THE CARRIKER CHRONICLES
Former Husker Adam Carriker shares his thoughts about Husker football on a weekly basis. This week is... Purdue.
1- This is one of the toughest losses to try to understand in recent Nebraska football history. Purdue was a football program with only 1 win in the Big 10 Conference in the past 3 seasons (including this one). They had only defeated 2 non-FCS teams and had 5 total wins (3 against FCS schools) during that time frame as well.
I understand we were down our starting quarterback and we had some other injuries during the game as well. But to me, this loss is as flabbergasting as giving up 70 points to a 7-5 Wisconsin team in the 2012 Big 10 Title game (a team the Huskers had already beaten earlier that year), or letting Melvin Gordon break the single game NCAA rushing record on us in only 3 quarters last year.
2- I was excited going into this game to see what Ryker Fyfe could do. Tommy Armstrong is the starter for a reason, but I believed Mike Riley wouldn’t have to deal with the internal conflict of trying to call plays for a mobile quarterback in his pocket passing system for one week, and I wanted to see how that would turn out. Ryker Fyfe is a young man who walked on and earned a scholarship, he also earned the opportunity to play as well. I respect that a lot. But I think everyone who was calling for Tommy to be benched last week after he was struggling, found out that when he’s healthy, Tommy should be our starter.
Ryker played hard with 407 yards passing and 4 touchdowns, but he had a hand in all 5 Nebraska turnovers (not all were entirely his fault) which led to 28 points for the Boilermakers. Coming into this game, the Huskers only had 1 turnover in the previous 249 plays. Meanwhile, Purdue quarterback David Blough had 4 touchdowns with no turnovers. I commend Fyfe for his effort, but one can argue that if Armstrong had started this week, the Huskers would have beaten Purdue. But, there’s a reason a football is shaped the way it is, it bounces whatever way it wants to and it rarely bounces the same way twice. Right now, it just seems to always bounce the wrong way for Nebraska, but hey, that’s football.
3- I’ve addressed this before, but his team has dealt with an inordinate amount of injuries this year. From the linebacking core and the defensive line. to De’Mornay Pierson El battling injuries most of this season. At the time I’m writing this, I do not yet know the severity of his injury.
I pray for all the Huskers who are injured, and that they will have speedy and healthy recoveries. I have pointed out this year that Nebraska has several returning starters, but what we’re discovering with all these injuries, is that the Huskers do not have a lot of depth.
4- One thing I don’t understand, is if you’re playing with your back up quarterback who is making his first start, against the the 99th ranked rush defense in the nation (almost 200 yards a game) and the the worst rush defense in the Big 10, a team who gives up 2.8 yards after first contact (worst among all power 5 conference teams), why you would throw the ball almost 50 times?
One can argue that we were playing from behind most of the game. My response would be, if we had ran the ball and actually ran it effectively (especially early on), we not only would have had less turnovers, but more of our drives would have resulted in scores. We had just 97 rush yards on 20 carries and only 22 rush yards in the second half. Our inability to find a stable running game with consistent running backs and offensive line play, has lead to a lack of balance on offense. This needs to be addressed.
5- The Blackshirts gave up 55 points to Purdue. I understand the Boilermakers had a short field to play with a lot of the game because of the 5 turnovers, but this is an offense that was ranked 102nd in the nation coming into the game. There are some plays where our pre snap defensive alignment, left the middle of the field more exposed than it should be. I saw a couple secondary guys unnecessarily hit one another.
I understand we have switched defensive schemes, but I believe at this point in the season we should have seen more progress. It’s a new staff and a new scheme, but it’s not like they all of a sudden lost their ability to play football. There were some defensive players who received well deserved pre-season All-Conference and even greater than that type expectations coming into this year, but not everyone has lived up to that so far.
The question is why? Is it coaching, the players or a combination? When it comes to evaluating the team over all, you can look more at the coaches. When it comes to evaluating individual performances, especially this late in the season, you can look more at the player. I do know I believe the blackshirts are better than they’ve shown us.
6- The blackshirts also need to find a way to force more turnovers. In my experience that’s a mind set, especially when it comes to fumbles. For example, if you’re sacking the quarterback, don’t just tackle him, but swipe the ball out and get a sack fumble as well. I believe there needs to be more of a focus and emphasis placed on having a mind set of going after the football.
7- On special teams, the Husker had as good of a day on kickoff returns as they’ve had all year. The penalties are still a problem, especially with the offsides of punt coverage and two extra points. That’s just being disciplined, which again, is a mind set.
Whether it’s the mind set of being more aggressive and forcing turnovers, a mind set of being disciplined or just a mind set of winning football games, in my opinion that falls on both the players and the coaches. They are all in this together.
8- I don’t understand why the team is 3-6 right now. I understand the new coaches, the new scheme, the injuries and all of that. What I can’t figure out, is which one of those it is, or if it’s a combination of those? In my opinion, not all the players have entirely bought into Mike Riley (they could possibly still be holding onto the ghost of Bo Pelini). Mike Riley is still trying to figure out how to call plays in his offense with a mobile quarterback, and find balance in his play calling as well. There is not a great amount of depth and all of the injuries has had an impact. In my humble estimation, those are the 3 biggest problems.
9- Before the season started I enjoyed watching the video of Jack Gangwish getting his blackshirt. The shear emotion that poured out of him when he received it, is what being a blackshirt is all about. Then after the game on Saturday, he went into the stands and thanked the fans for coming.
That's an example of what the character of Nebraska football is all about. The wins and losses right now are not good, but as long we have individuals on our team and in our program like that, Husker football is still alive.
10- I’m a Nebraska boy through and through, but that doesn’t mean I’m not baffled and concerned. Nebraska fans are the best fans there are, but that doesn’t mean Husker Nation isn’t flabbergasted right now. I believe no matter what happens, as long Husker fans stay true to the high character and classy precedent we’ve set forth for ourselves, that's all the fans can control, and over time the wins and losses on the field will straighten out. Don’t be that fan that throws stones at the football program right now, and then wants to jump back on the band wagon when things turn around. Stay true to yourself and our team Husker fans.
Until next week Husker Nation...Go Big Red!