Well, Nebraska will be playing two more times in 2011, instead of one more time. What an all-around ugly performance today by the Huskers, with the exception of LB Lavonte David. I can’t believe I thought the Huskers deserved BCS consideration after watching them play today.
First Down: Mobile QB does in the Blackshirts again – I’ve been saying it for awhile, if the Blackshirts (scratch that)…if the defense could contain Denard Robinson they were going to win the game. That did not happen as Robinson had his best game of the season. Michigan rolled all over the defense (except Lavonte David) and wore them out. It wouldn’t have mattered if Jared Crick was healthy, there was no way the Huskers were winning today. I’m surprised at how easy it was for Michigan to move the ball. The Huskers get their third loss of the season, and again at the hands of a mobile QB. (And they’re lucky OSU QB Braxton Miller got injured in their game or else it’d be four losses.)
Second Down: Second half meltdown – The game was over when Kenny Bell fumbled the second half kickoff. The defense had already been on the field too long in the first half, and right away they are back on the field to open the second half because of the turnover. Michigan keeps running it right down the field, wearing the defense down. They score a touchdown to go up 24-10. Of course, the Huskers would add further insult by making key mistakes and turnovers on special teams. It forced the defense to be on the field even longer, winding them even more, and leading to more Michigan points. The offense looked like it regressed when it had the ball. All-around, it was Bill Callahan era-esque in the second half. That’s not a name Husker fans want associated with their team at any point again.
Third Down: Depth issues – The defense being on the field for so long is troublesome, but even more so is the fact that its starters taking a majority of those snaps. There is no depth on either side of the ball. Case in point, in the first half Lavonte David comes out for a snap to catch his breath. He singlehandedly had been keeping the Huskers in the game up to that point. He comes out, Denard Robinson keeps it and runs it in for a touchdown. No wonder the coaches are riding their starters. I know there have been some injuries, but these recruits are all Coach Bo Pelini’s. They’ve been in his system since day one. Why aren’t the backups playing more? Are they that bad? Who’s fault is that? We lauded what Pelini did with Bill Callahan’s recruits, and thought the defense would step up even more once he had his own recruits to develop. This hasn’t been the case.
Fourth Down: Stop the excuse making – The Huskers are apparently wearing down, and I’m starting to hear excuses for it. It’s the schedule, the adjustment to the Big Ten, injuries, newcomers playing, the players aren’t executing/trusting the system, new offensive system, it’s been an emotional grind…blah, blah, blah. That doesn’t excuse getting hammered by Michigan 45-17, and the score probably should’ve been worse. (And don’t even play the ref card. Yeah, the officiating wasn’t great, but the Huskers weren’t winning regardless.) Other than the second quarter touchdown pass, the Huskers didn’t do much on offense. (Wait, they did impress Urban Meyer with their third quarter play call that went for a touchdown. That counts for something…or not.) Maybe it’s all those excuses that are factors, but every team has issues. Every team has injuries. Every team has players that are worn down at this point. Lots of teams have to deal with new coaches and systems, like Michigan for example. Good teams overcome all that. If you’re making excuses as to why you’re losing, maybe you’re not as good as you think. The Huskers are not as good as we think. They are a borderline top 25 team.
Looking Ahead: Nebraska needs to finish strong by beating Iowa. A win, and they are 9-3, with a chance for 10 wins depending on the bowl game matchup. If they don’t beat Iowa, it’s not going to be a fun offseason for the program. I saw some on Twitter saying Pelini should be fired, which is ridiculous at this point. (Husker fans, be grateful it’s not Turner Gill coaching the team right about now.) However, if Iowa beats Nebraska you can expect Pelini to be on the receiving end of the harshest criticism yet. The coaches’ prognostication that the 2011 team could have their best defense yet will haunt Bo. He can’t continue to play the card of the players aren’t trusting/executing within his system. His recruiting will be looked at closer, developing his own players will be discussed, what the team does with Taylor Martinez will be revisited…a gloom will be over the program. Last year that wasn’t the case because everyone was ready to be done with the Big 12 and play in the Big Ten. There won’t be that light at the end of the tunnel this time if the Huskers lose to Iowa.