Yikes. Nebraska football, meet banana peel. Again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Against Purdue, Nebraska played sloppy and allowed the Boilermakers to pull off the upset with their third-string quarterback engineering the game winning drive. And now, Husker Nation is full of questions and doubts. Some are enraged; some are starting to become apathetic.
We thought last year would be better than the year before; it was, but the record was the same. We thought this year would be better than the year before, but it’s not. The dangerous talking point is to say that there’s been zero progress in the program, and some people seeming to start looking for the panic button yet again.
An annual tradition unlike any other.— HuskGuys (@HuskGuys) October 30, 2019
Dirk finally came out with his annual story of "After X Years of Failure, Nebraska will never be good at football again" story.
For reference, here are some headlines of when he wrote this exact same story in 2018 and 2017 pic.twitter.com/AVDARVgLVa
Let’s just stop right there, because that’s not clear thinking. We knew two years ago this was going to be a rebuild situation. We hoped that a coach who went from 0-12 to 13-0 in two years would make that rebuild faster, but that’s clearly not the case. But it’s better than 2017, if only because this team is more competitive. This week was Nebraska’s second game of the year where the Huskers allowed an opponent to win the game in the final minute of the game. Like against Colorado, if the offense steps on the gas in the first half and builds a bigger lead, the Huskers could have cruised to a win again this week.
Would we be having all of these same discussions if Nebraska were 6-3 this season? To some extent, yes. That’s the nature of Nebraska football; it seems it’s not the wins that define us but rather the losses.
Is this all Scott Frost’s fault? Well, he’s the head coach now, but he’s playing with a hand he’s been dealt. He fixed a broken quarterback room, but not necessarily a broken wide receiver corps. The offense line is slightly improved over two years ago, but isn’t any where near what it needs to be. But now the running back room is a mess thanks to injuries and attrition, and that’s not something he can blame on his predecessor.
Identifying fault only helps if you are going to use it to find fixes rather than assign blame. And the statute of limitations for blaming Mike Riley is nearing. Some think it’s already expired; I don’t think we’re there yet, but that’s an open discussion. In any event, it’s WAAAAAAYYY too soon to throw in the towel or pass any judgement on Frost and his staff. Yes, it’s maddening to lose games that you arguably shouldn’t have. But let’s not overreact either, because there is a term for that type of loss.
Or at least there used to be one.
I don’t think anybody is going to argue that Dabo Swinney hasn’t figured it out now. That’s not to say that Frost is going to be the next Swinney; it’s just to say that early screwups in his tenure do not necessarily mean that Frost will never fix this. More importantly, with Nebraska committed to Frost for another five seasons, we really have no choice but to continue on.
So on with this week’s report card; as always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.
QB: Clearly, something’s just not quite right with Adrian Martinez, though he was better in the second half. He missed several wide open receivers that would have scored easily. Make one of those throws, Nebraska wins. Make most of them, Nebraska wins comfortably and we’re not having any of these discussions this week. This will be a painful video review, especially that interception into double coverage. I can’t fail a quarterback who did complete 57% of his passes and was the team’s leading rusher, though. Should someone else have played? Luke McCaffrey didn’t even travel with the team, and after his injury last week, Noah Vedral never ran the ball. Serious question: if Martinez’s arm/shoulder injury were more serious, would Andrew Bunch have had to come into the game? Needless to say, I’m not criticizing Frost for not pulling Martinez. Grade: D-
Wan’Dale: I think Wan’Dale needs to go back to playing receiver primarily; I get why he’s been playing running back, and it’s not a bad idea as a change-of-pace option in certain situations. But Robinson is not built big enough to handle the load, and in averaging only 3.1 yards per carry the last two weeks, it’s simply not worth the risk. Get him the ball out in space, and let Dedrick Mills carry the load. I suspect that Mills, much like Devine Ozigbo last season, is one of those backs who is more effective later in the game with more carries. Grade: C-
I-Back: Mills only carried the ball six times in this game. Four came in the first quarter. When Mills is out of the game along the goal line and Nebraska settles for short field goals, people are going to ask questions why Frost and his staff are goofing around with other options that have shown time and time again that they don’t work. Bring Mills in and run the dadgummed ball. Grade: Incomplete.
Wide Receiver: Getting open has been an issue this season, but not so much against Purdue. Problem was simply getting the ball to the receivers in this game. Grade: B+
Offensive Line: Line protection was there, though you’d like to see more production in the running game. The snapping issues from earlier this season seem to have resolved themselves. Grade: B-
Defensive Line: I’ve watched Darrion Daniels interception over and over, and I have to wonder if Nebraska wins if he goes ahead and laterals to Khalil Davis. At least we’d have that Fat Guy Touchdown to remember forever.
Khalil had a big game with 7 tackles, including two for a loss. Nebraska’s Blackshirts made enough plays in the first half for the Huskers to win the game, if only the offense would have converted a few of those opportunities. Grade: D
Linebackers: Another “if-only” moment was Alex Davis’s almost sack of Jack Plummer. MIA this week once again was Mohammed Barry as Purdue found the underneath routes wide open all friggin’ day long. And letting Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer run wild into the secondary? Grade: F
Secondary: This was a patchwork unit thanks to Cam Taylor-Britt’s illness. Nebraska did a nice job of keeping David Bell contained (only 23 yards receiving), but trying to wrestle down tight end Brycen Hopkins after the linebackers set him free was a mismatch. Going to give Lamar Jackson props for his interception, though it arguably could have been flagged. Grade: C-
Special Teams: Criticize the failures of the field goal unit this season, if you wish. But the punt blocking unit has been really good this season; two more this week. Now, if Nebraska would just take a knee in the end zone on kickoffs... Grade: B+
Overall: I’d argue that Nebraska really should have been up at least 20-0 early in the second quarter. Punch the ball in after Daniels’ interception and don’t throw an awful interception on first down at the start of the second quarter, and you might have a completely different game. Yes, the defense failed down the stretch, but made enough plays early in the game that should have put the Huskers in control of the game. Grade: D
How would you grade the Huskers performance against Purdue?
This poll is closed
A - I’m a Purdue fan (or an Iowa troll)
B - I’m a troll who doesn’t want to make it quite so obvious.
C - Could have won the game with one or two fewer mistakes.
D - Disappointed that we’re still shooting ourselves in the foot this far into the Frost error.
F - Efffffff....Nebraska’s going to miss a bowl game for the third straight year.
Elsewhere in College Football
B1G Schedule Makers: 0 Who the hell in Chicago thought that the first weekend of November was a great week to have Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin ALL with the week off. All you had to do was move a big game from either last weekend to this weekend (Ohio State/Wisconsin, Minnesota/Penn State, Iowa/Wisconsin) and the schedules would have worked MUCH better this week. With Fox broadcasting the World Series last week, having six of 14 teams with a bye this weekend is an unforced error.
Northwestern: F I think the Wildcats are getting close to waiving the white flag. They do have a game in two weeks against 1-8 UMass for a battle between one of the worst offenses (NW’s) and one of the worst defenses (UMass has given up a Cosgrovian 232 points in the last four games) in college football.