The 36-30 loss to the UCLA Bruins Saturday night at the Rose Bowl was a game the Huskers could have and should have won. In fact, until the failed onside kick with just under two minutes to go in the game, NU was still a postion to win it.
FIRING SQUAD But once again, penalties, mistakes, dropped passes, fumbles, a safety and an interception provided the Huskers with a perfectly constructed circular firing squad.
.500 BALL Unfortunately for Nebraska, the Huskers have shown a penchant for such play. In fact, over the last six games, NU is 3-3, with wins over Penn State (away), Iowa (home) and Southern Mississippi (home) and losses to Michigan (away), South Carolina (bowl) and UCLA (away). All six games were against teams that went to bowl games last year. So what does this all mean?
There is no one who wants to win more than Bo Pelini. No one. The losses and erratic play have to gnaw at him. But he can't blame anybody. This is Bo's year. All the players, coaches, coordinators and schemes are all his. Pelini was hired to shore up a pathetic defense, and for the most part, he has done that. But what has to drive even Bo's most ardent admirers are the defenses that at times resemble Kevin Cosgrove's '07 defense.
SLIPPERY SLOPE? Ever since Bo's '09 defense led by Ndamukong Suh finished the year ranked #1 nationally in scoring defense, Bo's defenses have struggled, especially against fast, mobile quarterback led offenses.
It is apparent that the Husker front seven needs to be upgraded to reach the '09 level. Bo needs better talent, as in faster. DC John Papuchis announced this week that there will be some lineup changes that will give the younger players more playing time. And with Arkansas State and Idaho State coming up next on the schedule, it's a great time to do so.
Fortunately for the Huskers, the B1G Ten at this time looks to be pretty weak. Wisconsin's loss to Oregon State, Iowa's loss to Iowa State, Michigan's struggle with Air Force and the Huskers losing to unranked UCLA don't exactly give the conference any bragging rights.
WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT? But what does Saturday's loss to UCLA really mean? With their remaining schedule, the Bruins will likely run the table until a November 17 showdown with crosstown rival USC. UCLA could finish the regular season 11-1. And even mighty USC looked very vulnerable in its game with Syracuse.
HAS THE FAT LADY SUNG? The point is, it's way too early to know much about Nebraska in these first two games. Taylor Martinez for the most part played very well Saturday. With a seemingly weak conference, NU's goals of winning division and conference crowns are still reachable. It will be good to see which buttons Bo and his staff push over the next few weeks. My sense is that the fat lady hasn't sung and our fiery head coach from Youngstown, Ohio is going to push the right buttons. Husker fans can only hope so.