1) Assess the Huskers performance this season. What is going well, and what has surprised you?
Sam Keller and the receiving corps are doing well. Keller's hair looks good too. The offensive line has not been as dominate as I expected. We are currently seventh in the Big 12 in rushing offense, not where we need to be.
I'm sure I'm the same as everyone else that's paying attention and surprised at the poor play of our defensive line. We have three sacks, last in the Big 12. We're also dead last in defending against the run. Those two stats should tell us exactly how much we miss Jay Moore and Adam Carriker.
2) Let's not sugar coat things; the Blackshirts are struggling. What do you think the issue is, and what needs to be done to rectify things this season?
I love human nature, it always makes life interesting. The need to reduce a complex problem to something that will fit on a t-shirt or a bumper sticker is one of those odd things we like to do. It's the need to find the Easy button, sometimes just so we knows where it is.
The issue is that they are not having fun on defense. They are so not having fun that they don't want to be on the field and the quickest way to get off the field is to let the other team score in three or four plays each time they get the ball. Unfortunately that can lead to embarrassment which is worse than not having fun. This describes exactly what happened against Ball State. Late in the game the defense figured out that they should make a couple plays and save themselves from utter embarrassment so they did.
It's either that or there is too much analytical football.
The defensive players are too busy reading the offense before the snap that they're not ready when the play starts. When it does, they're still confused because they're not sure which guy is supposed to make the tackle. This is what we get when everyone is spending their time studying game film, playing computer simulations, and trying to learn what plays match up with what defense.
Worse than that is the probability that discipline breaks down if one or two players don't know, don't understand, or don't buy into the system you're selling. They end up trying to do their own thing and the defense breaks down because someone isn't where they're supposed to be.
This is not a difficult game. You run, you throw, you block, you tackle and if you do all these things well, you win. If you can't do the basics, getting all the schemes and play calling right doesn't matter.
People are talking up Bo Pelini. Bo this, Bo that. What made Bo's defense great was his mentality. He played a lot of zone, not such a complex defense and had his guys get to the ball. The defense reflected his personality - that of a man who would step in front of a charging bull, then get up and swear at it after it ran over him. The willingness to perform such an act is missing this season. Watching more game film won't help in that regard.
3) Kevin Cosgrove is the target of a lot of criticism over the play of the Blackshirts. How will this play out?
We're not bringing back Bo Pelini. We're not firing Kevin Cosgrove in the middle of the season. There is a better chance that the ghost of Tom Novak will return to give each player a piece of his heart. Stop beating yourselves over the head with this stuff.
If the defense continues to be this bad throughout the season, Kevin Cosgrove will take a job in the NFL. Buddy Wyatt will be promoted to defensive coordinator. The step to the NFL will not appear as a demotion, so Cosgrove will save face. Buddy Wyatt will get a promotion. Next year, we'll call them "Buddy's Blackshirts". We'll be happy again, win the Big 12 North and get the hell beat out of us by Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game again. Is someone sure we're not all dead from the bird flu and this is hell? Why else would Oklahoma be winning all the time?
4) You went into this season with some expectations. Has the start to this season changed your mind? Where do you see the Huskers at the end of the season?
I still see them at the Big 12 Championship game being run over by an Oklahoma team on it's way to a national championship so that expectation hasn't changed much. It's not like the rest of the Big 12 besides Oklahoma has terrifying, awesome defenses waiting to tear Sam Keller's limbs from his body. Keep scoring and get better.
I thought I'd get through this season without the rest of my hair turning grey. Well screw that.
5) There was a loud chorus of boos last weekend at Memorial Stadium. Your reaction? Is it okay to boo the Huskers under any circumstance?
What's even weirder is that it happened during a morning game so you can bet that most of them booing fans were sober. First of all, it's sad to hear any booing whatsoever because it means we're sucking. No one likes it when we suck except our opponents and who the hell cares what they like.
Personally, I don't boo college players. They're not getting paid. They're students first, athletes later. They have a heavy workload, heavier than most students. They're fine young men who are learning how to be adults. They need our support. All of this is completely true while simultaneously being a complete load of crap.
It's a load of crap because these guys get treated like royalty when winning games, which is most of the time. Their college is free, and given today's college pricing, they're getting paid. Young women follow them around and I still resent that all these years later. (Not that it would have made any difference in my life, I'd just like to say that at some point women followed me around. Bastards.)
This whole thing about them being children, as Mike Gundy would put it, is a load of crap too. They're not little boys. They're old enough to join the service and die defending their country. They're not far from starting professional careers where their bosses will fire them if they perform poorly. At what point would you like to stop the coddling?
Husker season ticket holders are required to put up a chunk of money for 'priority seating' which pays for all of the goodies the players get, including their free education. For that fans expect to see a good product put on the field. Besides that, who's to say that the booing didn't kick off the concept that the Husker defense should kick it in high gear? I recall those same Husker fans cheering like hell when the defense made some big plays.
Bottom line - you gotta take the bad with the good. If you can't, maybe you should go back to playing pick-up soccer with other guys that won't keep score.
Other Husker Bloggers Are Part of the Big 12 Roundtable
See their responses here: