We did this roundtable reviewing the 2014 football season a week or so ago, then the holidays came, and everyone forgot about it.
Maybe we forgot about it because we wanted to, consciously or subconsciously. Maybe we're destined to relive 2014 forever, whether we want to forget or not.
1. So, the 2014 season has officially passed. Besides the firing of Bo Pelini, what will you remember most about this season?
Ty: The resurgence of a punt-return game. Really, special teams in general were improved. I realise this is about the geekiest thing that I could most remember (but based on recent interactions that seems appropos in this group), but after years of every single punt return being terrifying, they became electrifying this year. It meant there was another dimension to the game that was fun to watch and cause for optimism.
Mike: The lack of development with Tommy Armstrong was the most notable thing I will remember. The kids a gamer and a leader, but he still makes the same mistakes with locking into his receivers that he made as a freshman.
Jon: An offensive line that was horribly inconsistent throughout the entire season. That and we couldn't put three serviceable linebackers on the field. Despite those inadequacies Nebraska still won a lot of games.
Paul: For me, it wasn't exactly a moment on the field that I will remember most about the season. The thing I'll remember is coming to the final realization that the Huskers had reached their field turf ceiling and that Pelini wasn't going to be able to take them further. Part of that is also the way Nebraska had become a bit of a clown show, starting with David Santos' slap of a punt out of the end zone for a safety, continuing with Jake Cotton getting knocked on his butt by an invisible rush end, and finishing with Corey Cooper puking on the goal line in the Holiday Bowl.
None of these, by themselves or even altogether, merit a change in coaching, but they are a symptom of what was apparently a much greater disease in the Nebraska football program. But if I have to pick an on-field event as a memory point, I'm going to go with Alex Lewis' fat guy touchdown in the Holiday Bowl. As Mark Sandritter says, "Forward pass, schmorward pass. Fat guy touchdowns should count regardless of rules." I couldn't agree more.
Salt Creek: That all the cats in the world won't stop Wisconsin's run game. And that Nebraska's picket fence stops five yards from each sideline. Mike Riley's new DC (Banker) will have to find a way to build a concrete wall if Nebraska has any intention of winning the West.
Mister Mike: That we rolled up almost 800 yards of offense on FAU during the first game of the season and everyone was all "OMG OMG OMG!!!" Then the rest of the season happened, starting with McNeese St.
Ranchbabe: Ameer Abdullah. Jake Cotton gifs. The emergence of De'Mornay Pierson-El. Ameer Abdullah. The non-emergence of Tommy Armstrong. Goodbye Randy Gregory--we hardly knew ya. Ameer Abdullah. Westercatches. Faux Pelini. Kenny Bell. And Ameer Abdullah.
2. What was the high point of the season?
Ty: This was hard to decide, because my recollections of this season are tinted by negativity in the fan base. However, I enjoyed the second half against NW. It looked like a team that was going to start sliding and Salt Creek was going to be right, but they played well, fought back, and earned a nice victory.
Mike: Northwestern was one. Miami was another, as we thought the U was going to be a pretty good team in 2014.
Jon: The Holiday Bowl against USC. The players could have folded, but they didn't. Most of them will form the core of our team next season. I don't think you need anymore proof of how toxic Pelini's behaviour was than that game. Bo Pelini is gone, the season is over, and new era will start. I don't understand how anyone couldn't be happy about that.
Paul: Any time you have the opportunity to send Miami packing after an embarrassing loss on national TV, it's a highlight. Also, De'Mornay Pierson-El ‘s emergence was nothing short of spectacular. He looks to be the next legendary player in a Nebraska uniform.
Salt Creek: The Michigan State loss. Yes, we lost. But we never gave up, which we often did in games like that. There was promise that maybe, just maybe, we'd found a mental edge that could survive the bright lights.
Mister Mike: I think in general, it was right before we played Wisconsin (which probably includes when we were up 17-3 on them). Even though we lost against Michigan State, fans were still largely optimistic about playing in the B1G CG and everyone more or less seemed like they were on the same page.
Ranchbabe: Everything between the Miami game and end of the first quarter at Wisconsin was pretty good. Even the loss to Sparty was softened by the heroic fourth quarter effort. If there is anything that I hope lingers from the Pelini era, it is that "never say die" toughness we saw in many comebacks.
3. What was the low of the season?
Ty: Minnesota. This was a chance for the team and program to step up and show they still belonged in the discussion as far as being relevant in the conference this year. It distinctly possible that a convincing win against Minnesota would have bought the coaches another year, but I really don't know. The whole game was flat and tepid, but all the way through there was a chance to get the win.
Mike: Wisconsin. I had attributed the defensive struggles in 2012 and early 2013 to past recruiting mistakes, and that Pelini had righted that ship. Then Wisconsin scored again. And again. And again. That loss reopened every question about Bo Pelini, and there simply weren't any more answers as to why it happened again.
Jon: Being in the stands at Wisconsin, watching the snow fall in the stadium lights. It was beautiful. Watching the game, turning to my old college buddies and saying "Someone has to be fired." It was the realization that things couldn't continue the way they were.
Paul: So much garbage to choose from here, but I think I'll go with the audio release of Pelini's final meeting with the players. The story of Pelini's tenure at Nebraska could become a case study in toxic leadership at the Harvard Business School, and his blaze-of-glory parting shot was an epic final chapter in it.
Salt Creek: In all honesty, everything coming out after Pelini's firing that more or less justified his firing and made you wonder why the hell people worked so hard to stop him from leaving in 2013. A good coach who went insane under the lights and a team that struggled for it.
Mister Mike: How long can this roundtable be? Seriously. I think if I had to sum it up, the word was already mentioned by Paul: toxicity. I don't know if Pelini ever intended such an environment to be created, and then later left in his stead, but it exists and it is still palpable. Even as I write this, you have supposed Husker fans that are furiously doing their damnedest to convince recruits not to come to Nebraska now that Pelini has been let go. You have fans that are doing their best to attempt to undermine Riley and his staff before they've even coached a game by attempting to directly interfere with recruits and potential staff hires. To me, it's both sad and fascinating at the same time that these people had hitched so much of their "fan-dom" (is that a word?) to Pelini that they became bigger fans of Bo than the Huskers. You know, now that I really think about it...it's actually just sad.
Ranchbabe: There is so much to choose from here. The McNeese game was ALMOST one of those days that makes a program like Nebraska a punchline for years. Since we didn't lose that one (thanks to Ameer-icle), I was tempted to say the Wisconsin loss (and for the same reasons as Husker Mike listed a few paragraphs ago). That game was the breaking point where I had a hard time Bo-lieving anymore (and after the bad behavior during/after the Iowa loss in 2013--I was already waffling).
However, the real low point for me occurred after Bo was fired and all of the nastiness came out in full force -- from Bo as well as his non-fans (and fans alike). I'm ready to move on to this strange new world where we have a coach who personifies Nebraska "nice", where tight ends catch passes, where the B1G is "back", and Memorial Stadium all joins hands and sings "kumbaya" before the 4th quarter (take that Jump Around!).