Looking back at last Saturday's game against Oklahoma State, it's still not exactly obvious what the problem was. Or should I say problems. This one looks like blame needs to go across the board: offense, defense, special teams, players, and coaches alike. Some will play the talent card, but that's ignoring the fact that the Cowboys started 4 freshman and sophomores on defense and 5 on offense.
Saturday night, both Bo Ruud and Stewart Bradley commented that they could tell early on that something wasn't right with the team. Ruud recognized it in warmups, and Bradley realized it with the opening plays. Neither said, though, what the problem was. Perhaps it was the fact that Bill Callahan let the team know that Missouri had just lost (or, that's what Callahan told ABC's sideline reporter just before kickoff), which could have lessened the Huskers "sense of urgency". In baseball, frequently teams will turn off the "out of town" scoreboard in the midst of a tight pennant race so that the team focuses on their game instead of "scoreboard watching." Were the Huskers focusing on the wrong opponent this week?
Some folks suggested that Nebraska was tired after the Texas game. Perhaps...but Nebraska enjoyed a nearly 10 minute advantage in time-of-possession (34:59 to 25:01).
Game plan? Well, a heavy dose of Brandon Jackson sure started the game off right for the Big Red, jumping out to a 16-0 lead. I've criticized Callahan for not trying to be balanced, and on Saturday, Callahan's attempt to balance the offense after establishing Jackson turned out to be the beginning of the end. Even Billy C admitted that they started to throw the ball too much on Saturday.
On offense, I think you can find issues with just about everybody on offense. The offensive line had a horrible 2nd half. And when Zac Taylor gets pressured...very bad things usually happen. Last year, Taylor usually got knocked around like a punching bag. This year, Taylor is making poor decisions and is also having ball security issues when being sacked. Compounding this is the observations that receivers were out of position, running poor routes. That was to be expected in 2004, and might be acceptable in early September. But this was game #9, and many of these receivers have been running these routes for 3 years now.
On defense, I've pretty much thrown in the towel on Kevin Cosgrove. Wisconsin fans thanked Nebraska for taking him off of their hands, and I can see why. Yes, injuries have hurt the huskers, but everyone has injuries. Time and time again, we see poor fundamentals combined with telegraphed playcalls of unimaginative schemes.
Should some of the younger defensive players be seeing more action? Many fans are calling for more of Ricky Thenarse, Major Culbert, Ndamakong Suh, and Barry Turner. It's interesting that the Cosgrove is playing the more experienced players over the younger players, which was not my expectation 2 years ago.
So do we just chalk last Saturday up to "just one of those bad days"? I could buy that if it was just a few things that went awry, but in the 2nd half, just about nothing went right. Couldn't run, couldn't throw, couldn't tackle, couldn't cover, couldn't kick. Nebraska ended the game +1 in turnovers and had a 10 minute advantage in time of possession; two indicators that would indicate that you are playing ok.
I know I expected to lose a game we shouldn't, and maybe this was it. But looking ahead on the schedule, two games tougher than last Saturday's are ahead on the schedule, and that's what scares fans.