Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Nebraska had the conference title in their hands last night. And then the game started.
There's no real good way to start off a piece like this, so I'll just sum my thoughts up in one sentence:
How do you defend what happened last night?
21 points allowed in each of the first three quarters to Wisconsin. 539 yards rushing allowed (a school record, by the way). 640 yards allowed on only 60 plays by the Badgers. Six sacks allowed. Two rushers over 200 yards for Wisconsin, a third with 100 yards.
In the biggest game of the season, Nebraska laid the biggest egg you'll ever imagine. After a jet sweep for a touchdown (a common theme for the evening) and a pick 6 for another one, it was 14-0 before the people even sat in their seats (well, the ones who arrived).
Today, Nebraska is no where closer to a Big 10 championship than they were when Bo Pelini was hired by Tom Osborne in December 2007 when Bill Callahan, the man who "ruined Nebraska football" (not my quote, btw), was ran out of town the week before. Three conference championship games, three painful losses. One by a second and a field goal, one by giving up a three score lead, and one that was over with :02 seconds left before halftime.
Saturday night was the evening that Nebraska showed they were finally over the hump. The evening that showed the country, on a national stage in a conference title game, that the Huskers were going to be relevant from now on. To also show that Pelini and Taylor Martinez had become the coach and player that we all hoped would become.
This morning, after 70 points and three turnovers, what has really changed? If your answer is "well, the program is better now than when Pelini took the job".... is it really?
Don't forget, this is the same man who after the first win over the Badgers on September 29th, said "I haven't forgotten how to stop the run". The same team who last night allowed said 539 yards of rushing last evening... to Wisconsin.
You're measured on a bottom line item in the world of today's college football, and that's how do you do at the end of the year. For the last 13 years, there has been no conference title. For the last 11 years, Nebraska has missed out on a BCS paycheck. That, folks, is a bottom line item. Last time I checked, 10 win seasons and high graduation rates, while good, aren't listed on the side of the press box at Memorial Stadium. National and conference titles are however, whether it's liked or not.
There are no more excuses you can bring to the table for what needs to happen. Unfamiliarity with the Big Ten? This was the third game against Wisconsin in just over 14 months. Needs to recruit? These are all Bo's players. Head coach in training? Again, five years on the job now. Second year of a offense? 35 points a game and a top 10 rushing offense. A new DC? John Papuchis has no position to coach and Bo makes all the calls while John signals them in.
You simply can't defend a game like this anymore. There's no reason for anyone to even attempt it, because in year five, you shouldn't have this happen at a program like Nebraska. For those that say 5 years is not long enough, go look at what Chip Kelly has done in the first four years at Oregon. This will be the first year Oregon isn't the auto qualifier from the Pac 10/12 for the BCS. And it isn't Nike money, or Willie Lyles or what have you. It's a simple item that to be relevant in College Football, you have to win when you're supposed to win. Win when the country is watching, win the games you're not supposed to be down 32 points going into halftime.
Leading up to Saturday afternoon, Husker fans and pundits were trying to figure out how to stop Stanford's offense that David Shaw won the Pac 12 with on Friday night. It has become now to seeing that Nebraska gets to play a Georgia team that was 5 yards from a national title game against Alabama on New Year's morning. Travel plans go from planning a tailgate on the golf course next to the Rose Bowl to finding the same spot in Orlando you had last year, that's if you decide to go to watch a game Nebraska will be a dog in.
There's no Tom Osborne to guide this program through troubled waters anymore. There's no valid excuse to give when this happens anymore. "We'll get em next year" isn't a good statement, considering Urban is off of house arrest and Ohio State isn't getting worse anytime soon. Next year's schedule gives you even less leeway for when games like this come up.
Now, as I said before, this season sure isn't a disappointment. 10 wins and a NYD bowl isn't a bad season. But, 11 wins and a BCS bowl would have been so much sweeter. While not disappointing, the season sure feels empty all of a sudden. If you feel that way now, what's it gonna feel like if Nebraska ends with another 4 loss season?
Harsh? Yea, I am. I also expected more of a football team I'm a diehard fan of last night. I'll never stop cheering for Nebraska football, but there's also no reason anyone who is a fan of this team can't ask questions about what is going on. And right now, there is no such thing as a good answer.