Last week I
did not mention the defense and their disquieting performance against
Baylor. This week I will mention the defense, and gentle words such as
“disquieting” will not be used.
You may think
you have seen poor tackling before. You may think you have seen players
overrun completely unnecessarily and yank themselves embarrassingly out
of position. You may think you have seen pathetic performances from a
Nebraska defense in recent years. You may think that you’ve seen
it all just because you’ve seen a man eat his own head, but you
haven’t seen it all until you’ve witnessed Allen Webb channel
the spirit of Jake Plummer, despite having a fraction of the talent.
at K-State was so disturbing that an entire Internet subculture of Husker
sadomasochistic social deviants has surfaced, paid the $9.95 to Nside
and now watches the game footage over and over instead of employing the
usual fishhooks in the nipples, which have become quite humdrum by comparison.
Even the three turnovers could have been overcome. This game should not
have been close. The offense was able to trade punches for a while, but
it should not have had to absorb the blows it did.
what many are saying, I do not think the fundamental problem on defense
is confusion. The T-Tech and Baylor games stand out in everyone’s
mind, but in the games prior we attacked and generated pressure. Recently
we scheme away from the attack at times, but at other times we attack
and it is simply ineffective. We routinely rushed four, five and six---six!---men
in Manhattan, only to see them all get blocked quite effectively. There
was no 3-down front. Their option plays should never have gone for a fraction
of the yards they did; we usually had a man tracking the QB to force the
pitch, but whether or not he did made little difference. Webb would simply
turn his shoulders and a Blackshirt would turn his head as Webb ran by.
Sproles repeatedly split defenders that should have been violently inserting
their shoulder pads into his abdominal cavity. Poor angles, poor pursuit,
poor pressure, poor anticipation, poor technique, poor, poor Nebraskans
living in Kansas. This game was disastrously similar to Iowa State 2002.
There is one
solitary positive to take, and take it for all it’s worth. Early
in the week Cosgrove has accepted the responsibility for the public self-beheading,
while at least one player has done the same on behalf of the players.
However, as Matt Davison reported in the second quarter that on the sidelines
the defense was, to paraphrase, comatose, I immediately became alarmed.
It reminded me too much of what someone said once upon a time:
coach fails to get a team ready for war in the most critical games of
the year, that's not a problem. That's a tragedy of galactic proportions.”
This Red one
said that, following the Kansas State game last year.
Watch the game
and you see a team that displayed a lack of fundamentals, a lack of speed,
a lack of energy, a lack of a playmaker, a lack of adrenaline. There was
not, however, a lack of effort. In fact, at times there were errors of
eagerness that cause the overruns and poor angles.
I have repeatedly
reminded us of the need for patience. This is for two reasons: One, because
there is no choice. To even think the phrase “Fire (fill in the
blank)” is a foolish waste of synaptic impulses. And two: Neither
bitterness nor resignation nor apathy nor whistling past the graveyard
sits well with this Red one. We have watched and waited, and we’re
not done doing either. Myopia is the enemy of rationality, even—and
especially—when current trends are disturbing.
is next year. But there is also the rest of this year. We keep seeing
different personalities from this Nebraska team every week; not once this
season have we seen this team find and maintain its stride on both sides
of the ball from the opening kick to the final gun. We have seen this
coaching staff ask too much of its key players and we’ve seen them
gameplan to their strengths. We have seen the limitations of a young quarterback
and the promise of a young running back who makes jersey number 32 look
an awful lot like the 1994 version of jersey number 1. This team is not
done playing, and I am not done bearing the gameday battleaxe. Call it
an exercise in perseverance, fanaticism or sheer blind faith. I call it
an exercise in patience.
is the most critical of the must-win games that face us. Missouri has
superior athleticism to every team we will yet face except for the Sooners.
This will be every bit the dangerous game that many thought it would be
at the beginning of the year, despite Mizzou’s fall from grace.
We can afford to lose to OU, win the other games and win the North, bizarre
as that seems. But we must have this game. Instead of preparing for a
mobile quarterback who barely knew the playbook, Cosgrove and Elmassian
now must plan how to contain Brad Smith. On Saturday, the Blackshirts
made Allen Webb look like Ell Roberson. If they play like that again,
they will make Brad Smith look like Michael Vick.
It will be
interesting to see how the defensive coaches map this one; neither sitting
in coverage and giving Smith eight seconds to pick you apart nor chasing
him out of the pocket will work. We do not have a linebacker fast enough
to spy Smith all game, and we certainly cannot afford to pull someone
out of the secondary in base defenses. We may well play much of the game
in a dime to help do that as often as we can.
We’ll find out soon enough. See you in Lincoln.