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Nebraska Football And Volleyball: What A Contrast

One team is struggling. One team is executing at a very high level.

It was this kind of weekend
Jon Johnston

Nebraska is not a good football team.

Perhaps this occurred to you when our beloved Huskers could not pull out a victory against Troy.

It sounds like an obvious statement as we sit here at 0-2 and with the real possibility that we might win as few or fewer games than we did last season.

I was down on the field shooting photos for this game, and as I’ve said before, it gives you a different perspective. Unfortunately, in this case, I’m not sure if I saw anything different than anyone else. What I saw was a team that couldn’t block worth a damn. It seemed that if we ran to the right were okay most of the time, but when we ran to the left it was a disaster. The middle of our line continually collapsed.

I felt like we were playing very conservative. We only threw the ball down the field twice that I remember, one of those being a nice catch by tight end Kurt Rafdal (#1 in the gallery). Part of that might’ve been the fact that Andrew Bunch was moving quickly on rollouts. Part of it might have been because he doesn’t have much experience and wasn’t looking downfield. Part of that might have been a conservative game plan, expecting your offensive line to block and not take a giant step backward, which is what they did between week two and three. (I know they’ve only played two games. It’s still week three of the football season.)

#7 - I was sitting at the opposite end zone in a small bit of shade. It was hotter than hell on the field - someone told me it was 110 degrees - and I needed a bit of a break from the sun. I am sitting next to another photographer. We both raise our cameras and fire off a burst of this play, the touchdown by Troy’s BJ Smith towards the end of the game. We both lower our cameras, and he says, “You and I could have run through that hole.”

He was right. There were no defenders there on that play. These are the breakdowns Nebraska can’t afford anywhere on the field on any given play because they become magnified when you are not a good team.

I also shot volleyball.

What a contrast from the game earlier in the day. I hadn’t been to a match at Devaney yet, and good lord, what an amazing experience. Granted, you have a volleyball team that’s reloading after coming off a national title, but the crowd at Devaney knows exactly what to do all of the time.

Compare that to earlier in the day when the crowd at Memorial Stadium had no idea how they were supposed to respond to their team losing to Troy. After Smith’s touchdown in the fourth quarter, Memorial might as well been a library. I realize fans might have been in shock, but this response isn’t what our football team needs right now.

The volleyball crowd has cheers for everything, or so it seems. When Mikaela Foecke got a kill, the crowd yelled: “You got Foecke’d.” When Lexi Sun got a kill, it was “You got sunburned,” and when it was Jazz Sweet’s turn, the crowd responded with “That was sweet.” If there’s a successful Nebraska block, the crowd yells “Roof Roof Roof.”

There seems to be a ritual for everything. At one point, the ball came toward me in the corner. I knocked it to the floor and gently kicked it to one of the ball handlers stationed around the court. A young woman tapped me on the shoulder.

“You’re not supposed to do that,” she said. “You’re supposed to give it to me, and then we (referring to the fans next to her) all touch it, and THEN we give it to the ball handlers.”

It was at that point I realized that these are not Nebraska volleyball fans. These are members of the Nebraska volleyball cult.

Nebraska squished Missouri State, winning the last set 25-4. In his post-game presser, John Cook said that Missouri State is a good team, pointing out that they hadn’t lost a set in the Husker Invite previous to meeting Nebraska.

Ty, our volleyball coach and writer, pointed out to me that a 25-4 score is amazing, almost unheard of. Volleyball is a fast game, and any mistake leads to a point for someone. The idea that you could play a game and commit so few mistakes means that you are executing at the highest level possible.

It’s obvious that our football team needs to execute at a higher level.

We have a season in which the first game is cancelled for the first time in decades and a second game in which our great-looking freshman quarterback is injured on a dirty play. The third game comes along, and it feels like everyone is in a funk even before it gets started. I had that feeling. Maybe it was the heat.

We’re heading to Ann Arbor this week and it looks like we’ll fall to 0-3 for the first time since I don’t give a flying shit when. I didn’t care we are 0-2 for the first time since 1957, but our media seems to have to remind of us of this crap when it means nothing relevant to now.

Every time you think it can’t get worse, it does.

Thank goodness we have volleyball.