I'm not a football genius by any stretch of the imagination, but I do read a lot on the Huskers, and I'm a huge fan.
From everything I've read and seen I feel like most people are missing something from the Nebraska/SDSU game last Saturday. First let me name the obvious things. The Jackrabbits came out to play the game of their lives, and they pulled it off. Nebraska started flat, played flat, and just never seemed to find a rhythm. Taylor Martinez played like a redshirt freshman and made a lot of mistakes. The defense only gave up 3 points but their performance was anything but dominating. If Nebraska had been playing a better opponent they most likely would have lost. There's a lot that this team can take away from this game to learn from and improve on. But there's still that sick feeling in your gut and that hint of worry that says, "It's a freaking FCS school!??? If we can't dominate them, what happens when we play a good team!!!?" At the end of the day, it was a moral loss.
That's the obvious stuff that you should know by now. But if you happened to hear Bo Pelini's post-game press conference, you probably heard him put a lot of the blame on himself and the coaching staff. He said things like "We got out-coached," or "We didn't put them in a position to succeed."
This is the same coaching staff that came into the Big 12 championship last year as two touchdown underdogs and put Nebraska in position to win that game. Their game plans have been proven time and time again to be excellent, especially against good teams. Look at the Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona games last season. All were games that excellent coaching strategy not only gave Nebraska the chance to win, but in the case of Arizona- dominate.
So what that leaves me asking is how the heck does Bo Pelini and staff get "out-coached" by South Dakota State? You can't tell me that South Dakota State's coach John Stiegelmeier is in the same league as Mack Brown, Bob Stoops, and Bill Snyder. He's a good coach, but if he was in their league he probably wouldn't be at SDSU.
What happened was this. South Dakota State was pegged as one last "tune-up" before the big games begin. SDSU coaches knew that if Pelini and staff didn't pull out anything too fancy to dominate Washington then they sure as heck wouldn't against SDSU. Pelini knew that even if his team had a mind-boggling poor performance, they would probably still beat SDSU pretty easily due to the talent gap. It seems to me that Pelini and Watson came out with basically the same game plan against SDSU as they have in the other 3 games. After 3 games of film to watch, SDSU could see more clearly than anyone else that Nebraska's has only run a basic offense that has gotten huge plays off of confusion and mistakes by the opponent. John Stiegelmeier knew that Nebraska would do the same thing against them, so he had his defense completely prepared to stop the run...and they did. On defense, he knew Pelini would stay in the same formation that was weak against the run, so they ran. It was pretty obvious and because SDSU knew what Nebraska was going to do all week, they prepared, and they came out ready to stop it.
That's why it was so close. Nebraska's coaching staff wasn't going to change anything unless we were somehow losing that game. They were going to do the same things we've done in the first 3 games because that will give Nebraska an advantage against K-State and Texas. And Nebraska coaches knew that even if SDSU managed to stop it, Nebraska would still win. Did Pelini want this game to be 17-3? No, he wanted dominance and mistake free football, and he didn't get that. Did Pelini get outcoached? Yes, he did in this game, but in the long run by holding back and keeping the same game strategy even though it wasn't working, he gave Nebraska an advantage...especially against Kansas State.
K State will most likely come out to stop the run like SDSU did. Look for K State to try to run the ball all night. But look for Nebraska to come out with plays on offense and formations on defense we haven't seen yet this season that will stop K-state from having success on the ground, and new plays that will help Nebraska's offense to have success.