I'm so glad that the 2010 season is finally behind us. When this team was 9-1, things looked pretty good. That "1" stuck out like a sore thumb though because we knew it was a home loss to the worst Texas team in over a decade. But regardless, I could get past that because 9-1 is a darn good record. Some were even mentioning Nebraska in the national title conversation. I do remember thinking during that week that we were 9-1 that it would take a pretty epic collapse for this team to finish at 10-4, and I figured that the last loss would come to a really good bowl opponent.
Then the Texas A&M game happened. Bo had a total meltdown that included ripping Taylor Martinez a new one on national TV, Ben Cotton was sexually assaulted, Carl assaulted a camera, and in the days after rumors about Taylor Martinez abounded. The entire fan-base looked bad for unprecedented complaining about how one-sided the officiating was in that game (no matter how justified it was). That was the meltdown off the field. The meltdown on the field happened after Nebraska got out to a 17-0 lead against Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship. We all know what happened, Nebraska lost the Big 12 championship and the number 1 goal for the season failed. The 2010 Huskers were supposed to beat Texas and win the Big 12. Neither happened. End of story.
Unfortunately, just when Nebraska fans thought we had been punished enough, Nebraska gets the worst possible draw for a bowl game. Ticket sales reflected that attitude of fans- they didn't care. Everyone assumed Nebraska would easily walk all over Washington again, finish 11-3, and that would be that. But to our dismay, we saw a Husker team that defied all good-sense and got dominated by Washington. It's hard to understand that loss, but we do know this, Washington came to win that game...Nebraska came not to lose. This epic collapse is on the shoulders of the coaches and the coaches only. Shawn Watson's stock is at an all-time low. There's nothing positive to take away from that game. Nothing. All we can do is hope that it was a blip on the radar and that Bo Pelini will get regrouped in the offseason, correct obvious problems, and have his team focussed to start next season.
Up until this point, this post has been very very negative. But believe it or not there are positives to take away from this season. Here they are-
1) When Bo boldly declared "Nebraska's back and here to stay!" at the end of 2009, he didn't necessarily mean that Nebraska would always be contending for the National title. He meant that Nebraska can now line up against any team in the country and not only compete, but win. They won't always win, but we know they can. Does anyone still doubt that? Even after the Washington game? We know that this year's team was seriously capable of going 14-0. They didn't, but how many teams under Bill Callahan could you say were capable of going undefeated?
2) Nebraska is back in the sense that we were in the national title discussion again and stayed ranked in the top 25 all season. We finished much lower than we wanted, but still stayed ranked. We spent almost half the season in the top 10. That's closer to being "back and here to stay" than anything I've seen in the last decade.
3) The inability to beat ranked teams is long gone. This season's team beat a top 15 team on the road (Oklahoma State) and a top 10 team at home (Missouri).
4) Nebraska swept the Big 12 North, and in doing so left the Big 12 the right way by beating all of their traditional rivals...except Oklahoma. But hey, the Oklahoma game was pretty close.
5) The defense was good again. Not "five times better" but definitely still an elite defense. Under Pelini, we know that the blackshirts are back and here to stay. And that's something to be proud of.
6) Even though the offense seriously moved back at the end of the year, overall this year's offense wasn't too bad. Despite how we feel about Taylor Martinez now at the end of the season, he definitely brought a lot of excitement into Husker football this season. We haven't seen 80 yard touchdown runs like that since the days of Eric Crouch. Taylor Martinez has a lot of potential, he just needs a little more coaching and maturity. I like the direction the offense is moving under Pelini...away from that West Coast crap to more of a run first offense like the offenses of years past. Now we just need an OC who isn't a square peg in a round hole. Nonetheless, we still need to remember that Watson and Pelini completely changed the offensive philosophy this season, and they were probably learning it and improvising on the fly. With another offseason to work on it and develop it (in addition to recruiting for it), perhaps this style of offense will be much better next year.
I'm not on that "Nebraska is going to go 5-7 next season" bandwagon. I believe that this team is going to be pretty darn good again, and if the offense can improve and Watson sticks with it and adds to it...there's nothing that tells me this team can't be somewhere around 11-3 next season. And hey, at least we know our defense will be good again. Stay positive, and go big red!