Saturday, October 08, 2005

X's and O's do make a difference

Tom Shatel has repeatedly claimed in the Weird Harold that talent and motivation is more important than the X's and O's. And if you look at today's game, his claim was shown to be extremely shaky.

I don't know if it was machismo, ego, or stubbornness, but defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove opened today's game by making the same mistake he made last year against Texas Tech - and with even worse results than last year. If you don't pressure the quarterback in Mike Leach's system, you will lose. And Leach's unorthodox line play, with those wide splits, makes it imperitive that you manufacture a pass rush. Kansas recognized this last week, and harassed Cody Hodges all night with a blitzing scheme. Cosgrove, however, somehow thought that our 4 man front could provide that pass rush.

He was wrong.

With 9 minutes left in the 2nd quarter, the Huskers were already down 21-0, and this game was threatening to get out of control even faster than last year's 70-10 meltdown. But to Cosgrove's credit, he made the adjustments and began to blitz. And the Tech offense ground to a halt. For the next 30 minutes of the game, Tech only gained 65 yards and only scored 6 points.

Unfortunately, that left 5 minutes on the clock, and Cosgrove called off the blitz. And Tech promptly marched back down the field into scoring range. Cosgrove called a few blitzes, and LeKevin Smith came through with a huge interception - which was negated when Smith fumbled the ball back to the Raiders.

Some fans will want to blame Smith for the loss, but that's not fair. Cosgrove's bonehead defensive game plan put Nebraska in a 21-0 hole that they didn't need to be in. Zac Taylor's 3 turnovers giftwrapped 6 points for Tech. This is a team game, and Nebraska fans shouldn't blame any one player.

Was this a disappointing finish? You bet. But Nebraska flirted with disaster in the last 2 games, with the blocked field goal against Pitt and Iowa State's Nick Leaders dropping a game-winning interception in overtime last week. This week, the ball bounced the other way.

Let's look at the positives. After making the adjustments, the Tech offense was locked down. The offense was effective both rushing and passing. There were a lot more positives today than there were 3 weeks ago against Pitt.

As far as I'm concerned, this was by far Nebraska's best game of the year.


Shojon said...

It's definite that LeKevin's good play that turned bad did not cost us the game. It's also true that we outplayed TTech for fully 40 of the 60 minutes and that there were many places that we could have put the game away.
I saw a lot of progress and a lot of steps forward. I think this team (finally) is getting it. If the receivers continue to improve, the O line continues to improve and Cosgrove stay aggresive with the D, we'll win the North and chase Texas in the Big 12 championship game right to the wire

Abe said...

I feel the most positive I've felt about the team in over a year. It's hard to blame Le Kevin for his mistake at full speed in the heat of the action. As you said, there are plenty of other plays that could have turned the outcome around.