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Corn Nation’s Got Questions: Illinois Part “A”

A is for answer. Each week we ask some questions about the upcoming game. A few days later we check back to see if we got answers. Today, we look back at the Fighting Illini. Yes, really. We must.

Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Click the link for the "questions" (Part Q) half of this article.

Ouch. This one hurt.  There is no other way to put it. The BYU Hail Mary….the failed comeback at Miami....those sucked, but this one hurts. We watched an imperfect defense valiantly go out drive after drive and keep their struggling offense in the game; only to go back out on the field again after 3 plays and a punt. We watched them bend, and bend, and finally break - when they should never have been put back out there in the first place.

We watched our lion-hearted quarterback get set up to fail, and our talented receivers left guessing which direction the ball was going after the wind got a hold of it. We watched our wind-proof punter become the MVP for the Huskers and our field goal kicker nail two incredibly difficult kicks (don’t let the distance fool you - those were not easy as evidenced by the Illini kicker missing two in those same conditions in his home stadium).

Will the fullback be put back on the shelf?

No. We got MOAR Janovich. Not only did he run from the fullback position, but was lined up as a halfback at times too.

He got more touches than any other back - 11. He gained 43 yards (3.9 average). Those are OK numbers on a day where Ozigbo’s 7 carries for 70 yards (10.0 avg) sort of stole the show.

Coach Riley’s pre and post game comments seem to confirm that Janovich will continue to get touches as long as he continues to produce. While I am not sold on the idea that he should be the featured back, having someone that can be a go to in short yardage third down situations is needed in an offense that is struggling in those situations.

If Imani Cross had not seemingly disappeared from the rotation, I would be licking my chops over a 3rd and 2 with Janovich lined up at fullback with Cross at I-back. Throw in Tommy’s ability to run, and…..why in the world are we struggling so badly on 3rd down again? Oh yeah.

Will Nebraska rise above the advanced Stats and beat the Illini? Should we have stayed in the Big 12?

No and we have not fallen nearly that far. LOL Texas!

Yikes. Beaten by a team with an interim head coach on a (say it with me) end of game play. Coach Riley, meet me at camera 3.

Hey Coach, you have been doing this football thing for a while now. And that’s the problem. Husker Nation was adamant that they did not want another first-time head coach. "Give us experience, please!". But we noticed some alarming things season. Things like lining the kids up too deep to knock down a Hail Mary, napping through the first half of the Miami game, and making such a cute play call on a critical 3rd down against Illinois that you baited your own team into doing one of the two things they absolutely COULD NOT do in that situation (turnover or incomplete pass).

While we are at it, what was up with that game plan? I mean, Tommy has progressed mightily under your tutelage in the passing game. But you know it and I know it; he is stretching the edges of his abilities. If he had coaching like this the past two years, it might be different, but right now you are asking him to do everything he is capable of. Sooooooo, add in 20+ mph winds and stubbornly stick to a pass game when your QB has not progressed to the point of adjusting to those conditions?  I am going to pile on just a tiny bit more coach - this is the Big Ten. You WILL see wind like this again. Often. This did not become known as a "cloud of dust and 3 yards" league because we are stubborn, backwater football hicks. Running the dadgum ball is a necessity.

Alright Coach. We are in the middle of parent-teacher conference season and in that spirit, I will make sure to end with a positive note. We see what you did in the offseason. We noticed that you revamped and remade the back side of the football program. The behind the scenes details and management, in recruiting especially, were noticed. Unfortunately, Husker fans only care about that stuff during the offseason. We are playing ball now. Show us the coaching staff that is willing to go toe-to-toe with anyone to get a recruit and show us the program you are selling to the kids. Show it in a game and you will be back on track.

I know in the questions piece I promised to pile on the Texas suckage here. My speech to Coach got a little long, so I will let our friends at Oklahoma sum it up for us. The Texas Longhorns Are Dangerously Bad! Bonus: Texas still waiting for QB1 and Texas football had a bad day.

The pass defense has nowhere to go but up. Will it?

Sigh. The eye test says there were some better moments this week, but they are still dead last in passing yards allowed and there were two HUGE breakdowns that gave the Illini one touchdown and put them in position for the other. This means, technically, the answer is "no".

This is going to be a long road back. The first steps were to see some improvements in technique and assignments. By many accounts we saw some of that. We will need to see more of it next and then even more the game after. When that starts to happen with consistency, the confidence will inch back a little and then a little more. Somewhere there will be a step backward, but there are only seven games left in the regular season. We have already taken all the steps back we can afford.

The Big Ten (and all of college football really) this year is a giant mess. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day (except you Kansas - sorry). Nebraska learned this the hard way at Champaign but it also means everyone is beatable. Every play will matter from here on out. EVERY. PLAY.

On the bright side, the defense was the only reason Nebraska was in this game enough for us to be (again) gnashing our teeth about a last second breakdown to give up the winning score.

The pass rush reared its head a little more than previous games. It was great to see Maliek Collins bust through a couple of double teams and wreak some havoc. Nine tackles (3 for loss), one pass breakup, and 1 ½ sacks. Welcome to the stat sheet big guy!

Freedom continued his production by being in on 2 tackles, one for loss, a half-sack and one QB hurry. He is becoming a nice compliment to Collins. Oh, and welcome back Jack! We missed you.


What are your thoughts? Did I miss something? Did you have different thoughts? Tell me in the comments!