You'll excuse me if I've been a little slow looking back to Saturday. I took a day of playing Fallout 3 to recover, then last night sat down to watch the game again. Killing super mutants didn't help a damned bit - watching the offensive line still ticked me off, so much that I'll honor them with a couple of stories this week before we move on to Iowa State.
First - we're going to look at those keys I put out on Friday. How did the Huskers do regarding the keys to victory over Texas Tech? I think we know the answer to that already, but just in case.....
Take What You're Given
Here's what I said:
If Tech moves up to stop the run, then take what you're given and throw the ball. It would be foolhardy to run when you're outnumbered at the line of scrimmage. If that means throwing the ball 40 times, then so be it. Zac Lee has performed well at home, as has his receiving corps. There's no reason to expect that this game will be any different.
If Texas Tech's defense gave Nebraska something to work with, it wasn't noticeable as the Husker offense did just about everything poorly. The offensive line couldn't open a hole for the running backs, and compounded that by doing a mediocre job in pass protection. Zac Lee responded by getting happy feet even when he wasn't under pressure and completing short passes.
Helu looked good when he got the ball, but it's obvious he's hurting and isn't going to be a workhorse. Austin Jones got in the game as a backup, and his teammates immediately quashed any hopes of getting him started. The offensive line didn't bother to block for him on his only running play, then Zac Lee's horrid execution of a shovel pass made sure he got nothing but buried.
The offense as a whole in the first quarter had 16 plays for 29 yards. Niles Paul, he we assumed would lead the offense, had one reception for four yards. Pelini stated in his post-game presser that they would consider position changes - it's hard not to believe him.
Win First Down
Here's what I said:
I wouldn't expect the same level of a ball control offense we saw last season, but things will go much easier if we get solid yardage on first down.
I like the idea of throwing the ball on first down. Unless you can't make a pass. Or a catch. Then it's a really bad idea (smile when you read that). We ran more than threw on first down, and at times Helu had some success. Unfortunately, there inconsistency killed us (big shock there!), and when inconsistency didn't kill us, penalties did.
Time of possession came out nearly even, with a four-second edge to Nebraska (whoohooo!). Clearly we didn't accomplish our goal of playing keep away from Tech. In the end that wasn't the cause of the loss, but sure as hell didn't help things either.
Here's what I said:
We're midway through the season. It's time for the stupidity to end. Nebraska's offense can't afford to lose points because of it, especially not against a team that's known for rolling up yards and points like Tech.
What happened? Nebraska was penalized 12 times (again!) for the second game in a row. The most egregious - Ricky Henry's late hit penalty for piling on after the Huskers had pushed the ball to the four (apparently "fiery attitude" means hitting after the whistle), and then Hickman being called for false start one play later.
Do not think for a moment that there is some huge conspiracy against us because there isn't. The refs could be faulted for inconsistency in their calls, but the Huskers earned their penalties.
Unfortunately the penalties were only part of stoopid. Obviously the stupidest play of the game came on the lateral to Paul when he missed the pass and the Huskers stood around watching Texas Tech take the ball 82 yards to the end zone for all the points they'd need.
These problems can be attributed to a lack of discipline. Other than installing the virtue of hard work in your players, I'm not sure what you can do other than to swap them out for another guy who's decided to work hard. You may not get the same level of athlete, but you wil know what you're getting come game time. Which one do you want?
Control the Lines
Here's what I said:
The offensive line must perform better to win this game. They'll need to pick up the short yardage situations to sustain drives. They must also be better disciplined in run blocking, not allowing linebackers to shoot through and blow up a play because someone missed an assignment.
Average yardage per rush = 2.3.
That sums it up for how anemic the running game was.
I'm not convinced this is a fixable problem. Nebraska's offensive line isn't aggressive - you can see this by the number of guys standing around as their ball carrier is tackled. I don't know how you coach aggressive - either guys have it or they don't.
Shawn Watson has gotten a lot of heat about his offense. I'm not entirely sure it's warranted. Barney Cotton gets a free pass because he's a former Husker player and coached for Frank Solich, but if things don't improve here by the end of the season it may be time for Bo Pelini to find someone else to coach this position.
Bottom Line - Epic Fail!
The Huskers didn't execute on a single key I listed..... or you could just shorten that sentence to "The Huskers didn't execute" and that would be the whole ball game.
I would be surprised if we do a reset this week - basically resetting the offense back to the beginning of the season. Cody Green has to get on the field and start getting experienced at some point - the next two weeks against Iowa State and Baylor are the best time to do it.
At this rate, next week's keys are going to be vastly simplified, perhaps something along the lines of:
- Score More Points than the other guys!
- Don't Quit on the Play!
- Throw It to the Guy On Our Team!
Do these things, and I guarantee we'll win. Ha!