Once again, we're left to figure out where things went wrong. Was it a hangover from a big victory the week before? Maybe, but I don't think that completely explains it. Was it another example of a Bo Pelini-coached team losing their annual hairball game? I don't see that trend; what was the game in 2008 that Nebraska should have won? Virginia Tech, it was an evenly matched game that Nebraska fell behind and then came back late. Missouri and Oklahoma were games where Nebraska was an underdog - and rightfully so. And Texas Tech should have been a mismatch, but Nebraska played very well and made it close.
So I dismiss the idea that Bo Pelini's teams always lose a game they shouldn't. That being said, many Nebraska losses now come in that category, because most people think Nebraska's on the cusp of being a contender again. But until Pelini and Nebraska can play more consistently, Nebraska will remain on the outside of that cusp. No, Nebraska's not back. Not when the Huskers keep losing games like this. It's not terminal either, unless fans lose patience. Remember all of the jokes about Tom Osborne and bowls? He figured that out in the end, and I have no reason not to believe Bo Pelini won't either.
Oh, and let's not forget to tip our hat off to Northwestern. They came in with a great scheme on defense and outplayed the Huskers on both sides of the ball. They won the game, and deserved the kudos. No, onto our self-flagelation; as always, your comments are welcome below.QB: Bo Pelini called it a team loss, and that everybody played poorly. That's probably the right thing for the coach to say in the locker room, but deep down, I think everybody recognized that one player played lights-out yesterday. Taylor Martinez played a whale of a game. He ran hard, such as a 14 yard run in the fourth quarter where he broke four tackles. Despite a stiff wind, his throws were on target, completing 75% of his passes. Half of his incompletions were drops that probably either could have or should have been caught. He kept his poise all day long. But he couldn't win this game by himself. Grade: A
RB: We can speculate whether Rex Burkhead was dinged up or exhausted from his workload the week before. Personally, I think the blame goes elsewhere. Not his fault when he's getting hit behind the line of scrimmage. But that fumble at the goal line...ugh. Grade: B-
WR: A lot of good, and a little very bad. We saw buys get open and make nice catches (Kyler Reed, Ben Cotton, Brandon Kinnie). But we also saw drops. And Quincy Enunwa's fumble in the second kept the Huskers from completely taking hold of the game in the second quarter. Grade: B-
OL: Bo Pelini said that Nebraska "stunk" running the ball. And I won't disagree. Yoshi Hardrick and Andrew Rodriguez got benched to try and find somebody who could keep Northwestern's line out of the backfield. When you consider how many yards Northwestern had allowed on the ground prior to this week, there's no other grade possible: F.
DL: In the second quarter, I actually thought the front four was playing pretty well. But I also had to pause when #72 came in game. Who the hell is that? Fortunately, I had picked up one of those rosters, and realized it was offensive lineman Justin Jackson in an emergency role. As the game went on, the defensive line wore down and eventually they gave out. Baker Steinkuhler had a whale of a first half with a sack, a pass deflection that was intercepted, and nine tackles for the game. Eric Martin was a monster in that second quarter attacking Dan Persa...but it was all for naught in the second half. Anybody else noticed how often Nebraska plays four defensive ends at times? Cameron Meredith and I think Jason Ankrah moved inside, with Martin and Josh Williams remaining on the edge. The coaches show creativity, but it was by necessity. Grade: C+
LB: I wonder if the Pelini's are second-guessing playing so much dime coverage yesterday. Taking Will Compton out of the game made Nebraska more susceptible to the run, and the extra defensive back didn't seem to help the pass coverage much. Certainly having Compton nearby seems to help Lavonte David play better. David played OK, for the most part, but seemed to be out of position a lot. Grade: B-
Secondary: After playing really well against against Michigan State, the secondary played, well, horrible against Northwestern. Maybe the tone was set early on by that horrible pass interference call on Ciante Evans early on that resulted in the Wildcats' first touchdown. Jeremy Ebert was open all day, and superback Drake Dunsmore was a complete mismatch that Northwestern didn't exploit enough. Grade: F
Overall: D Nebraska had their chances to win this game, but didn't do enough.
Elsewhere in College Football
Alabama D What would Nick Saban do for a reliable field goal kicker now?
Oklahoma State/Kansas State: A+ for entertainment. The antithesis of the so-called "Game of the Century". Was that an earthquake or the scoreboard crashing? Either way, it registered 5.6 on the Richter scale...and freaked out ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit during a live interview as the press box shook.
Iowa State: D I believe that's called "playing down to your competition". When you are Iowa State, that's something you can almost never get away with.
B1G Contenders: D Go ahead and take your shots at Nebraska...but it would have been more embarrassing to lose to Indiana ... or (snicker) Minnesota.
ESPN/ABC: F Did you really pick Michigan/Illinois for the ABC broadcast over Nebraska/Penn State? C'mon man.
Penn State: -1,000,000,000 The Nittany Lions may have been idle, but the story about the disgusting things that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky allegedly did with teenage boys, and the response by Joe Paterno and the rest of the hierarchy of Penn State is absolutely deplorable. If this story holds up as the facts emerge, it's very likely that this could be Joe Paterno's last season...and if so, he'll go out with a very tarnished reputation.