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  • A CORNHUSKER CONUNDRUM

    It isn't easy being a Husker fan these days, especially in the wake of the 2012 season. If you say you're happy with the Huskers' performance this year, be prepared to get the wrath of those who will quickly point out this year's sometimes abysmal performance by the Husker defense (formerly known as Blackshirts) and the embarrassing number of turnovers and penalties that plagued the Huskers most of the season.

    Or complain about this year and be prepared to hear about how spoiled we all are. You know the script: "Other football programs would die to have a 10 win season, win their division, play for a conference title and play in a New Year's Day bowl game. But no, you Husker fans still aren't happy! You make my butt tired!"

    So what's a Husker fan to do? Shut up and be happy? Or spend the offseason complaining?

    AND YOUR POINT IS?
    First of all, to say that Husker fans are spoiled is to make no point at all. Of course Nebraska fans have high (not unreasonable) expectations for their football program. Why shouldn't they? Because of their devotion of time and money to the program, Nebraska holds the ongoing NCAA record for consecutive home sellouts that dates back more than 50 years. It also boasts state-of-the-art athletic facilities that are second to none. Husker football is the only game in town, or in the state of only 1.8 million people.

    That's why Husker fans each year should expect Nebraska to field competitive teams that seldom, if ever, get blown out. They should expect to be a Top Ten program, play for a conference championship and be in the hunt for national championships every year.

    SHORT CHANGED?
    But after five years of the Bo Pelini Era, Husker fans feel, well, a bit short-changed. With the hiring of the defensive genius of Bo Pelini, no Husker fan in a million years would have imagined how dreadful (at times) the Husker D has become. It's so bad, it would make Kevin Cosgrove proud.

    Surrendering 653 yards to a 9-5 UCLA team was embarrassing enough, but giving up 63 points at Ohio State and 70 points to an 8-6 Wisconsin team in the B1G championship game was stunning. And with a month to prepare for a very good Georgia team (#4 and #5) in the Capital One Bowl, NU surrendered 45 points, including TD plays of 24 (twice), 29, 49, 75 and 87 yards in another double-digit loss. This year's defensive performances have at times made a mockery of the once proud Blackshirt tradition
    .

    CROSS-PHONY-BONES?
    How many times this year have you seen Husker defensive players flashing the crossbones after a good defensive play? Right. Not many. And with good reason. And when you did see it, it seemed to be a tad bit phony.

    MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU?
    But not to worry. Bo Pelini said in his postgame press conference after the Capital One Bowl that the 2013 Huskers "will be a force to be reckoned with." Really? Of course he also said the Husker defense would be better after Ndamukong Suh used up his eligibility in 2009. And how did that work out?

    So which is it? Is the glass half full or half empty?

    MAKE A BEE LINE FOR A D-LINE?
    It's obvious that the biggest challenge Nebraska has in the off season is developing a dominating D-line. Strong D-lines can disrupt opposing offenses and can help make up for any weaknesses elsewhere on the defense.

    '09 WAS NUMBER ONE
    When Pelini had D-line players like Ndamukong Suh, Jared Crick, Pierre Allen and Barry Turner, his defense was the No. 1 scoring defense in the country. (It also didn't hurt that he also had safeties like Eric Hagg and Larry Asante, cornerbacks like Prince Amukamara, Alfonzo Dennard and Dejon Gomes.) So what has caused the talent level to drop so much?

    I am no football expert, but here's what may be the single biggest reason for decline in talent.

    QUESTION

    Quick, how many defensive coaches who started with Bo in 2008 are still coaching the same position they started with at Nebraska? Give up?

    Zero. Yes. You say John Papuchis? Nope. JP was the D-line coach last year and this year, he's the DC, replacing Carl Pelini. And this year, Rich Kaczenski replaced JP as the D-line coach.

    DOOR PROBLEM?

    For the past three years, there has been a revolving door of Husker assistants and nowhere has it been more apparent than with the secondary coaches. This year, Terry Joseph replaced Corey Raymond who replaced Marv Sanders the year before. (That's right, three secondary coaches in as many years.)

    And on the D-line this year, Rick Kaczenski replaced John Papuchis who replaced Carl Pelini the year before that. And in 2011, LB coach Ross Els replaced Mike Ekeler who left at the end of the '10 season.

    With changes like this, it's no wonder recruiting of talented defensive players has been a challenge. Players bond with their position coaches as well as the coaches who recruit them. And because of all this turmoil, kids are less likely to stay committed, especially if rival coaches can get the kids' ears.

    And what about the players who have to learn, unlearn, and re-learn schemes and techniques year after year? It's hard to imagine how difficult it must be to play under those circumstances.

    This much is certain: Stop the revolving door of Husker assistants. Period. End of story.

    CHRISTMAS IN THE "HIGH" COUNTRY

    Mrs. Husker Dan and I spent this Christmas in Colorado. As most of you know, voters in that state recently passed a law that legalizes the sale and usage of marijuana. It's not clear how this law will sit with existing federal laws, but to usher in the amendment, there is a new holiday album that went on sale in December. It's called "Have Yourself A Merry(wanna) Christmas." Here are some of the songs on it:

    "I'll Be Stoned For Christmas"
    "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Denmark"
    "Bring Your Stash, Jeanette Isabella"
    "Joints To The World"
    "Santa Claus Is Breaking The Law"
    "Away In A Squad Car"
    "Hark The Federal Agents Sting"
    "Jingle Bongs"

    Sigh...

    You may contact the writer at HuskerDan@cox.net



    Comments 9 Comments
    1. SoCalRed's Avatar
      SoCalRed -
      there are no guarantees in this sport. Just because NU has great facilities and outstanding fan support means absolutely nothing. Lots of schools have great facilities and outstanding fan support.

      What does matter is that 1.8 million population base, however. If Nebraska, as a program, were embedded in the midst of California, Texas, Ohio, Florida, or Pennsylvania those entirely unreasonable expectations might make some sense.

      When this program finally gets back to winning championships I pity the coaches because this fan base will be calling for their heads the first time they fall short of either the CCG or the Division title.
    1. bgredmonds's Avatar
      bgredmonds -
      It began with the Burgeoning Bruins. I went away from the game thinking, "It wouldn't be so bad to lose if the Huskers hadn't beaten themselves." Those confidence blowing sentiments continued with the Boogie Man Buckeyes, and the Bad to the Bone Badgers and finally with the Blistering Bomb Bulldogs. Maybe if we could have worked harder to get an "A" in protecting the ball, we could have beat the "B" teams.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Glad to see someone else recognize that it is the coaching and the the recruiting. Kansas State, Wisconsin, Northwestern and others don't get near the talent that Nebraska takes in. Yet, they are better and developing the the players they do get.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I agree with SoCalRed. It's all about perspective you can't have it both ways. You can't say we play in Championship games and get blown out and say it hard being a fan of this team. You can be upset about the loss, but guess what most of us are there next week ready to watch and expect to win. It's hard to be a KC Royals Fan or Illinois Football Fan in Big 10. This year’s team was at most a good team and they won some close games with great heart and come backs.
      Some Perspective Georgia, Notre Dame, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Florida all suffered what I consider at least one blowout loss. Blowout losses happen more often in college football nowadays. As a fan I'm upset about not getting over the hump and winning Championship games, but I don't think it right to say it hard being a because of that......it seems like bandwagon fan and Alabama here I come.

      KC Brett.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Osborne has always been a politician. He knew that he could not win a NC every year and chose to leave on a high note. I have no doubt he would have made another run, but you only get so many shots at a NC. He left the program with someone he thought was capable and thought the fan base would give him the benifit of being a new coach. Unfortunatly Viewpoints like this kicked him out of Nebraska before his time. Lets wait untill Pelini has been able to keep some coaches a few years in a row and then make the decision.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      To use the racecar analogy: An engine built with the best performance parts money can buy are only good as the mechanics who assembled the engine, i.e. top recruits mean nothing without good position coaches (ask Texas & USC if talent alone equals success).
      Some programs buy budget parts and devote to master mechanics, and can pull off darkhorse seasons by engineering alone.
      Nebraska's situation is a bit different, where there is a blend of both performance&budget parts and mechanics. Some racedays are amazing, while other days sputter.
      Bottom line: Bo needs to invest in master mechanics first and the checkered flag will follow. Hire top assistants with proven records and save the development coaching for the YMCA.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I respectfully disagree with the premise that "we don't have unreasonable" expectations...YES...we do.
      The later part of the 1990's made it virtually impossible to live up...just look at this year 10 win season, another championship game...and many fans want to fire the coach...it's fine to have high expectations...but at Nebraska since it is all we have...maybe VB...maybe a women's BB game once in a while...Nebraska is an athletic entertainment desert...To all those Bo haters...be careful what you wish for...Yes...Nebraska fans...(many of them)...are living in the past...and the past is just that.
    1. akaralph's Avatar
      akaralph -
      I am a Husker alum living in Athens, GA. When Bo was hired I was elated, but something has gone terribly wrong with the program. Used to be most of the Husker team was composed of "Burkhead" types - not any more. These guys just don't want to play.

      I read where Martinez made a few derogatory comments about UGA and the SEC after the game. I thought the quote about "doing whatever we wanted to against Georgia" was particularly indicative of his lack of intelligence and ignorance. I believe the final score was UGA 45 - Nebr. 31. I would also remind him that the SEC has now won the past seven National Championships.

      In my opinion Nebraska is not going to return to their former prominence anytime in the near future. Many changes are needed - probably replacing Martinez being at the top of the list.

      I also think Bo has to produce a National Championship contender next year or he will be out.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I feel like I am like most Husker fans. Sure, we are very disappointed after each one of these 4 losses, but as we all experienced, the sun did rise the next day. A very good point made in this article is the fact of "new" position coaches year after year. All we need to do is to look at the actual growth and improvement in our OC Tim Beck from year one to year two. I anticipate this same type of performance improvement in our defense. While the defense won't have the same luxury of returning starters that the offense did, it will have the consistency in the coaching that these young men need. It's as simple as putting our own selves in this position. What if you had a new boss every year. How do you think that your job performance would be? I agree with most others that Nebraska is not an entry level job, but we really need to trust Bo when he is choosing these position coaches that he plans to mold into the NU tradition. How many really think that if we would have brought in Mike Stoops as the DC last year that he would not be at Kentucky already next year. There is no guarantee that "Bo's" protégés will not use this job as a stepping stone, but there is more loyalty in this situation than in bringing in the "hired gun". I really believe that this will pay dividends in the near future. As we seen in the 4 loses this past year, NU seemed to have a good game plan, but adjusting to the opponent seemed to be the biggest hurdle. As this staff melds and learns to make adjustments, the big game signature wins will come. Keep the faith Husker fans, because faith and compassion are what makes this program what it is, and that's a WINNER!
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