Saturday, October 25, 2008
12:38--Nice sack by Prince, and one we desperately needed for momentum's sake
12:43-- Finally have something going here on offense again with consecutive first downs, down to the 29. Good no call on the deep pass to Petersen there, which the two terrible announcers also point out.
12:44--Just dodged a huge bullet with that Young fumble. And I know that it just got us 5 yards, but can we please find some faster guys if we are going to run the little quick pass to Swift where he trys to make like Terrell Owens and just out-quick two guys?
12:48-- At least we got 3 points out of the drive, but that didn't do much to dull their momentum. The botched kick was nice for the momentum, but then Griffin burns us for a quick 11 yards. This guy is going to kick our ass throughout the day. 7 carries for 100 yards in the first half for Griffin. Where is the team we saw last week against Iowa State? I know Griffin is amazing, but you still have to come up with a way to stop him.
12:55--Of course, right after I say this, Allen comes in and drops Griffin for a big loss. I can't believe that Griffin didn't see him coming. Top it off with a botched Baylor punt and we might go into half with a lead here if our offense can take advantage of the short field.
12:57-- Oh, so Colt McCoy is your Heisman leader, announcer guy? Wow, what a shocking announcement!
12:58-- Touchdown, Marlon Lucky! What a great little drive he just had, a great catch followed by a nice run in traffic to finish the job. Everyone in red is breathing a little easier right now. I'll be honest though, I may retire my "Blackshirts" shirt I'm wearing, it seems like every time I wear it we play poorly out of the gate.
1:03-- Glad to see Thenarse is in there, if I had to watch O'Hanlon get burned over and over again, I was going to throw up. Of course, right after I say this nearly beat us deep only to have the receiver drop the ball. Then Glenn manages to give them a first down with another personal foul, followed promptly by Griffin hitting a guy wide open at the 17. Down to the one on a slant route. What the f*ck is going on?
1:07-- How do you let a team drive down on you in the last minutes of the half to regain the lead. It was a painful flashback to last year, where we looked absolutely helpless and kind of had a deer-in-the-headlights look.
1:09-- Touchdown, Baylor. Great block by Suh, would have been nice if we could have taken that the distance, but it wouldn't have mattered because we had yet another personal foul on Nebraska. How many is that in the first half for the team? At least 3 if you count Glenn's two, though I still think we have more than that. Pretty embarrassing half of football for Nebraska, especially with Griffin making it look like the Blackskirts '07 edition. Why aren't we putting a spy on Griffin? Or are we doing that and he's so fast that it doesn't matter?
1:19-- What is going on down in Manhattan? OU is up 41-28 in the first half on K-State. Tech is up big on KU, which will even their conference record at 2-2. If NU and MU win today, it's three teams with that record who will be tied on top with MU and KU still to play. Should be an interesting couple of weeks if we can regain the form we saw against Tech and Iowa State.
1:35-- According to Bo, we didn't tackle well in the first half. That's kind of like saying Paris Hilton is a smelly pirate hooker. Pretty obvious to anyone who was watching.
12:37-- Great break on the ball by Dillard to force the punt.
Okay, I'm way too far away from my TV to type this and watch at the same time. No, I don't have a laptop, and yes, that sucks. So I'm going to go watch the game then finish this up afterwards.
Post Game Thoughts
- Nate Swift is having a bigger season than even I expected, and I predicted 2nd-team All Big 12, which he should easily do if he keeps it up. Of course, I don't think he'll be putting up 11 catches for 120 and two TDs every week, but still, even grabbing five or six catches a game through the rest of the season would put him in in 60+ catch territory. But after 8 catches in the first half last week and the 11 from today, he's obviously on fire right now. Living in Minnesota, it's fun to hassle our friends and remind them that if Swift had stayed here to play for the Gophers, they'd have the best white receiver combo in college football if he was teamed with Eric Decker. Let's just say I'm glad he defected to Lincoln.
-Still too many personal fouls, it's inexcusable and needs to be fixed. I said the exact thing last weekend.
- I ragged on the defense in the first half, but they did a great job in the 2nd half to shut Baylor out, though the hobbling of Griffin was a huge help in that area.
- Larry Asante continues to baffle me. What is so frustrating is that he can seem like a playmaker one minute and then look like a 3rd-grader attempting a tackle. The safety play is an on-going issue, as Baylor had several guys open downfield today that Griffin luckily missed. OU won't make the same mistakes.
- We still need to fix tackling problems throughout the defense. If Baylor can gash us for long runs, what is a healthy Demarco Murray going to do?
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Some more ISU/NU thoughts:
- Shawn Watson is en fuego. That's two consecutive games that he has called pretty much perfectly, at least in my opinion. Against ISU, the Huskers had 41 rushing attempts and 37 passing attempts, a near perfect balance that enabled them to efficiently rack up over 500 yards of offense and once again possess the ball for basically 2/3rds of the game. Any time you can keep the opposing offense off the field for 40 out of 60 minutes, you're doing a damn good job of piecing drives together.
- Does anyone else wonder if we might have made a bowl game or even better last year if Joe Ganz had been starting the entire time? I never really wanted to be part of the what-if-Ganz started crowd, but every time he comes out and completes over 70% of his passes I can't help but wonder. I know Keller completed 63% last year, but take into account that a good portion of his 205 completions last year went to Marlon Lucky, who had 75 catches. Ganz has been lethal in terms of ball distribution this season, and it's gotten to the point that you really don't know which way he's going to go with it. I'll be honest, watching the offense has been thrilling the past few weeks, and hopefully this execution continues. The amazing thing is that despite the gaudy completion percentage, Joe still only ranks 5th among Big-12 quarterbacks.
- Marlon Lucky: 15 carries for 74 yards. Roy Helu: 6 for 66. Quentin Castille: 11 for 70. Makes it hard to defend a running game when you have 3 backs with significantly different styles who all can carry the load if asked. Part of the credit goes to Watson, who is doing a good job of not making any back a "situational" guy. Whenever this happens, all you're really doing is tipping off the defense as to what might be coming. By not pigeon-holing any guy into one role, Watson is keeping a lot of options open for the offense, and as a result, every guy is producing.
- Through the first few games, I was concerned that my pre-season Nate Swift prediction was going to turn out like a lot of other famous declarations by me and be proven false. Luckily, the offense has kicked it up a couple of gears and you're seeing the results I thought would be regular occurence. Not that I thought Swift was going to put up 8 catches and 112 yards and a touchdown every game, but I figured he'd be getting more production than he had. Against ISU, he contributed the previously mentioned stat line in the first half, including a highlight catch-and-run for the games first touchdown (though it may have as much to do with Iowa State's inability to properly tackle him). Swifty currently sits just 7 catches behind Johnny Rodgers for the school record, and it could come as early as this week if Ganz gets going.
- Yardage total aside, no excuse can be made for fumbling the ball 5 times. You can get away with it against ISU, but we're going to need to protect the ball better the rest of the way if we're going to beat teams like OU and Kansas.
- Wasn't it refreshing to see the defense flying around and making plays for the first time in forever? Holding any team to 218 yards of offense is a job well done, especially when one third of them comes on one play (the 67-yard TD by Robinson in the 3rd).
- Nice hit, Ricky. Good to have you back, and I think I speak for us all when I say we'd love to see that become a regular occurrence.
-How fun was it to watch the D-line on Saturday? Suh was living in the ISU backfield, and all four of the starters were making their presence felt throughout the game. Seeing Potter come off the edge for a blindside sack was especially exciting, I love it when the QB can't see you coming, it's like teeing up with your driver......it might not look pretty, but no matter what, it's going to be hit hard. That said, it'll be a much bigger test for them this week as the opposing QB is a stud sprinter, and we all know the struggles the Big Red have had containing mobile quarterbacks.
- Is Armando Murillo emerging as a lock-down corner? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. But he made several nice plays on Saturday, including a very athletic pass break-up as well as a fumble recovery in the 3rd, and I never really saw him get beat at all. He's starting to get it just in time for the stretch run.
-The punting situation needs to be fixed, and sooner rather than later. Like, this week.
- Came out pretty lethargic in the 3rd quarter, something I hate to see after Callahan became an expert on how to lose games in that portion of the game. It's important to come out and re-establish your will on a team after you have a first half like that, and I think the whole team knows that they need to work on slamming the door shut when they find themselves in that position.
- This was an important win for us, as it helped establish some momentum for the rest of the season, something we need after going 3-3 in the first half. If the team plays like that the rest of the way, every game looks winnable save for the OU game in Norman. I'm not going to get ahead of myself and predict that's what's going to happen, because this team is still definitely a work in progress. But thankfully, last Saturday was definitely a sign of that progress, and it judging from the glowing press tidbits we've been seeing this week, this is a team that believes the ship has been righted and is in position to have some fun the rest of the year. Believe it or not, the Big 12 North is still up for grabs, as Kansas is the only team in the division with a 2-1 record right now, whereas the rest of the members are sitting at 1-2. KU, by the way, still has to play Texas Tech, Texas, and the Huskers. Anything is possible (though I'd hate to see us go to the Big 12 title game only to get embarassed by Texas, like Colorado in 2004).
Some other Big 12 thoughts:
- How good are Colt McCoy and Texas? I don't complete 80% of my passes on NCAA '09, and McCoy has that completion percentage halfway through the season. It's just mind blowing how efficient he's become, and his ability to run the ball if need be is going to help him win the Heisman when it's all said and done.
- What happened to Mizzou the past two weeks? After they demolished the Huskers, I thought I was looking at the eventual Big 12 Champion. Two losses later (the second one an ass-kicking by the Longhorns), they are in a dogfight to win the Big 12 North. It'll be interesting to see how Daniel and his team respond to the adversity they now face. If they continue to struggle, could we see something along the lines of the Huskers last year? I don't think they'll get shut out of a bowl or anything, but I could see them losing to Kansas and missing the conference title game altogether.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
How do you see the Huskers finishing the 2008 season? Final win loss/record?
While I don't think it's likely, NU has the ability to go 5-1 in the second half of the season. Realistically though, I see the Huskers finishing this part of the schedule 4-2, with an obvious loss to Oklahoma and then losing to Kansas or Colorado in a close game where we don't force any turnovers and have 12 penalties for 100 yards, which would be par for the course when it comes to this season. I think that we'll finish the regular season 7-5 and beat a Big 10 team in the Insight Bowl. It's what I predicted before the season, and I'm sticking to it here.
What is the most disappointing aspect of NU's performance in the first half of the season?
The lack of a running game, particularly after all the sunshine we had pumped up our ass during the preseason, is my choice for this question. I just can't believe that with the "stable" of stud backs we have and supposed bull-dozing offensive line, that we can't get more yardage on the ground. The penchant for penalties is my 2nd place finisher here, those flags have legitimately cost us 2 games, whether it be dumb personal foul calls or drive-killing holding/false start penalties.
Through 6 games, what do you think of the defense coming off of last year's debacle? Have they improved more or less than you thought they would?
The effort has no doubt improved, and you can't argue that the numbers are better. I think a lot of people expected them to take a quantum leap, but Pelini has gone to great lengths to describe it as a work in progress, which he was smart to do because the defense has been terrible at creating turnovers and pass coverage. I don't know whether the schemes are that complicated or our safeties are that bad, but either way it has to be addressed fast. Hopefully the return of Cody Glenn and Ricky Thenarse will help. I'll be honest, I was one of those people who expected a big leap. And compared to last year's showing, we really can't complain. Sure, the Huskers have struggled to create turnovers and have given up a fair amount of big plays. The difference is that this year you can see that they actually care that they are giving them up, and they definitely turn it up a notch in the red zone, whereas last year they might have folded. Overall, with the exception of a few busted coverages, I can't complain too much, though that might be because after last year I would take any sign of improvement as a reason to rejoice.
With the reality that the Big 12 may now be as tough as the SEC, how does that bode for Nebraska's attempt to regain it's former status? How long of an uphill climb do we have to re-join the leaders of the conference?
It's going to be more difficult than it would have been 5 years ago, there's no doubt about it. Mizzou is going to be tough for years to come, Colorado will continue to improve, and Kansas will be a solid team. I still think that the Big 12 isn't yet to the point of being in SEC territory yet, and my reason is this: in the Big 12, there's no doubt that UT and OU still hold sway and will always be the prohibitive favorites. This is in contrast to the SEC, where every year it's a brawl with one bloodied team emerging from the scrum at the end of the year, and you're never entirely sure who is going to be the last team standing. The Big 12 has come a long ways, but we are still top-heavy in my opinion.
That said, I think Nebraska is still going to need all of NEXT season to work through the kinks and get some new players into Pelini's system before they are going to challenge anyone for a conference title. I think that 2010 would be the most realistic year where we could make a run at something, if only because I don't think that there is enough talent in place right now to win next year. Unless we get a freakish recruiting class along the lines of Alabama's last year (and that's not going to happen), we are still a ways out. I'd say 9 or 10 wins next year is possible, then make a run after that.
Most disappointing/surprising players for NU thus far?
Surprising: Cody Glenn. Who would have thought that a converted running back would be our best defensive player? He's the heart and soul of the defense, and a pleasant surprise at a position we desperately needed help at.
Disappointing: Marlon Lucky/ Larry Asante. Marlon still has the skills to be a good back, but you can only get away with showing flashes of it when you're a freshmen or sophomore. When you're a senior, it's time to turn it on every game. He showed how dangerous he was last week as a receiver out of the backfield, but I still think he has to show more in the running game, though that may be a product of poor line play.
Asante still can't cover or properly fill gaps in the run game. I would go into greater detail, but I don't like beating dead horses.
Make sure to check out all the other Husker blog responses. I'll be adding more of their responses as they roll in.
Big Red Network
Monday, October 13, 2008
It was a stomach punch game, one that undoubtedly doubled over many players as well as Husker fans. We HAD IT. Everything that NU had to do to steal a win was there, but unfortunately for anyone with an "N" on their apparell, the Huskers also brought the gun to Lubbock. You know, the gun that they've shot themselves in the foot with for countless games over the past few years? It's the one that LeKevin Smith used against the same Red Raiders when he fumbled away a win in 2005. It's the same gun that Terrence Nunn used against Texas in the 2006 snow game. Yet again, we found a way to lose a winnable game. Two consecutive holding penalties pushed us out of field goal range before half, taking away an opportunity for 3 points that would have eventually won us the game. Joe Ganz, playing lights-out, gets sacked trying to get rid of the ball, but because of the man wrapped around his legs, the ball goes directly to a defender. For 10 years, we got the breaks. Now, it seems that they are dead-set against us.
During the 3rd quarter, I mentioned to my brother, "You know, you'd think that after the past 5 years, especially our games against Tech, that maybe football karma will go our way this time." I could not have been more wrong. The interception was especially painful, but you shake it off because without Joe Ganz, we aren't even in position to win this game. But the real ammunition for the shoot-our-foot gun was once again penalties. I can't remember seeing a less-disciplined Nebraska offensive unit in my lifetime, it's simply astounding how many drive-killing penalties one team can have. Really, you take those away, I think we win this game, and I know I'm not the only one.
The one thing that all of us know though is that wouldas, shouldas, and couldas don't count for a damn thing in the standings. All that matters is the W or the L, and no matter how much hope NU may take out of this game, the bitterness all of Husker Nation is tasting today will not reside for some time. I had a coach once who told me that at the end of the day, winners make plays, plain and simple. We were one play short, and that's all that people will see when they look at our record at the end of the season, not two "shoulda" games against Va Tech and the Red Raiders.
Some more quick-hit thoughts on NU/Texas Tech:
- Attn: Nebraska Safeties
RE: Coverage Responsibilities
Guys, that guy running free behind you? Yeah, you should cover him instead of letting him jet by unimpeded. Thanks.
- The spot was questionable, but my real question about Castille's carry on 4th down at the TT 30 was this: how does a massive man like Q get literally stopped on a dime? Once he was hit by that guy, he went straight down. I figured that a guy that big would take at least two or three feet to stop, but apparently even the biggest of trees can be taken down in one fell swoop.
- Todd Peterson was BOC in the 4th quarter. For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym, he was Balling Outta Control.......talk about some clutch catches, my hat's off to you Petey.
- For a guy whose defenses were known for creating turnovers, we haven't seen much from Pelini's unit this year. Tech was the 3rd consecutive game without one (and we REALLY needed one this time). That aside, it's hard to get interceptions when nobody is covering the opposing team's receivers.
-The lack of depth was never more apparent when we realized that a true freshmen walk-on was our starting inside linebacker. If you're a recruit looking for immediate playing time at a tradition-rich and desperate school, look no further than the University of Nebraska.
I don't even want to discuss this game further, let's just get to ISU on Saturday.
Some assorted non-Husker thoughts from the weekend:
-Star Tribune's main headline on the sports page Sunday morning: "The Toast of Champaign". It went on to say that Minnesota's win over a 3-3 Illinois team was a "defining" victory for Brewster's crew, which is hilarious because despite the win, the supposedly "much-improved" defense still gave up 500 yards of offense to Juice Williams alone. The Gophers newfound success, coupled with NU's struggles, is making this season just as hard to stomach as last year. And yes, this is just a bitter man trying to nitpick a team's rapid improvement over a season ago. Congrats to the Gophs for your success. Next year, if Nebraska is smart, they'll make sure ALL of their non-conference games are complete patsies, and then go into the hapless Big 10 to continue their success. Seriously, the Gophers have played one decent team thus far (Ohio State) and have one decent team left to beat (Wisconsin). One of the weakest schedules in the country in my opinion, thanks to the garbage Big 10 (Penn State excluded, of course).
- Was Okie State's win over Mizzou an abberation, or Zac Robinson and Co. that good? All of a sudden, the North isn't looking as strong as it did before the season. Colorado (like I predicted in the preseason) is still a year away, NU obviously has issues, Iowa State and K-State are nothing special, and Kansas is not near as good as they were last year on the defensive side of the ball. I still think the Big 12 is barely below the SEC, but I'll be shocked if we have anyone left standing at the end of the season, because this conference is a meatgrinder. I think that with rare exceptions (meaning teams from weaker conferences like the Pac 10/Big 10), we won't see many undefeated national champs anymore. One loss will be far more common in the current college football climate.
- The Red River Shootout was quite a game to watch, and it was crazy to see Gunslinger 2.0 out there. Colt McCoy, rebounding off last year's disappointing campaign, is bigger and stronger than he was a year ago and has mastered the offense. I really hate when people go to college and somehow keep growing another two or three inches. Why is it that I stopped growing at 6'1" in the 8th grade? McCoy has grown 2 inches since he arrived in Austin, and his game is rising in turn.
Friday, October 10, 2008
No such luck.
For the second year in a row, we got our asses beat by Mizzou on national television. Adding insult to injury, Daniel accused a still-unnamed Husker player of spitting on him, also calling our entire team "dirty". While the spitting is inexcusable, at least we were punishing their QB consistently, even if it was after he had already thrown the ball. The question is, how do you get to the QB if he throws the ball in less than 2 seconds?
It's a problem that Pelini is no doubt addressing this week in preparations for Texas Tech. I don't even want to think about what's going to happen in Lubbock. Obviously, the same crap we were preaching about last week (ball control, keeping the opposing offense off the field, running the ball, etc) applies to this week as well....the question is, will it actually happen this time? I'm not getting my hopes up. Our run game is, in a word, awful. I don't care how many quotes I have to read from people saying "It was really close, we're one missed assignment away" and s*it like that. You know why? Because those are excuses, and to quote a wise man, they're like assholes because everyone has one. If it was really one missed assignment, how does it seem to happen on every damn play? We seem to be amazingly consistent at just missing a big play.
For a few weeks now, a lot of people (myself included) have bitched and moaned that maybe if Helu had more of Lucky's reps that we would start being more effective. Well it's become blatantly apparent that the running backs are the least of our problems. Whether it's the gameplan, the mindset of an offensive line that has been accustomed to dropping into pass blocking for the past four years, or whatever, something has to be done to fix the running game or we will continue to get our asses kicked by the high-octane offenses of the Big 12.
So where do we go from here? I was one of those people who thought 8 or 9 wins was realistic this year, but anyone who has seen the Huskers the past couple of weeks knows that bowl eligibility is really what we should be shooting for at this point. I'm not sure whether Iowa State has improved that much or Kansas just had a rough week, but all of a sudden the match-up in Ames doesn't look like a sure thing anymore. At least we still have Baylor on the schedule.....though it seems that they are steadily improving as well. I really don't know what to think anymore. But when fans are half-joking about selling their fandom, which my brother did (though he quickly brushed it off) after the Mizzou loss, it's become apparent that this is going to be another rough fall. The bright side tomorrow? At least with the Red River Shootout and LSU-Florida going on tomorrow, the attention should be off of us for the most part.
Like Andy Dufrense, I am clinging to hope like it's all I have, because we are going to need it to get through this season and the cold winter ahead. I still believe we have the right guy, I still believe that the football Gods will again smile upon us, but it won't be this year. That said, if there was ever time to steal a game, tomorrow would be it. Well, that or in Norman in a couple of weeks......
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
But his inability to live up to the hype may be what he is remembered for than anything else. And it's not fair, because any guy who rushes for over 1000 yards and has over 75 catches as a running back doesn't have to prove himself to anyone. Of course, this whole paragraph may be pointless, because he could still be the starter come Saturday. But the odds are that Helu will start to get more and more touches, with Marlon relegated to the 8 carries/3 catches a game role that we expected Helu to be in this season.
Some other thoughts:
- Hope everyone enjoyed the Big 12's rise to power in the non-conference season. Now that we are getting into the real part of the schedule, it'll turn into an SEC-type bloodbath where we just beat up on each other, only to have maybe one team still in contention for a national title. Remember last year, where all Mizzou had to do was win the title game to secure a NC game appearance, only to lose to OU? It's going to happen again folks.
- I'm torn on all the "We want to shut them out" talk coming from NU this week. Don't get me wrong, I believe confidence, bordering on cockiness, is healthy for a defensive unit, maybe even necessary. You want them to have that swagger. My problem is, we haven't earned that confidence yet, and must I remind everyone of Andre Jones promising to restore the order, only to have it restored all over his face against USC a couple years back? Be confident. Have that swagger. But wait till Saturday to unleash it, because it's going to look real dumb when Maclin puts up 300 all-purpose yards on us.
- This isn't about football, but how unbelievably dumb is the commercial where a bunch of guy are sitting in a recording studio and all of a sudden they spontaneously start playing "Viva Viagra" and laughing together? Really, guy with E.D. find it funny that they can't get it up? And how embarrassing would it be if the producer was recording at the time and put it on their next album?
- The "insert-color-here-out" has officially passed the point where it's cool. It passed the novelty point long ago, but now that they are bringing it to baseball (White Sox did it against the Twins last night), can we move on past this and have fans start wearing whatever they want again? I mean, if teams really wanted to be original, they would have a "30's Day" where everyone would wear suits and fedora hats like it was back in the day. Is it just me, or was that one of the cooler times in sports? I always see that old footage and think it's pretty bad ass that every guy in the stadium was dressed like Frank Sinatra.