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  • Consistently Inconsistent

    Over the years, there have been a number of Husker losses that - for a number of reasons - felt somewhat like wins (1984 Orange Bowl, 1994 Orange Bowl, 2009 Big XII Championship, to name a few).

    But I can't think of too many Husker wins that felt like a loss.

    Maybe that is due to my glass-half-full personality. I like to think that I'm a pretty positive guy. Or maybe it is because I have the dubious distinction of watching the goal posts come down in every Big XII North stadium, I don 't take too many conference road games for granted. A win will always be a win for me.

    So while Nebraska's one point win over Northwestern is not one that I will rush to relive, you'll excuse me if I refrain from pressing the program's Panic button like a hyper four year old. No, all is not well in Huskerland, but Saturday didn't show us anything we haven't seen before this season.

    Three turnovers, costly penalties, and an offense that struggled to convert third downs? Yep. Seen it.

    An impressive defensive performance, a career day from Taylor Martinez, a 100 yard day from Rex Burkhead's backup, and a come from behind conference win? Yep. Seen that too.


    Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE
    For many fans, I think the biggest frustration is the lack of consistency - not knowing what to expect from week to week. One week the defense holds Wisconsin to 56 rushing yards (they've put almost 1,000 in their last three games, btw). But the next week the defense allows 371 rushing yards to Ohio State (Purdue held OSU to 152 btw). One week Martinez looks like one of the best QBs in school history. The next week he looks like one of the worst. The only consistency is inconsistency, which is maddening for anyone who remembers the Osborne teams.

    Ah Osborne, that pillar of consistency. Milt Tenopir's O line of big farm kids would pave the way for Turner Gill's quarterbacks to run the option to perfection, pitching it to one of Frank Solich's I-Backs, while Ron Brown's split ends and wingbacks blocked everything in sight. Dan Young's kickers were automatic. Charlie McBride's defenses were mean and nasty (even if George Darlington's DBs never turned to look for the dadgum ball). For 25 years, this was the model. And it worked pretty darn good: 9 wins each and every year, contending for the conference title, and a good-to-great bowl game.

    But ever since November 23, 2001, the only known is the unknown. When will Nebraska stumble against an average opponent? Who will blow out Nebraska next? How will our hearts be broken this year? You don't know. I don't know. And the people who get paid 6 or 7 figures to know, don't know either.

    A win that feels like a loss is a good metaphor for this team and this season. Where Nebraska has talent, they lack discipline. Where they have discipline, they lack talent. This team gets their best defensive and quarterback performances of the year, and trails by 12 midway through the 4th quarter. Nebraska has their easiest road to a conference title in a decade. Their biggest hurdle is themselves, and nobody knows if they are capable of clearing it. At this point, it wouldn't surprise me if they win out, and I'm not sure it would shock me to see them lose three more games.

    But at the end of the day, winning sure beats losing - no matter how it gets done, how little Nebraska deserves to win, or whatever flukes were involved in the victory. And 5-2 beats the heck out of 4-3

    (As a side note: I firmly believe that the Nebraska - Northwestern game should a "trophy game". But instead of playing for a pig, bucket, axe, or gawd-awful trophy sponsored by Hy-Vee, both teams play for the right to be called "NU" for the next year. Since Nebraska won, any use of "NU" below refers to the scarlet and the cream).

    So what did we learn?

    There is still some fight left in this Nebraska team. Nebraska had several opportunities to fold, to quit, to give up - and I definitely got the impression that many fans and media members expected it to happen. But this team decided to get out of their own way long enough to pull out a W. Your guess is as good as mine on if it sparks a dramatic second half surge or if it is a brief positive blip in a season of missed opportunities. But much like last year's Ohio State comeback, it is good for this team to experience a come from behind win, as it provides confidence for the next time.

    The defensive line came to play. The defensive line has faced heavy criticism for most of the year: not athletic enough, little pass rush, allowing big rushing numbers, minimal disruption and impact, etc. But you would not know if from their play on Saturday. The line accounted for almost 1/3 of the total tackles (21 of 65), and did a very good job in shutting down Northwestern's running game. Their play is particularly impressive when you consider the lack of depth - I only see six defensive linemen/ends listed on the participation chart (Steinkuhler, Randle, Ankrah, Meredith, Martin, and Carter).

    Nebraska must win next week to have a shot at the Legends division title. If Nebraska loses to Michigan, NU would need three Wolverine losses to have a shot at a rematch with Wisconsin in Indianapolis. While Ohio State might beat Michigan, I just don't see Dennard Robinson and company losing two games against Minnesota, Northwestern, and Iowa. Next week is a big game. Husker fans need to come ready to make an impact for four quarters.

    So what don't we know?

    Why did Nebraska punt to end the first half? I get that a 63 yard field goal to end the half is a bad idea. Assuming Maher has the leg (probably not), there is a decent chance of the kick being blocked and taken back for a score. However, I don't understand why NU didn't run a play on fourth and four from the Nebraska 46 and 10 seconds left on the clock. Run a sideline route to Bell or Enunwa to pick up the first down and get Maher into a 50-55 yard FG attempt. Call a deep post to Reed or a screen to Turner. Or the obvious choice: a Hail Mary. Surely the line could give Martinez enough time to chuck it 60 yards down field. I know the Hail Mary doesn't work that often, but with a bevy of capable receivers it is much more likely to score than a punt.

    Will the Blackshirts make an appearance this week? Let's review the circumstances of this game: the defense had given up 63 points and almost 500 yards in their last outing, was facing a mobile QB, and the offense/special teams committed three fumbles in the first half. But aside from a big run, the defense stepped up to keep Nebraska in the game until the offense could get on track. Personally, I'd like to see the Blackshirts get handed out this week. Regardless of the inconsistent nature of the defense, ten Three & Out's should warrant some new practice gear for the first team defense. Besides, I'm a little concerned that the vaunted jerseys may not make an appearance at all this year, which would be flat out wrong. Reward the D, and give them some extra motivation for the Michigan game.

    How ugly would it have gotten had Nebraska lost? After the game, I scrolled through Twitter and Facebook and was shocked by the negativity, defeatism, and proclamations of doom and gloom - with much of it coming from the media members (print and radio) who drive a lot of the conversation about the program. I can't imagine what it would be like if Nebraska would have blown this game. Even with the win, it is still going to be busy week for the message boards and radio shows, and the local writers are going to take a lot of shots at Nebraska's performance.

    Where are my Keys?

    At the beginning of the season, I laid out three simple keys for Nebraska to have a strong season: 1) Win the turnover battle, 2) Own 3rd Down, 3) Limit penalties. Throughout the year, I'll be tracking Nebraska's progress:

    Penalties
    Penalty Yds.
    3rd Down Conv. (NU)
    3rd Down Conv. (Opp)
    Turnover Margin
    So. Miss
    2
    30
    80.0%
    50.0%
    1
    UCLA
    7
    60
    9.1%
    45.0%
    -1
    Arkansas St.
    4
    34
    76.9%
    37.5%
    -2
    Idaho St.
    9
    104
    45.5%
    13.3%
    2
    Wisconsin
    6
    70
    38.5%
    26.7%
    -1
    Ohio St.
    9
    75
    35.7%
    45.5%
    -3
    Northwestern
    8
    62
    21.4%
    25.0%
    -3
    2012 Per Game
    6.4
    62.1
    45.1%
    34.2%
    -9
    2011 Per Game
    7.2
    57.3
    42.3%
    40.2%
    -1


    Once again, Northwestern is the statistical outlier for the Three Keys, as there is no way a team should win with those numbers - especially on the road. Of course, last year, Nebraska had 6 penalties for 41 yards, converted a season-high 58.8% of 3rd downs, allowed 58.3% of 3rd downs, was +1 in turnover margin, and lost by three at home.

    5 Players I Loved
    1. Taylor Martinez. A pretty decent bounce-back from an ugly game at Ohio State (and getting crushed by the media for not spouting the clichéd answers they expect). The passing numbers were very impressive (although he got away with a couple of potential interceptions), but two things really stood out to me: a) the way he stepped up in the running game after Burkhead went down - becoming the best dual-threat QB on the field, and b) his leadership in overcoming penalties and mistakes.
    2. Defense. Martinez had a pretty darn good game, but if not for how the defense put the clamps on Northwestern's offense, this could easily have been another lopsided loss - especially with three early turnovers and Northwestern having great field position. Say what you will about Northwestern's offensive game plan (I'm guessing Coach Fitzgerald would do things differently if he could), but aside from a breakdown on Vendric Mark's long TD run, the defense played a very solid game.
    3. Quincy Enunwa. Big Q made six big catches, for 110 big yards. Okay, two of those catches may not have been so "big", but it's worth nothing that all three of Quincy's 30 yard receptions led to points. Plus, he had his usual outstanding day blocking.
    4. Husker Fans. Another impressive showing by the Big Red army. You knew that Nebraska fans would turn show up in waves for the first Chicago road trip, and they did not disappoint. But nobody expected the impact they would have. In the fourth quarter, Husker fans were so loud that the Wildcats QB had to operate using a silent snap count. That is unbelievable. Take a well-deserved round of applause.
    5. Ameer Abdullah. Rex Burkhead goes down early with a knee injury? Once again, Abdullah steps up and contributes 117 all purpose yards. However, the fumbled punt return cannot happen again.


    Honorable Mention: Kenny Bell, Ben Cotton, P.J. Smith, Taariq Allen, Braylon Heard

    5 Areas for Improvement
    1. Ball Security. The Husker fans were right to give a Bronx cheer to Abdullah after he successfully fair caught a second quarter punt. Nebraska was a muffed away form re-issuing a scholarship to Santino Panico at halftime. Nebraska's ball security (or lack thereof) will likely be the difference between a Legends division championship and a four loss season.
    2. Dropped Interceptions. How many potential interceptions did Nebraska drop? Three? Four? This team is not good enough to pass up that many opportunities. It goes back to one of the biggest weaknesses of this defense: who will step up and make a play? I think the secondary should spend some time running drills with Coach Fischer.
    3. Stupid Penalties. I can live with some penalties, especially when they happen due to aggressive, hard-nosed play. But a cheap-shot hit 30 yards away from where a teammate is recovering a fumble? Ineligible man downfield? Lining up in the backfield? Twice? You just can't have it. And by the way - only Nebraska could be penalized five yard for a sideline "warning".
    4. Kyler Reed. A rough day for Kyler. He did have two nice catches, but fumbled after the first one. Also, he was confused on a big fourth down, essentially blocking his own tackle, which led to Martinez getting stuffed for a big loss. I'm confident in his ability to bounce back.
    5. ABC/ESPN. As most of you know, fans watching the game on TV missed the first five minutes while Purdue fell apart at Ohio State, losing in overtime. After the game ended, ESPN still needed to have a lengthy interview with Urban Meyer, a half-dozen replays, a check-in with John Saunders, and some commercials before getting us to Evanston. I could understand if there was just one channel, but ESPN/ABC have what, a dozen different channels that they could have moved the NU game to? At the minimum couldn't they shift the feed for the Nebraska markets? And one other thing - somebody needs to tell the spotter for the "Worldwide Leader" that Nebraska's three year starting QB isn't on the punt team, and probably didn't commit the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, before you show him on TV.




    Dave Feit is a freelance writer living in Lincoln. Additional thoughts on the Huskers (and everything else) can be found on his blog (www.feitcanwrite.wordpress.com). Follow him on Twitter at @Feitcanwrite


    Comments 14 Comments
    1. Objectivity's Avatar
      Objectivity -
      The Huskers have achieved non-relevant, mediocrity in college football. The glory days are over.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      How did you get a - 9 per game turnover margin
    1. redarmy's Avatar
      redarmy -
      very well done. I couldnt agree more about the espn abc debacle, I was thinking the same thing.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      was pretty disappointed in the negativity as well. Even yesterday on Hail Varsity Radio, could not believe how negative Nick was. Yeah, mistakes were made, we make them, we have in issue with it, but we WON the game, we for the most part dominated them. Our D took a step forward against a spread team. Martinez showed he is still a game changer. I just hope to God the team doesnt take the same mental approach that the media does because there will be no helping them. Loved your take on it. Recognize the weakness but focus on continued improvement.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I can't wait for the people who continually feel the need to be heard about how crappy Nebraska has become to find a new team.
    1. Elwood von Kiowa's Avatar
      Elwood von Kiowa -
      I'm not saying "we're back", but I was at Evanston and could see a change in our team this week. Coach Pelini was calmer and in control (despite ABC camera observations which showed his animation but gave no clue as to the actual discussion). Our team was resolute through adversity. Taylor Martinez showed true leadership on the field and in the huddle. We are on the way back... we just need to be patient and "follow the process."
      And here's the key for the Michigan game, for those of us who aren't on the field: "Husker fans need to come ready to make an impact for FOUR quarters."
    1. Goose from Kansas's Avatar
      Goose from Kansas -
      Stupid penalties will continue until the culprit is taken out of the game and sat on the bench for the rest of the game.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Where I am (Montana), ABC/ESPN was scheduled to show the Nebraska game on ESPN2 and the Texas Tech-TCU game on ABC, but when the Ohio State game went into OT, instead of preempting the Tech game, they moved it to ESPN2. Then even when the OSU game was over and they started showing the Tech game on ABC, they still continued showing it on ESPN2 as well for 10-15 minutes before finally cutting away to show the Nebraska game that was scheduled for that channel in the first place.

      ABC/ESPN sucks.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      I can't wait for the people who continually feel the need to be heard about how crappy Nebraska has become to find a new team.
      So you're okay with 3 turnovers, numerous penalties, 2 of which were critcal, and having to come back from 12 points down in the 4th quarter, to beat at team by 1, that shouldn't even have been in the game in the fourth quarter!! Or having 1100 yards put on the Blackshirts in two games, or 63 points scored on you by OSU!? I was born & raised a Husker fan, I love my Huskers, but they played like crap Saturday, and as a fan, we have a right to express it. These same fans that "continually feel the need to be heard about how crappy Nebraska has become", are the same fans that will fill Memorial Stadium, or turn on their TV every week & cheer on there beloved Huskers.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I was at the game. Boo to the Nebraska fans that left when the score went to 28-16. It was loud in the 4th quarter. We stomped and yelled. I could tell we were rattling them because of how loud it was.

      Walking down Central after the game, I did shout "we are NU."

      Northwestern fans were very polite and none of them ever said a bad word about anything. The Wildcat fans show up a little late, and the east stands and south end zone were 90% red.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      So you're okay with 3 turnovers, numerous penalties, 2 of which were critcal, and having to come back from 12 points down in the 4th quarter, to beat at team by 1, that shouldn't even have been in the game in the fourth quarter!! Or having 1100 yards put on the Blackshirts in two games, or 63 points scored on you by OSU!? I was born & raised a Husker fan, I love my Huskers, but they played like crap Saturday, and as a fan, we have a right to express it. These same fans that "continually feel the need to be heard about how crappy Nebraska has become", are the same fans that will fill Memorial Stadium, or turn on their TV every week & cheer on there beloved Huskers.
      No we're NOT OK with 3 turnovers, numerous penalties, etc, etc, ad infinitim ad nauseum. If you love your Huskers, then admit that they WON THE GAME, perhaps in spite of themselves, but STILL WON. A road win against a Big Ten team that is NOT someone who "shouldn't even have been in the game in the 4th quarter". Wake up and realize that Nebraska has maybe 1 team(Minnesota) that "shouldn't even be in the game in the 4th quarter" on their conference schedule this year.
      You have the right to express whatever you like, but I also have the same right to express what I like about your expression as well.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I always love the comments about .. the coaches didn't fumble or didn't drop the pass or didn't do this or that.. Well, no they didn't, but since they are the coach, and they are the ones who put those players on the field, the coaches are inevitably responsibly for the team.... all of it. The good and the bad.
      That is what being a coach is all about.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      So you're okay with 3 turnovers, numerous penalties, 2 of which were critcal, and having to come back from 12 points down in the 4th quarter, to beat at team by 1, that shouldn't even have been in the game in the fourth quarter!! Or having 1100 yards put on the Blackshirts in two games, or 63 points scored on you by OSU!? I was born & raised a Husker fan, I love my Huskers, but they played like crap Saturday, and as a fan, we have a right to express it. These same fans that "continually feel the need to be heard about how crappy Nebraska has become", are the same fans that will fill Memorial Stadium, or turn on their TV every week & cheer on there beloved Huskers.
      I've re-read my post a few times, and have not found where I said I was "okay with 3 turnovers, numerous penalties, 2 of which were critcal, and having to come back from 12 points down in the 4th quarter, to beat at team by 1, that shouldn't even have been in the game in the fourth quarter!!"

      Perhaps if you could help me find it, that would be great. There is a huge difference between being disappointed in the Huskers efforts, and continuously bashing the players and coaches over, and over, and over, and over again, talking about how bad they suck, should be fired, etc. After reading your post, I'm not sure you know that difference.
    1. Justin B.'s Avatar
      Justin B. -
      Agreed on the ESPN/ABC debacle. I was in Dallas and had the same experience as the guy in Montana, Tech/TCU broadcast on TWO channels for at least 10 minutes. By the time it finally switched to the Husker game (after requisite studio pregame chatter of course), half the first quarter had flown by.

      Also, on the topic of the sideline warning. Since I got to see more than I wanted of the Ohio State game, is there an "Urban Zone" that exists about ten feet onto the field from the sidelines where he can stand with his hands on his knees?

      Anyone else watching the TV broadcast notice Danny Kanell slowly putting on his Northwestern foam finger during the broadcast? I re-watched the fourth quarter and loved his call of a Ciante Evans pass break-up late where he clearly shouts "There was contact!" Guess he got that one out of the Musburger Broadcasting Handbook.
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