I still believe the USC game plan was overly cautious. Defenders of that game plan point out Pete Carroll's comments about it, but they also don't acknowledge that Nebraska was among the least successful at implementing it. Mostly because they were woefully predictable, and thus unable to sustain drives to keep the ball away from Carroll's offense. It simply did not work that night, and never was going to work.
But against Iowa State and Kansas State? The big difference was that it worked. Against Iowa State's smaller, inexperienced defense, it was remarkably effective. And against Kansas State, the Huskers bolted to a 14-0 lead and Kansas State never seriously threatened.
So why all the angst? Well, there are a number of factors here that are coming into play here.
Some folks simply hate power football. They consider it obsolete. They wanted to Nebraska to become a big-time passing team and aren't getting what they thought they were getting with the west coast offense. Of course, somebody needs to define the "West Coast Offense". Tom Osborne probably expresses it best:
And note Osborne's comments about it's effectiveness:
"The term 'West Coast offense' -- what does it mean? Generally it's a ball-control passing game for a lot of people. Sometimes I think people get caught up in that terminology. I'm not sure it's clearly defined. I think you do whatever works best with the personnel you have."
Of course there are other reasons as well. Some folks simply don't like Bill Callahan. Heck, I'm still not sold on Callahan, but it's hard to argue with the wins.
"It does seem what they're doing is working well. They have a number of talented players at that position. As long as it's being productive, I don't see anything wrong with what they're doing."
Some folks think that you need "style" points. Dominating and crushing opponents isn't really happening by anyone. In back to back weeks, Troy Smith and Jim Tressel's Ohio State Buckeyes scored the same number of points as Austin Everson and Frank Solich's Ohio Bobcats against a common opponent: Northern Illinois. In this day of parity, there simply aren't a large number of blowouts in college football anymore.
And of course, there is the lingering effects of a certain athletic director who thought that 9-3 was "gravitating to mediocrity." That day, the standard at Nebraska was been set at "dominate", and thus far, Callahan and company still fail to meet that standard. Not that many coaches are likely to do it either.
On Saturday, Nebraska certainly could have opened the game up more, but in doing so, opened up the risk of letting Kansas State back into the game. Zac Taylor has had some ball control issues when being sacked this season, so exposing Taylor in the passing game when it's not necessary is doubly foolhardy. How many Husker fans want to play Missouri or go to Texas A&M with Joe Ganz as the starting QB?
Run the ball, milk the clock, control the tempo, and win the game. If it's working, why take the chance? The expectations are to win the Big XII North, and to do that, you need a healthy Zac Taylor and wins. "Pounding the rock" will do that against the Iowa States and Kansas States. Probably will also do that against Oklahoma State as well. What about Tejas? That's another story entirely.