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  • Hard to get excited about Huskers' flat trend line

    As a lifelong Nebraskan, I can't remember the last time I was so anticipating Cornhusker baseball in January – or ever being so ambivalent about Cornhusker football.

    The flat trend line by Bo Pelini's program leaves me feeling bland. Those four-loss seasons punctuated by blowouts have become irritatingly familiar. Sure, it's nice that Nebraska is one of only five major college programs to win nine or more games over the past five seasons, but the miserable spectacle of the Huskers' crash-and-burn in Lucas Oil Stadium when they botched their golden opportunity to win their first conference title in 13 seasons still leaves me cold.

    I think I'm starting to get a bellyful of weak finishes. The Huskers under Bo Pelini are 2-6 in games played Dec. 1 or after, and that losing streak stands at five.

    Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini bumps fists with Aaron Curry (96) prior to the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Memorial Stadium in the first half.

    Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports
    Aaron Curry is a potential difference-maker on the D-line
    I've never looked ahead to the next season with less anticipation than I am right now. But that will change by midsummer. I think.

    As I look back at the 2012 season, the sloppy come-from-behind victories were enjoyable, the last-second heroics by Taylor Martinez, Jammal Turner and Ben Cotton memorable. It was a 10-4 season, coming on the heels of back-to-back 9-4 seasons. This is not acceptable anymore; the expectations of Husker fans have risen to pre-Callahan levels.

    Technically speaking, I would say that Nebraska's football program showed improvement last year – by the slightest of margins. The main reason is that the Huskers swept their home schedule for the first time since 2001. I think Pelini did a good job of coaching, squeezing 10 wins out of a team that did not have much talent in the defensive front seven. Then again, with everything on the line, Pelini was thoroughly out-coached in Indianapolis.

    With national signing day less than two weeks away, everyone is talking recruiting and I'm hopeful the Huskers will land a good class. Pelini had me convinced three years ago that he was building his team around the offensive and defensive lines. Trouble is, there has been very little outstanding production by any lineman signed by Pelini, and an alarming number have been flat-out busts. Eric Martin had some great games, but I'm coming up empty trying to think of any other scholarship lineman who has stood out, even occasionally.

    Andrew Rodriguez has been symptomatic of Nebraska's problems with scholarship linemen. The 6-foot-6, 300-pounder from Aurora was the can't-miss in-state prospect who everyone was excited to get, but he has not improved enough to make a difference in the Big Ten. He showed some promise as a guard, but his move to tackle has not been a success. Like his team, the trajectory of Rodriguez has been flat. He enters his senior season with plenty to prove.

    On defense, nobody has more to prove than junior DT Chase Rome, who showed courage in coming back to the Husker program after quitting a midseason, but he looked just as unremarkable at season's end as anyone else on the defensive front seven. I'm not counting on much from senior Thad Randle, who battles hard but has a bum knee.

    It's hard to get excited about a Husker program whose signature unit, the Blackshirts, has been embarrassed multiple times over the past two seasons. A crop of what surely will be more talented young players is coming up, and I will be interested to see how they look April 6 in the spring game, but it's going to take a long time for many of them to grasp Pelini's two-gap defensive system. Is Pelini flexible enough to devise a way to speed up their learning curve? Will a second year as defensive coordinator be a much-improved one for John Papuchis?

    Looking at this fall, even though the schedule gets much easier, it's easy to envision yet another four-loss season with the Huskers losing a squeaker at home to UCLA, then getting routed at Michigan and falling short in the Big Ten Championship and a bowl game, thus closing the door on the Martinez era without a championship. If Michigan runs the table in the Legends Division, though, the Wolverines likely would play back-to-back weeks against Ohio State, which might actually give NU a better shot at a three-loss season.

    There's a lot about Pelini and his program that I like – especially the good citizenship, the excellent academics and plain-talking, straight-shooting style Pelini and his coaches use to recruit players. But they have been utterly unable to get the Huskers to play disciplined football. Their turnover margin has been a disgrace over the past three seasons, the Blackshirts are soft against the run and special teams play has slowly gotten worse.

    Is it possible that I'm this apathetic about the Huskers less than eight months before newly-remodeled Memorial Stadium will have its first game of more than 90,000 in the stands?

    Then again, if Vincent Valentine or Aaron Curry turns into a game-changer by midseason, a couple of linebackers start playing with reckless abandon and at least two of the senior offensive tackles can learn to pass block, I just might get my attitude straightened out. In the meantime, take me out to Haymarket Park.

    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 96 Comments
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      you sound like a spioled child
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      We will have a top 5 offense in the nation and more talent on the defensive side of the football. Not to mention one of the easiest schedules in the nation. What's not to be excited about?
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Shut your mouth there are actually kids still trying to decide where to go play football. Your down grading of our coaches only hurt our chances in landing the talent we need to get where we ALL want to go. which is forward. Go write for some other school WE DO NOT!! need people like you writing crap stories like this at such a crucial time for our program.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I can't think of a more depressing outlook for a season, and for a team and coach coming off a 10 win season. The 2012 Legends Division Champs might as well just hang it up and not compete in 2013. Why would you see a blowout loss to a Michigan team that NU beat last year and finished 8-5 (let's remember that injuries happen and NU had more than its fair share to big time players). Speak for yourself when you say what is acceptable and what isn't, there are plenty of Husker fans that think a 10 win season is acceptable and look forward to watching the progress Bo and this team will make in 2013.
    1. Warhorse's Avatar
      Warhorse -
      Glad your expectations are so low. Maybe then we will get less of these kind of whiney critical pieces you seem so noted for.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by Warhorse View Post
      Glad your expectations are so low. Maybe then we will get less of these kind of whiney critical pieces you seem so noted for.
      Haha keep the change Tad!
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Let's remember that these are young men that put their hearts and souls on the line for NU. I agree it has been lack luster for a couple of years but I would take Pelini over Callahan any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Hopefully the players you mention will put the punctuation by their names in 2013.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      AGREE WARHORSE..
    1. hskrncibolo's Avatar
      hskrncibolo -
      10 win seasons are bad NOW??? Tad , step back for the keyboard and go have some fun. Guess you can always go back to the Callahan years if your not liking what Bo is doing.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by hskrncibolo View Post
      10 win seasons are bad NOW??? Tad , step back for the keyboard and go have some fun. Guess you can always go back to the Callahan years if your not liking what Bo is doing.
      10 wins aren't that great when your playing 14 games a year man!!
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Agree with warhorse!.... I'm personally very excited. I can't wait to see these young linebackers on the field. By the sounds of things these guys can cover a lot of ground fast and thats what this defense needs (other than a cpl big run stoppers on the line). Also stoked to see what valentine can do. Hopefully he is the real deal!
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I agree. You and new wave Dave are bummers to read. Dave F has no reason to write on this sight. I used to really enjoy your stuff...not so much anymore.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      And that is "site" NY the way.
    1. YUENGLING's Avatar
      YUENGLING -
      Tad,
      Go follow Alabama, LSU or Notre Dame or keep your sky is falling balogny to yourself. Nebraska remains one of the elite programs in the country. As for Bo Pelini who do you want to replace him?
      Your negative ramblings are getting OLD.
    1. Mo300816's Avatar
      Mo300816 -
      Tad,
      At first I was not anticipating your article. But after reading it carefully, you do make many fine points. However, I, personally, will always look forward to Husker football. The highs (I remember them so well) and the lows (I'd love to forget) define me in the fall of every year. For that reason, I will always be anticipating Husker football for each and every year.
    1. MThusker's Avatar
      MThusker -
      I tend to agree whole heartedly with you, Its wins in later part of the season, that show the heart of a team. There has only been one good win late in the year for the Pelini crew, that being the Arizone bowl win. You are right on, there are alot of good things about this program, but there are alot of things that need to get better if this program to get back to elite "Osborne Like" status.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      you are more in tune with the program than I. Do you think Wisconsin was the first out of 6 teams to realize NU was playing without backup DT's or even playing DE as DT. Isn't that a mismatch? So, the fact they got 4 wins playing without a DT to me is - remarkable. Bo wants to be in Lincoln and I don't see anybody beating the door down to get there outside of him. Leave him alone, as this is the last year we will be without a actual qb. Not a athlete playing qb - but - a qb. Terry Joseph and Fisch are great additions to recruiting and they are changing to get it right. Stop trying to build a mountain in a minute....................
    1. HawkeyeHusker's Avatar
      HawkeyeHusker -
      Not excited about Husker football? Really? I guess I'll quit reading your boring blogs and read someone's who actually gives a rip. Your enthusiasm or lack thereof is reflected in your colorless writing.
    1. HuskerWeatherman's Avatar
      HuskerWeatherman -
      Quote Originally Posted by hskrncibolo View Post
      10 win seasons are bad NOW??? Tad , step back for the keyboard and go have some fun. Guess you can always go back to the Callahan years if your not liking what Bo is doing.
      10-win seasons will get old -- if that means consistently finishing between #20 and #25 in the final polls. As Tad suggests, Nebraska has flat-lined.
    1. wow's Avatar
      wow -
      I'm glad you're full of pessimism, not like we don't have a ton of others spewing their negativity constantly anyhow....also i would like to point out that Spencer Long who will be a senior this year was named 2nd team all american......im not expert but I would say that is something to be excited about on the line....not to mention all the talent that was redshirted that will have to step up but weve got the talent in the last couple classes......also we just got the #1 JUCO DE in Randy Gregory but you go ahead and just keep whining smh
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