18 point lead evaporates, Huskers squashed 41-21
Huskers are red, Bruins are blue, our defense is bad, but is our coaching staff too?…
Well that was a head scratcher. Maybe it’s to be expected these days. I found myself in the middle of the second quarter pinching myself as our Huskers sprinted out to an 18 point lead. Was our team on the verge of a breakout, blowout win against a ranked opponent? Was it Nebraska on the receiving end of the other team’s misfortunes?
I guess I pinched myself too hard because when I awoke, I found the same defensive meltdowns and offensive ineptitude that has plagued this team and this coaching staff for almost four years now.
The recent defensive lapses over the past year and a half have been well documented, so no need to continue to beat a dead horse, but now we are here in year six of the Pelini experiment and we have to ask ourselves—are we any better than we were in 2008?
In fact, since the Kansas State game in 2010 I would attest that we have become progressively worse. Giving up 30 points and 500 yards has become the status quo, only to be followed by the almost pre-recorded excuses during the post-game press conferences.
Pull the audio from the Wisconsin game in 2011 and put it on a loop. No need for the coaching staff to show up, just put a cardboard cutout of an irritated Pelini up front and hit play—we have to get better. The question is when?
I have always been a supporter of Bo going back to his Alamo bowl victory in 2003. Count me in as one of those that wanted him to remain at the helm as we attempted to usher in a new era in Memorial stadium.
Count me in as one of those that today are wondering if there are better options out there.
Bo is like one of those door to door vacuum cleaner salesmen. They are persistent, slick and have a certain persuasive ability to talk you into inviting them into your home with his northeastern accent and a small bottle of laundry detergent.
They sell you a nice vacuum that has any number of fancy attachments, exotic features, and shiny packaging.
The problem is that as soon as they leave with the wad of cash that you just forked over you go to turn on your newly acquired gadget and you find out one thing—at the end of the day it just sucks. Maybe I can use this fuzzy extender thing as a nice backscratcher—hmm.
Nebraska had a decent plan early in the game, but then started giving up some big plays. Then came the missed tackles (queue the music here) and they lost composure. If I didn’t know any better I would have said that there were some players that seemed relegated to the fate that was about to come and just quit.
Listening to some of the sound bites after the game I would have thought this was an Indiana press conference. There was no anger, no passion, almost like they have become used to getting soundly beaten by good teams—almost like they know their place in this college football world--and it is not with the top tier programs.
This attitude has to change starting next week. I do not advocate making changes mid-season but this team with this schedule has a chance to get to a BCS bowl and this coaching staff had better circle the wagons and right the ship before the murders row of the BIG come to town in November.
On paper we have enough talent to win the remainder of our games, especially with Michigan and Penn State having their own problems this week. We all know that this game is not played on paper and Bo will need to swallow some pride and dig deep to find some answers to cure the sickness that has now seemingly metastasized itself to the rest of the team. While he is at it, he better find some ice packs for his rear end as his office chair will appear to be a significant amount hotter than it was last week.
Pelini needs to finish out with no more than two, maybe three losses with one of those coming in the BIG Championship game or there are going to be huge rumblings about yet another coaching change. Will his undying loyalty allow him to make a hard decision and let Papuchis go or will he continue his stubborn approach until he finally falls on his own sword taking with him many infamous defensive records with him?
There were a few bright spots on Saturday however. The play of Jean-Baptiste continues to impress-where would we be without him this year? Vincent Valentine has shown great promise and he will be playing on Sundays at some point.
This defensive is young, and while the majority of this rant has been defensive in nature, I do not palce the majority of the blame on this side of the ball-this week at least.
The schedule is set up nicely for this staff and these players to try some new things, install some new looks, and potentially give some younger players a chance to prove that they can help improve this defense. The same holds true for our offensive side of the ball, but that is a conversation for a later time—stay tuned…
Offensive Explosion or Exploding Offense…
Complacency. That has been the downfall of many societies, armies and teams. Could this be what has plagued this offense for the early part of this season, and to a greater extent, the last three years?
Look at it like this—Martinez is like the spoiled rich kid who was given a Ferrari for his 16th birthday (ok maybe a nice BMW if we are saying Oregon is the Ferrari). With keys in hand he went out and put his foot to the accelerator and in a flash he was gone.
The problem is that over time that Ferrari starts to look like just another car. No more shiny dust free dashboards. Old MacDonald’s cups in the back seat, the words ‘wash me’ written through the dirt that has gathered over the shiny metallic paint due to weeks of neglect. A quick check of the service records show that we are 7k miles overdue for an oil change.
From the outside we all look at the car in awe and wonder how on earth that that nice of a car could be in such a state of disrepair. We wonder how someone could waste that mechanical prowess by not at least taking it in for a quick check up at the local quick lube.
It comes down to one word-complacency. Martinez was handed the reins to this offense, for better or worse, four years ago and while he has made improvement in his passing mechanics over the last two years, he still retains the same mental capacity that kept him on the scout team his first year here.
Martinez has gone from an average passer, with superior running ability, to an above average passer with limited running capabilities. His ball security issues have been well documented but as I have watched him over the last three years, it appears that he has regressed as a runner. He is timid, indecisive, and at times, hell bent on proving everyone that he can indeed throw the ball.
The lack of apparent competition at the QB position over the last few years is problematic in two ways. First, with all of the apparent talent we have brought in over the last two years, is there not one of them that could have pushed Martinez? Secondly, if there has been an equal, or better option is this coaching staff not willing to put the best player on the field even if it means shaking up the locker room?
Didn’t we run Solich out of town for his reluctance to play underclassmen choosing instead to keep those that have been with the program for years on the field?
Now, as a disclaimer, I don’t exactly have any college programs calling me to coordinate their offenses but I have been a student of this game and watching college football for years. I know enough to see that so far this year, this offense is underachieving, and Martinez is not the player he was when he burst on the scene and garnered Heisman whispers through the first few games of his young career.
Am I saying we need to bench Martinez and take our chances, no—not by a long shot. But what would it have hurt to put in Armstrong in the third quarter for a series and let Taylor watch from the bench and at least put the thought in his mind that he needs to perform better. Confidence is great, but complacency is not and that is where I feel that Martinez mind has drifted. Another game another dollar-no fear of failure because he knows nothing is going to happen to him.
There is time for things to start clicking, but for Martinez I hope he can find the fire he appeared to have in 2010 and summon it for a stretch run. He will walk away with nearly all of the prestigious offensive records here at NU but zero championships.
I want nothing more than for him and this class of seniors to experience a championship or at least a BCS bowl win, and put a cherry on top of his legacy-but first he has to find that desire that made him the scout team player of the year.
He has to find that desire that made him a State Champion, most of all he has to find the desire to take that car down to the car wash, throw away the trash and put the shine back on that car that looked like a million bucks just a few short years ago. I, for one, will donate the car wax…
Football games are usually a roller coaster of emotions. We certainly experienced that on Saturday. From elation to utter disgust-we had it all.
A lot of questions that need to be answered, but honestly we have been looking for those same answers for years now as we have gravitated to college football’s equivalent of middle management. That glass ceiling has started to turn to concrete as we have been unable to break through for over a decade. One begins to wonder if we will ever break through again.
As I said earlier the schedule sets up well for this staff to mix things up and try a few new things. Heck, open up the competition at some positions-all bets are off. Make some players re-secure their starting spot. As for those blackshirts handed out before the season, those need to be collected until further notice, save for SJB.
As I sift through the ashes of yet another torching at the hands of a good, but not great team, I have to fight the urge to be apathetic. All Husker fans have to fight against that. One thing that is hard to swallow is that the sustained greatness we all experienced was unlike anything in all of college football, and honestly will not likely happen again.
All major programs went through sustained periods of poor to mediocre play before finding the right formula to return to national prominence. Nebraska has really stayed above average in the grand scheme of things over the last 15 years but has yet to put together anything close to magical in that same time period.
Ask yourself this—with all of the allegations going surrounding the SEC schools and the recent issues with Oklahoma State would you really trade those three or four great years, for 10-15 years of public embarrassment and losing seasons?
Depending on where you fall in your moral beliefs there could be a wide array of answers. Maybe USC could help solve this debate; I hear Lane Kiffin may have some free time this offseason…