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H U S K E R    D A N

December 11, 2009

How the Huskers managed to squeeze 12 points out of a total of 106 yards of offense in Saturday's Big 12 Championship game in Arlington, Texas, is truly amazing. And even more amazing was that those 12 points came within one second of being enough to beat the heavily favored third ranked Texas Longhorns.
(To find Husker offensive futility that comes close to Saturday night's, you have to go back to January 2nd, 1989, when the Huskers lost to Miami in the Orange Bowl 23-3. In that loss to the Hurricanes, the Huskers had only 10 first downs and 135 yards of Total Offense. Or, how about the Mother Lode of all stinkers, the 7-0 loss to Colorado in 1961 when Nebraska failed to register a single first down the ENTIRE game?)
The Huskers were just one tick away from a huge upset.
But for that one second, Nebraska would have:
1.) Beat a Top 5 team for the first time since 2001.
2.) Had to have paid Bo Pelini a bonus of $100,000.
3.) Been assured of its first 10 win season since 2003.
4.) Had a chance at an 11 win season, the first since 2001.
5.) Won the Big 12 Championship game-their first since 1999.
6.) Restored its position as the team to beat in the conference.
7.) Restored its position as one of the top programs in the country.
8.) Had a positive impact on recruiting, especially in the state of Texas.
9.) Been playing in a BCS bowl game for the first time since the 2001 season.
10.) Seen Bo Pelini tie Osborne and Solich with one career Big 12 championship.
While Husker fans are still gnashing their teeth about the call that gave Texas the opportunity to kick the winning field goal with just one tick remaining in the game, most fans have been steaming this week about the miserable Husker offense.
Since the third game of the season, the Husker offense has been the "Elephant In The Room". It's been like the boorish relative who attends family gatherings, drinks too much, belches, talks with his mouth full and passes gas. People complain, but not much changes.
To be sure, troubles began to surface at Virginia Tech when the Husker offense managed only 5 field goals and was kept out of the end zone the entire game. And when it needed to pick up a first down late in the fourth quarter to seal the game, the Huskers came up short and left the door wide open for a Hokie Miracle.
And then there were home losses to Texas Tech and Iowa State. There was a 10 point win at Baylor, but the Huskers were shut out in the second half. And when the Sooners came to Lincoln November 7th, the Husker offense scored only 10 points, seven of which were set up by an interception that was returned to the Sooner one yard line.
Problems continued with K-State and Colorado. And Saturday night, it was more of the same. After Niles Paul returned a Longhorn punt to the Texas 10 yard line late in the game, Nebraska had to settle for a field goal that put the Huskers up by 2 points. But instead of getting a touchdown that would have sealed the win with less than two minutes to go, the Huskers left the door wide open for a Longhorn Miracle.
(BTW, did anyone really expect the Huskers to score a touchdown on that drive? I didn't think so.) Sure, the Huskers were up against one of the best defenses in the country, but 106 total yards and 5 first downs? You gotta be kidding.
And why was it necessary to take Zac Lee out of the game to "settle him down"? And why does Zac Lee need settling down, anyway? Wasn't this his 11th start of the season? Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't recall a Husker coach ever taking a quarterback temporarily out of the game to settle him down, especially so deep in our own territory. And doesn't changing quarterbacks on your own 5 yard line pose a risk of a bad center snap exchange?
The sobering fact is that the Husker offense is giving everything it has. Missing this year is a lot of talent, depth and experience. Gone are playmakers like Ganz, Swift, Petersen, Castille and Lucky. Gone are O-linemen like Murtha and Slauson. We knew the offense was going to struggle this year, but just not for this long.
Offensive Coordinator Shawn Watson has had to simplify the offense in order to give the Huskers the best chance of winning. The O philosophy for the second half of this year has been "Play Not To Lose." This year, graduation, the dismissal of Quentin Castille, injuries to Helu and Burkhead and recruiting busts have helped create the Perfect Storm for the offensive woes of 2009.
And to make matters worse, we learned this week that 4-star quarterback Tyler Gabbert and receiver Curtis Carter have reneged on their "commitments" to sign with the Huskers in February. While these losses are seldom good, it's understandable, particularly with the Husker current Husker offensive woes.
The question is, what changes will take place by San Diego and how much can the offense improve by next fall? Pelini needs to do for the offense what he has done for the defense. And the sooner, the better.
"The Blind Side"
Four stars (out of a possible 5)
Sandra Bullock, Kathy Bates and Quinton Aaron
This is movie is based on the true story of Michael Ohre, who is a rookie starting offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL.
While this is a movie about football, it's more about faith, family, compassion and love. It's about doing what is right, not what is expedient. It's about honesty, integrity and character. The movie casts a positive spin on religious faith, the NRA and shows that racism sometimes can be a two way street. With all its traditional values, don't look for "The Blind Side" to receive many industry awards. The movie (thankfully) just doesn't fit into the Hollywood mold.
There are only a couple of syrupy moments, but with all of Michael's football pancakes, a little syrup tastes pretty good. And despite some mild cuss words, this is a movie you can enjoy with your entire family.

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