Posted on: October 17, 2009 7:04 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2009 9:08 pm
We're six games into the season, and Husker Nation still doesn't know the identity of this Nebraska team and exactly what they can accomplish.
Following a last-minute meltdown on the road against Virginia Tech, a thrilling rally against Mizzou in a monsoon, and three convincing wins against Sun Belt opponents, Husker fans could point at this team and, despite all its scars and blemishes, feel somewhat good about them. Yet, while most felt that the VT loss was as respectable as the Mizzou win was dramatic, many question marks remained. There were those who thought that the rain-soaked game in Columbia, despite the thrill it gave much of the nation, obscured several glaring concerns spiraling around this Nebraska team, not unlike like the sheets of rain that pelted them last Thursday.
So, as much as we don't know about this version of the Cornhuskers, perhaps it's easier to talk about the things we DO know about them:
Their offense, when not playing Florida Atlantic or Louisiana-Lafayette, can be downright offensive. Zac Lee is wildly inconsistent, not only in his throws but in his decision-making on the field. While I no longer reside in Nebraska, I can only imagine the swelling opinion, correct or not, that will be resonating throught the state: Cody Green needs to play more, if not start altogether. As it turned out, Pelini somewhat agreed as I wrote this, inserting Green into the offense in the second half, though it was far too little, far too late (a lone touchdown pass to Khiry Cooper following a near-interception).
It's clear that Roy Helu Jr. cannot do everything and, while I feel that there is no room for excuses, the loss of Rex Burkhead as the number-two I-back was more costly than initially imagined. Additionally, it seems that while a receiver or two might step up one week, no receiver has stepped up consistently. The announcers today hit the nail on the head when they remarked that Nebraska's receiving corps is essentially wide-receiver-by-committee.
The Huskers' defense, just rewarded their Blackshirts by Pelini, have a very unsettling habit of playing soft towards the end of a half; they did it most notably against Virginia Tech, in the first half against in Missouri and also in the first half against Texas Tech. Exactly what was Carl Pelini thinking at that point, calling a prevent defense and having his defenders play so far off of the Red Raiders' receivers? And while Ndamukong Suh has been adding to his resume each week (except perhaps this one) and Jared Crick has been benefiting from all of the extra attention being paid to his linemate, the defense has had horrible lapses and not exactly where they might be expected. Going into the season, the main concern surrounding the Nebraska defense was the lack of experience at linebacker, not the secondary, which is where a frightening amount of NU's defensive failures have occurred. Yes, the Blackshirts held the Red Raiders' offense to just a handful of yards in the second half, but it was long after the real damage had been done.
One more defensive observation: Though they managed to put some pressure on Sheffield, how was the Nebraska defense not able to more fully exploit Tech's offensive line in the first half, when they had three players get nicked?
Another thing that Husker fans this season have known all too well? Penalties. Penalties, penalties, penalties. Again not an excuse, but it's been very surprising to see a team, coached by a disciplinarian like Pelini, consistently shoot itself in the foot with stupid penalties and suffer other mental lapses, not the least of which was how the offense just gave up and stood around after the botched lateral from Lee to Niles Paul.
None of this bodes well as Nebraska still faces games against Oklahoma and Kansas (in Lawrence). And at this point, following this game in which Nebraska had gotten most of the nation to buy what it was selling, if they didn't win the game outright, they were expected to at least feed off of the win at Missouri, continue their momentum and be competitive. Instead, Nebraska hit a red and black wall of bricks and the Big Red machine came to a smoking, grinding halt. At this point, no conference game is a gimme.
The final thing we do know about Nebraska? They are NOT back. Back? We don't even know who they are.
Posted on: October 6, 2009 10:54 am
Edited on: October 7, 2009 2:07 am
It's been a few days since the Huskers' convincing win against Louisiana-Lafayette and just a couple more days until the Huskers' next big test of the season. Meanwhile, I've been silent, only leaving a place-holder where my commentary should be. In true Pelini-like fashion, I'm not going to offer any excuses.
Or if you’re like me, you could complain about Matt Davison’s work in the booth, as footballnut correctly guessed from my teaser. Yes, I like my Husker broadcasts to have a Nebraska flavor with a little homerism mixed in, but sometimes Davison’s work is downright cringeworthy. Nevertheless, his playing style fit the mold of the Osborne-style receivers back in the day (lots of blocking and a key reception here and there), his efforts are still sprinkled in the Huskers’ record book today and his name will forever be etched into Husker lore for being in the right place at the right time on an unforgettable early evening in Columbia, Missouri. And fear not Husker fans, he is nowhere near my all-time least favorite announcers: #1 Brent Musburger, #2 Kirk Herbstreit, #3 Brad Sham.
If you tend to spend your time on the sunny side of the street, you could talk about Larry Asante’s 74-yard interception return for a touchdown (right before he injured his ankle), or maybe Matt O’Hanlon’s fumble recovery (though I doubt you will). Asante’s score was the Huskers’ first pick-six by a DB since Fabian Washington did it against Arizona State in 2002. Other positives were the Huskers D sacking the previously unsacked Ragin’ Cajun’ QB’s, handing ULL their worst loss since Texas clobbered them 60-3 in 2005 and shutting them out for the first time since North Texas in 2002. Perhaps most important (in the long-term) was the play of Cody Green (7 of 8 for 62 yards) and Rex Burkhead (112 all-purpose yards). The Texas duo hooked up for a 24-yard score off of a shovel pass in the fourth quarter.
But what I’d really like to take away from this game is that Nebraska rebounded well after a gut-wrenching road loss. ULL provided the perfect “palate-cleanser” if you will, chasing away some of the bitterness after losing a game they should have won. And this team, already road tested, should be able to go TIGER HUNTING and atone for last year’s 52-17 drubbing. Yes, the Tigers come into the game undefeated, but two of those wins were more than lackluster (27-20 over Bowling Green & 31-21 @ Nevada).
So…Huskers win. Oh, and I hope to see some of you at our next 300 consecutive sellouts.
Tags: 300th Consecutive Sellout, Arizona State Sun Devils, Bo Pelini, Bowling Green Falcons, Cody Green, Fabian Washington, Jacob Hickman, Larry Asante, Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns, LSU Tigers, Matt Davison, Matt O'Hanlon, Menelik Holt, Missouri Tigers, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, Niles Paul, North Texas Mean Green, Omaha World Herald, Prince Amukamara, Rex Burkhead, Rickey Thenarse, Sun Belt Conference, Texas Longhorns, Tom Osborne, Zac Lee
Posted on: September 6, 2009 12:03 am
Edited on: September 6, 2009 2:32 am
First let me say, "Ah, football season."
Next let me say "wow".
But I'll get to the wow in a minute.
The game started a bit slow as the Huskers were tentative on offense at first, but quickly made up for it with a strong performance by Zac Lee and some phenomenal running by Roy Helu Jr. The defense, anchored by the awe-inspiring Ndamukong Suh, sometimes allowed the Owls' to grab big chunks of real estate, but kept them out of the end zone by making plays when it mattered.
Menelik Holt showed a great inside move after a quick grab from Lee, then tore down the sideline for the Husker's first score and Curenski Gilleyen just flat outran the Owls' defense after catching a beautiful pass by Lee for a 51-yard touchdown. Helu punched in a score on fourth and goal to further deflate Florida Atlantic.
At the half, Pelini was asked about his team's performance and replied in typical Pelini-like fashion, saying that the Huskers weren't as crisp and clean as he'd like them to be, but they weren't horrible. A pretty astute assessment as a couple of drops and bad penalties kept the Cornhuskers from widening the gap on the scoreboard even earlier than they did.
And yes, it's the first game, but I have a question for the so-called experts. What Nebraska running backs problem? Not only was Helu stellar, with diamond-precise cuts and sudden explosiveness, but diminutive Rex Burkhead showed great power as he gave Helu a rest following his 152-yard, 3 touchdown performance, including a 44-yard sprint that had jaws dropping from Omaha to Scottsbluff and beyond.
Then came Cody Green. And now comes the "wow". Zac Lee, while fairly impressive, had better listen for the footsteps behind him. Those footsteps belonging to Cody Green who, after completing a couple of passes, almost scored on a 49-yd sideline dash which showcased his pure athleticism, then punched it in from the one for Nebraska's final score. It was exciting to see both Burkhead, who had a TD of his own, and Green giving Husker Nation a glimpse of our future, which judging by their performances, should be a bright future indeed.
And one last note, I had to chuckle when Schnellenberger got laid out on the sideline. My negative emotions for that man run deep.
GO BIG RED!