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Huskers vs. Illinois 2019 Game Center

Interrupting All Programs: TURNOVERS, PENALTIES & IOWA HUMOR

NU Reverts To “Bo Ball” But Escapes With A Win In A Closely Watched Game To The East

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Nebraska at Illinois Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Comedy of the week comes from a college football message board and an Iowa fan.

“Hear me out. The B1G knew with a (Nebraska) loss that Gameday would not feature two conference schools. So they didn’t call blatant penalties on Nebby. Three of which would have resulted in Illini drives staying alive. One they would have at least been in FG range. I think the fix was in.”

I don’t think I will ever be able to question this Iowa fan, but did he mean the officials called the ticky-tac penalties on NU but let the homicide type ones go?

And then another Hawkeye fan chimed in about the refs missing at least four more egregious calls against NU. That my friend is watching a game that doesn’t involve your team a bit too closely.

However, when you are a Hawk, Nebraska’s lows are more satisfying than your highs.

I’m guessing those super fans saw the return of the yellow flags and penalties by NU as well. The Northern Illinois butt-kicking by Nebraska saw a relatively clean game from the Cornhuskers. We shall call the Illinois win playing with lots of turnovers and penalties, “BO BALL!”

Last week on the radio show we should have seen this coming, thanks to the JINX himself, founder and publisher Jon Johnston. He set this mess up by mentioning the encouraging stat from the NIU game in regard to turnovers and penalties with just one penalty and no turnovers by Nebraska. [Jon: well, shit.]

Let’s take the giveaways first.

They happen, especially in this offense-happy style. However, many times it can be dumb luck on how bad it is on a given Saturday.

There were five fumbles I recall in the NU-Illinois contest. Usually that will be a 3-2 split with teams recovering the fumbles, occasionally 4-1 and almost never I would surmise, one team recovers all five. However last week, Illinois recovered them all. Obviously if you don’t want that to happen, don’t fumble.

Also, on the radio show, I asked Jeremy Slechta, member of the Husker team with most fumbles ever in 1999, what was being said at halftime and on the sidelines of those games about the balls on the ground?

He predictably said, don’t fumble. Also, he mentioned they did countless drills to help as the comical problem grew in 1999 and he thought maybe that played into it as it got in people’s heads.

We did mention sometimes somebody on defense just makes a play and causes a fumble. See the 2006 fumble by Terrance Nunn in the painful Texas loss on a hit by an All Big 12 safety that kept NU from winning as a first down would have iced that game.

However, there are times it is coaching.

That brings us to the “Come hell or high water,” decision by Frank Solich in the late 1990s to play somebody not suited to play I-back in an option offense in Dan Alexander.

It is probably not too surprising that Solich had to be fired as offensive coordinator in 2002 to keep his head coaching job. The Husker offense at the end of 2002 was a shell of itself without Eric Crouch to cover up for the significant drop in recruiting, development and play-calling post Tom Osborne.

(It’s funny that recently when Pitt Coach Pat Narduzzi was talking up Solich before the Pitt-Ohio game and how Nebraska made a mistake in firing Solich’s butt in his opinion. I bet Narduzzi didn’t even know about the Solich OC experiment at NU. Just a coach’s BS to get another coach’s back.)

Alexander used to fumble for no reason in the open field other than it looked like his biceps were too big and knocked the ball out while he was running. Also, he had bricks for hands and that is horrendous as catching option pitches and not dribbling them is a big part of that offense.

Again, no wonder Solich had to fire himself.

Lastly, there were times, for whatever reason, Alexander could not get his shoulders squared around to turn upfield and he just ran out of bounds. Again, for an option team, that is just horrible.

Lastly (again), Alexander tended to trip over “the lines” on the field when running free. Not optimal for an I-back in that offense…or any offense.

But Alexander was a strong and fast dude, much better suited for fullback or defense. And a real nice guy, so I feel bad for writing this, but I will live.

Right now I do think at least all the skills positions players at NU in the right positions and there are no “Alexanders.” They just need to tighten up ball security, especially RB Dedrick Mills. Adrian Martinez has a few more fumbles than you would like, but he is in on many exchanges and something to watch going forward as he is not a freshman anymore.

His interceptions are not alarming as he has only two through four games in 109 attempts, which I would take in a heartbeat for the rest of the 2019 season.

I’m not an offensive coordinator, but I play one on the radio. Martinez needs to be more decisive and take what the defense gives him and focus on moving the chains, instead of looking for the big play, especially versus OSU this weekend.

OK, the yellow laundry.

This was an issue last year, but not one that sticks to a new coach taking over a mess like Scott Frost did. While the W-L won’t really stick to him either in Year Two after a dumpster fire, it is the expectation they play smarter football as this staff has had two springs with this group and they should have less penalties.

Last year it was the number of flags AND at the worst times preventing wins versus Colorado and Northwestern.

A few Husker teams were highly penalized in the past, but I don’t recall that silly penalty late factoring in late like it did versus Colorado in 2018, was Pelini’s teams, especially from 2011 on for those Huskers.

We do know penalties (and turnovers) can became ingrained in the culture like they did with Pelini as NU ranked near the bottom of each category EVERY FLIPPING YEAR from 2011-14. Also, that was Pelini’s fourth through seventh years as coach. HORRID CULTURE from Pelini to Mike Riley who had his own issues.

However, from 2011-14, Pelini did the lead country in one category--Lucky Wins—Ameer/McNeese State, Hail Kellogg, four double digits comebacks in 2012 and The Joe Bauserman-Ohio State game in 2011.

Coulda fooled me Pelini is Italian, seems Irish with all that luck.

One current problem for Nebraska, which Frost appeared to address in the Illinois postgame, is since NU has the reputation for penalties, the refs are quicker to throw flags on NU; the opposite of The Jordan Rules.

Unfortunately, that’s sports. Clean it up buttercups until you start winning more and have that perception change. Winning this weekend versus Ohio State could really help in the respect category. Obviously.

If that is going to happen versus the Buckeyes, I think defensively NU will have to pick their poison. I would sell-out to stop the run with some blitzing and hope basically a freshman QB in his first big career start on the road doesn’t make too many plays in the passing game.

I feel if OSU’s running game gets going early, led by JK Dobbins, it could be a long night on national TV for the Big Red. Stuff the run and make the QB beat an improved Husker secondary and NU wins 31-23 with Martinez having a second straight 400 passing/rush combo day in Big 10 play.

If that happens, look for Alex Jones-like conspiracy theories coming from the Cyclone State.