Well, that sucked.
That's the bottom line on Saturday's game between the Huskers and Minnesota. Where did it go wrong? In order of least important to most important: blocking, catching, and tackling. A lot of people want to draw "big picture" conclusions from this one, and some of them are a reach. It wasn't not being ready to play. You don't jump out to a 10-0 lead halfway through the first quarter if you aren't ready to play. It wasn't the sins of Frank Solich and Bill Callahan either. Let's drop the historical, "look at the forest for the trees" revelations as well.
It's much more basic than that.
Block the other guy. Catch the (effin) ball. Tackle the guy with the ball. It's fundamentals, and that's where Nebraska failed against Minnesota.
Note what I didn't say: running and throwing the ball. So while Nebraska lost, it wasn't all bad. That hasn't stopped some fans from going back to the old blame-the-quarterback-you-don't-like card. Could a shakeup taking the snap have helped? Maybe. Sometimes in hockey, you pull a goalie when he's getting shelled, not because the goalie is playing poorly, but rather to push the players around him to realize that they've got to step up their game. More likely, you make the problem worse by putting a guy who (a) doesn't run as well, (b) doesn't know the offense as well, and (c) despite the popular notion, doesn't throw the ball better.
QB: Was Taylor Martinez rusty? Absolutely. Did Tim Beck ask Martinez to throw the ball too much against Minnesota? Absolutely. Should Martinez have been pulled? Absolutely not. Martinez's 35 yard run on the zone read highlighted why he's Nebraska's best quarterback...even with a bad foot. The patience he showed in the pocket to survey the field and find receivers is something that his backups simply don't have. Were there too many incompletions? Yes, but unlike two weeks ago when the receivers made Tommy Armstrong look really good, the receivers made Martinez look really, really mediocre. Grade: C
IB: Get Ameer Abdullah the ball more. Period. In some individual situations, going to the air made sense, but far too often, Nebraska threw (unsuccessfully) on downs where a run would have been a good idea. And on more than one case, Abdullah took an option pitch and converted a third and long. Abdullah only carried the ball 19 times; it should have been over 25. BTW, those of you calling for a player to be benched after making a mistake...note that Abdullah went right back in after that fumble. You don't bench a player for one mistake; you put another guy in when he's not playing well overall and there's not much difference between him and the next guy. There's a wide difference at I-back now. Grade: B+ (only because of the fumble)
WR: It didn't look too bad at first. Alonzo Moore was the surprise starter, catching a screen pass to open the game. Kenny Bell had a couple of nice catches. But then the dropsies occurred. Yes, Bell dropped a touchdown pass, but that one was well overthrown. Most of the others go on the receivers. Grade: D-
OL: Mike Moudy had the unenviable task of trying to block Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman in his first start, but that was about as effective as a speed bump in stopping traffic. The rest of the line didn't fare much better, giving up more sacks in one game as in the previous six. Most of the rushing yards came on the perimeter. Should NU burn Chongo Kondolo's redshirt? I'd hate to do that. But it's clear that help...and lots of it... is needed up front. Grade: D
DL: Knowing that Minnesota had a beefy offensive line, I wasn't expecting a big performance from the defensive line. Early on, we saw some good things from Avery Moss and Randy Gregory. But somebody needed to fight off some blocks occasionally. Grade: D
LB: ESPN showed Minnesota's David Cobb had well over 90 yards after contact in the fourth quarter...I'm sure that number broke the century mark by game end. That goes on the linebackers. CN's Brian Towle was upset at the play of David Santos, but frankly, everybody had issues. Zaire Anderson, Jared Afalava, Nathan Gerry. Tight ends were left wiiiiide open; only their own incompetence kept them from scoring on a couple of those plays. Grade: F
Secondary: Primary job was to help with run support, and that was a mess. So was trying to cover the Gopher receivers. Yes, they had to go man-to-man, but this isn't like covering UCLA's receivers. And the constant confusion over the faked jet sweep is mortifying. Grade: F
Coaching: Back to the drawing board, Bo. Fundamentals. Fundamentals. Fundamentals. But before you do it, take about half of Tim Beck's playbook and run it through the shredder. Grade: F
Overal: F Simply not a game Nebraska should have lost. But they did. Props to Minnesota for finding a weakness and exploiting it over...and over...and over again. And for wanting it more.
Elsewhere in College Football
Missouri: D- At 10 pm, the clock struck, and the the Cinderella story became the Pinkel Pumpkin. I joked last week that Missouri was lucky to not have to face Conor Shaw. Well, it got so dire for South Carolina that Shaw begged to play...and play he did. Pushing the Gamecocks from dead to a second overtime, where the haunted north endzone at Faurot Field got Mizzou again. First it was the fifth down, then the Matt Davison catch. Now it's the doink of a chip shot field goal.
Illinois: F Are you even trying? Connor Cook going 15 for 16... c'mon. Think about what that says about the Illini defense.
Ohio State: A It's not running up the score in the first half.