Huskers survive 37-34
A-B-C- -E-F-G…wait….where’s the ‘D’?…
Better athletes. More speed. Easily correctable mistakes. Coach speak…the hype of every offseason seems to bring out the true optimist in even the most skeptical of Husker fans.
I, for one, bought into this hype. How could you not be optimistic? A seasoned, talented offense with playmakers at every skill position. A young, promising defense and a schedule that is softer than Rosie O'Donnell’s midsection after the holidays.
Add it all together and it had me feverishly hitting the fast forward button to the Michigan game penciling us in at 8-0 going into that critical matchup. So much for the hype.
Credit Wyoming and the coaching staff for coming in with a game plan that confused and kept our green Blackshirts on their collective heels. The problem is this is year six with the defensive guru at the helm and we have seen the defense regress to Kevin Cosgrove-type levels in four short years.
Brett Smith looked as though he morphed into Brad Smith scrambling for large chunks of yardage and then doing his best Chase Daniel impersonation by torching our highly touted secondary for nearly 400 yards. If it hadn't been for two poor decisions by their Jr. leader, we could very well be talking about one of the most embarrassing losses in our storied history. If you didn’t know any better you would think it was Wyoming that was picked to win the B1G, not our dear old Huskers.
There were some slight positives to come out of the otherwise poor defensive performance however. Limiting the Cowpokes to 1 of 8 on third down comes to mind—but then again, when you pick up a first down on first and second downs, that number is very misleading.
One observation that I made on the defensive line is that we have much more size; was it just me or are we going Jabba the Hutt with our defensive tackles?
They certainly fit the mold for the space-eating monsters you need on the inside, but they also appeared incredibly out of shape even trying to sub out on crucial third-down situations. Chalk it up to new players and rookie mistakes but rest assured, if this pattern continues to hold, Pelini will have deal with another word that starts with ‘D’—Dismissed…
I never quite understood this game. You take a gun, load one chamber with a bullet, spin said chamber, point at your head and take your chances. Doesn’t sound like a ton of fun to me—those crazy Russians.
In a way, you could say Pelini played his own version on Saturday night. He started out with an empty chamber by using our bread-and-butter combination of Abdullah and later Cross (who looked like the better back in my humble opinion), and then later started adding bullets getting luckier and luckier until bam—the chamber fires and what do you know: we turn the ball over and allow a weaker opponent to creep back into the game.
What I don’t understand is the play calling on some of those crucial late drives. Taylor throwing a timing route to fourth and fifth string WR’s when a very makeable 40-45 yard field goal would have iced the game? I have watched that play several times and it’s hard to tell if it was a bad throw or a bad route by the receiver. Needless to say it’s a play that should not have been called.
I have no problem with being aggressive and trying to pick up the first down there, but give me a bootleg run-pass option for Martinez where there would be little chance of him being picked. Didn’t we just pick up a first down on a third and 10 earlier with a vanilla run with Cross up the middle?
In another puzzling move we decide it would be a good idea to run a QB sneak with our slight-statured QB when we have multiple options that could have ground out that much-needed yard. They stacked the line heavily, as expected, but why not go goal-line formation and let Cross smash into the line and use some of that newly chiseled muscle he has put on in the offseason? Guess he was too busy doing some pushups to pump up his biceps on the sidelines so they went with what they had.
Overall the offense did its job, 375 yards on the ground is great but there is still a lot of room for improvement. We will need to be able to get that yard or two in crunch time if we are going to have any championship aspirations this year. Bell and Enunwa will need to be incorporated more, and while he did a much better job of protecting the ball, Martinez has GOT to cut down on the fumbles or we will be looking at another 9-4 type season squarely in the eyes.
If that in fact does happen, maybe the aforementioned game would not be a bad idea after all….
So what did we learn on Saturday? We learned we have a high-powered, inconsistent offense and a disaster-prone, young defense. Sound familiar? If we could only find a way to clone the 2009 defense with our offense this year—doesn’t Nebraska have a good genetics program?? Hmm…
As with anything, sometimes you just have a bad day. Problem is that these PlayStation-like stat games our defense has given up over the last few years have become an alarming pattern and not the exception that Pelini & Co. would have us believing.
I saw a stat over this weekend that Pelini now has four of the top ten total yard games given up by our once-solid Blackshirts. Is it the rule changes and more up-tempo offenses that are causing the burst of offensive firepower, or is Pelini really unable to show off his defensive prowess without the elite athletes he inherited when Callahan was ushered out of town?
What needs to happen is that this coaching staff puts this game behind them, and addresses the problems we have with stopping the run and defending against the motioning back out of the backfield. We appeared to have more speed on the field in our back seven, but if they cannot tackle or are not in the vicinity of the ball carrier, then all the speed in the world will not help you. Pelini has been adamant that this scheme works—now it is time to show us and he can start next week with a weak Southern Miss team that is coming off a turnover-ridden loss to Texas State.
The defense will have to make marked improvement over Saturday’s performance to have any ideas of making that 8-0 mark going into the Michigan game a reality. Holding the Golden Eagles to under 14 points would be a great start and begin to build some confidence going into the showdown with UCLA.
Another 42-35 shootout may very well mark the beginning of the end of the Pelini era. Bo needs to have at least an 11-3 or 12-2 type season with this schedule and these players, and cannot afford any more embarrassing losses save for a roughing-up at the hands of Ohio State in the B1G Championship game. Even still, if Buffalo can hang with them, then there is no reason we could not go into that game thinking about a victory.
First things first—the defense has to take care of business and the offense has to cut down on the catastrophic mistakes that have defined the Martinez era to this point. The season is still very new and the sheen is not completely knocked off the car—but a good buffing this week will sure make that Sunday drive much nicer…