and they are fifth-year seniors now. They should have provided a lot more leadership and consistency than they showed against UCLA. If there are any playmakers on defense, now is the time to step forward. If there are some promising underclassmen in the wings, they'll need to make their presence known very soon.

    Formerly the sports editor at the North Platte Bulletin and a sportswriter/columnist for the North Platte Telegraph, Tad Stryker is a longtime Nebraska sports writer, having covered University of Nebraska and high school sports for more than 25 years. He started writing for this website in 2008. You can e-mail him at tad.stryker@gmail.com


    Comments 58 Comments
    1. Aldz00's Avatar
      Aldz00 -
      IMO one of thE most accurate written articles I have seen and I think remarks about the D line, and O line, for that matter are dead on.
      Just from TV perspective you have to ask yourself, how does ucla get a constant pass rush with 4 seemingly less talented guys. I kept asking myself, why isn't NU able to put steady pressure-on the QB? Why is UCLA running all over the place, up the middle, around the outside? Frustrating to watch.
      Here is my take, and I have bought into this theory before but believe it more than ever now. It comes down to coaching. NU has talent and had plenty of talent to win Saturday. NU coaches just can't seems to make very good players play great or great players play outstanding. We have a very good secondary and for the life of me I cant understand why we didn't make ucla one dimensional and force a freshman QB to throw every down.
      I also,think Pelnis business model of making lower level asst coaches D coordinators and the like is not a winning formula and Barney Cottton simply needs to be replaced. I still do not underhand the luv for this guy. Is he a great human being, no doubt he is, but that doesn't make u a great coach and our O line has under achieved each year he has coached IMO.
      I do not blame the players, and again the talent level is very good but our schemes and O and D line deficiencies are inexcusable. It bothers me that we lost but it others me more how we lost. Very frustrating.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      no defense. taylor struggled. fumbles. dropped passes. should have had four passes picked. 5 or six more losses expected
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      So how do we blame the defense for this game and leave the offense out of it. Look at Martinez's stats in the second half, he was shaken the the whole time and it showed.
    1. idahosker's Avatar
      idahosker -
      THey kicked our butts up and down the field. I especially liked compton throwing the bones on a near tackle in the fourth quarter while UCLA runner was still punching ahead for a yard or two more. He let go of the runner and threw the bones while the UCLA runner punched ahead. We got a bunch of prima donna's on defense
    1. jmatlock's Avatar
      jmatlock -
      Right on Tad!
    1. Big Redman Bob's Avatar
      Big Redman Bob -
      Don"t need to worry about Pelini getting snatched up by another big time program do we? He is all ours!
    1. Mac's Avatar
      Mac -
      Looks like we're about 10 players away from being reasonably competitive again. D-line and LB corps especially. Getting handled in the trenches has become weekly news, and "we've gotta get better" and "I know how to fix it" tired refrains. Sadly, NU is becoming just another team, at times pretty good, but not really a legitimate contender inside the top 15. 12 years and counting....
    1. ShuckIt's Avatar
      ShuckIt -
      Our LBs nicknames may as well be slow slower and slowest. Baker is soft has been his whole career here, zero nasty streak. CBs and Safeties are solid just the front 7 at this point, only fix is to get the youth movement going.
    1. Big Redman Bob's Avatar
      Big Redman Bob -
      Don't need to worry about a big time program snatching Coach Pelini from us... He is safe in Lincoln!
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Did Bill Callahan call the game last night? One game does not a passing quarterback make! We are THREE deep at I-back. We should be pounding the rock without mercy! Plus, I thought Bo was a “D” guy? If the Huskers don’t win the Big Ten this season…send Bo and Beck packing.
    1. Badgereater's Avatar
      Badgereater -
      Pathetic. That is all I can say about the whole performance. We were out-coached, out-played and out everything against a young team we should have been abel to beat easily.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I TOTALY AGREED WITH YOU. AND IT WILLGET WORST AHEAD FOR NEBRASKA WITH TEAMS THAT EITHERS HAD A NEW COACH OR R IN SECOND YEAR COACHING, THAT ARE BEING COACH BETTER THAN NEBRASKA IS . AND YES THAT ERA WHEN NEBRASKA WAS A PHYSICAL POWER TEAM IS GONE .. SINCE COACH TOM OSBORNE LEFT AND ABOUSLY IT DOES NOT TAKE MORE THAN ONE OR TWO YEARS TO TURM ARROUND A PROGRAM TO ITS ORIGINAL TRADITION ....WITH THE RIGHT HIRED COACH......
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      sad and pathetic to call this group Huskers and what it the deal with the kicker is he drunk when he shows up to games? No one on the coaching staff wanted to address the issues from last week and the showed up again along with an offense that was inconsistent. That equals a formula for failure. I don't know if you can fix the D this season or next they just don't have anyone that stands out as a playmaker. Technically they don't tackle well and even when they are in the right position they don't make the play, i.e.. the 4 yrd touchdown pass that got tipped and still let the guy make the play, along with I don't know how many times maybe 4-5 times they had the QB in their hands for a sack and let him slip out and make a play. Pathetic excuse for Blackshirts. We are loosing games because Bo is loosing on the recruiting trail.
    1. Tumblechamp92's Avatar
      Tumblechamp92 -
      What a joke! Last night, Bo proved that he has no clue how to get ready for a high profile game! Huskers looked completely lost in the 2nd half......where were the adjustments??? Oh that's right....UCLA made them! We looked slow, soft and scared the whole 2nd half!
      The O line was a joke! Taylor had no time to do anything but make bad decisions. Looked like last years QB! He really showed those California teams what they missed out on huh??
      The D was non-existent. They arm tackled all night like a Pop Warner team. First man there rarely made the tackle!
      Watching the huskers this year will be another challenge it appears since Bo has them looking pretty much like the end of last season vs SC!
      Having Rex wouldn't have made much of a difference since the O line was in bed by 9pm central standard time!
      Our O line and D line are in serious trouble and that's a fact! Haven't seen a true Blackshirt team since Suh! Need to drop that name because now its just a punch line!
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I don't think there is anything more painful than watching an opponent moving the ball at will. I miss the days of stout defense and anemic offense. At least you always stood a chance and, if nothing else, could possibly score a defensive touchdown!
    1. NotthePud's Avatar
      NotthePud -
      I agree that our LB's had no business covering receivers. But I think the real problem was that we were out coached. The players were on the field with their hands up asking what the play was several times when the ball was snapped. Where is the defensive genius we supposedly hired? You'd think some of it would show by now.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      No more excuses for Bo and his staff.
    1. Huskerpilk's Avatar
      Huskerpilk -
      Baker belonged on the Oline to begin with. Bad move by Bo and Barney. He would be NFL material by now and we'd be better on the O line. With Moore jumping ship...we are gonna suck on the O line for a while. Sad day at NU>
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      No lateral quickness at all. The strength coach needs to focus on that. I am tired of seeing the blackshirts tackling air.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT BO IS ENTERING HIS 5TH YR AT COACHING WITH NEBRASKA AND HIS TEAM IS NOT GETTING BETTEROR HIS COACHING SKILLS ARE NOT WHAT NEBRASKA NEEDS TO GET BACK AT BEING DOMINAT POWER PHYSICAL TEAM WITH LEAGUE TITLES AND NATIONAL CHANPION CHIPS . THE ERA WHEN NEBRASKA WAS FEARED, BY OTHERS ,ITS LONG GONE SINCE TOM OSBORNE GREAT YEARS.... AND ABEOUSLY IT DOESNOT TAKE MORE THAN 1 YEAR OR 2YEARS TO TURND ARROUND A PROGRAM TO THE ORIGINAL TRADITION GLORY PHYSICAL POWER DAYS WITH THE RIGHT HIRED COACHING ..... AND IT IS GOING TO GET WORST WITH ALOT GOOD TEAMS WITH NEW COACHES IN THEIR FIRST YEAR OR SECOND YEAR THAT ARE TURNING ARROUND OR COACHING WELL THEIR TEAMS AND ALL OF US THE FANS WONDER WHEN OR WHO WILL COACH THE HUSKERS TO THE ORIGINAL POWERHAUSE TEAM THAT EVERYONE ALSE FEAR.. BUT NOT ONLY THAT HOW LONG IT WILL TAKE FOR US TO SEEN RESULTS......OHIO STATE, MICHIGAN, MICHIGAN STATE, WISCONSIN, AND NORTHWESTERN ARE COMING UP ALL OF THIS TEAMS WITH GOOD QBS, AND RB, IT WOULD BE UGLY FOR NEBRASKA IF THEY KEEP PLAYING LIKE THIS OH BOY HANDON HUSKERS FANS ANOTHER YEAR ....WHEN OTHERS DO IT FOR ONLY ONE OR TWO YEARS ......WHAT IS FOING TO TAKE FOR THE HUSKERS NOT TO FALL INTO A AVERAGE TEAM THAT NO ONE WILL FREAR OR RESPECT...............NEBRASKA LOST GREAT OPPORTUNITIES TO HIRE THE RIGHT COACH AND NOW WE ONLY HAD TO SEE HOW LONG ...AND NEBRASKA WILL BE AT THE BOTTOM OF ALL THOSE GREAT TEAMS.....
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