I spent this last weekend up in San Fran for a bachelor party and of the 5 of us guys I was the only one of them who was not a University of Oregon alum (I'm a born and raised Nebraska boy, now residing in AZ). So on Saturday, I honorably cheered along with them as they wrapped up their first perfect season and a chance to play for their national championship. Hooray for them and all that.
Then later in the evening, it was my turn to watch my game.
Ugg, nothing more to say about that. For my buddies who were with me and not intimately knowledgeable of the team, they had many questions about what happened and forced me into some reflections and reasons why we can stay positive.
- A Young Team: Yes, there are some solid seniors in this year's squad that we will miss (Prince, Henery, Gomes, Hagg, Helu) but for the most part, this team is shockingly young. For most of the game, it was a Freshman (T-Mart) taking snaps and handing it off to a Sophomore (Burkhead) or throwing to a JR (Kinnie) and a couple of sophomores (Reed, Cotton). Also lots of inexperience still on the offensive line, and most of them will be returning a year older and a year better. On the other side of the ball it's nearly the same story, with a lot of production coming from some talented Sophomores (Meredith, Steinkulher, Compton, Osborne) and we get David, Crick and Dennard back as well. Arguably the only player thats a huge loss to this team is the loss of the kicker.
- Bad Luck on Injuries: I can't remember a season in recent times when we have been so plagued by injuries to our key players. We were down a few starters before we even played our first game this season! Yes its part of the game, not an excuse and you have to be able to deal with it, but with a few less injuries we are sitting at 12-1 and gearing up for a Fiesta Bowl. You want to argue that a healthy Martinez, Niles Paul, Helu, etc, at key times in the season isn't worth more than the 6 points combined that we were short in our last two losses?
- A New Conference: Big 12 fatigue is at a maximum but its done (for football). No more. We may now begin imagining matching up against Ohio St, Wisconsin, Michigan and the rest. Should be a fun season next year taking on new programs, seeing new venues and attracting alot of media attention.
- The New Recruits: This year's recruiting class is stacking up to be a doozy. It's not normal for Nebraska to pull in a top ten class. The previous alluded to youngsters on the defensive side of the ball really let Bo and staff go after some offensive all stars this year. Two 4 star QB's incoming as well as a top 3 running back in Aaron Green. There's no reason to think that Green can't immediately be a huge contributor next season and be part of a dynamic duo with Burkhead.
- Taylor Martinez: He's quitting, he's kicked off the team, he's transferring....or not. Beyond lots of email chains and shady blogs, there is no legit reason to think we won't have our QB back next year. His first year at the helms was quite a roller coaster ride. From being the surprise starter for game one, immediately becoming the messiah for our offense, and then struggling under frustrating injuries that threw alot of pressure on the young man. He's been through the fire and if he embraces it and uses it all as fuel to make himself better....watch out Big 10! Transferring away is not that attractive of an option for someone who has tasted the success that can be had at a major program like Nebraska. I think he stays, he gets healthy, stronger, smarter, and regains the confidence we saw earlier this year.
That's what I got for now...any others I am missing?