Matt Rhule may have said Michigan’s our blueprint, but a little over midway through the 2023 season, Iowa is our reality and hey - that’s ok.
And at least we’ve got an excuse. Sure, Iowa lost their starting QB (handoff machine) and TE (that one hurt). On offense, when it comes to done for the season or out for a significant portion of it, we’ve lost eight starters. Tell you what, since Heinrich Haarberg has taken over the QB1 spot, let’s be generous and call it seven.
Three offensive lineman will be making their first starts this Saturday. Two true freshman and a former walk-on will be starting at WR. OK, Alex Bullock has been starting all season, but still. A redshirt freshman who began the season fourth string will likely be getting his third straight start at RB. And the aforementioned sophomore Haarberg, who Mark “Chubba’s MyGuy” Whipple deemed nowhere near ready to see the field around this point last season, will be making his 5th start.
Is there potential there? Very much so, but getting that many guys to start hitting it 1-2 years ahead of schedule is a giant ask. Husker fans are going to need Olympian levels of patience, something which has never been our calling card. (See Osborne, Tom - 1978 - “Fuck this dadgum nonsense, I’m going to Colorado”)
The blueprint going forward will be:
Offense: Try to put some drives together, give the Blackshirts as much rest as possible, see if you can squelch out 20 points, and young fellas, please sprint up that learning curve game by game - or better yet? “Day by day, we get better and-”
You get the drift.
Defense: Offense approaches the defense (skip straight to the 1:10 mark):
“You men have given so much to your team and no one has the right to ask any more of you. But we’re askin’”
(Then stay for Thunderstruck. I think I could watch someone bass fish to Thunderstruck and get fired up.)
We’ve got Purdue and their new head coach, former Illinois DC Ryan Walters who’s already pulling a page out of Prime Time’s book and making it personal. We are slightly favored against a team whose offense, take away a 44-19 win over Illinois, has been as opposite of lethal as ours. Defensively, big advantage Blackshirts.
But the best part? We actually started chipping away at that curse thing I wrote about last week.
THE 4TH QUARTER
Basically every game which had been in any kind of doubt going into the final frame this season had turned into a shit show - Minnesota, Colorado (okay, it blew up in the 3rd quarter there) and Illinois. You really don’t want me to start taking you back through the last 6 years.
The 4th quarter Saturday?
- 1 play 44 yards - TD
- 5 plays 21 yards - Punt - NW takes over on the NU 12
- 4 plays 23 yards - Punt - NW takes over on the NU 13
- 2 kneel downs - Game Over
No fumbles, no pickoffs, no idiotic penalties. An actual touchdown followed by drives which ate up just enough yards to give Buschini the chances to bury the Wildcats deep in their own end.
Was it dominant? No. Was it a HUGE step in the right direction? Yes. I’m not doing a deep dive, but it’s probably a safe bet that merely doing that a few times turns a 6-25 record in one-score games much, much, closer to .500 and a few bowl games during the Frost Era.
While we’re at it, those moments leading up to halftime hadn’t been too impressive either. Colorado, Michigan and Illinois all managed to cash in right before the break. This time, the Huskers went 10 plays for 77 yards in the final 5:18 with Haarberg crashing just far enough for a TD with :23 left. Then they picked off Brennan Sullivan for good measure.
Another evil trend turned around at least for a day.
So for all of you carrying those talismans and good luck charms and burning evil things like we talked about? Fine job and keep up the good work.
The rest of you fools? Join the superstition movement and get with the program already! We can’t be missing out on nice things because you refuse to keep that red rabbit’s foot in your back pocket and do the Safety Dance after every first down.
(AND A QUICK WORD ABOUT A NEW BAD TREND WHICH HAS TO STOP)
AKA - THE TERRIBLE START
- MICHIGAN - Gave up 11 plays for 75 yards and a TD on the opening drive.
- ILLINOIS - Gave up 14 plays for 74 yards on the opening drive. But then the Huskers called timeout, the Blackshirts made their stand and the offense responded with an 86 yard drive of their own and a FG. But that first 5:21? Rough.
- NORTHWESTERN - Haarberg INT on the first damned play.
Won’t bemoan this for several paragraphs. Just - Matt Rhule, whatever the pre-game routine is? Change it up. Now.
That is all.
So remember our new routine:
- Witchcraft and voodoo - believe in all of it and act accordingly. Haitian, Wiccan, cracked mirrors and black cats and ladders, Native rain dances, imaginary gods from your D&D manuals, doesn’t matter. The results are already showing
- Remember, no talk of bowls and possibly glorious won-loss records or other upcoming games. There is only Purdue forever. Until that game is over. Then there may be another on which to focus.
- Reams of patience for the offense. Their efforts will be heroic and the results will probably be painful at times. Stay behind them. They’re gonna be a lot of the ugly in Nebraska’s winning ugly formula. But they’ve shown they can have their moments.
- Enjoy the defense. They won’t be perfect but they’ve definitely brought the pride back the Blackshirt name.
Enjoy the game and Go Big Red forever.