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Corn Flakes: Dear “Run The Ball Guy“ & Tom Osborne The Passer

“Run The Ball Guy” might need to compromise and did you know that Osborne wanted to throw the ball all the time?

David McGee

We are in a quandary, Mr. “Run The Ball Guy”. Nebraska, our beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers are 13th in the Big Ten conference in rushing offense. They are gaining just under 122 yards a game. I don’t have to tell you that’s pretty atrocious. In their last two games they gained 44 yards on 16 attempts for a 2.75 yards per carry average and 40 yards on 27 attempts for a 1.48 yard per carry average. That’s terrifying.

A guy like you would say, “That’s not Nebraska football!”

You’d be right.

There is good news. Nebraska is third in the Big Ten in passing at 274.4 yards per game. In our last two games, we had 349 yards passing on 47 attempts with 27 completions and 431 yards on 50 attempts with 32 completions.

Obviously, we didn’t beat Ohio State, but we did beat Purdue and we did it through the air. Northwestern is fifth in the Big Ten conference in rushing defense, giving up 118 yards per game. The Wildcats are 13th in pass defense, giving up 270.8 yards per game.

Do you see the quandary?

If Nebraska is going to beat Northwestern, it’s probably going to be through the air.

At this point you have to ask yourself what you want out of this season. I would like Nebraska to at least get to a bowl game and that means winning some more games. I’m okay with my beloved Huskers throwing the ball 40 times a game if it means that we win games. I am not so stuck on a religious philosophy that requires that we run the ball because of some “Nebraska Way”.

It’s okay if we don’t use the fullback. If we don’t use the fullback we can use another guy, like a receiver, who can split out and force the defense to spread themselves out. See, when you stick a fullback in the game, you allow the defense to stack the box even more than they already are. In that case the fullback is not another blocker, he’s just one more guy stacking up the middle when Nebraska’s line can’t even average two or three yards per carry.

So I’m asking you point-blank, Mr. “Run The Ball Guy”, what you want? Do you want to stick to this perhaps outdated concept (at least for this season) that Nebraska has to run the ball or do you want to win some more games?

It’s always interesting to me to see how Tom Osborne is portrayed by fans. You’d swear that Nebraska won all those games under Osborne by playing mostly native Nebraskans and by running the ball all of the time. I realize this is part of the mythmaking that goes along with being Tom Osborne, but it’s not true.

From the book, “Stadium Stories – Nebraska Cornhuskers”, by Mike Babcock, a man who’s forgot more about Husker football than any of the rest of us will ever learn, comes this revelation on page 105:

"We threw the ball a whole lot. But some people thought we were drab and unexciting, and somehow, the coaching changed had caused it." Part of the problem was efficiency. Counting bowl games, Humm threw for 24 touchdowns with 26 interceptions during his final two seasons.

Even so, Osborne remain committed to the pass. "I used to kid Tom, when he first became the head coach, all he wanted to do was throw the ball," said Jim Ross, the head freshman coach and an assistant athletic director at the time. The veteran assistance among them Fischer and Mike Corgan, tried to convince Osborne to run "once in a while. But Tom wanted to throw it all the time," Ross said.

I reviewed Babcock’s book back in 2007.

So see, Mr. “Run The Ball Guy”? Your legend liked to throw the ball. It’s okay. Even in November.


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