As today has evolved, I've mellowed quite a bit about the Huskers performance against Texas. Disappointed? Heck yes. Depressed? Unlike Jon, heck no. It's one game that fans and the University built up to be bigger than it actually was. Just about every season goal for the Huskers is still possible, except for an undefeated season. And that was was more because I thought Nebraska's schedule set up that way, not because I thought the Big Red was that good. No matter what the polls say, no matter what we tried to convince ourselves of, Nebraska's not quite at that level yet. It's a bit of a reality check.
And truth be told, when I look at what happened yesterday, I don't think Nebraska was dominated on the field. In fact, I think both squads are pretty close in terms of talent, and actually want to give Nebraska the edge here. The majority of the breaks yesterday fell in favor of Texas. Nebraska dropped passes and failed to wrap up on tackles. Texas was the beneficiary of the lone turnover of the game, and had the edge in penalties. (That's a whole other topic, mind you.)
Where did Texas win the game? Execution. They did what they needed to do; Nebraska did not. Texas dropped one touchdown pass (that resulted in a field goal), Nebraska dropped four or five (that resulted in two field goals). Make those plays, and Nebraska wins. Maybe even comfortably.
But Nebraska didn't. Texas played better, and won. Ballgame. And scoreboard. Like it or not, we'll have to deal with it. So here's the first step...the report card.
QB: If you've been following CN this season, you know that while I love what Taylor Martinez does, I hated the premature hype. Martinez is a special player who might someday be a Heisman candidate. It wasn't going to be 2010, no matter how much some Husker fans wanted it to be that way. Yesterday wasn't Martinez's fault. He had more than his share of mistakes, but he doesn't get all the blame. My advice to Martinez is this: go buddy up with Zac Lee and Joe Ganz and absorb everything you can from those two about playing quarterback. He's got the physical skills, he just needs to develop the mental side of it. Grade: C-
RB: Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead each had critical mistakes yesterday. Helu's fumble led to a two-score deficit early on, and Burkhead's drop of a slightly overthrown pass cost Nebraska four points. Burkhead's drop might have been even more significant, because it might have also caused Will Muschamp to back off from their aggressive defensive scheme. Grade: D
WR: So Niles Paul, you wanted the ball? You got it this week, and only sometimes caught it. The first one wasn't your fault; it was thrown way behind you. But after that? You need to make a couple of those. Brandon Kinnie's fourth down drop was especially painful since it not only kept a touchdown off the board, it killed a drive on downs. Muschamp gambled that Martinez wouldn't be able to complete a pass, and the receivers' failures make Muschamp's strategy a winner. Grade: F
OL: A lot of people want to berate the line, but the line can't be expected to block nine guys in the running game. A better gauge of the line's effort is only one sack in 21 attempts. The quarterbacks had time most of the day to make throws; the problem was getting someone to actually catch the ball. Grade: C
DL: Likewise, the defensive line received a lot of criticism for not stopping Cody Johnson and Tre Newton...but that's a bit of a team effort there. They created enough pressure to keep Garrett Gilbert from finding any receivers on a regular basis. There was the one drop of a touchdown pass, but most of those incompletions were caused by pressure. Grade: C
LB: Will Compton saw some spot duty, but I think Nebraska would have been helped if he had been ready to play sooner. Dejon Gomes gives his all, but asking him to tackle Cody Johnson is kind of like watching steer wrestling at a rodeo. Lavonte David had a quiet 10 tackle performance. Grade: C-
Secondary: This group gets some of the credit for Gilbert's 25% completion percentage, but Rickey Thenarse gets several deductions for failure to wrap up and tackle Gilbert and Fozzy Whittaker. Eric Hagg's return of the pooch punt late in the game got the Huskers back into the game. Grade: C
Overall: While the Huskers never gave up, they didn't make nearly enough plays to win the game. This wasn't a talent issue, this was an execution issue. That's something that can be worked on, unlike being physically dominated. Grade: D
Officiating: I'm not going to blame this loss on the refs. But there were more than enough questionable and downright blown calls, that the refs deserve special mention. I was going to suggest that the University bill them $378 for seven tickets, but that would imply that they actually watched the game. Perhaps the Lincoln police should ticket them for loitering on the football field during a game. Either way, they get an "F" for failing to do their job.
Bandwagon Fans: Not sure what was up yesterday, but the entire area around the stadium seemed to be filled with people on the bandwagon who were looking for a party, not a football game. The drunk guy next to me who launched obsenities towards Niles Paul for not catching a pass throw six feet behind him took the cake - especially when he had to head out twice in the first half because his bladder couldn't hold it. Fortunately he, and several other bandwagonners were long gone when Eric Hagg broke his punt return. Hope you enjoyed your beer. Grade: F
Elsewhere in College Football
Ohio State: Latest #1 to go down in flames. Grade: D+
Texas A&M: I know Beergut doesn't like to hear it, but the parallels between Bill Callahan and Mike Sherman are continue to be almost impossible to ignore. Between the NFL pedigree, general clueless management of the program, and hiring many of the same assistants, both are clearly out of their element in college football. Yes, Sherman hasn't given up 70 points in a game, but at least Billy C won a televised game or two. Will Dollar Bill be allowed to try again? Grade: D
Missouri: Well, I suppose if you want to believe San Diego State and Texas A&M are quality teams, I suppose you could hang your hat on 6-0. Good for the Tigers. So I'll give you an A for this week. Have fun hosting GameDay, because reality sets in Saturday night.
Kansas fans: When I previewed Kansas in August, I got the feeling that the Kansas coaching staff was "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" for this season. Too many position changes was a clear indication that things were not going well in Lawrence. But many Kansas fans were optimistic...too optimistic. Let me get this straight...they lose their record setting quarterback, best running back, and best receivers who went 1-7 in conference play last year, and expected to be better? Nobody should be happy with this season, but I think some people expected Gill to work instant miracles. Give the man some time, for crying out loud, to revamp the program. There's a reason why your team went 1-7 last season with all that talent...which is now gone. Grade: F