I just don't know where to begin.
Husker Nation, I haven't the heart to rewind that debacle. I hope the Corn Nation bosses don't frown upon me, but I simply can't put myself through watching that game again. Plus, I didn't take notes during the game, and honestly, I deleted the damn thing from my DVR out of spite and a little cry-baby fan(atical) fit.
I will do this instead: list a couple general observations on some good game action and a couple observations on some not-so-good. I will also opine a bit on the current state of Nebraska football in an attempt to release some anger and frustration.
But before I do, I just want to say this: I proudly bought three Team Jack shirts for the Wisconsin game, one for me, one for my fifteen year old daughter, and one for my brother. As I cry and whine that my alma mater, home state, and beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers didn't win an effin football game, Team Jack is across my chest to provide some much needed perspective.
Rex Burkhead is the heart and soul of this team. Rex Burkhead is the best football player on this team. People outside Husker Nation probably think we say and use the name Rex Burkhead more than John Madden used Brett Favre, but too damn bad. Do we win that game if he stays healthy? Uh, no, but we sure would have had a better chance, just because of his presence and leadership alone. He is a difference-maker.
Kenny Bell should be touching the ball AT LEAST 10 times a game. He is fast, tough, elusive, and electric. From his interactions with the media, he seems like a natural leader, too. Get him the ball. That was a beautiful catch and run in the first quarter.
Up 14-7, Nebraska stops the fake punt and gets the ball around the 30. You have to score a touchdown. You just have to, especially on the road. They stopped us, 17-7 turned into, well, you know.
Wow, what has happened with our blocking on kickoff returns? I don't care how good Ameer Abdullah is, no one has the shake-n-bake necessary to go the distance if you're getting hit at your own eight yard line.
The Blackshirts looked great in the first quarter. They were flying to the ball and playing on Ohio St.'s side of the line of scrimmage. Then......
All hell breaks loose. Two plays we couldn't stop:
- The tight end down the seam, especially off play action. This is a basic play in football. We called it 62-Green in high school. Fake either the halfback or fullback dive and hit the tight end running straight down the seam with a linebacker chasing three yards behind. I'm not a football coach, but if it were me, I'd be stuffing that tight end at the line every time, at the very least delaying his route and perhaps even throwing him off his route. Their tight ends were open every time they ran this play. Every time.
- The counter play. I don't think Nebraska has stopped this play since 2001, and Chris Brown is still running. The exception is 2009 when a man named Suh took up 3-4 lineman every play. The difference now is that it's quarterbacks running it against us. Get the defense to flow one direction, making it an easy backside block on the weakside/outside linebacker, watching the defensive end and safety take themselves out of the play, and watch Braxton Miller run. The Buckeyes weren't using magic or voodoo. These are basic football plays.
In year five of Bo Pelini I thought nightmares like last Saturday night were a thing of the past. UCLA should have been a clue, with 650+ yards being put up against the Blackshirts, but Nebraska was at least in that game until the final minutes.
Both Urban Meyer and Jim Mora, Jr. are in their first year with their respective teams. Shouldn't Nebraska have had an advantage since we are in year five of the "process"? No shame in losing at Ohio St., but considering the beat-down they delivered? Aye yi yi! 63 points?!?!
Of course there was Taylor Martinez's pick six and the punt return, but I haven't seen holes like that created through our defense since what's-his-name was in charge in 2007. No disrespect to THE Ohio State University, they're a really good team, but I certainly wouldn't classify them as great. How many turnovers would we have against Alabama? How many yards and points would the Ugly Ducklings hang on us? It pains me to even ponder such things.
Oh, there's plenty of blame to go around. You can't turn the ball over four times on the road and expect to win. It's more than "a lack of execution". I say it's either coaching or talent, probably both. But Bo Pelini and his staff had better start pointing the thumb, because something is seriously remiss. With the history, money, tradition, money, fan support, money, facilities, money, past players, money, stadium, money, academic support, money, past team and individual successes, and all the money invested in this program, we should expect more. This isn't Iowa St. where you can get one big upset a year and a lower-tier bowl every now and then and please the masses. This is the University of Nebraska. The Cornhuskers, top five all-time in wins.
What really gets me is the problems are the same things over and over and over again.
Turnovers? Check. Penalties? Check. Lack of leadership on the road (both players and coaches)? Check. Opposing QB running wild? Check. Outcoached? Check. Slow linebackers and ineffective safeties? Check. Offensive tackles that can't pass protect in a loud, hostile environment? Check. Wilting in a big game on the road? Check. A fourth year junior, three-year starting QB looking like a freshman on the road? Check.
I don't want to hear excuses like the challenges of recruiting to Nebraska. If the head coach and staff aren't up to the challenge, what does that tell you? Either they can recruit or they can't. The players aren't executing? Well, why not? Whose job is it to get them to execute? Maybe Bo Pelini should change up his process. Maybe they're not recruiting the right guys. Maybe they should give the blackshirts out after fall camp for those who earned it. Guess what? If they don't earn it in game situations, take it away from them.
Maybe those black practice jerseys could add some swagger and confidence to a group desperately in need. Maybe Pelini's staff isn't qualified enough. I don't know. But one thing I do know: Something isn't working right now. If the process was truly working in year five, Nebraska wouldn't be getting blasted on national TV to the tune of 63 points by a good, not great, Ohio State team. I'm not calling for wholesale change in the staff, but I hope the staff recognizes the need to implement change from within.