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Khus the Red

Momentum Monumental

Once in a while, it is fun to drop the difficulty level down on a videogame and dominate an opponent, just to see what 600 yards rushing in the first quarter looks like. Or perhaps drop the command console down, type give_all_weapons and stride through alien hallways jacked to the teeth with obscene amounts of firepower. It’s a short-lived kick, a hollow victory, and you don’t learn much about your ability.

Likewise you usually can’t tell much from beating the scat out of the Baylor Bears, but there is something significant to take from this game. NU was able to find offensive success after a slow start and take momentum and command of the game in the second quarter. We relied on our power runner, Jackson, and threw him at a defense that was counting on us to run. Caveat here: It was still only Baylor, but running successfully against any stacked front is…good. Baylor in my estimation is better than Western Illinois and Pitt, but they were the last gimme of the year.

The most positive thing to see is that this is the first game in which we saw the opposite progression from how they have gone all year so far. Before this game, NU was not able to sustain momentum over four quarters against even the weakest opponent. This game helps put 70-10 into a little perspective. If one subscribes to the thought that last Saturday night in Lubbock was what is in store, Mr. Alberts, the next equally logically false premise is that Texas Tech is 92 points better than Baylor. In this era of D1 college football, you have to have to select teams that have quite a lot of distance between each other on the list before you find two that are 92 points apart. That is just another way of saying that trying to assess the progress of this team is far more complex than 70-10 tells you, and certainly 59-27 as well. This is evident to anyone who has the intellectual capacity to pronounce their own name correctly.

A curious thing about this team is how sensitive it is to momentum. It’s not only the inertia of slow starts, because we lose it quickly as well. The usual factors contribute to this; inexperience, youth, new system, et. al, but the most significant factor is mistakes; a handful committed by a team as inexperienced as this one soon becomes an avalanche. This team has been remarkably low in penalties, especially on the OL, and it’s amazing how zero turnovers translates to the more pleasant end of half-a-hundred-plus. In a year or two when the system is familiar to players who have experience in it or learn it right off the bus, this will be an interesting creature to watch.

Dailey’s first pass was perhaps the worst decision he made all day. Pressure got through the line, and he immediately looked for Herian, who had two defenders actually inside his jersey. It was a ball begging to be tipped, which it was, and landed just between two Baylor secondary players, either of which would have loved to get an INT in the second play of the game.

The good news is that Joe has a healthy fight-or-flight impulse, which will help him in situations when his life is in danger. Such acute survival instincts helped Joe’s genetic ancestors when threatened by a saber-toothed tiger: “Find stick! KILL IT! KILL IT!” The bad news is that when threatened by a linebacker, this translates into: “Find primary! FORCE IT! FORCE IT!” This is the mentality of a young quarterback, and you can see it in his footwork. As the game progressed, we saw very little of the pocket skittishness and back-foot-throwing that has plagued his timing and delivery all season. But Saturday, passes were on time and on target, the INT stat category was empty and Joe was in the record books. Congratulations, Mr. Dailey; this day belongs to you. The OL deserves some credit for this, but they won’t be able to give Joe the same amount of time against most of the teams we’ve yet to face.

A strong performance against a weak team does not absolve what happened in Lubbock. However, we have seen utterly demoralizing defeats like Black Saturday cause a coaching staff to lose their team, but Callahan and Co. were able to prevent that from happening. Now the task facing this staff is keeping that momentum through the week and finding a way to make it translate into execution in Manhattan.

This team is somewhere between 70-10 and 59-27. Exactly were that is, it is time to find out. In that regard, it would be more useful if KSU’s quarterback Meier played, but if Meier doesn’t play, our chances increase dramatically. In the preseason I said this game will come down to which quarterback has developed more, and that is still true. Joe doesn’t need a perfect game to beat the lavender ones, but he’ll need time in the pocket. Coach Wagner, feed your boys steak and rage this week.

Colorado and Iowa State are eminently beatable. Missouri has payback waiting for them on the eve of All Hallows Eve. Manhattan is there for the taking, and so is Kansas City.

Everything is yet wide open.

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