Sean Keeler column: 2008 Nebraska vs. Iowa State football
It couldn’t be much worse for Cyclones Ames, la. When someone asks you what a ‘complete football debacle’ looks like, pull out a DVD of Nebraska 35, Iowa State 7 and pop it in the machine. Then kindly excuse yourself from the room to throw up. Say this for the Cyclones: They were consistent in all phases Saturday. The coverage? Cottony soft. The tackling? Non-existent. The offense couldn’t stay on the field. The defense couldn’t get off of it. Field goals sailed wide left. Punt returns turned into low comedy. Slants on 3rd-down-and-forever went nowhere. If Iowa State’s players actually practiced for the Huskers last week, they sure had a funny way of showing it. “Since the first half against Kansas (two weeks ago), as a football team, we have gone backwards,” Cyclones coach Gene Chizik said after watching his squad suffer its fifth straight defeat. “It’s a fine line as to why. We’re hit-and-miss in so many areas on our football team right now.” Hit-and-miss might get you past South Dakota State, but that dog won’t hunt against Missouri. The Big 12 conference is a brutal, unforgiving grind. If Chizik and his staff don’t figure out a way to stop the bleeding, this 2-5 bender is going to become a 2-10 hangover. The Cyclones continue to show all the hallmarks of a young team with a young coach, forever teetering between maddeningly inconsistent and hopelessly fragile. Mistakes linger. Frustration mounts. Two-game losing streaks become five or six, and in the blink of an eye, the wheels come flying off. “We don’t have any breaks,” Chizik noted, somewhat grimly, when asked about the rest of the conference slate. “We’ve got a lot of young people playing. I think this experience, as far as playing time, is great. I think the experience of losing five straight is not great. There are things you can learn out of it. You can learn to hurt.” You might want to learn . to tackle first. Or block. The Cyclones rushed for 105 yards against a Nebraska defense that came in allowing 129.5 per game on the ground. Take out Alexander Robinson’s mad dash for the end zone on the second play of the third quarter, and the other 24 attempts netted you 38 yards. Good grief. And while we’re on the subject, coach, you know that handoff play the one in which quarterback Austen Arnaud holds the ball out for what feels like six weeks before it’s finally retrieved by the tailback? Flush it. Now. Insanity isn’t about trying something that may not work. It’s about trying something that clearly doesn’t work, time and again, and expecting a different result. At the break, the Huskers had amassed 19 first downs. The Cyclones had two. There’s your ballgame. Whatever was clicking in the first half against the Jayhawks, it’s painfully apparent that the rest of the league has already seen and dissected the film. If you had any secrets, they’re out. “We just had a good game plan,” offered Nebraska defensive end Zach Potter, “and knew the weaknesses of their tackle(s) and their guards, T ‘i and we just executed. That’s one thing we hadn’t been doing as of late and it worked really well.” Too well. The Huskers under first-year coach Bo Pelini are still a mess defensively, surrendering 52 points to Missouri, 35 to Virginia Tech, and 24 to Western Michigan, and Iowa State made them look like the second coming of the Baltimore Ravens. The “35” on the scoreboard shouldn’t cost you any sleep quarterback Joe Ganz is the real deal; the Huskers can pile up points on anybody but the “7” should drive you absolutely bonkers. “Right now,” Arnaud said, “the only place we can go is up.” It figures to be a long, painful climb.
DOUG WELLS / THE REGISTER Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud, left, and lineman Drew Davis watch on the sidelines as time runs down on a Cyclone loss.