Winning is fun. Losing is, to put it simply, not.
And after watching the Huskers step on the banana peel in the fourth quarter of every game (except South Alabama) in a 2-4 start, it's exhilarating when the Huskers not only didn't fall on their face, but actually made a play late to seal the victory. Hello, Josh Kalu with a nifty interception return to seal the victory.
Nebraska's 48-25 victory over Minnesota doesn't ease Husker fans' concerns about the pass defense or late game clock management. Gopher quarterback Mitch Leidner turned into Peyton Manning at times Saturday, throwing for a career high 301 yards.
Mitch Leidner threw for a career-high 301 yards yesterday. Was second fewest passing yards allowed by #Huskers this season.— Brian Rosenthal (@HuskerExtraBR) October 18, 2015
And in the fourth quarter, rather than nurse a 16 point lead, NU offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf went full YOLO and called for three straight passes that fell incomplete and bled a whopping 20 seconds of the clock.
That's the half-empty view, and after game seven, be assured that these problems won't be solved this season. Just accept it for what it is, and look at the counterpoint: the opponent isn't going to have a whole lot of success on the ground, and when Nebraska does try to run the ball consistently, this offense can be quite effective.
But let's make it clear: Nebraska needs to run the ball to open up the pass, not the other way around. Nebraska ran the ball 39 times and threw the ball 26 times, racking up 464 yards on the day. I'd suggest that Nebraska would have had an even better day offensively if it were 42-45 runs and 20-23 passes on the day. But that's nitpicking on my part. 60/40 run/pass is much better than 50/50 or passing more than the run. Run the dadgummed ball, guys.
In the end, Nebraska went out and won the game. It's clear when you hear the players speak about this season that they "buy into" this coaching staff; there's no need to call for "culture change" or to try to incite negativity about the players' attitude. Criticize the current or previous staff if you want, but let's cheer for the men who put on the white helmet and pants with the red "N" each week.
QB: The missing element from Nebraska's passing game the last couple of weeks was the intermediate pass, and Tommy Armstrong rediscovered it with an 11 yard pass to Jordan Westerkamp on the second play of the game. Chucking the ball deep continues to be an issue; you never see receivers hit in stride, but rather, we see ugly scrambles by covered receivers to make the catch when blanketed in coverage. But the best thing that happened to Armstrong was a 60/40 run/pass ratio. Armstrong's legs are one of this team's best assets, and it's a dynamic that opens up a lot of things for this offense. Grade: A-
I-Back: Terrell Newby had his best day as a Nebraska running back, when you take competition into consideration. He disappeared late in the game, though afterwards, Mike Riley disclosed that he was injured. That might explain some of the curious personnel choices as the game unfolded. Devine Ozigbo hasn't shown the same burst that he showed against Illinois. And if Jordan Stevenson is struggling with the offense like he is struggling on kick returns, we're not going to see him in the backfield anytime soon. Grade: B+
Fullback: A little Jano can go a long way; I get that he's been an underappreciated weapon, but anything more than five carries a game is excessive. And please, no more dribbling. Grade: B
Wide Receiver: The receivers made all the catches, including a couple that they had no right to make, especially on a couple of jump balls thrown into coverage. I credit the receivers for making the plays, but I worry that down the line, these passes will be interceptions. Let's see more short/intermediate throws to the receivers. Grade: A
Offensive Line: A really clean game. The hole that sprung Newby on his 69 yard run was huge, and set the tone for the day. Alex Lewis has taken a lot of criticism this season; let's give him a little credit for his leadership role this week. On Tuesday, Lewis spoke passionately to tell his team to not let this season go to waste. Tip 'o the cap to the captain. Grade: A
Defensive Line: Anytime you can get pressure on the quarterback with just four defensive linemen, you're doing well. And this line did pretty well in stopping the run and getting a fair amount of presure on Leidner, especially in the second half. Grade: A-
Linebacker: The linebackers sold out to stop the run, and stop the running backs they did. Only 45 yards from the Gophers' running backs is an impressive achievement. Leaving the underneath routes wide open in the passing game, less so. Grade: B-
Secondary: It's been a while since Nebraska got a turnover, let alone three...so forcing a fumble and picking off two passes is a sign of improvement. But the fact remains that this secondary turned Mitch Leidner into Peyton Manning. 301 yards passing, a career high? No, no, no. This secondary is not getting better - and after seven games of this, it's clear it's not going to get better in 2015. Especially in the fourth quarter, where Leidner joined the list of quarterbacks putting up big numbers in the fourth quarter this season. Grade: F
Overall: B- The formula for 2015 looks to be run the ball and hopefully build up a lead so that the Huskers can withstand the inevitable fourth quarter comeback.
Elsewhere in College Football
Oklahoma A+ Airplane problems kept the Sooners cooped up in the Oklahoma City airport all day Friday; they didn't get to their hotel until early Saturday morning. Apparently that's a formula for success, as the Sooners beat Kansas State 55-0. But what's the point of flying from Norman to Manhattan? By the time you deal with security and the loading/unloading of the plane, it can't be that much faster to fly than to keep the bus rolling north up I-35.
Michigan DERP. Might want to practice "punt safe" a little more this week.
Northwestern F Two weeks ago, Northwestern looked like a contender for Big Ten and playoff honors. Since then, merely a pretender.