The Huskers did it again.
Yep, yet another one score loss. Would have won? Get a first down or two in the fourth quarter, and yes. Could have won? Absolutely, if they could have defended that Graham Mertz throw to Isaac Guerendo better. Should have won?
Nope. Wisconsin outgained Nebraska 318 yards to 171, and held the ball nearly 37 minutes to Nebraska’s 23. It’s pretty much the same story we’ve been lamenting the last two seasons: Nebraska plays hard, doesn’t give up, but is flawed enough to come up short.
Frustrating for fans? Absolutely. Maddening? Yep. Disappointed? That too. It’s why there will be a new coaching staff in Lincoln in just over a week or possibly two. But we have to wait, like a little kid waiting for Christmas.
Or maybe more accurately, we have to finish our tuna casserole first. We don’t want it, but it’s not going away. Next season will be next season, and we can’t make it come any faster. No temper tantrum, no angry rants, no silly overreactions.
The record is what it is, and change is going to come in time. But the change can’t take place until after the season, and nobody can make it happen faster than that. In the meantime, the season continues with what Nebraska has to work with: an injured quarterback, a horrible offensive line and a gutsy defense.
Oh, and facing Wisconsin on a Big Ten day. Gusty northwest winds wreaking havoc on the ball and wind chills in the teens. And with all that, two touchdown favorite Wisconsin didn’t take a lead in the game until the final minute. Glass 3/4th empty? Nebraska lost AGAIN. Glass 1⁄4 full? This group of Huskers fight nearly every single week. Every week, Nebraska is Charlie Brown going to kick that football. And every week, Lucy pulls it away at the last minute.
Unlike Charlie Brown, we have no illusions of what to expect every week. For whatever reason, fans still show up at Memorial Stadium, others tune into the game. Maybe on the odd chance that THIS TIME will be different. Other than a handful of exceptions (Oklahoma and Michigan this season), Nebraska hasn’t been blown out in a game the last few seasons. They just find a way to lose week after week. A huge dose of karma for the folks who said that it wasn’t the “four losses” a dozen years ago, but the blowout nature of those losses? Who knows? But to expect anything different in 2022 is not thinking clearly, and to act outraged when it happens again proves yourself to be a fool. (Or maybe just trolling to get a reaction...)
Like I said, the cards were stacked against Nebraska in this one. Nebraska hasn’t shown much of an ability to run the ball against good defenses this season, and this week was no exception. And the weather pretty much eliminated much of the passing game, so offensive struggles were in order. Nebraska needed a few breaks (dumb Wisconsin penalties and turnovers) to make it competitive, and yes, making a play or two at the end was the difference between victory and defeat. If there’s anything to take exception to, it was Nebraska’s play calls on the final drive. A crossing route with 30 seconds left? Not that I expected anymore more than a 15 yard completion and a bunch of incomplete passes, but at least call some plays that give you a slight chance to pull it off. Whatever Mark Whipple was calling on that final drive wasn’t going to get anywhere remotely close to the end zone or uprights for a field goal attempt.
So with that, it’s onto the report card...and as always, your feedback is welcome in the comments.
QB: Casey Thompson returned, and frankly was Nebraska’s best offensive player...though that was a low threshold to clear. On a tough day to throw the ball, he made a handful of plays that gave Nebraska a chance. Grade: B-
I-Back: When a running back is getting tackled immediately after getting the handoff, that’s not really the back’s fault. But there were too many instances where Anthony Grant tried to dance around a tackler instead of trying to power through him unsuccessfully. Grade: D-
WR: Well, it sure seems that Trey Palmer needs Casey Thompson as his quarterback. Why is that? During Thompson’s injury, we’ve learned that the bacgeup quarterbacks haven’t been getting many snaps in practice. That’s awfully odd, because when Scott Frost arrived, the talk was wanting multiple stations so that the entire roster would get work. Did that not last? Was that something Mark Whipple scuttled? Only six players who’ve caught a pass are in the mix to return. 2023 will certainly look better if Palmer and Marcus Washington stay in Lincoln. Grade: B-
OL: The offensive line was overwhelmed, pure and simple. This is priority #1 for the next head coach. I don’t think it’s recruiting; Nebraska has had several highly rated line recruits. This is a development issue. The portal may provide a quick fix of injecting some development from elsewhere, but the priority is to get back to building dominating lines in Lincoln. They can do this in Iowa City, Minneapolis and Madison; no reason it can’t be done in Lincoln. Grade: F
DL: This is a mixed-feelings grade. Nash Hutmacher had his best game as a Husker, but Wisconsin generated far too much yardage on the ground. Grade: C
LB: Ernest Hausmann continues his strong play, but far too many times, Wisconsin backs could leak out and get big yards on the perimeter. Grade: C
Secondary: The wind made it a difficult day to throw the ball...witness the duck that Graham Mertz threw to Malcom Hertzog. Still, backup nickel Javon Wright gave up the key play, the 27 yard catch to Guerendo that set up Wisconsin’s game winning touchdown. Gotta defend that better. Grade: D+
Special Teams: Brian Buschini had a good day punting aside from the first punt that may have clipped someone’s helmet. Nebraska’s return scheme has become a debacle: Tommi Hill consistently tries to return kickoffs that should be fair caught, while Oliver Martin fair catches punts that could be returned for positive yards. Grade: C-
Overall: D+ Let’s give Bill Busch credit for getting the Blackshirts back on track. Nebraska’s defense isn’t great, but it’s battling. On the other hand, the offense has become a mess.
How would you grade the Huskers 15-14 loss to Wisconsin?
This poll is closed
A - A Hawkeye fan who can get enough of Nebraska flailing
B - Nearly got the Badgers
C - Could have won...but didn’t
D - Didn’t win. Again.
F - Wake me up when the new coach arrives