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ThotDoc's Brain Droppings on the Illinois Game

ThotDoc

Tom Osborne
10 Year Member
Illini Instigate an Insulting Ignominy for Ill-fated Huskers in an Ineffable exhibition of Ineptitude

On a mild yet grey fall day in Lincoln, the last place team in the Big Ten West surrendered the mantel to an even worse team as the Illinois Illini throttled the Nebraska Cornhuskers 41-23 to dump the home team into the cellar. The game was a complete failure from the first play of the game for the Huskers who were a 15.5-point favorite entering the contest. It was the first Illini win in Lincoln in 96 years (1924).

Illinois came into the game ranked 115th in scoring offense (17.0 ppg) and had not scored more than 24 points in any contest this year (they scored 41), they had been outscored in the first quarter 31-0 (so they scored 14). Illinois scored 40 points in a Big Ten game for the first time since Nov. 3, 2018. Before Saturday, the Illini hadn’t won back-to-back road games in league play since 2007. Illinois came into the game ranked 98th in 3rd down conversions and then converted 11 for 17 against the Huskers. Illinois ran for 5.7 yards per run. They had 13 chunk plays, five of which gained 25 yards or more (and two of which gained 35 and 58 on the ground alone). This against a Nebraska team that handed out the Blackshirts this week and wore black alternate uniforms with the Blackshirt emblem emblazoned on the shoulders. The defenders today were a disgrace to the Blackshirt tradition.

But, before we pile too much on the defense, I believe the offense was actually worse. The Illinois pass defense is the worst Nebraska will see all season. On average, they were allowing nearly 80 yards more than their opponent's season average. Nebraska barely managed their average of 177 yards passing. Receivers ran open all throughout the first half and McCaffrey either threw at their feet or opted to run. Luke ran on 20 of the Huskers 46 first half plays. For the game, 28 of Nebraska’s 44 rushes came from the quarterbacks. McCaffrey finished the game with 26 rushes for 122 yards and was 15 for 26 throwing for 134 yards and three interceptions. Combined, McCaffrey and Martinez were 18 for 30 for 177 with 3 picks and 3 sacks. By comparison, former Husker quarterback Noah Vedral, playing for Rutgers against Illinois last week was 21 for 34 for 256 yards and two TDs in a 3-point loss to Illinois. Rutgers even led 20-10 in that game before losing on a last second field goal. Rutgers was more competitive than Nebraska.

I honestly don’t know what the Huskers are trying to do on offense. We do seem rather predictable in running quarterback draws on third and long. But it seems there is no semblance of an offensive identity other than turning the ball over. Nebraska’s -5 turnover margin was its worst since also having a -5 turnover margin at Purdue in 2015. After 4 games, McCaffrey now has 5 interceptions and 2 lost fumbles. With only 1 interception and 1 lost fumble, Adrian Martinez looks great by comparison. The play-calling is a mystery if one is kind and a travesty if one is not. The Huskers went 4 of 12 on third down and 2 of 5 on fourth down against a team ranked 115th in 3rd down defense. In two previous games against Illinois, Scott Frost’s teams averaged 48 points and 640 yards in those two wins. Today, the offense struggled to get 392 yards. A good share of the responsibility for this loss is squarely on the coaches. This team was ill-prepared to play today and they demonstrated it for 60 minutes.

The offensive line that was supposed to be a strength cannot get out of its own way. Cam Jurgens had a horrible game and even when he did snap the ball directly to McCaffrey, Luke botched the handle. His holding call that wiped out a touchdown on 4th and 1 was a bit iffy, but all he had to do was fall on the guy who was already on his knees.

I will interrupt this diatribe to mention the few positives on offense for the game. True freshman running back Marvin Scott made his first career start in today’s game and ran the ball hard eight times for 22 yards in the first half…and was never heard from again. Tight end Austin Allen caught a career-high five passes for a career-best 43 yards. It marked the fourth straight game Allen has had 25 receiving yards or more. He is the first Husker tight end with 25 receiving yards or more in four straight games since Kyler Reed, who had at least 25 receiving yards in six straight games in the 2010 season. Wan’dale Robinson (7 carries for 60 yards) averaged 8.6 yards a carry and had a beautiful 32-yard slashing run to the 1-yard line and caught 6 balls for 60 yards including a 31-yarder from Martinez where he apparently got the wind knocked out of him. I just pray we don’t get this guy killed as he gets hung out to dry far too many times. Oliver Martin (2 catches for 30 yards) looked good in his Husker debut and gives one some hope for the receiving corps.

On defense, Will Honas (10 tackles) led the team in stops and had an 8-yard sack in the second quarter for his team-leading third sack of the 2020 season. I thought Garrett Snodgrass (4 tackles) played well as a redshirt freshman in relief of Collin Miller. At least he wraps up on his tackles. The early word is that Miller had feeling in all his extremities with a good range of motion, so that may be good news after a scary situation on the field. The rest of the defense generally sucked and will receive no more mention.

On special teams, how is it that only one person covers a punter? The guy didn’t really want to run and tried to hitch stop a couple of times, but there was just too much green. The unintended punt fake continued a drive that lasted 16 plays and took nearly seven minutes of game clock. Will Przystup punted just twice averaging 49 yards and put them both inside the 20. Alante Brown had one decent kickoff return of 27 yards but still needs to learn when to just take a fair catch and get the ball at the 25. Connor Culp had one touchback on four kickoffs as there was no kickoff return yardage for the Illini. Culp also connected on a 28-yard field goal in the second quarter and has made four consecutive field goals and 7-of-8 this season. And the punt return team managed to negate a very good punt return by Cam Taylor-Britt with another stupid block in the back penalty.

The Huskers are in trouble. The team that played today won’t beat another team on our schedule let alone Iowa in 6 days, who is currently throttling Penn State. It’s gut check time for both players and coaches. There has been an incredulous lack of improvement as we are now in year three of the Frost experiment. I’m not calling for any wholesale changes or a firing of the staff. I just want what all Nebraska fans want – a quality football team that is competitive every week and that shows gradual improvement over time as talent is recruited and developed. Today, it seems that that prospect is as dark as the alternate uniforms (are we really 0-4 in black uniforms?) Hopefully, next week we can rebound and not look so hapless and hopeless in doing so. Go Big Red!!
 
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HuskerSuperGenius

Recruit
5 Year Member
Thotdoc: You wrote this: "There has been an incredulous lack of improvement as we are now in year three of the Frost experiment. I’m not calling for any wholesale changes or a firing of the staff. I just want what all Nebraska fans want – a quality football team that is competitive every week and that shows gradual improvement over time as talent is recruited and developed."

So in your opinion, how do we get there using what is left of the 2020 season?
 

SunsetRed

Recruit
I honestly don’t know what the Huskers are trying to do on offense. W
Well, ya know, we are just one play away from the whole thing breaking open and looking beautiful...right!?! :p

You must've had a bad taste in your mouth the whole time ya wrote that...hehe. Thx, tho.
 

ThotDoc

Tom Osborne
10 Year Member
Thotdoc: You wrote this: "There has been an incredulous lack of improvement as we are now in year three of the Frost experiment. I’m not calling for any wholesale changes or a firing of the staff. I just want what all Nebraska fans want – a quality football team that is competitive every week and that shows gradual improvement over time as talent is recruited and developed."

So in your opinion, how do we get there using what is left of the 2020 season?
Simplify the offense. It is so complex that our current quarterbacks can't execute it with any success. Give them one or two reads at most and let them try to develop some confidence and consistency. Utilize the tight ends more. They are our most reliable receivers. Let the young kids get some experience. Let Scott be a running back and Wandale be a wide receiver. Give Betts some more touches. Play whoever can contribute including Logan Smothers if he has any grasp of the offense. Develop as much youth as we can . The season is a sham anyway.
 
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cthusker

You talken to me?
5 Year Member
We landed what was the hottest coach in college football 3 years ago and the program landed with decided sickening THUD this afternoon. At the moment we're really no closer to restoring the program to competitive football then 4 years ago under Mikey!

We can slice, dice, chop and spin it anyway possible but we just got thumped by one of the worst teams in the BIG. What does that make Nebraska except probably the worst program in the conference imo. Right now it's impossible for me to see any light at the end of the tunnel after we just got hit by a train!

Frost has some real soul searching on what needs to be done to right the Husker ship. Keep all his assistant coaches at the end of this season or chart a new course. He desperately needs help with big time proven assistant coaches imo. As great a coach was T.O. he didn't do it alone. He had HIGH quality assistant coaches for almost his entire career. It's something that Frost needs to come to grips with or he will continue to fail at Nebraska imo.
 

jmatlock

Yo Quiero runzas
5 Year Member
Thotdoc: You wrote this: "There has been an incredulous lack of improvement as we are now in year three of the Frost experiment. I’m not calling for any wholesale changes or a firing of the staff. I just want what all Nebraska fans want – a quality football team that is competitive every week and that shows gradual improvement over time as talent is recruited and developed."

So in your opinion, how do we get there using what is left of the 2020 season?
We hijack the Alabama football teams plane
 

ThotDoc

Tom Osborne
10 Year Member
I know that it has become an overused euphemism at this point, but what a weird year and strange season. We played Ohio St close for the better part of a half and led both Northwestern and Penn State at half. We had every opportunity to beat Northwestern and today they hold Wisconsin to 7 points and are 5-0. Illinois is downright horrible and we make them look like world beaters. And in the other division, before their late comeback against Rutgers, Michigan was in 6th place just ahead of last place Penn State. There is no longer any sense of normalcy
 
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64husker

Recruit
I know that it has become an overused euphemism at this point, but what a weird year and strange season. We played Ohio St close for the better part of a half and led both Northwestern and Penn State at half. We had every opportunity to beat Northwestern and today they hold Wisconsin to 7 points and are 5-0. Illinois is downright horrible and we make them look like world beaters. And in the other division, before their late comeback against Rutgers, Michigan was in 6th place just ahead of last place Penn State. There is no longer any sense of normalcy
Definitely agree. This was the most bizarre year ever. There is just no explanation for today's game vs Illinois.
 

MSUHusker

Recruit
5 Year Member
I know that it has become an overused euphemism at this point, but what a weird year and strange season. We played Ohio St close for the better part of a half and led both Northwestern and Penn State at half. We had every opportunity to beat Northwestern and today they hold Wisconsin to 7 points and are 5-0. Illinois is downright horrible and we make them look like world beaters. And in the other division, before their late comeback against Rutgers, Michigan was in 6th place just ahead of last place Penn State. There is no longer any sense of normalcy
It has been a weird year. But we have been bad for far longer than 2020. And it is hard to see where we are heading. Frost wanted something good to happen to get this team over the hump. I guess last weeks win wasn’t it.
 

eyesonNU

Scout Team
15 Year Member
Simplify the offense. It is so complex that our current quarterbacks can't execute it with any success. Give them one or two reads at most and let them try to develop some confidence and consistency. Utilize the tight ends more. They are our most reliable receivers. Let the young kids get some experience. Let Scott be a running back and Wandale be a wide receiver. Give Betts some more touches. Play whoever can contribute including Logan Smothers if he has any grasp of the offense. Develop as much youth as we can . The season is a sham anyway.
This is the answer for now at least. Quit running the offense like a flag football team.
 
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