So, as people woke up on Sunday morning from the Nebraska debacle vs UCLA, there were numbers floating around the cyber and radio world that people seem to either want to ignore or are embracing with the realization of what this season for the Nebraska Cornhuskers could become, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
37 points given up. 653 total yards. 9 of 20 on third down. That's all UCLA.
6 points in the second half. 1 for 11 on third down. 22 minutes with the ball. That's all Nebraska.
Is this a surprise? Depends on whom you ask.
So, the obvious issue was that number of yards Nebraska gave up. 653 yards. Glaring isn't it?
Without a Brett Hundley kneel down that cost UCLA five yards, this was the WORST defensive performance in the 122 year history of Nebraska football. Yes, even worse than the 2001 Colorado skull thumping. Worst than the 2006 Kansas mauling even. This may hurt, but last time I remembered, Bo Pelini was brought to Lincoln from Baton Rouge for his defensive acumen and such.
Was that harsh? Sure was, even from me, a guy who wants this team to succeed. However it's also the truth.
What's crazy about that weird game in the hills of Pasadena on Saturday evening was that, even with Nebraska's front seven being gashed like a brand new Ginsu knife on a batch of ripe tomatoes, the Huskers still had a chance in the third quarter. Taylor wasn't the issue the first 45 minutes of the game, and the rushing attack of Ameer Abdullah and Braylon Heard was moving the ball at seven yards a clip. SEVEN YARDS A CARRY. Where did that go? Well, lets look at something that tells us what happened.
With 6:49 to go, Nebraska had just dodged a big bullet. After the safety of Taylor in the end zone, UCLA drove the ball down to the Husker 16 yard line where the Bruins missed a field goal. Nebraska, remember, was moving the ball on the ground over seven yards a carry WITHOUT Rex Burkhead being dressed and WITHOUT putting Imani Cross in the game. These, according to the official gamebook, are the next three plays from that missed field goal starting on the Nebraska 20 yard line:
Three plays. 0 yards. :23 seconds. When a field goal will take the lead in a game, and your defense has been ran over all evening, you throw three passes and take no time off the clock.
Yes, part of it falls on Taylor and Quincy/Jamal to make plays, but haven't we seen this before from Tim Beck?
Matter of fact, we sure have. Go back with me to Camp Randall last year, when Beck made the same type of calls that put this offense and a QB that is getting better but not where he wants yet, in situations they can't handle. While what happened in LA wasn't quite as bad as what happened in Madison, it happened enough to make this a game that UCLA pull away in the end.
I'm trying to deflect blame from a defense that in year five of Bo Pelini's tenure in Lincoln has regressed with a front seven that really didn't do much last week, much less Saturday night. The offense wasn't the issue during the first half, and realistically, the D was better in the second half. The problem lies in when one unit was alright, the other seemed to have issues. The drive chart usually doesn't lie.
How dominant was UCLA in this game? 37 minutes with the ball for the Bruins, 22 for the Huskers. 94 plays for blue, 67 for red. Some say that time of possession can be a misleading fact (I'm one of them). While that is true, at the same time, number of plays and yards given up isn't.
And yet, when it was on the line, the game was there for the taking. That is what makes people more angry more than anything.
Now, going from this, who knows what will happen. Maybe the Bruins are the real deal and will contend with USC and such for the Pac 12 title. Nebraska, while the visions of a national title are gone, doesn't really look bad in a Big 10 where Iowa lost to a Cyclone team that couldn't get to 10 while Wisconsin made Oregon St. look really good. Michigan? They didn't really tear it up against Air Force after getting stomped by Michigan.
The Huskers will be okay this year, as they should be ranked when the Badgers visit on September 29th for their Adidas North vs West bowl. If this team is 4-2 heading into the bye week, most if not all will accept that, me included. Less than that, and oh dear get the bomb shelters ready.
However, year five into the Pelini reign has shown some ugly things that we have seen too much of the last couple of seasons. A defense that lacks playmakers on the line, a offense that went into panic mode too early again, and an overall team effort that made you wonder if the lessons learned against teams like Northwestern and South Carolina last year, Oklahoma and Texas A&M the year before, Iowa State in 2009.... see my drift?
Those that do not learn from their prior mistakes are doomed to repeat it.
Arkansas State? There will be times to worry and some better things. Idaho State? That should be another game to feel better before a Wisconsin team Nebraska should beat on paper comes calling.
I once wrote about how "The Nebraska Way" had changed in Lincoln. From player recruitment and development to fan apathy, the Husker fanbase is very divided on these result. Some see and ask questions, fair or unfair and somewhat harsh. Others say that losses are just things to realize and that as long as nine wins are hit, things are okay in Lincoln.
Either way, it isn't going to be fun in North Stadium this week.