The gauntlet of October begins. Many of us who were hoping Nebraska had turned the corner against Rutgers and Illinois got what we were hoping wouldn't happen to us last Saturday. While many remained optimistic, I think almost everyone in the back of their minds wondered if it was a bit of "fools gold" the improvement we saw against those two teams. But where do we go from here? We were so emotional, so geared up for that game under the lights in Lincoln, only to leave by getting our doors blown by 21 at home in a manner that we used to do to people. Saw this tweet and it made me sick: Kind of confirms what we thought in regard to if we were really ready to play big boy football, big boy defense. That stat gets scarier when you think about Ohio State and their 18th ranked rushing offense coming up this week, facing a Penn State team that has Saquon Barkley still on the schedule, and then Iowa who appears to not be as strong of a rushing team this year but always figures out how to embarrass us the past couple years at the very end. I'm not trying to be doom and gloom guy, but we are 3-3, we gotta win 3 more to get bowl eligible, can we get there? Let's start with the good to let me say why I think we can. Tanner Lee despite throwing another pick 6 and only completing 50% of his passes again, looked much better than he did the first few weeks. Passes are more accurate, the OL is keeping him cleaner, and his decision making is that much better. He just hasn't taken the elite step. We won't need to worry about him leaving early for the draft it appears, but if his improvement continues, this could be quite the player we have back there. I still don't understand the pick 6 issue we have, and this one certainly wasn't his fault, but at some point the ball needs to start falling in our favor and it just hasn't done that much this year. Staying with the fact Lee had a better game, I think our OL did a great job in only allowing one sack. I thought we'd give up 3 or 4 and that didn't happen, and when a QB has confidence back there, it's amazing what can happen. I still am so baffled at the Cav OL situation. Talk around town is how well Decker has played since stepping into the role, and I do think Conrad last year at RT was our best guy there the past 19 games or so. So why are we burning a redshirt of a true freshman (who is playing well, don't get me wrong). If you remember from my preseason breakdowns, I thought our best OL had Decker at center and Conrad at RT. Obviously I wasn't taking Jaimes into consideration, but this marks the third year in the row that we have seen improvement along the OL because an injury forced us to shuffle things around. Honestly, that's not how it should work. Further, that's probably not how it should work three years in a row. Compounding my inability to understand things, is our struggles being helped by new guys coming in, yet we let our healthy guys sit there and make mistake after mistake and not really be punished for it. How many snaps has Boe Wilson had this year while Tanner Farmer struggled? At this point, it seems we have to wait for an injury to make sure we have the right guys out there, and that's not my cup of tea. Let's go to some not so great from our offense... our TEs have been pretty sub-par, and unlike in golf, I don't mean that in a good way. We aren't good blockers, we are dropping passes, and we don't have a mismatch guy like Cethan Carter gave us. Langsdorf loves using TEs, so we need someone to step up. Anyone. You also may have saw the threads where we had a good debate about whether Keith Williams is really having guys improve, is he as good of a coach as people think? In my opinion, he absolutely is. But I don't think we can ignore all the drops our WRs have had. Stanley Morgan is the B1G's leader in TD receptions and receiving yards, but he is dropping about 30% of the balls thrown his way. That's before we get into the fumble he had when we were trying to crawl back into the game. I think Keith Williams has definitely made our guys better, Westerkamp claimed he is one of, if not the best WR coach in the nation. But one thing that i've stated Williams needs to work on, is identifying the WRs that want to be here. He can recruit with the best of them, but if you are taking verbal commitments from guys like Jamire Calvin, Derion Grim, Dez Fitzpatrick, Keyshawn Jr., all who can't even get thru their freshmen year here, you all of a sudden only have 5-6 actual WRs on scholarship. That creates a depth issue. That means Stanley Morgan plays at 75%, that means besides Morgan all we have are small slot backs and walk-on big WRs. And this ladies and gentlemen is where I think the problem with our offense is... Go look at Ohio State, go look at Alabama, those teams recruit over you as a player. If you aren't getting it done, i'm putting your backup in and I guarantee you he doesn't want to come back out of the game. Where's that fear on the OL? Unless you get hurt, you aren't coming out. Where's that fear at WR? Literally you can drop whatever ball you want and we don't have another scholarship kid available that is over 6 foot that wasn't formerly a walk-on or a glorified holder. Depth creates competition, competition creates accountability, accountability can win you games on Saturdays. I'll also point to the RB position we have there, remember how we basically had a 3 way tie all thru spring and fall camp, how "no one had separated themselves?" Those 3 guys are all averaging over 4.5 ypc, because they know they have to do something when they are out there to assert themselves. All of a sudden Wilbon is injured, Bryant is injured, and Ozigbo only has to worry about a true freshman replacing him so that means he gets a bit overworked, and boom, a ball bounces off our facemask for a pick 6. Create the depth. Defensively I don't know where to start, there was a lot I just didn't like from what we do or did on Saturday. I don't know how much of it is assignment errors, I don't know how much of it is what we do. But one thing I think I have figured out, is that Diaco doesn't have a lot of faith in our corners, so he tries to help them out. That's a nightmare scenario when playing Wisconsin. After Wisky's pick 6, they ran the ball 28 of the next 30 plays, and we couldn't stop them. Could not stop them at all. Wasn't even close. But i'm not going to sit here and claim I know what's going on, i'll just point out some things that really make me shake my head. Here's an example of a play we either are aligned wrong, or Diaco has us set up terrible with scheme. There's a TE to the bottom, so Sedrick King is aligned outside, but we have our DE playing either on the inside of the tackle or even worse outside of the guard, so that means the tackle and the TE have down blocks that are free to the LB who is Weber, who is even worse position head up over the center so if he tries to make a play he's running right into the tackle/TE running free to block them. So when they are down blocking on us, they are wiping everyone out except Sedrick King, who the fullback will lead out on, then they have a puller that will come thru the hole that is going to take on Eric Lee Jr. so Eric Lee (not one of our LBs) is responsible for covering 2 gaps. The back bounces inside but everything is so collapsed it doesn't even matter. Just press on that video and pause it before anything happens, before the ball is even snapped, any QB on any level is saying "welp... i'm running right there and pulling up to this 5'8" corner with my 330 pound lineman." We are screwed. But more than that, Jay Foreman had a good tweet that illustrates our struggles a bit: Mick is a big dude that can't get moved, but if he's just trying to hold the LOS our defense is aligned too "spacey" (for lack of a better word) to not allow a back to run wild. What I mean is, look at how Wisky runs their 3-4, the OLBs are close to the LOS, not way out like Sedrick King in the above video, and they make tight spaces and dictate to the runner where he has to go. We essentially sit there, and as you can see in the video above, it makes it way too easy to get to our LBs. I think our DL did well with what they were asked to do, but Wisconsin is too big to not get some movement going along the DL and create some havoc. Wisky was rarely "behind the chains" and it bit us. Going back to Diaco and our corners, I just don't think he has the faith. Too many times our safeties were being asked to do things from too far back and we just couldn't make the right decision. I don't know enough about DIaco's defense to know the answer, but i'll tell you going against Ohio State scares me, because Urban Meyer has seen our weaknesses. We put so much emotion into the Wisconsin game that this smells of let down. Please prove me wrong Huskers. But let's go back to the depth thing I was talking about. In 2016, Mike Riley oversigned in the class by 2 I believe, even though we started fall camp with less than 85, that was truly the best the guy could have done. However, looking back at the 2017 class, we UNDERsigned by 3 (I think). Took a chance on Elijah Blades and Deiontae Watts, those both backfired. Keyshawn Jr. gone, Jamire Calvin flipped from us 87 times, and then McQuitty gets hurt. For those academic risks and guys you have to take, like an Elijah Blades, you use the plus 3 with those guys. You get your numbers in, and then shoot for the homerun that you hope makes it to campus. Here's what I mean, and we can use a Mike Riley example as I think he learned from his own mistake last year... We were told we were looking at one LB this class, an OLB. All summer I was clamoring that we can't have what happened to us in the DB class of 2017 happen to us for the LB class of 2018, which means you put all your eggs in one guys basket and then he doesn't make it here either by academic casualty or choosing elsewhere. I was actually getting worried we were doing that with Micah Parsons, and with how our OLBs have struggled, I was thinking the worst. Then last week, David Alston pulled the trigger for our OLB spot. Perfect. Get your guy for your numbers to give you options, then shoot for the stars with Micah Parsons. If you can somehow land him, great, if not, you have a guy already. And this all circles back to the depth situation and creating competition to make you better. Our OL has been downright terrible in 2.5 years, and I think depth and complacency has played a part in that. Conversely, Parrella is creating depth on the DL and it appears to be paying dividends for him with the Davis twins, Stille, Thomas, Akinmoladun, and Stoltenberg. You have to create competition in practice, otherwise guys start sleep walking thru the week, and they aren't ready for the war on Saturday. The above example of Riley learning from his mistakes with the recruiting also brings me to him learning from his mistakes with how he handles his team. Many of you have heard me say that this staff wishes they could have a few things back with how they handled things in 2015. Damon Benning said it very well when he said "this team needed discipline and accountability in 2015, but things were so fragile, Mike Riley came in and gave them a hug." That is a great analogy. The culture was put on the back burner for a year. Not on purpose, but that was the result. So the timeline got pushed a year. Is it too late? I think it may be with Ohio State and Penn State still on the schedule before we start talking Iowa, Northwestern, and even Purdue. I am good with whatever the new AD decides. For those of you claiming that you can't just keep firing coaches and expect different results, how come USC, Alabama, Oklahoma, and many others have done it til they found the right guy? I will tell you that it was very difficult for us to find a coach after firing nin win season coaches. That's why we had to beg Callahan 45 days into our search (think about if it took us 45 days to get a coach next time around) and that's why we just ended up with the "anti-Bo" for this hire. People say "you can't screw it up this time if you move on from Riley" I would counter with "Eichorst couldn't have screwed it up when he fired a 9 win coach, yet here we are." I'll stand by what I said when this all went down, Pelini needed to go, but i'm not sure I make the move if this was who we were bringing in. I am still willing to let him dig himself out of this mess, but a loss to Northern Illinois severely hurts his cause at this point. I still would have loved to see what Pelini could have done here if Osborne was still AD. Think about what Pelini inherited, and even Osborne for that matter. A baseball team that was sub .500 three years in a row in conference, and a football team that was .500 or worse 3/4 seasons in conference. He hired a baseball coach that has won coach of the year and a conference title, he hired Pelini who took us to 2 conference championships in 3 years after he was hired. The Pelini hire was a great one for Osborne, but looks ugly with an AD change. Pelini wanted recruiting help, Eichorst was giving it to him but if it was his guys, and all hell breaks loose, no one trusts each other, and the whole thing goes down the drain. Imagine if you are a boss and you fire a guy and then have to go around to find a replacement where you say "he was winning nine games a year, but we just didn't see eye to eye." It's tough. If we choose to move on this time around, it will be warranted with on the field product. But Nebraska can't go the discount route for the fourth or fifth time in a row. Pay what you need to. You want to be a big boy program, act like one.