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  • Husker Dan: Huskers' derailment years in the making

    "What a revoltin' development this is." William Bendix in "The Life of Riley" TV series

    Yes, these are tough times for Husker fans. In all my years of following Husker football, this is the weirdest season I can ever recall.

    After 8 games, the Huskers sit 3-5. Let that sink in awhile. I know there were some who predicted a rough year for Nebraska, but 3 and 5? Come on.

    The Huskers have lost 5 games by a total of (gasp!) 13 points for an average loss margin of 2.6 points. Just a handful of plays made by Nebraska and the Huskers could be sitting comfortably at 7-1 or even at 8-0.

    MORE WEIRDNESS
    And get this, teams like Toledo, Memphis, Duke and Temple (Temple????) are ranked this year. Are you kidding me?

    And look who else besides Nebraska has fallen from grace in the world of college football this year: Virginia Tech (3-5), Texas (2-4), Louisville (3-4), Missouri (4-4) or, talk about a football powerhouse plummeting, how about 4-3 Oregon? Didn't they just play for a national championship last year? (The Duckies were humiliated at home by Utah, 62-20!)

    THE BLAME GAME
    Everyone wants to know what is wrong with the Huskers this year. Many want to put the blame on the coaching staff. And to be sure, the buck does stop with HC Mike Riley. But don't look now, but the wheels may have been falling off the Husker football program for several years.

    A LOOK BACK
    Yes, the Huskers have won at least 9 games for the past 7 years, but if we go back to the last two years, we see that the Huskers finished the regular season in 2013 at 8-4, and last year at 9-3. Let's first look at 2013. That year, a handful of plays may have kept the Huskers from finishing with a losing record and out of bowl game consideration.

    2013
    Here are three other potential losses which would have easily taken NU's regular season 8-4 record down to 5-7:

    Potential loss #5 (Wyoming @Nebraska)
    Nebraska beat Wyoming in the opener that year in a squeaker, 37-34. But the Cowboys, who had already racked up 383 passing yards and 35 first downs on NU's defense, had the ball last and a play or two could have resulted in another Husker loss.

    Potential Loss #6 (Northwestern @Nebraska)
    The Huskers were leading late in the game, 21-20, but Northwestern went ahead 23-21 with a 21 yard Jeff Budzien field goal with just 1:20 to go. And we all know what happened after that. With no timeouts and facing a 4th and long, Ameer Abdullah somehow managed to pick up a first down. The game would have been over had he not made the play. And with no time left on the clock, Husker QB Ron Kellogg III threw a 49-yard Hail Mary pass that Jordan Westerkamp caught for a 27-23 Husker win. Had AA not picked up the first down, had RGIII's pass been batted down, that's loss #6. Easy peezy.

    Potential Loss #7 (Nebraska at Penn State)
    The Huskers beat the Lions in OT with an assist from PSU's placekicker Jeff Ficken, who missed an extra point early in the game. The Huskers kicked a late FG in regulation just to tie it (had Ficken's extra point been good, the Huskers would have had to have gone for a TD). And that could have been loss #7.

    I KNOW, I KNOW
    I know, the Cowboys didn't catch the winning TD, Jordan did catch the pass and Pat Smith's 42 yarder in OT was good and the Huskers did win those three games. But what if, just a handful of plays had gone the other way - just as this year's team has seen a handful of plays go against them?

    With a 5-7 season in 2013, there wouldn't have been a winning season. No bowl game. The Husker fan base would have been calling for some changes. And the FHC may have been fired then instead of last year. A new staff would have been hired. And who would that have been?

    If you're wondering, Mike Riley finished that year at Oregon State with a 7-6 record with wins over Utah, Boise State and a one-point loss to powerhouse Oregon at Eugene.

    Would Nebraska have come calling?

    2014
    And last year, the Huskers finished the regular season at 9-3 that easily could have been 7-5. (At 7-5, the Huskers may have gone to differnt bowl game last year instead of losing to USC in the Holiday Bowl. But had they played USC, the Huskers could have finished with a tepid 7-6 record.)

    Potential loss #4 (McNeese State @Nebraska)
    The Huskers pulled out a last-minute win over FCS McNeese State. Just before Ameer Abdullah's 58-yard catch-and-run TD, the Cowboys came within inches of getting a Tommy Armstrong fumble and would have been in a position to win the game. That's loss #4. (The Cowboys finished 6-5 that year.)

    Potential loss #5 (Nebraska @Iowa)
    Why Kirk Ferentz continued to punt to De'Mornay Pierson-El is beyond comprehension. DPE finished the game with 134 punt return yards that included a fourth-quarter 80-yard return for a TD. But Iowa took a 31-28 lead on a 25-yard field goal by Marshall Koehn with just 1:49 to go. The Huskers tied the game with a FG and went on to win it in OT, 37-34.

    Yes, Armstrong didn't lose the fumble, Abdullah did win the game and Kenny Bell caught Armstrong's pass for the winning score in OT to beat Iowa. But again, just a handful of plays can make a huge difference.

    A FEEL-GOOD MOMENT
    If you are looking for a feel-good moment (we can all use that now), you should see the movie "Undefeated." You can stream it on Netflix. It's a documentary about a black high school football team in Memphis, Tennessee. Great movie. Great story.

    You may contact the writer at HuskerDan@cox.net.

    Comments 8 Comments
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Alabama - self-proclaimed rulers of the SEC - was 3-8 in 2000. They had some ROUGH times until they landed Nick Saben (like 3 coaches between 3-8 and him). Have we found our Nick Saben? Maybe. Maybe not. Time will tell.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Comparing Saben with Riley is like comparing Osborne with Riley. They are not even remotely in the same category. It is unfortunate to see some fans not realizing that Riley is a mediocre coach that left Oregon State purely for personal gain. Mediocrity settles in very fast in the Huskerland. Let's give a guy a few years to make this storied program completely irrelevant.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      I was thinking the same thing. The last two seasons were close to being bad. The breaks went to NU then. Now they are going against NU.

      Once Riley gets a passing QB the offense will be a lot more consistent and better. The run D is good now. I'd hope the secondary could be improved.

      Two years from now we will see a Riley team and it will be okay and maybe even very good.

      I wonder if the fan base will stick it out until then.
    1. SoCalRed's Avatar
      SoCalRed -
      Sorry, Dan, but that's a rather pathetic attempt to manufacture excuses for this year's record. "Hey, we're only 3-5, but it's okay because we could have been 5-7 and 7-5 the last two years."

      Gee, what could possibly be the difference between the last two years and this year?
    1. ThotDoc's Avatar
      ThotDoc -
      Quote Originally Posted by SoCalRed View Post
      Sorry, Dan, but that's a rather pathetic attempt to manufacture excuses for this year's record. "Hey, we're only 3-5, but it's okay because we could have been 5-7 and 7-5 the last two years."

      Gee, what could possibly be the difference between the last two years and this year?
      We don't have a raving lunatic as a coach?
    1. Husker Dan's Avatar
      Husker Dan -
      Quote Originally Posted by SoCalRed View Post
      Sorry, Dan, but that's a rather pathetic attempt to manufacture excuses for this year's record. "Hey, we're only 3-5, but it's okay because we could have been 5-7 and 7-5 the last two years."

      Gee, what could possibly be the difference between the last two years and this year?
      I think you may be missing my message. My point is that Nebraska has been living on the edge for several years. In very close games when the breaks went in Nebraska's way, they won. And this year when injuries continued to mount and plays didn't go Nebraska's way, Nebraska has lost. No excuses. Just fact. There is often a fine line between wins and losses and this year, we've all seen what has happened to Nebraska.

      Thanks for writing.
      Husker Dan
    1. Mack The Shark's Avatar
      Mack The Shark -
      Didn't you call for Pelini to be fired, SoCal? Maybe you should drop the hypocrisy.
    1. Unregistered's Avatar
      Unregistered -
      Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
      Alabama - self-proclaimed rulers of the SEC - was 3-8 in 2000. They had some ROUGH times until they landed Nick Saben (like 3 coaches between 3-8 and him). Have we found our Nick Saben? Maybe. Maybe not. Time will tell.
      . Mike is 62 years old! 15-40 vs Top 25 teams! Stop asking if we have found the next Nick Saban. He's almost as old as Saban!
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