Due to the Husker's performance the past two weeks, an emergency Big Red roundtable was convened to discuss the current state of Nebraska football. As soon as everyone has theirs up, I will link to the other Husker bloggers' entries. Here are the guys who have posted thus far:
Midwest Coast Bias
Husker Mike's Blasphemy
Big Red Network
1) Assess the Huskers performance this season.What
is going well, and what has surprised you?
Well, I'll get to the defensive problems on the next question. First off, what is going well? For starters, the passing game has been extremely efficient the past couple of games. One reason for the aerial explosion is because it is what the game situation necessitated: We had to throw to make it look respectable at USC, and against Ball State the Huskers found themselves in a shootout that again called for a lot of passing. While Keller struggled to get in a rhythm against Wake Forest, he has clearly hit his stride the past couple of games. Not surprisingly, this has coincided with the receivers finally playing up to expectations and catching the ball. Drops were problematic in the first two games, but have nearly disappeared in the past two weeks. One disappointing aspect of the offense has been the running game. After the demolition of Nevada, a lot of Nebraska fans (myself included) thought that the balance we had sought for the past couple of years offensively would finally be realized. Three games later, reality has set in in the form of 3 straight games of averaging less than 3 and a half yards a carry (3.3 against Wake, 1.1 against SC, and 3.2 against Ball State). Obviously, these stats are skewed because of the effect that sacks have on total rushing yardage. After all, Marlon did have 102 yards on 21 carries against BSU. But that hardly negates the fact that our running game is obviously nowhere near where it needs to be to challenge even decent defenses. We still don’t know if Lucky is the feature back we all hoped he could be. And quite frankly, he better start showing it now that we are heading into conference play. Shootouts might be entertaining and fun for the quarterbacks and wideouts, but if there isn’t some semblance of a running game, you will not win many games in the Big XII. You have to be able to average at least 4 yards a carry to keep the opposition honest, otherwise they can simply trot out six defensive backs every time and wait for Keller to throw a pick, which if he has to throw it 55 times a game, is going to happen. That’s not a knock on Keller, he’s going to be the guy who wins us some games this year, I’m just saying that if we are going to continue to be successful offensively, we can’t have a bad running game, which is what we’ve seen the past 3 weeks.
2)Let's not sugar coat things; the Blackshirts are struggling.What do you think the issue is, and what needs to be done to rectify things this season?
I, like pretty much everyone else who is a Nebraska fan, think it all comes back to coaching. Cosgrove’s defenses were horrible at Wisconsin, and they have continued to be since his arrival here in Lincoln. For the sake of keeping it short, I only went back to 2000 for these rankings.
TOTAL DEFENSE NATIONAL RANKINGS, COSGROVE-LED UNITS
2000- 79th (Wisconsin)
2001- 58th (Wisconsin)
2002- 63rd (Wisconsin)
2003- 43rd (Wisconsin)
2004- 56th (Nebraska)
2005- 26th (Nebraska)
2006- 56th (Nebraska)
See a trend developing here? The year after Cosgrove headed to Lincoln, the Badgers went from 43rd to 9th in 2004. Coincidence? I think not. People are saying that our recruiting isn’t as good as it was advertised to be, and they may be right. But I have said, and will continue to say, that it is our defensive coaching, not our players, that is what is ultimately holding our defense back. When a player is out of position on nearly every play, you can throw a new guy in there. But what happens if the substitute is doing the same thing? It’s called coaching, and I knew we were in trouble when Bo left for LSU and we brought in Cosgrove.
That said, what can be done to rectify the situation at this point? Forcing a coordinator to step down 1/3rd of the way through the season is hardly the Nebraska way, and in my opinion would not cure the ills the Blackshirts are suffering from. The best chance for the Huskers is to go back to the film and break down what the hell is going on with their miscommunications and mental breakdowns, and for the sake of all that is holy WORK ON SOME F-CKING TACKLING THIS WEEK! ITS DIVISION 1 FOOTBALL! I just can’t believe how poorly the Huskers are in fundamentals. If anything, perhaps the non-stop criticism of the defense and Cos will piss them off. Something needs to light a fire under their collective ass, and maybe getting booed in Lincoln will do that. I think for us to rebound Cosgrove has to sit down with his defense and ask them, straight up, “What do you feel most comfortable in? What package do we run where you all know what you are doing without a doubt?” Then, take whatever their answer is and stick with it. Because what is killing the Blackshirts is hesitation and uncertainty. They are constantly on their heels, afraid of what comes next because their self-confidence is shattered. Run your base stuff against ISU, re-establish some confidence, and try to build on it every week.
3)Kevin Cosgrove is the target of a lot of criticism over the play of the Blackshirts.How will this play out?
Barring an unforeseen turnaround in which we shut out Mizzou, Texas, and Oklahoma, I don’t see there being any way he can be allowed to stay on staff. Some might say that we should just demote him, but I don’t think keeping someone this maligned on-staff is good for the program or the team. What happens if they bring in a new guy next year? Do you really think he’ll want the old d-coordinator as his linebackers coach? No, I didn’t think so. Cosgrove should be asked for his resignation at the end of the season, and let’s be done with it. He’s had his chance, and quite frankly, he’s failed in spectacular fashion.
4)You went into this season with some expectations.
Has the start to this season changed your mind? Where
do you see the Huskers at the end of the season?
Well, I certainly expected have a defense that was higher than 75th in the country and giving up nearly 6 yards a play. But I’m not going to pile on the defense too much, I expected a lot of things that haven’t come to fruition thus far this year. Our linebackers, once expected to be the best unit on our defense, have been by far the most disappointing. Our running game, as I mentioned above, has been sub-par. I expected Nebraska to make the jump from a good team to at least a pretty good one. And with the exception of the passing game, it appears they have regressed. I don’t see how we can handle the likes of Mizzou or Texas. Sure, Mizzou’s defense is as bad as ours, and Texas has looked lackluster, but at this point I don’t see us beating them with the way our defense has performed. If by some miracle we get to face OU in the Big XII title game, I’m scared of what the final score will be. Realistically, I think we could be looking at an 8-4 regular season (losing to Mizzou,OK State, and Texas) and hopefully we win some secondary bowl game. Anything more than that has to qualify as a pleasant surprise in light of how poorly our defense is playing.
5)There was a loud chorus of boos last weekend at
Memorial Stadium.Your reaction? Is it okay to boo
the Huskers under any circumstance?
I understand why a lot of Husker fans are upset about the booing. It goes against the “classy” nature of our fanbase to boo anyone, let alone our own team on it’s home field. And personally, I wouldn't have had I been in Lincoln on Saturday. But if we can boo Scott Frost, why can’t we boo an embarrassing excuse for a defense? They’ve played horribly the past couple of weeks, and while it may not have been classy, I think a lot of people around the country would have done the same thing had their team been playing so poorly, especially in light of the expectations this team had coming into the season. So Huskers (the defense in particular), there ya go. You have eight more games to re-write your legacy. You can go down as an underachieving, over-hyped group, or you can take that criticism, get pissed off, and shove it down the entire country’s throats. Your move.