Saturday's game with San Jose State didn't look any better from 5,000 feet elevation than it did to the 85,000 people who sat in the stands at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
Remember, this wasn't Ohio State, Florida State, Oklahoma State or even Iowa State the Huskers were playing. This was San Jose State-the same team that last week trailed at the half by 10 points to Division 1-AA UC Davis.
The game Saturday reminded me of the 2005 Maine game in Lincoln. The game was supposed to be over at the half, but guess what, somebody forgot to tell Maine. It was a precarious eight point Husker lead (15-7) in the fourth quarter before Bo Ruud intercepted a pass and returned it for an easy touchdown with 9 minutes left in the game. The Huskers went on to win 25-7, but the game shouldn't have been that close.
Niles Paul played the role of Bo Ruud Saturday afternoon when he bust open a 14-12 Husker lead with an electrifying 85 yard kick-off return. Game over.
And it didn't hurt the Huskers' cause that the Spartans' nifty quarterback, Kyle Reed was injured in the fourth quarter and never returned. His replacement, Myles Eden did well, but the Spartans just weren't the same after the fleet-footed Reed left.
And speaking of injuries, the Huskers who are thin on the D-line anyway, got more bad news Saturday. Starting senior defensive end Barry Turner was injured and is out for the season. Turner's replacement, Pierre Allen, played well Saturday, but Turner's loss coupled with the dismissal of fellow D-lineman, Kevin Dixon during fall camp, leaves the defensive line reeling.
FAREWELL TO ARMS
What was disconcerting Saturday was the sloppy play of the offense and defense, especially in the first half. The tackling in the first half was like watching the arm tackling of last year's (gulp!) team. The Husker defense seemed to be out of synch with defenders out of position much of the half. But in the second half, it was the defense (and special teams) that saved the day for the Huskers.
Joe Ganz did not have a good game. The running game still hasn't matured. In the third quarter when the Huskers looked as though they were starting to get things back on track, Quentin Castille fumbled an option pitch and the Spartans were back in business. Had "Q" hung on to the ball, he had a lane a mile wide and would be approaching Wahoo about now.
COLORADANS FOR NEBRASKA
There was a line of about 30 Husker fans waiting outside Jackson's Bar & Grill in Ft. Collins Saturday morning about 9:30. For some unexplainable reason, the joint didn't open until 10:00 a.m.-just 30 minutes prior to kickoff. I met a lot of Husker fans who live in the Ft. Collins area but who grew up in places like Norfolk, Gothenburg, Omaha and Lincoln. By the time the Huskers kicked off, there were a hundred or so red-clad Husker fans cheering for the Cornhuskers.
This was a game that was supposed to have given a lot of players some playing time. But as it turned out, the outcome of the game wasn't decided until midway through the fourth quarter, leaving little time for substitutions. Patrick Witt did take a few snaps, but his playing time was hardly what most Husker fans thought it was going to be.
So what do we know about this year's team after two games? The answer is, right now, the Huskers are not a very good football team. If we were playing the likes of Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas Tech this weekend instead of New Mexico State, it wouldn't be a pretty sight.
But this is only the second game of the season. And a win is a win. The last time I checked, that was the object of the game.
Kevin Kugler, co-host of "Unsportsmanlike Conduct" in Omaha (1620 The Zone, 2:00-6:00 p.m., M-F) raised the issue that nicknames in sports-especially in college football-has almost become a thing of the past. He makes a good point. We used to have names like, Johnny "The Jet" Rodgers, Charlie "Choo-Choo" Winters, Jeff "The Hog" Jamrog and George "The Smilin' Assassin" Andrews.
I'm asking you readers to come up with nicknames for this year's Husker football players. I'm going to prime the pump by offering a few of my own:
Joe "Second Chance" Ganz, Adi "The Hottie" Kunalic, Nate "The Great" Swift and Zach "Don't Call Me Harry" Potter. I know you fellow Husker fans will easily top my lame ones. I'll post the best examples. Please keep them clean-this is a family web site.