Please forgive the tardy post this week.
It’s not just because the Huskers lost unprettily.
So in an effort to pass on the family
tradition of Husker mania, I succeeded in goading my 13-year old into
attending NU-USC by telling her things like “Biggest game of the
year,” “Broadcast in HDTV to the entire nation,” and
“Will Ferrell will be there.” Those, I discovered, were winning
selling points. That and the opportunity to see Lil’ Red.
“Going to a game with dad,”
was way down on the cool-factor list, but, frankly, I was pleased it charted
For a quarter and a half, the game was
everything I’d hoped for. Then, of course, reality had to set in.
The Huskers’ on-the-field performance wasn’t worthy of…well,
a lot of things. The inside-the-stadium pre-game buildup was incredible,
utterly incredible. (What’s not to love about that environment and
your fellow Nebraska fans?) The performance on the field was incredible,
though, in other ways. It’s a sad thing to have known at halftime
that the game was basically over and that the longer my daughter and I
stayed, the uglier it would get.
I would describe the overall experience
like going to your favorite restaurant to order your favorite menu item,
sitting down, ordering, and then having different food brought to you.
“This isn’t what I ordered,” you politely say. “Well,
that’s what we have.” But the menu still says your favorite
item’s name on it.
When I stripped off my “fan hat”
(at times, actually, my daughter’s cornhead), I realized that we
looked exactly like a team playing with four new starters along the defensive
line, plus a new D-line coach. Last year’s line, one of the few
bright spots in the game at the Coliseum last season, has four out of
four players from it now in the NFL. John Blake is also elsewhere. That’s
not an excuse; just something I noted.
Later we learn that Husker coaches had
refrained from full-contact practices, a fact which I see the OWH has
played up quite a bit. That’s a good coaching move when it cuts
down on injuries. Bad when your team looks bad on the national stage.
Every year, it seems we get a slightly different version of the “Players
and Callahan stand behind Kevin Cosgrove” stories. Our new line
has some good, albeit inexperienced players. That’s still no reason
we should be utterly dominated by a USC O-line that has only one senior
starter. USC’s obviously one of the top two or three teams in the
country. But…yeah, it’s not like there weren’t red flags
raised by the Wake Forest game that should have been addressed (tackling,
Larry Asante hasn’t been doing much
“assassinating” thus far this season. I just see a lot of
missed tackles; plays that should be stopped for little or no gain, but
instead turn into huge yardage. I’ve seen our current fifth-string
running back tackle better. In general, the secondary hasn’t tackled
particularly well, nor did USC even have to test them through the air.
Our linebackers, other than Octavien, seem a step slow and a step behind.
There were some good things to take away
from the USC game. Keller’s play was better than Taylor’s
last year. Our secondary didn’t get torched through the air by a
bevy of receivers better matched against NFL competition.
Not that it matters at this point, but
#7 for USC simply could not cover Purify. Every time Purify was lined
up against him, you could just see it. Often, though, Purify was either
not in the game, lined up on the other side, or the play call was a run.
The passing game still had its moments. The running game? Yeesh.
This team needs some work fast or it will
be a long, long season.
Meanwhile, Lil’ Red was good, as
All I can really say about Ball St. is
that they were nearly bowl-eligible last year. And they only lost at Michigan
last year by 8. This was back when Michigan was good last year, before
the Appalachian State debacle this season. Therein lies the risk.
This year’s Huskers need someone
to step up and provide a spark like Brandon Jackson did last season. This
week’s as good a time as any to start looking for some candidates.
voice of the Scarlet Commentary is Jeffrey Leever, a Nebraska
native who now writes for an advertising agency in Kansas
City. He is a 1994 graduate of the University of Nebraska
(Kearney) and author of the suspense novels Dark
Friday and Even
has been known to include a tribute to Tommie Frazier and
other Nebraska references in his novels. His website is www.jeffreyleever.com.