HUSKERS: TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE, TOO BAD
(CAUTION: YOU ARE ABOUT TO ENTER A SPIN ZONE THAT FEATURES BRIEF GLIMPSES OF FULL FRONTAL SATIRE AND PARODY, WITH OCCASIONAL LAME ATTEMPTS AT HUMOR. ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK.)
I'm back. I feel much better. It's amazing what 25,000 volts will do to a guy. I had so much residual juice in me, that Mrs. Husker Dan plugged her vacuum sweeper into me (don't ask me how she did it) and I had enough amps in to do the entire family room, the upstairs hallway and half the living room.
Right now, Husker fans are in a funk. They are mad, stunned, shocked, bitter, depressed, angry, and feel they have been seduced and abandoned. They have seen their once powerful Big Red Machine reduced to the level of mediocrity-something they thought they'd never see in their lifetime.
I'm going to tell you my thoughts on the state of Husker affairs. I'm not trying to persuade anyone-I'm just going to share my thoughts.
HUSKERS HURTIN' FOR CERTAIN
Here's partial recap of this year's Husker Hurt List:
1.) A losing season for the first time since 1961.
2.) Not going to a bowl game for the first time since 1968.
3.) The worst loss in Husker history, losing to T-Tech, 70-10.
4.) A winless November for the first time since 1957.
5.) A quarterback who set the all time passing yardage for a game.
6.) That same quarterback set the all time record for interceptions for a season at 19.
7.) Losing to K-State three years in a row for the first time ever.
8.) Losing to Colorado 3 out of the past 4 years
9.) Losing to Iowa State 2 out of the last 3 years.
10.) Being absent from the AP rankings for an entire season for the first time since 1962.
11.) A defense that gave up almost 372 yards per game.
CU AT HOME
To understand the season is to look at the Colorado game. It was a game the Huskers could have and should have won. The onside kick by Nebraska to start the game was successful (Good), but things went downhill shortly after that. The offense quickly went 3 and out in their first series (Bad). CU scored on a 90 yard drive to go ahead 7-0 (Worse). Joe Dailey threw another interception and the Huskers were down 10-0 (Even Worse), then after a couple of Bobby Purify runs, the Huskers are in a 17-0 hole (Terrible) before the Huskers score to make it 17-7. Another late first half score by yet another Husker opponent put the Huskers down 20-7 (Ohmigawd!) at the half. The game, the season and the streaks were all but dead. And the sad part was that most Husker fans knew it, too.
The late second half surge and the attempted onside kick by the Huskers were too little and way too late.
The defense's first half performance was embarrassing and put the Huskers in a hole they could never climb out of. I'm sure there are some high school teams in the country that would have put up more resistance than the our defense (I'm not going to refer to them as the Blackshirts) did in that first half.
Adjustments to the defense at the half (Good) helped the defense to hold the Buffs to 125 second half yards and allowed only 26 total yards in the 4th quarter. But again, it was too little and much too late before the sun set on the Huskers' season last Friday.
Joe Dailey, despite starting 11 games this year, never seemed to improve. He could not consistently hit wide open receivers and was never able to consistently find, or hit his secondary receivers. There were countless times, in many critical times, when there were receivers who were WIDE OPEN-no one within 15 or 20 yards of them, and Dailey not only didn't hit them, he didn't even look for them. His mechanics are still shaky. Joe is a nice kid, who has worked his tail off all year; never ducks responsibility and has continued to persevere. JD has shown flashes of talent, but he's not yet ready to be counted on.
THE POINT OF NO RETURNS
Forget the return game in the CU game or in any Husker game this year. This season, just catching the ball seemed to be perfectly okay with the coaches. If ever there was a year in which an offense desperately needed help with field position, it was this year's. What, in the name of Johnny Rodgers, DeJuan Groce, Josh Davis and Bobby Newcombe is going on here? Did we have no one this team who could catch the ball AND run with it? It's numbing to think there was no one who could do both.
Most Husker fans knew there would be tough times for the offense as it tried to learn the West Coast Offense. But what the most Husker fans thought, was that the Blackshirts would be able to carry the Huskers until the offense had a chance to mature.
Man, were we wrong.
Which begs the question, how can a defense fall so quickly from a team that returned 8 defensive starters from a defense that was ranked 11th in total defense the prior year? Did the three players who graduated in '03 (T.J. Hollowell, Ryon Bingham and Demorrio Williams) make THAT much of a difference?
I think the answer is yes. They did make a difference-especially Demorrio Williams. He made opposing offensive coordinators wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. DW was almost a one man wrecking crew. He made quarterbacks run for their lives; made them hurry their throws and forced them to throw ill-advised passes that were often picked off by the likes of Josh and Danny Bullocks. Ryon Bingham was solid at tackle and Hollowell and Ruud together were a force at linebacker. The loss of these three players can not be underestimated. And let's not forget Bo Pelini's influence.
Of course there were other problems plaguing the Husker defense this year. The '04 defense looked disorganized and with the exception of the Missouri game, looked uninspired. It was stunning to see time after time how our defense was shredded for big yards by inept offenses run by young and inexperienced quarterbacks. It was upsetting to hear Chad Sievers say after the CU game that he felt that not everyone on the defense bought into the new coaching schemes.
I don't think it would be fair to underestimate the effect of having to learn 3 new defensive schemes in as many years. I think the task was daunting. Should Cosgrove have simplified the defense this year? Did he give them too much too soon? I know one thing: If the defensive performance is not improved dramatically and quickly next year, Husker fans are going to fade faster than Enron stock.
The O line was a pleasant surprise. They lost their pre-season All Big 12 center before the year even began. Seppo moved from defense to the O line. Matt Herian went down in the Missouri game. Kurt Mann performed remarkably at center. The O line's pass blocking often gave Joe Dailey all day to find a receiver and opened enough holes that Pork Chop could squeeze through for over 1,000 yards. Kudos to Dennis Wagner (ex-Wayne State, Nebraska head coach) for putting together a good offensive line. With good players coming into the program, look for things to improve.
CATCH THEM IF YOU CAN
Turner Gill, in his first year as the Husker receivers coach, showcased a good fleet of receivers who ran good routes, who blocked well and caught the ball fairly well. Gill also had to contend with injuries to players such as Willie Amos, Ross "The Boss" Pilkington, Mark Fluellen and with the season-ending injury to tight end sensation, Matt Herian. Gill's corps of receivers managed to get open countless times, only to see passes under thrown, over thrown or intercepted. My sense is that Turner is not going to leave this program any time soon, not with the likes of Harrison Beck coming in next year. Turner and his receivers should be licking his chops thinking about how much fun they are going to have in '05.
Question: Which team has more first team All Big 12 players this year, Baylor or Nebraska?
Ans: Baylor (2) This is incredible! Baylor, for goodness sake!!!!
I know some of you who will disagree with me, but for the past 6 years, the Husker program has been in a state of decline talent-wise. All you have to do is look at the athletes USC, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State has. Clearly, the Huskers are not in the same league with these teams.
And yet, there are still fans who long for the days of Solich and the HOG. We'll never know what would have happened had a coaching change not been made, but Husker fans need to face reality. Frank isn't coming back. Tom isn't coming back. Harvey is not going anywhere-neither are Steve, Bill, Kevin or Phil or anyone else. Get over it, already. We have a new staff and we need to support them in every way we can.
In glancing back at this year of disappointment, with all the problems on offense, defense and special teams, with questionable play calling, one thought continues to move me.
If anyone were to ask me, "What is the one thing you would have changed that would have had the greatest positive impact on this year's Husker team?", I would answer, unequivocally: A quarterback who could find and hit primary and secondary receivers and not turn the ball over.
Had we had one of those players, we would have NEVER lost to Southern Mississippi and Colorado at home, or Iowa State and K-State on the road. One player. One position. One season. How many times did we have players wide open in game breaking situations, and we could not get the ball delivered to them? Had the Huskers had a competent quarterback, the Huskers would likely be sitting pretty at 8-3 or even at 9-2, with a date to play Oklahoma in Kansas City this Saturday and would have a nice bowl game invitation in our back pocket. Obviously, Dailey is not the sole reason we're at 5-6, but it goes to show how just one player can make a huge difference.
THE MISSING TRUMP CARD
Coach Callahan's trump card, Jordan Adams, never got a chance to play. Could Adams have been the difference this year? We'll never know.
WE'RE NUMBER ONE IN SOMETHING!
So far, the Huskers, on paper, have the number one rated recruiting class. Help is on the way. Is recruiting a guarantee to a national championship? Absolutely not. But great players can make most any coach look like a genius.
I hate losing as much as anyone else. Seeing the streaks fall this year has been difficult for all of us to take. A losing season. No bowl game. This year, Husker fans have to stand out in the cold, and are forced to peek through the window and watch everyone else inside enjoying all the goodies.
WE'RE STILL THE BEST
But as a long time Husker fan, I have never made the streaks a prerequisite for my being a Husker fan. I was a Husker fan before Devaney arrived and I was a Husker fan during Devaney's two 6-4 seasons in '67 and '68, when we went bowl-less (gasp!) two years in a row! Does the end of these streaks make our program any the less significant? I know it does this year, but my goodness, I challenge anyone to find a college football program in the country that has won more games, had more consecutive home sell-outs, had more Academic All Americans, been more consistent, and been more dominate over the past 40 plus years than the Nebraska Cornhuskers? Does any team have fans who are as devoted as Husker fans are? We are still the envy of the college football world and we need to carry ourselves that way.
NO MORE BOO'S FOR STEVE
I know there are many people who don't like Husker A.D. Steve Peterson-I have my own issues with him. I have been critical of Peterson's style, but have supported his decision to make a change in the head coaching position. It was a tough and very unpopular decision, but in the long run, the Husker football program will be better for his having done it. And for those of you who booed Steve Pederson during a ceremony honoring former Husker great Bob Brown, you should be ashamed of yourselves. If you have a beef with Steve, or anyone else, send him a personal letter or an email message, but for &*^%!# sakes, let's act like the classy fans the overwhelming majority of us are.
BIGGER THAN LIFE
I have said this time and again, Husker Pride Worldwide is bigger than any one person-bigger than Steve Pederson, Bill Callahan, Frank Solich, Tom Osborne and even Bob Devaney. There were great Husker teams and rabid, passionate and devoted Husker fans long before many of these people were even born.
After Friday's loss, and every day since that time, I have proudly worn my Husker apparel and will continue to do so. No matter what. I will be a loyal Husker fan until the day I die. I'm in this thing for the long haul. If you want to abandon the team when they are struggling, go ahead. I guarantee you won't be missed.
THE EMAIL BAG
IRAQ 'N ROLL
You may recall the letter a U.S. soldier (Staff Sgt. Myles Frohling) sent me several weeks ago. He wanted to know if it would be possible for someone to send him and his buddies copies of Husker games on video and/or DVD. He also requested miscellaneous Husker memorabilia that he wanted to hand out to the Iraqi children. I have talked with the NU Athletic Department and have tried to contact Myles via email, but have yet to hear from him. If any of you wish to sent the young soldier some Holiday greetings, you may contact him at:
SSG Myles A. Frohling Sr.
410th Military Police Company
APO, AE 09310
Dear Husker Dan:
Why has not Nebraska been able to sign schools for the 2005 schedule? We are still missing two games next year and no signs of an update. What is Peterson doing about this?
A game with the Houston Cougars is being finalized as we speak. The Huskers will need to schedule one more non-conference game to round out an 11 game season.
THIS AND THAT
to all the Huskers who made the All Big 12 Academic All American team.
2.) To Barrett Ruud: Thanks for the memories. We'll see you on Sundays.
3.) To Dan McCarney: So close, yet so far. You'll kick yourself (no pun intended) for this one. But you and Barney, enjoy your bowl trip, ya hear?!!
4.) There are 16, count 'em 16 D-I head coaching positions open. Paging Frank Solich?
5.) Here's hoping Matt Herian has a speedy recovery and we all hope he has a great year in '05.
6.) Is there a better pass-catch combination in college football than Cumbie and Hicks at Texas Tech? Unbelievable.
7.) Can anyone explain that doofus extra point ruling in the Texas-Texas A&M game last week?
8.) When does the spring game take place?
9.) Will 61,000 fans show up?
10.) Thanks a million to Darrin Erstad and his wife for the big donation they made to the Tom and Nancy Osborne complex.
For those of you looking for a great cause to support not only during this Holiday Season but year round, I would like to suggest one of my favorites:
The Edmonson Youth Outreach YMCA
4400 1/2 Fontenelle Blvd.
Omaha, NE 68104-3672
The web site is under construction but will be completed soon. Go to: http://eyoymca.org/
I bid you a very Happy Holiday Season! Please pray for our brave men and women who are in harm's way defending freedom throughout the world. God Bless them all.