When Aaron Williams picked off Alex Hornibrook’s pass for a touchdown, tying the game at 17-17 early in the second half, I really expected DJ Cool J to start blasting through the stadium. Throats were cleared. The Blackshirts were playing well.
Here We Go Now! Here We Go Now!
Except it wasn’t the Huskers ready to go... it was the Badgers, who basically decided to “eff this” and simply took control of the game. Jonathan Taylor, the unsung recruit who’ll win freshman and probably offensive player of the week honors, bailed the Badgers out of a hole on a 93 yard drive to reclaim the lead. Don’t blame the Blackshirts for this one; they held the Badgers in check for over half the game.
No, this one goes on the offense. 51 yards of offense in the third quarter; 17 in the fourth isn’t going to cut it. One offensive touchdown is, well, offensive. Sure, there were some yards, but there simply wasn’t enough consistency to finish off drives in the first half.
Frankly, it’s just one constipated mess. Because of past failures of the offensive line, Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf have gone to max-protect schemes with the I-back and two tight ends staying in to protect Lee. The problem with that is now there are only two receivers for the secondary to cover, and the defense is now packed into the box to cover the backs and tight ends. It becomes even more out-of-kilter when a receiver motions inside into the slot to pack things up even further.
To quote Jack Nicholson from 1989’s Batman movie, Lincoln needs an enema.
Sure, more talent couldn’t hurt...but this offensive scheme didn’t work at Oregon State. It isn’t working at Nebraska, at least not the way Mike Riley is doing it. Wisconsin is using a similar foundation to Riley’s offense in terms of formations, but with a commitment to pound away with the ground game, they are making it work. In this game, Riley’s pupil schooled his old teacher.
And with the 1997 National Champions looking on, it was especially disturbing to see the visitors push the Huskers around like that down the stretch. The optics of the situation continue to get more and more difficult for Mike Riley; he’s running out of room for error this season.
So here’s this week’s report card; as always, your comments are welcome below:
QB: Unlike in previous losses, Tanner Lee wasn’t exactly the problem. But he’s not the solution to Nebraska’s problem. 24 first half pass attempts isn’t a formula for Nebraska success. He still has his WTF moments, like floating a pass to Tyjon Lindsey in the second quarter. That being said, his latest Pick-Six wasn’t all his fault. Nebraska’s screen game is simply awful; arguably it should be mothballed before any further damage occurs. It was a good idea to finally get Patrick O’Brien some snaps in a game; I suspect that he’ll be needed at some point this season. Grade: D
I-Back: Watching Devine Ozigbo the last few weeks just has to make you wonder what this coaching staff was thinking at the start of the season. Or not thinking. In fairness, this is the third week in a row that Ozigbo mishandled the ball, which could be enough to go with the other backs earlier this season. Maybe if Mikale Wilbon is ready to go this week, NU should dust off the two-back package they utilized last season. Ozigbo ran well in the first half, but things got shut down hard in the second half. Grade: C+
Wide Receivers: First some positives: Stanley Morgan with the great catch and run for a touchdown. More importantly, Tyjon Lindsey blocking downfield to clear the road for Morgan. Extra syrup for those pancakes! But more than a few drops, and frankly, it’s about time to reduce the playing time for tight ends that aren’t really adding much in terms of pass protection and not contributing. Grade: D
Offensive Line: I’ll be quite honest here: I think the line was more than OK on Saturday night. So much so that I think it’s time to take the training wheels off of the offense. Replace an ineffective blocking tight end with a receiver split out wide. A line worth repeating, with Michael Decker and Brendan Jaimes playing better than their predecessors...what the heck were these coaches thinking about playing other guys earlier in the season? (I understand the desire to redshirt Jaimes, but Matt Farniok also was playing better than David Knevel.) Grade: C
Defensive Line: With the Blackshirts, I’d almost like to split the grades by first half and second half. On the line, maybe not so much as it was a pretty quiet game up front. Grade: D
Linebackers: That upside down two on Dedrick Young’s jersey was rather noticeable around the ball. Chris Weber also played strong. Outside linebackers, outside of Luke Gifford, not so much. They were stronger in the first half than on the second, though. Grade: C
Secondary: This group really needs to be split up by cornerbacks and safeties, because while the safety play was pretty strong in the first half, cornerback play was really lacking at times. (Dicaprio Bootle’s attempt to cover Quintez Cephus was rated NC-17.) Aaron Williams alternated between strong play (his interceptions) and some bad run fits. Joshua Kalu was also really strong as well. Grade: C+
Coaching: Watching Nebraska try to run a two minute drill just before halftime made me think that this staff hasn’t had much experience being in close games. Grade: F
Overall: D+ A winnable game became something else.
Grade the Huskers for the Wisconsin game
This poll is closed
A Ahhhh... I’m a Badger fan
B But for a few plays, Nebraska held OK.
C Defense was good for a while, offense needs more continuity
D Disappointing once again on the big stage.
F Here we go again.