10 Year Member
Great break down as always Thot. Painful to read but the truth hurts.Collapse in Colorado as Cornhuskers Creatively Choke away a Crucial Conquest
On a hot day in Boulder, the Husker Red faithful bought 67% of the seats and saw their team dominate the opposition…. for a half. The Buffaloes rallied to score 24 fourth quarter points and edge the Cornhuskers in overtime 34-31. It was another gut-punching loss that has become all too familiar since the turn of the century. Eight straight losses on the road and five straight losses in overtime. This one to a foe that is so easy to hate, a mediocre team that has learned not to quit against Nebraska because this Nebraska has forgotten (for some time now) how to finish off an opponent when you have them on the ropes. The 30,000+ Husker fans who paid a small fortune for their seats deserved much better.
Nebraska started fast by scoring three times in its first four possessions, including touchdown drives of 95 and 96 yards. With the way Nebraska dominated in the first half, you would have thought they could be up 28-0 or more. The Huskers out-yarded the Buffs 266-84 before intermission as the defense forced 4 punts and had an interception while holding Colorado to ZERO rushing yards. And yet one had a nagging suspicion that as good as Nebraska had played, they had left a door open for Colorado. What was needed was for the Huskers to take the second half kickoff and drive for a clinching score, to finish the game by dominating wire to wire. Instead, the Huskers generated just 50 yards on 17 plays in the third quarter and had two three and outs, setting up the Blackshirts to wilt in the sun.
Other than just a couple of plays, the second half Husker offense looked eerily similar to the feeble effort we saw last week against South Alabama. To their credit, the Huskers did manage a gritty 8 play 75-yard scoring dive after the Buffs had tied the game at 24. Then, when Laviska Shenault returned the only non-touchback kickoff of the day to the Nebraska 40, Cam Taylor-Britt popped the ball out, and it was recovered by Luke Reimer, and NU had the ball and the lead with 5:35 to go at the NU 43-yard line. Run out the clock, win the game. How many times over the last few years have we had that opportunity? At the least, generate 25 yards or so and kick a field goal for a 10-point lead with just seconds to go. Not this team, not the last several teams. The 21st century Huskers have invented more ways to lose than I ever thought possible. Start with the coach getting flagged for 15 yards after the recovered fumble so the offense is backed up to the 28. Then, keep the QB in the pocket and dial up a intentional grounding by airmailing the ball downfield, and you’ve set yourself up for the fourth three and out of the second half and you have only taken 90 seconds off the clock. Then leave it to the defense to complete the choke and you are facing overtime with all the momentum with the Buffs.
Give the Blackshirts credit for holding Colorado to a field goal in overtime. Time for the offense to seize the opportunity and get six for the win. Instead, Frost gets conservative and two running plays gain 1 yard. Add Cam Jurgens first really poor snap of the game, and a QB that takes a sack when the ball absolutely has to be thrown away, then let your punter attempt a 48-yard field goal on just his second field goal ever, and you become Colorado’s Santa, gifting them a win that should have never been.
Frost stated in his post-game presser that he didn’t want to risk an interception in OT so he called for the runs. I don’t know if you have noticed, but the run game is not this offensive line's forte. So, let’s play it safe and not play to our strength. Where was JD Spielman, or Wandale Robinson, or Jack Stoll at the end of the game? This was supposed to be an offense with so many options and game-changing playmakers that the challenge was going to be how to distribute the ball to all of them. Or, you can just crawl into your shell and get so strikingly predictable that the defense has a distinct advantage.
It was a tale of two halves for Adrian Martinez and the Husker offense. In the first half, Martinez was 9 for 9 passing for 180 yards with a TD pass and a TD run. In the second half, he was 7 for 17 for 110 yards with a pick, two fumbles (one that was lost) and was sacked four times. He did throw a swing pass that Mo Washington took 75 yards for a touchdown and he converted a 4th and inches for a 5-yard TD run. What happened at halftime that flipped the switch? Martinez is the key man in this offense because as he goes so goes the team. As the head coach admitted after the game, the play calling hasn’t helped Martinez and it also can’t help his confidence either.
Martinez (19 carries for 66 yards) would have been the leading rusher if he hadn’t lost 33 yards on six sacks. Mo Washington (15 carries for 77 yards) made a difference on the outside until it became predictable. His 40-yard scamper in the 4th quarter put NU in a position to retake the lead. Dedrick Mills (8 carries for 24 yards) is having a hard time finding room up the middle and a 3.0 rushing average isn’t going to get it done.
JD Spielman (5 catches for 112 yards) got over half of his total with his 65-yard touchdown in the opening drive, his 6th career touchdown of over 65 yards. Spielman had just 1 catch for 9 yards in the 4th quarter and wasn’t even a target in overtime. JD is our best receiver and has to get touches when the game is on the line. Mo Washington (4 catches for 118 yards) showed a great burst on his 75-yard score. Wandale Robinson (3 catches for 35 yards) got 25 on one play, had a huge drop in the 4th (but we scored on the drive anyway) and had just one catch in the second half, a 3rd quarter grab for 8 yards. This kid is electric and he had just five touches for the game.
On defense, the Blackshirts gave up 84 total yards in the first half and had 3 sacks and a pick. In the second stanza they yielded 380 yards and 31 points including 24 in the 4th quarter. Granted, they gave up just 8 yards and the FG in OT and gave the offense a chance to nab the win. A lot of the missed tackles in the 2nd half looked to be the result of fatigue as the offense hung them out to dry. They were also out-schemed after intermission by the Colorado coaches who made the Blackshirts pay for double-teaming Laviska Shenault and the other Buff receivers were the beneficiary.
Will Honas (9 tackles with 1 TFL) had a career high as he led the Huskers in stops and was held or tackled on one of the Buff scores. Mohamed Barry (1 sack) and Collin Miller each added 6 tackles and both had a tackle for loss as the inside linebackers all played pretty well throughout. Marquel Dismuke contributed 6 tackles as well. Cam Taylor-Britt (5 tackles) had an up and down game. He forced two fumbles but was also burned on the 96-yard flea flicker for a touchdown. Carlos Davis (2 tackles) and Caleb Tannor (1 tackle) each added a sack for the game. Khalil Davis (5 tackles), Ben Stille (3 tackles) and Alex Davis (2 tackles) each had two tackles for loss as the Blackshirts recorded 11 tackles for loss total. I would still like to see JoJo Domann (2 tackles) get more snaps on the field. I thought that Dicaprio Bootle (3 tackles) and Lamar Jackson (1 tackle) both played well in coverage as each had a pass breakup and Jackson recorded a nice pick after he baited Montez into an ill-advised throw.
With regard to special teams, who else had a flutter or two of worry when they heard that our #1 placekicker, Barret Pickering, didn’t make the trip due to his nagging leg injury. In a game with a 3.5 point spread, the importance of a field goal kicker proved to be prophetic. I don’t fault Isaac Armstrong’s effort, as he did manage a 26-yard field goal and was 4-4 on extra points. But to expect this kid to hit a 48-yarder was preposterous. Armstrong performed much better in his specialty, averaging 46.2 yards on five punts with two inside the 20. Kudos to redshirt freshman and backup punter Will Przystup, who kicked off 4 times garnering 3 touchbacks. Freshman Dylan Jorgenson kicked off twice with two touchbacks as the high altitude allowed the ball to sail. We had no kickoff or punt returns for the game and I do question JD Spielman’s decision to field a punt at the 5-yard line. Colorado had just 1 punt return for 4 yards and Shenault’s 54-yard kickoff return was saved when Cam Taylor punched the ball loose.
There is no doubt that this loss is a setback and a blow to any confidence and momentum the team might gain going forward. To lose to the vermin is what hurts the most, especially since we gift-wrapped their win. The question remains whether the Huskers can discover any kind of consistency to their play. I believe that the team from the first half could win 10 or 11 games as easily as the second half impostors could lose that many contests. We have been looking for a solid four quarters of play for years now, and I hope that Frost and Company can dial up the right formula to make it happen. An uptick in play calling that effectively utilizes your playmakers will certainly help. And don’t sleep on next week’s opponent, Northern Illinois, who beat the Huskers at home two years ago and gave #13 Utah a heck of a game this afternoon. It was 21-17 at half before Utah went on to win 35-17. We have a long ways to go to be a good, let alone great team, and it may be awhile before we sniff a Top 25 ranking again. This team still has to figure out how to win again, and exorcise the demons of expecting to lose when it goes south. They have gotten better at that since Frost was hired, but old habits die hard. The good news is that this Husker squad still has the potential to be very good. Let’s hope they start next week. Go Big Red!!