Cocks Confound Charitable Cornhuskers as Carolina Capitalizes in the Capital One
I waited until the morning after to jot down my thoughts and I'm in a much better place in my head now than I was 15 hours ago. I also watched two very good football games in the Rose and Fiesta Bowls and came away very impressed with the talent and execution displayed by those schools. Nebraska is not at their level. There is a reason we didn't go to a BCS Bowl. In addition to not earning one (even if we had beaten Michigan), we are not good enough. We are a team hanging on the fringe of the Top 25. That is not Nebraska's standard and it is not acceptable for players, coaches, or fans alike. We must improve and four straight 4 loss seasons doesn't seem like progress. Even moving to the B1G hasn't resulted in improved play and this in a conference that is 3-6 so far in the bowls. Even our competition is getting mauled. The 9 teams we played this year that went to bowls have gone 1-7 so far and it took a triple OT for Michigan State to gain the sole victory.
We must get better. We are Nebraska and we are not upholding the proud tradition that is ours, in seasons like the past one and in games like yesterday. I like Bo and I still support him as head coach but I am getting tired of him repeating game after game, "We just didn't execute." I'm sure he's getting tired of saying it as well. This game began with such promise. The 30 yard strike to Bell was beautiful. Then the mistakes began that prevented the Huskers from dominating a team they could have beaten soundly. The quick summary of the game is as follows: a blocked extra point returned for 2 points, a fumble in the redzone, an interception nearly in the redzone, a collapse in the secondary on a Hail Mary, a drive to the 8 yard line culminated by a missed field goal, 1 more yard gained the rest of the game and enough penalties and sacks to make the collapse complete. When we could have had a 14 or even 17 point lead at half we trailed by 3 and once we failed on the first drive of the second half, the game was essentially over because we did nothing else positive in the next 28 minutes. Where was the leadership that rallies players and inspires them to greatness? Where was the optimism and drive that fueled the second half comeback against Ohio State (who by the way finished their season yesterday with 7 losses)? The cyclothymic Cornhuskers were all over the board emotionally but there was not the concentration and focus and unified spirit that makes good teams great. The Unity Council needs to figure out who is going to be the leaders and take ownership of this team. It's time for Bo to make some hard decisions to make this team better and to start acting like a head coach and not a coordinator.
The offense moved the ball well in the first half. The line controlled the line of scrimmage and the pace and tempo was keeping Carolina on their heels. The turnovers were killers. Abdullah has to expect that he is going to get hit and secure the ball. Martinez needs to throw in the direction of his receiver or throw it away. Of the 10 receptions, six were to backs (Burkhead 5 and Legate 1) and one was to a tight end (Cotton). The other three were to Bell and that was it. Granted, Turner drew a pass interference penalty that worked like a completion, but no other receiver stepped up to make a catch. If Westercamp maintains his commitment to the Huskers and shows up next fall, who will throw to him? I'm not going to Martinez bash, but part of the problem is at quarterback. He does not have the skills to be the quarterback of a Top Ten team. He has played two full seasons without significant improvement. Sure, he is better at ball security (most of the time) but as I watched quarterbacks around the country in this bowl season, there were many I would trade for who can throw better, read better, and run better. How bad must Carnes be? Will Armstrong be an improvement? Like I said, Bo has to make some difficult decisions. As promising as the first half was, the second half was abysmal. Granted, Carolina has a good defense, but we made them look like SEC champs. How can you have four penalties in 6 snaps and followup the next series with a delay of game penalty followed by a sack? How can you get called for holding and he still beats you for the sack? Enough head cases to keep a shrink busy full-time.
The defense played well for 3 quarters and then either wore down or gave up. The secondary kept us in the game in the first half except for the final play. Dennard got burned once by Jeffery but played him tough before those two decided to get stupid. Once Dennard left the game, the secondary let down and played without a leader. The third down busts were troubling especially when the secondary was holding up well, but the ends lost contain on the quarterback. Meredith may need to diet and work on his speed in the off-season. We don't blitz much at all and when we do it looks like we are out of practice. The timing was horrible and we are left extremely vulnerable (as in converting a 3rd and 18). The loss of David and Dennard makes me apprehensive about next year as we need playmakers to emerge and I haven't seen them on the field as yet.
The special teams that were a strength early in the year have turned into a nightmare as we close the season. The blocked extra point for two points the other way set the tone early and the kickoff coverage has seemingly gotten worse each game. Maher is still a good kicker, but he is fallible and his field goal miss came at a crucial time. If Papuchis was running special teams, hopefully the next coach can do a better job. As I looked at other games and saw how poor other kickers are, I still feel good about the job Maher will do for us.
It's going to be a long off-season for Husker fans. I trust it will be uncomfortably gnawing for the players and coaches as well. I hope that the sting of yesterday's defeat will motivate them to rededicate themselves to discipline and excellence, because it was sorely lacking in yesterday's contest. We have to get better and I hope that there is not only a self-examination that takes place for each player and coach, but I would also like to see a Sports Psychologist hired that can help improve the teams focus and concentration, as well as addressing their thought processes to improve self-confidence. Here's also hoping the recruiting season finishes well. We need help and we need it sooner versus later. Go Big Red!