Sunday, October 30, 2005

Billy C's Favorite Team

Well, once again, Bill Callahan seems to have gotten himself into hot water against Oklahoma. After the Sooners final touchdown, ABC's camera showed Callahan making an apparant throat slash towards the officiating crew. However, that might not have been Callahan's intent there; theoretically he might have been demonstrating how his player was being held by his jersey. Which is it? Who's to say at this point. The replay I saw last night sure looked like a throat slash, but the animated GIF I found on a Sooner web site isn't so clear. (It's also rather small...)

Callahan did not directly comment on the officiating, as he knew that any comment would violate Big XII rules. However, the manner that he answered the question made it clear he was extremely displeased with the officiating. Jay Norvell may have inadvertantly violated that rule on Pinnacle's "Coaches Wrapup" postgame show. During a commercial break, Pinnacle accidentally left the microphone on, and Norvell was heard to say "f*****g refs" and "d*** Texas refs".

But let's face it, the refs were pretty balanced on their calls. The World-Herald caught Nebraska center Kurt Mann facemasking OU's Zach Latimer. Let's face it, Nebraska only got flagged 5 times against Oklahoma. That's one of their lowest totals of the year, matching the count from the Baylor game - which was officiated by the same crew.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Stoops schools Hillbilly C and the Puppetmasters

Tell me if you've heard this one before: the Huskers opponent drives the field on their opening possession to jump out to a 7-0 lead while the offense sputters in the early going.

It's getting old. It's great that the Huskers can rebound, but you can't dig yourself into a hole every week and expect to climb out of it.

One thing is painfully clear: Zac Taylor is clearly showing signs of the painful pounding he has taken this year. In the 2nd quarter, Callahan decided to open up the passing game once the wind was to their back. Taylor twice rolled out to throw but failed to see uncovered receivers running wild downfield. The second time, once Taylor finally decided to throw the ball, threw it off-target and so late that the Oklahoma defensive back nearly picked it off.

Today's offensive bright spot again was Nate Swift, with 9 receptions for 100+ yards. I liked this kid in the Spring game, and every game, this freshman gets better and better.

Looking at the remaining schedule, I'm getting extremely concerned about the Huskers prospects. Kansas might have the best defense in the Big XII. Kansas State is getting better week-by-week, with former Husker commitment Allan Evridge now playing well as their starting quarterback. And Colorado is still the best of the Big XII North.

Can Nebraska get some positive karma going their way in these last 3 games? I predicted 8-3, but that prediction is now looking like a dream at this point in the season.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Nattering Nabob of Negativity

As this week has unfolded, I've grown more and more uneasy at the prospects of this week's game. On one hand, Oklahoma looks the most mortal that they have been since Bob Stoops arrived in Norman. But on the other hand, I have this nagging thought in the back of my mind that the 2005 Huskers are no better, and might even be worse than the 2004 model.

On offense, we thought the dismal performances from the first 3 games were just a bad memory. But last week, the offense returned to it's sputtering self. So now that's 4 sputtering performances and 3 ok performances. The pendulum has now swung back. And on defense, in conference play they have become a sieve, especially early.

Oklahoma may be 4-3, but 2 of those losses were to undefeated UCLA and a Texas squad that has played the best of any team in the country this year. And Adrian Peterson is expected to be back in the lineup.

I hope I'm wrong, but I don't like the looks of Saturday's game. The one intangible in Nebraska's favor is that the game is in Lincoln and the 1995 Huskers are having a 10 year reunion. Last year, a shaky Husker team took inspiration from the 1994 Huskers to beat Missouri; could this year's squad get a boost of confidence and inspiration from the greatest college football team ever?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Excuses Excuses Excuses

The common explanation for Nebraska's poor play selection against Missouri was a combination of getting down early and then "down and distance". Hey, I'll buy the getting down early part.

So let's look at the "down and distance" argument. Starting after Nebraska pulled to within 7 points at 24-17, here was the play calling in situations where we weren't 2nd and long or 3rd and long:

1st & 10: Pass (Sacked for 8 yard loss)
1st & 8: Pass (incomplete)
2nd & 8: Pass (Touchdown - game tied at 24-24!)
1st & 10: Pass (complete for 10 yards)
1st & 15: Pass (incomplete)
1st & 10: Run (gain of 1)
2nd & 9: Run (loss of 3)
1st & 10: Pass (incomplete)
1st & 10: Pass (incomplete)
1st & 10: run (gain of 2)
1st & 10: run (loss of 2)
3rd & 2: Pass (incomplete)
4th & 2: Pass (complete for 30 yards but fumbled)
Missouri goes on 97 yard drive, up 31-24.
1st & 15: Pass (incomplete)
Missouri goes on 39 yard FG drive, up 34-24.
1st & 10: Pass (gain of 2)
I'll stop there, because at this point, Missouri is up 41-24 and the score argument now applies.

That's 4 rushes and 11 passes. On first down and 10 or less, we threw the ball 6 times and ran the ball 3 times. Did "down and distance" keep us from running the ball? I don't think so.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Beck #2???

Today, Bill Callahan said that Harrison Beck is the #2 quarterback, despite the fact that the official depth chart says Joe Ganz is #2. While that might explain why Zac Taylor was left in to be abused by Missouri, this is a real head-scratcher at this point in the season. I know Callahan apparantly doesn't care about redshirts, but barring a serious injury to Taylor, it makes no sense to play Beck this late in the season.

If Beck ends up playing in a game in a mop-up situation this season, it won't be the first redshirt mistake this staff has made. Last year, Cornealius Fuamatu-Thomas got thrown into the Western Illinois game late, then never played. The staff somehow thought he could still claim a redshirt year, but found out after the fact that wasn't possible.

Of course, after watching Thomas this season, I'm not sure that saving a year of eligibility for him is a big deal. Thomas was especially bad on Saturday. Several times Thomas whiffed badly on blocks; he was constantly slower than the defensive end to react to the snap count. Lydon Murtha didn't fare much better, but if we're going to have a problem at tackle, I'd rather take a chance on playing the talented freshman over the confused, inexperienced senior.

Saturday's game plan is still a puzzle in my mind, and to many others. Starting the game, it looked like Nebraska planned to run the ball on Missouri, based on their previous poor rushing performances. However, that game plan was abandoned when the Huskers went down 21-3. Which kind of made sense - until a couple of Mizzou fumbles allowed Nebraska to tie the game at 24-24.

Nebraska set a modern record for fewest rushes in a game: 19. 4 of those were sacks of Zac Taylor, so really it was 15.

15 rushes by Nebraska.

Read that again: 15 rushes by the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

I'll say it again: 15 rushes by Nebraska against the now #67 rushing defense in college football. (My guess is they probably were somewhere in the 80's before the game.)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Crappy Weekend

What a crappy weekend this is turning out to be. The UNO Mavericks get swept at home by the Miami Redhawks in hockey. And the Huskers get trounced by Mizzou in Columbia.

Just got back from Columbia, and it was a sad day when the Huskers rush for -2 yards for the game. Nebraska got beaten badly both offensively and defensively. For the third straight week, Kevin Cosgrove starts with an ineffective game plan, then is slow to make adjustments. A three-man front might make sense against teams that spread the field like Missouri and Texas Tech, but dropping 8 men into coverage with an inexperienced secondary like we have is insane. Eventually, someone is going to break down in coverage, and with absolutely no pass rush, the quarterback can simply bide his time until it happens.

You simply must get pressure on the quarterback.


I can hear the Cosgrove defenders saying "but if we blitz, someone will be uncovered". Guess what - it's happening anyway. The prevent defense doesn't work against Tech, and it didn't work today against Missouri.

Props to Brad Smith for a huge game. I haven't seen defensive breakdowns like that since the 2001 Colorado game, and before that, in a high school game.

On offense, it would be easy enough to criticize Zac Taylor, but I won't tonight. The man took an incredible amount of abuse in this game. When Nebraska got the ball back with a minute left in the game, I really hoped that Joe Ganz would finally get a chance to take a couple of snaps in a game. But no dice, and Missouri got another chance to use Taylor as a tackling dummy.

I was extremely disappointed with some of my fellow Husker fans today. I understand leaving early when the game is out of reach - especially on the road, where you don't know how the locals will react. (Every Missouri fan I came across today was classy...) That's not my criticism.

Some fans like to stand and cheer their team on. That's great! But look around when you decide to stand; if you're the only fans standing, sit down. And when your team is on offense on the road, and the home team is screaming for their defense, cheering "Go Big Red!" at your offense is counterproductive and just shows your ignorance. Or should I say stupidity.

When the opposing quarterback is laying motionless on the field, it's in extremely poor taste (and poor sportsmanship) to complain about the roughing penalty and yell "hit him again". Especially when your defensive player is lucky that he didn't get ejected for that helmet-to-helmet hit.

And please don't insist that, if it wasn't for the LeKevin Smith fumble against Tech and Terrence Nunn's fumble today, we'd be 7-0. We were lucky to be in today's game; 2 of our 3 touchdown drives were under 10 yards. Today's game could have easily been 41-10 or worse. And when you consider the endings against Pitt (blocked FG) and Iowa State (dropped interception by Nick Leaders), we're probably closer to 3-4 than 7-0.

It's time for some sleep; it's been a long ugly day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What does Vegas know that Husker Nation doesn't?

Or is it vice versa? Vegas has installed Mizzou as a 3 point favorite, but the expectation around here seems to be a big Husker win. I can kind of see both points; Nebraska has played 1 great game (Texas Tech), 2 decent games (Iowa State and Baylor), and 3 rather poor games. On the other hand, Missouri lost at home to New Mexico, gave up 31 to Oklahoma State, and got blasted by Texas (of course, who hasn't???)

Our local Tiger fanatic AJ is surprisingly confident as well.

2 years ago, I was guilty of overconfidence for the Missouri game. I remember sitting on top of a parking garage in Columbia before the game discussing plans to follow Nebraska to the Big XII Championship Game in Kansas City. The Bo-shirts were blitzing everything into submission, and the offense was playing decent. But then Nebraska turned the ball over 4 times deep inside their own territory - including 3 times inside their own 10. Those turnovers turned a game that Nebraska otherwise dominated into a 17 point loss. We barely got back to the safety of the parking garage before being overrun by a mob of Tiger fans carrying the goalposts.

Which Brad Smith will play? Which Zac Taylor will play? Will Bill Callahan outthink himself? Will Gary Pinkel sign his own pink slip, or contract extension? If Brad Smith falters, will fab freshman Chase Daniel come on in relief?

Heck if I know. I'd like to think this is a big Nebraska win shaping up on Saturday, but there are too many questions.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mid-season report card

Well, 6 games into the season means it's probably time to give the Huskers a mid-season report card. I went back and looked at my preseason thoughts, and I think they turned out pretty well. On offense, Zac Taylor started off the season about as shaky as I thought he would. However, Bill Callahan made a nice adjustment after the Pitt game to put Taylor back into the shotgun, which seems to give Taylor a better feel for making his reads and Taylor made Iowa State pay. Taylor has been playing much better the last 3 games, and is a very servicable quarterback.

RB: I said it in July: Cory Ross. Enough said. Update from Saturday night's postgame comment: it looks like Ross's injury is not serious.

WR: Frantz Hardy made a big splash against Maine, but hasn't repeated that performance since. The passing game was DOA until Nate Swift started to get some playing time. And Terrence Nunn has been solid all season.

OL: Definitely playing better the last 3 games, though they had a very shaky start to the season.

DL: The one place where recruiting has made an impact this season: Ola Dagunduro, Barry Cryer, and freshman Barry Turner have given the d-line depth. And freshman Ndamukong (A Boy Named) Suh made a splash as well before getting hurt.

LB: Steve Octavien was looking to prove me dead wrong about the newcomers until his leg broke in the first game. Corey McKeon is showing the heart that Barrett Ruud showed us last season.

Secondary: Zack Bowman hasn't lived up to the hype, but hasn't been a flop by any means. This group has played ok, though the defensive line has lifted the pressure from these guys.

Coaching: Over all, the last three games have been very positive. Callahan has a quarterback that better matches his system in Zac Taylor, and the receiver depth is improved with Nate Swift and Frantz Hardy contributing. Cosgrove has also made some big adjustments by using much more zone defense this season. I especially liked the blitzes and the defenses Cosgrove used against Texas Tech for the middle half of the game - though I didn't like his waiting for Nebraska to go down 21-0 to start using them...

As we move on, the Huskers are showing the heart that last year's team lacked. Especially on defense, it looks like last year's defense had a hard time developing the passion they enjoyed with Marvin Sanders and Bo Pelini in 2003. But it looks like this team is much more unified this season.

8-3 is still looking like a good bet, and there is still a good shot at doing better. Oklahoma is struggling this season as I suggested in July, though Colorado is better than I thought. 10-1 is still possible at this point.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A good night for the Mavs and Huskers

Props to both the Huskers and Mavs for victories tonight. The Huskers found clear skies for once in Waco, and came away with a nice road victory with a generally solid performance on both sides of the ball. A couple of nit-picky observations:
  • If you are going use Jake Wesch as your kickoff specialist at home, take him on the road. David Dyches is a fine kicker, but looked unprepared to play.
  • The defense on the opening drive looked way too vanilla, and Baylor took advantage with a 7 minute touchdown drive to put us down 7-0. Giving an underdog an early lead at home is a dangerous proposition.
  • Baylor's 2nd touchdown was one of the weirdest calls I can remember. Instant replay opened a can of worms when nobody made a call as to who might have recovered the fumble on the field. Nebraska really can't complain about the results though; the ball on the 1 foot line was probably going to lead to a touchdown anyway.
One sight that makes Husker fans cringe was the sight of Cory Ross being helped off the field late in the game. If there is one person the Huskers simply cannot afford to lose, it's Ross. Bill Callahan and Jay Norvell are hesitant to throw the ball with Cody Glenn or Marlon Lucky at I-back, but they may have no choice if Ross is out. Those young I-backs will need to learn to pick up blitzes under fire, otherwise Zac Taylor will find himself a marked man in the pocket.

Meanwhile, back in Omaha, the Mavs upset #8 New Hampshire 5-3 to win the Maverick Stampede. Alex Nikiforuk continues his hot streak with a goal 15 seconds into the game, while freshman Tomas Klempa adds 2 goals. Freshman Greg Barrett may have staked a claim to the #1 goalie position with 35 saves. Will UNO crack the rankings this week? Up next is Miami. No, not the Hurricanes from Florida; the Redhawks from Ohio...

It's not confusing at all.

The Nebraska athletic department partnered with "Big Red Report" to produce a special edition on the facilities upgrade at Nebraska, and mailed it across to fans all over. I'm not sure if they sent it to ticketholders, donors, or just a general mailing list. But it looks like the start of a renewed marketing campaign to raise funds again. At last week's Texas Tech game, a commercial was shown featuring players from all Husker sports pleading for donations.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I really haven't heard anybody say that the facilities improvements aren't necessary. Personally, when the program was first announced, I was concerned that they didn't go far enough, especially when other programs continue to add onto their training facilities.

The fund-raising campaign got off to a fast start, raising $15 million in the first month, but then came crashing to a halt the night of November 29th, 2003. Since then, the program has only received a donation of $1 million from Anaheim Angels' outfielder Darin Erstad and $5 million from the Myers family of Omaha. And that's basically it after 22 months of discontent.

In today's "Voices from the Grandstand" in the Omaha paper, a fan expresses disappointment and disbelief that the campaign hasn't been more successful. In the "Big Red Report" article, Boyd Epley expresses surprise as well.

Nobody should be surprised at all with what has happened to the fund raising campaign. Deep down, everybody knows the root problem with the fund raising campaign. The kool-aid drinkers can express their outrage about the situation, but that won't change it. The wounds continue to fester and linger on.

Undoing the changes isn't feasible or practical. It isn't fair to the players or the coaches. But something needs to be done at the top levels at the University to address this situation. This problem isn't going to fix itself. Bill Callahan could win a national championship next year, and the athletic director will still be reviled.

What does the athletic director need to do? It's simple: swallow his pride. Acknowledge his detractors. Admit his mistakes. Apologize to those he has offended. Accept responsibility to "make it right". He can't undo what's been done; we're beyond that point now. But he can hold out the olive branch.

This has gone on long enough. Something has to be done.

Darling Niki

Junior Alex Nikiforuk is off to an absolutely SMOKIN' start for the Nebraska-Omaha Maverick hockey team. In Monday night's exhibition game against Manitoba, Nikiforuk scored on a 1 on 3 breakaway that was just plain SICK.

So what does he do for an encore in the season opener against Army? He gets the hat trick in a 3-2 victory against the Black Knights of the Hudson.

Tonight, the Mavs take on #8 New Hampshire at 8 pm for the Stampede Championship game. It will be interesting to see what kind of a crowd shows up tonight, with the Husker game going on at the same time, not to mention the other 2 hockey teams in town having home games as well. (Talk about bonehead scheduling...)

A few thoughts about the changes at UNO hockey games.
  • The curtains are an attempt to deal with the problem of playing hockey in a large arena in a town with an oversupply of hockey games to attend. They may not look the greatest, but it looks better than empty seats, and it does help with the noise level. The crowd was louder last night than the crowd at a Creighton basketball game I attended last March.
  • The nets suck. I understand why they are there. I may get used to them. But it makes it hard to follow the action at the other end of the ice.
  • The UNO athletic department needs to partner with the Department of Fine Arts on designing some custom graphics for the scoreboards. There is a lot of untapped potential in the ribbon boards that is being wasted.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Callahan's recruiting: #29!

Just noticed that Rival's has Callahan's 2004 class ranked #29...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Recruits with unrealistic expectations

Today's Omaha paper has an interview with Leon Jackson, who is showing signs of frustration with a lack of playing time. I'm not surprised here at all. The 2005 recruiting class was simply overhyped.

First of all, let me say this: It's way too early to judge the 2005 recruiting class.

It's too early now, it was too early this summer, and it was too early last winter when some people handed these guys starting jobs.

Let me also say this: The 2005 recruiting class was ranked more on numbers (31 recruits) than on quality. There will, no doubt, be some fine football players in this group. And in a year or two, we should be enjoying their success on the field.

But somewhere along the way, the hype meter went off the scale. Harrison Beck, Craig Roark, and Rodney Picou were going to be starting. Marlon Lucky was this year's Adrian Peterson. Zac Bowman was going to declare after this season for the NFL draft.

What's reality? Beck, Roark, and Picou are redshirting. Bowman is second string. Lucky is playing a handful of snaps in spot duty.

Will we see Bowman and Lucky more as the season moves on? I think so. Will they be good football players? Probably, but the jury is still out. Will we see those other guys? I sure hope not. It makes no sense to burn any of their redshirts at this point in the season.

I'm more concerned about the mental aspects of these freshmen. I'm sure many of them had dreams of making a big impact as freshmen. Hopefully, they are committing themselves to working harder so that next year, they can be in a position to claim playing time. Sometimes the better football player isn't the more talented one.

Look at #4, Cory Ross. Most schools and recruiting services didn't even consider him a running back. But Ross shows the heart and determination of a great football player. Where would Nebraska be without Ross? I don't know. But I do know that has no way to measure what makes Cory Ross a great football player.

I'll take a class full of players like Cory Ross than a class of Rivals "4 star" players anyday.

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.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

My take on the Texas Tech game...

This one comes down on the defense to put us in a position to win it. The offense will need to play even better than they played last week, but even in that case, the defense has to keep Tech off the scoreboard. 18, 10, 7, or 13 points from the offense is just not going to win this game.

Tech was not 60 points better than Nebraska last year; last year's score got out of hand only after Joe Dailey was benched for a true freshman quarterback who had 5 turnovers deep in our own territory. Those 5 turnovers became the final 35 of 70 points, turning a bad loss into a disaster.

Last year's 3 man pass rush against Tech was a disaster, and defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove is not going to make that same mistake again. With the depth we now have up front and our less experienced secondary, the game plan should be to put pressure on Tech QB Cody Hodges early and often. That was the recipe that the Kansas Fighting Manginos used last week to keep Tech from rolling up and down the field. It should be a good template for the Huskers this week.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Hockey time is nearing in Omaha!

After cleaning and disinfecting the Qwest Center from hick week and the Knights of Aksarben Rodeo, the ice is finally going in for the first games of the season. Returning as captain for the 3rd straight year is senior Mike Lefley. Assistant captains are Mike Eichman, Alex Nikiforuk, and leading scorer Scott Parse.

UNO is picked by the league coaches and media to finish 5th, which didn't sit well with returning defensemen Phil Angell. After missing most of last year due to a knee injury, Angell is looking to make an impact on the ice, not to mention the opponents.

Omaha hockey fans looking for a sneak peek at this year's squad should head to the Qwest Center on Sunday afternoon at 2 for the Red-White preseason scrimmage. Free admission!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Let's not overreact...

Listening to some Husker "fans" over the last couple of days, you could have sworn that Nebraska had just won the national championship. Yes, the West Coast Offense is improved. Yes, it was an exciting game. But it was just that: one game. Let's keep it in perspective.

If someone had told you that Zac Taylor was going to go 36 for 55 and 431 yards last week, what would your response be? I'd bet that most fans would respond in one of the following fashion:
(a) What drug are you on? (alternative: can I have some of that?)
(b) Woo hoo! We killed Iowa State! The Big Red is BACK!
(c) All of the above.

But, remember this game went to double overtime. We didn't kill them. Heck, if Nick Leaders holds onto that Taylor pass in the first OT, they are still partying in Ames.

Nebraska needs to find a way to punch the ball into the end zone from the red zone. That was the good news from the overtimes; we were 2 for 2 with the ball on the 25. Good sign for the future.

This week's game against Texas Tech is another gut check for the program. Nebraska will need to show as much improvement between games 4 and 5 as they showed between games 3 and 4. This time, the improvement needs to be shown on defense. Saturday, Nebraska failed to get much pressure against Iowa State's offensive line unless they were blitzing. Last year, we saw just how efficient Mike Leach's offense could be when you give their quarterback time to survey the field. And that was with 2 guys in our secondary who got drafted early in the NFL draft.

Last Saturday night in Lubbock, Kansas was able to give the Red Raiders a tougher game than most expected by putting pressure on QB Cody Hodges. This game plan reminded me of last year's throttling down last year. In the second half, I could announce the results of the play within 2 seconds of the snap by simply counting the number of players rushing. 3 or 4 men rushing, it usually meant a 10+ yard gain. 6 rushing on a blitz, and the pass usually was incomplete. Unfortunately, we spend most of the game rushing 3 rather than 6, and so our defense spent most of the evening chasing down receivers after the catch rather than hitting their quarterback.

Contrast that to the 2000 game in Lubbock, when the Blackshirts blitzed Kliff Kingsbury into submission in a 56-3 thrashing.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

When you're hot, you're hot... When you're wrong, you're wrong...

Needless to say, I was completely wrong on the run/pass ratio. Oh, it was 70%. 70/30 pass/run ratio. Perhaps Jay Norvell and Bill Callahan saw the same things they saw last year from Iowa State when they went pass-happy in the first half in Ames. The difference this season is that the Huskers were able to execute.

The first three games it was tough to see much of an improvement on offense, but today was a different story. Callahan and Norvell put Taylor into the shotgun, and let him fire away on slants, crossing patterns, and screen passes to receivers in motion. Taylor seemed to be much more comfortable operating out of the shotgun, though the same can't be said for center Kurt Mann. Most of his shotgun snaps had a noticable slice to them that Taylor occasionally bobbled.

Although Cory Ross will get the lions share of the credit, my game balls for receivers go to Grant Mulkey and Nate Swift. Mulkey got the game going with several nice catches over the middle to open up the offense. And Nate Swift finally got a chance to contribute with some nice catches in the 2nd half. I was very impressed by Swift in the spring game, and with the concern over small receivers, couldn't figure out why he wasn't playing more.

Not everything was rosy red; the defense was leaky and didn't get consistent pressure. The rushing game was non-existant. The freshman all-Rivals kicker continues to struggle. But that's another discussion for another day.

Tonight, let's give Zac Taylor, Nate Swift, Grant Mulkey, Cory Ross, and Isiah Fluellen the credit they deserve for a big game.

On a personal note, I was saddened to learn of the death the of "the big guy" who had sat behind us in South Stadium for the past 11 years. Though we never shared names, we shared our insights and joys of watching national championship teams, Heisman Trophy winners - and shared our misery during a 5-6 season. I was wondering where he was, and finally asked today and found out the sad news. Hope he enjoyed today's game from that big skybox in heaven.

So what will we get today vs. the Clones?

Nebraska's "strength of schedule" took yet another hit last night as Rutgers held off a 2nd half comeback by Pitt and won 37-29. Yes, Nebraska is 3-0. But most division 1-A schools would be 3-0 after playing the 144th toughest schedule out of 240 division 1-A and 1-AA schools.

Some of the "excuse makers" ignore those facts and point to the relative newness of the coaches and some of the players. However, it's tough to ignore that Nebraska's offense is 107th out of 117 division 1-A teams. Heck, Frank Solich's Ohio squad is 102nd, and they've at least played the 44th toughest schedule. The schedule only gets tougher from here.

So what will we see from the offense today? My guess is that the gameplan will be similar to the 2nd half last year against Iowa State, and close to the game plan used by Callahan against Baylor and Oklahoma. Perhaps a 70-30 run/pass ratio. Establish the ground game, and then use play-action to try and get the passing game untracked.

Nobody is expecting a monumental improvement, but we do need to see some improvement today. Cory Ross is a warrior and has the heart of a champion, but cannot bear the whole load himself. Limit Ross to about 25 carries, and try to get Cody Glenn and Marlon Lucky about 15 carries combined.