Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Few Quick Comments on Blowouts and Coaching Changes

I've been a little busy the last few days, but here are a few quick takes...

Jay Norvell: Sorry to see you go. I understand why you left, as the opportunity to be a real offensive coordinator (not just one in name only) is the next step on the road to becoming a head coach. But this one hurts Nebraska... a lot. I've felt that Norvell was the best coach on the staff for some time now. One of the best minds and one of the best people as well. Nebraska will probably find another "recruiter" to replace him, but what they really need is another great coach. Too bad you couldn't have been a true coordinator for Nebraska; I really think Bill Callahan gets overwhelmed at times during the game and this leads to questionable playcalling. I had hoped that if Norvell hadn't gotten the promotion he wanted, that Callahan would have handed Norvell the clipboard and let him run with it. Sadly, that won't happen now.

Husker Hoops: I missed the game, so when I saw the crawl on ESPN2 that said that Kansas went on a 39-8 run to open the game, all I could do was wince. Almost as bad as the one after last year's KU game in Larryville. Disappointing? You bet. But unlike 70-10, this one isn't so difficult to explain. Kansas did everything right, and Nebraska apparantly did everything wrong. Kansas is a top 10 team, though they haven't played that way a whole lot (last time was against Florida).

Mav hockey: Nice weekend against the Yoopers of Northern Michigan. I caught the Friday night game, and you could sense a different attitude in this team. They hit harder and passed the puck better than they have in recent memory. Goaltending was pretty solid too. The next two weeks against top-ten Michigan State and Notre Dame could be considered make-or-break series, either putting them in position for a first-round bye in the conference playoffs or to have to scramble for home ice in the first round.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Jordan Congdon Story: Looks Like There's More

Earlier this month, Jordan Congdon left Nebraska, apparantly to deal with family issues. At the time, one line in the Journal-Star caught my attention:
Gayla Congdon, the player’s mother, declined comment Friday, referring questions to Nebraska coach Bill Callahan. Callahan said through a university spokesman that he prefers to respect the Congdon family’s privacy.
If Congdon was leaving Nebraska for family issues, why would Gayla Congdon refer questions to Bill Callahan? Just seemed odd. But, Congdon was off to a junior college for the spring semester. Best of luck to him, right?

Then came word this week that Congdon was talking to Pete Carroll about walking on at USC. And Congdon's mom is saying a little more to the Lincoln Journal-Star:
“My husband and I brought him home — we made that decision. We’re just trying to get him accepted in a school so we can give him hope for his future.”
Now the story is starting to sound a little different. The internet rumor mill makes it sound like Congdon's departure wasn't terribly amicable.

Which is what I was afraid of. We've seen a growing number of players leaving the Husker program on unpleasant terms lately, which is a disturbing trend. Granted, any time a player leaves it's usually not pleasant, but the frequency is raising concerns.

Oh, and by the way, that same article in today's Lincoln Journal-Star also reported that Marlon Lucky also was considering leaving Nebraska last week as well, but was talked out of it by Bill Callahan.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Knight Commission: Recruitniks Need to Get a Life

At this week's meeting of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, experts from around college athletics bemoaned the rise of the "recruitnik". Services such as and are now an obsession that in some cases rivals the devotion fans have to their favorite teams ... and like any obsession, it has it's dark side. Maryland high school football coach Bill McGregor testified about his experience with one of his students, who is currently a high school JUNIOR who is still a year and a half away from starting college:
"Right now I have a player who's rated as the seventh best junior in the country," McGregor said. "Who in the world ever designated him as the seventh best junior in the country? And now, does he have to live up to that reputation? Does he have to pretend that he is the seventh best junior in the country? What happens when he drops a pass next year? What happens when he doesn't make a 40-yard run in every ball game? I think what's happening is the pressure is being unduly transferred to the boys in a situation where they don't need it."
Sports sociologist Harry Edwards commented further, saying that "The elite athletic prospect has become completely commoditized." He warns that these athletes end up "hedonistic, materialistic and individualistic."

It used to be that recruiting only got intense in the senior year, but now it starts earlier and earlier and only gets worse. And it's not just football, but all sports. The Western College Hockey blog is already covering high school sophomores, including two who have already committed to Notre Dame when they graduate high school in 2009.

That's right... kids who aren't even able to drive legally are already in the cross-hairs of the recruiting monster. Even WCH wonders about the sanity of colleges offering scholarships to 14 year olds, pointing out that in 2002, analysts rated future #3 NHL draft pick Jack Johnson equivalent to Steve Spade, who ended up toiling unremarkably in Canadian junior hockey.

In Omaha, there are a couple more great examples of players that recruitniks missed. Bill Thomas and Scott Parse were unheralded prospects until they put on UNO Maverick sweaters. Parse went on to become a Hobey Baker finalist in his junior year, and Thomas jumped immediately to the NHL, playing for the Phoenix Coyotes and Wayne Gretzky days after Thomas' sophomore season ended in the NCAA tournament.

Recruiting is an inexact science, even for coaches who's job depends on not only identifying talent but also developing it. Why do fans give so much credit to amatuer recruiting experts who portray themselves on the internet as experts? The headline in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution sums it up well: Just Get a Life. And let these high school students live their lives in peace.

Monday, January 22, 2007

CozBohl to the Vikings???

The Minneapolis newspapers are reporting that Kevin Cosgrove is a candidate to replace Mike Tomlin as defensive coordinator of the Vikings. Is Cosgrove a serious candidate or are they just dropping as many names they can come up with?

Personally, I'm not sure I understand the Vikings interest in Cosgrove, especially based on his record as an very average defensive coordinator in college football. Wisconsin's defenses under Cosgrove weren't terribly impressive, which made folks question why Nebraska hired him, except for Cosgrove's buddy relationship with Callahan. Perhaps Callahan felt an obligation to Cosgrove, or maybe they just wanted to work together again. You always want to work with people you like and feel most comfortable with, no matter what your occupation is. The change worked out well for Wisconsin, as Cosgrove's replacement, Bret Bielema went on to lead an impressive turnaround with the Badger defense... so impressive that Barry Alvarez felt that he had found his successor as head coach.

So why would the Vikings want to hire Cosgrove? That's a good question, and it probably goes back to the comfort factor. Vikings head coach Brad Childress worked with Cosgrove (and Callahan at Wisconsin). Perhaps Childress (and Callahan) have seen something in Cosgrove that hasn't been apparant in Cosgrove's defenses over the last 7 years or so. Nebraska's defense has looked ok (actually, pretty good) at times (see the Cotton Bowl against Auburn)... but downright awful at other times.

Could the Vikings be the answer to many Husker fans' prayers? Certainly Wisconsin found out you can do better than Kevin Cosgrove. When I reflect on Nebraska's defensive coordinators over the years, Cosgrove ranks near the bottom of the list:
  1. Monte Kiffin
  2. Charlie McBride
  3. Bo Pelini
  4. Lance Van Zandt
  5. Kevin Cosgrove
  6. Craig Bohl
However, I wouldn't get my hopes up that the Vikings will take Cosgrove off our hands. I think the media up in the Twin Cities is grasping for names, and the Vikings' interest in Cosgrove last year makes that an easy connection to make. I kind of expect this rumor to die out in the next few days...

But it doesn't hurt to dream a little, doesn't it???

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Credit to Steve Pederson: A Thumbs Up to Doc Sadler

As this Husker basketball season has unfolded, I've become more and more impressed with Doc Sadler and the job he's doing this season with a short roster he inherited in August. Certainly the odds were stacked against Sadler this season. The uncertainty surrounding the coaching staff left holes in the incoming recruiting class this season. The schedule was a travel agent's dream with road trips to New Jersey one week, Portland the next, Hawaii a week later, and then Miami. Then, as the season began, the short-handed roster got even shorter as injuries took their toll.

But an amazing thing has happened in Lincoln... this team hasn't gone into the dumpster. They are #88 in the RPI and have a realistic shot at having a halfway decent season.

Even the crowds are starting to return to the Devaney Center... selling 11,000 tickets on a snowy night to yesterday's game against Colorado.

That's not to say that all is right in Lincoln. Two poor second half performances at Oklahoma and Iowa State led Sadler to call a 5:30 am practice on Thursday... less than 6 hours after their plane returned from Norman. Some people called it insane, but that wasn't so much about winning games in January, but rather winning games later. Sadler came to Nebraska promising that nobody would outwork his team, and when Nebraska mailed it in last week, Sadler acted. Certainly the effort was better in a 71-50 stampede of the Buffies.

All in all, Sadler is doing a pretty good job. Last summer, things looked extremely uncertain with respect to Husker hoops, so the fact that Nebraska is even being mentioned as being on the NCAA bubble is a positive sign.

I criticized Steve Pederson for his handling of Barry Collier, and that criticism still stands. But, Pederson deserves credit for quickly identifying and hiring Doc Sadler. At this point, Doc looks like a winner.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lemming on Recruiting: "No One Should Take It Seriously"

As the silly season of recruiting gets ready to go into overdrive, here's another confession from one of the so-called experts, Tom Lemming (courtesy the Chicago Sun-Times):
"It's an inexact science. Everything is arbitrary. It's all fun. No one should take it seriously. For those who live and die with it, I say, 'Get a life.' There is so much name-calling on Web sites."
Lemming admits it. admits it. But sadly, fans still don't get it. They'll waste good money to subscribe to these services and obsess about it... and think it really means something.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Big Red Roundtable: 2006 Season Wrapup

DoubleExtraPoint blogger Jeffie has organized a "Big Red Roundtable" with several Husker blogs (Corn Nation, Big Red Network, and myself) to get a sampling of opinions of the state of the Huskers. The first one is a wrapup on the 2006 season; here are the subjects and here are my responses. If this proves successful, we'll likely do more of them. It's kind of fun to respond and it will be interesting to read the others' responses. Of course, your comments are welcome as well.

1. As a Nebraska fan you no doubt had a well-conceived set of expectations for the year. How did the 2006 Nebraska season jive with your preseason prospects?

My "realist" prediction was 9-3 and Big XII North champions. Pretty much dead-on with my expectations. I expected Troy to give us a better battle than they did, though. Most of my expectations of strengths and weaknesses weren't too far off, though Mo Purify contributed far more than I expected, and I posted this before Zackary Bowman ripped his ACL.

2. Given the long-standing success of Husker football how does losing five games influence your overall evaluation of the 2006 season? In other words, do the losses keep you up at night? Are you comfortable rationalizing them in some way? Or do you take the optimistic perspective of focusing on the left hand of the W/L column rather than the right hand?

The number of losses didn't bother me as much as how we lost those games. It wasn't until a few days after the Cotton Bowl that I even realized that 5 losses was the 3rd worst for this program in nearly 40 years. Certainly didn't seem that way. Some losses I look back and say, wow, we made too many mistakes to win, like against Oklahoma. (See 2003 Missouri, 2001 Colorado, 1999 Texas, 1996 Arizona State, etc.) Other times, we got outtalented (see 2002 Rose Bowel, most Orange Bowls vs. Miami, etc.) But this season, 4 losses came under the category of "what the #*$& are we doing???" I hated the USC game plan; it was almost a sign of surrender. I disagreed with the decision to throw on 3rd and short late against Texas, as running the ball likely meant that even if we didn't get the first down, Texas would have probably had to drive 80 yards against a gale with no timeouts in 1:30. Oklahoma State was a collapse after Brandon Jackson dominated the game early. And an ill-advised fake punt against Auburn let the Tigers back into the game that we were dominating at the time.

Bottom line is that watching the Huskers continually losing games that we should have won is a disturbing trend.

3. Now that the season has come to a close we know that Coach Callahan will go over all areas of the team with an IRS auditor's attention to detail. Help him out by offering a brief assessment of the 2006 offense, defense and special teams.

Briefly? On offense, it came down to balance. Some teams, Nebraska could simply overpower with the ground game (Iowa State, Troy, Nicholls State), and they did it. But when the Huskers were playing their best, it usually was because they were balanced. See the 2nd half against Texas; we mixed it up well and got into a groove. When we didn't try to be balanced (2nd half against Oklahoma State, for example), bad things usually happened.

Defensively, I think we tried to overcompensate for shortcomings in the secondary by playing too much base defense, and failed to generate pressure on the quarterback in passing situations. Towards the end of the season, we started to take some more chances and mixed it up a bit on defense, and had some better performances against Oklahoma, Auburn, and Missouri. But that still doesn't explain how Adam Barmann turned into Peyton Manning back in September...

Special Teams? After improvement in 2005, this squad regressed in 2006. Kickoffs were consistently short, giving every opponent great field position. We were one of the worst teams in the country in field goals by only converting 5. And at times, punt returns were a comedy that were poorly blocked and frequently not fielded. At least our punt coverage was ok.

4. No post-season assessment would be complete without handing out some hardware. Who are your 2006 Nebraska offensive and defensive MVPs and why?

On offense, I thought about naming Zac Taylor as the MVP, but decided to go with Brandon Jackson instead. Taylor was a warrior all season, but if it wasn't for Jackson picking up blitzes, making key catches, or taking command of the running game in October, Taylor would have never survived the season. Will he go to the NFL? We'll find out tomorrow. Offhand, I'd like to think not. I think he's established himself as the clear #1 (despite what happened in Dallas), and he's not projected very high in the draft.

Defensively, I'll chicken out and take Adam Carriker. Most of Cosgrove's schemes early in the year handcuffed him, but towards the end of the season, he was able to get some help and wreak havoc with opposing offenses.

5. For something completely different. If you had to name a coach of the year from the Nebraska staff whom would you select? This can be based on any number of things, including performance of a particular unit or the improvement of a particular aspect/unit over previous seasons.

I must admit, this question threw me for a loop, and I probably spent more time on this question than all others combined. My first take was to throw out John Blake, Dennis Wagner, and Jay Norvell as candidates. I hesitated on Blake because his departure and quick replacement seemed to indicate that something wasn't going well behind the scenes, even if the line was strong IMHO all year without getting a lot of help. Wagner's lines survived injuries to Greg Austin (memo to this staff: find a way to keep Austin involved in this program in some way if he wants.), Kurt Mann, and Matt Slauson this season. And Zac Taylor was named all-Big 12 and was incredibly efficient all season.

But when I thought more about this season, what we saw was an overall improvement in the team. With that in mind, I decided to name strength coach Dave Kennedy as my "coach of the year". Each year we always hear about "bigger, stronger, faster", but this year, each player actually seemed to be "bigger, stronger, faster" than they were the year before.

6. And finally, bust out your mental scrapbook. What is your favorite/most impressionable or defining memory of the 2006 Husker season? This can be a play, a game, a thought/image, or in CBS March Madness terms "One shining moment".

Trying to think more optimistically, I'd like to focus on Maurice Purify's leaping touchdown catch late against A&M. The whole drive was a thing of beauty, with key plays by Zac Taylor and Todd Peterson to get the Huskers in position, not to mention Barry Turner's block of an A&M field goal. So after thinking about it some more, let's name the final two minutes of that game as the Husker's "shining moment", since it really was much more than Purify's highlight reel catch.

What does the rest of the Roundtable think? CornNation, DoubleExtraPoint, Big Red Network have posted their responses. Check 'em out, and feel free to comment.

Late update: Kind of like the tradition of giving the opposition party a chance to respond to the President's "State of the Union" address, here's AJ the HuskerH8er... (Of course, in AJ's case, it's kind of like of like allowing Osama bin Laden or Kim Jong-Il to respond to Bush...)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mavs Making a Move

Scott Parse won the Friday night matchup against Bowling Green with :54 left in regulation to give the Mavs a 2-1 victory. Tonight's matchup against the Bee Gees wasn't anywhere nearly as close as UNO scored early and often in a 7-0 romp. Jerad Kaufman was solid in net to get the shutout, and Parse scored twice. Brian Marshall had a sweet assist in the 2nd period when he stopped, fed the puck to Parse who shot, with Dan Charleston burying the rebound.

So where does that leave the Mavs? 7th place, 1 point out behind 5th place Ohio State and Lake Superior State, and 4 points behind the 4th place Weasels. The schedule is giving UNO an opening, with a road trip to 11th place Ferris State followed by a home series against 10th place Northern Michigan.

Can UNO put together another run like last year? Perhaps. They may have dug a bigger hole than they did last year, but the schedule is much more favorable. But they'll need to play more like they did this evening, and less like they did last night.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mavs Need to Regroup

The Nebraska-Omaha hockey team finally returns to home ice after 5 weeks after going 0-2-2 on the road the last two weeks. Last weekend at Lake Superior State was especially frustrating as UNO let 2 hird period leads slip away both nights...turning a potential 4 point weekend into just 1.

The good news for UNO is that last place Bowling Green is coming to Omaha this weekend. Last month, UNO swept the Falcons on their home ice, winning 4-1 Friday and 7-1 Saturday. MavRick compiled the Saturday night carnage on YouTube:

UNO's 8-9-6 record is a little tough to stomach at this point; certainly this is a better team than the record indicates. Certainly better than #17 Niagara, who UNO throttled 10-1 back in October in a game that wasn't even that close. UNO is going to need to make up a lot of ground over the next few weeks to reclaim home ice for the playoffs. They can't continue to let games slip away.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ohio State??? Hahahahahaha...

I admit it. Sunday night I chickened out. After watching USC blast Michigoon in the Rose Bowel and then LSU torch Notre Dame in the Sugar, I was convinced that Florida was going to beat Ohio State to take the title. I had a blog posting halfway done...and then I had second thoughts and hit delete. I guess I started listening to too many of the so-called experts tell us how badly Ohio State was going to trash the Gators. Problem is, these are the same experts who tried to sell us 2005 Southern Cal and 2003 Oklahoma as the greatest team ever. Before that, they tried to tell us that 1995 Florida had too much speed for Nebraska or that 1993 Nebraska had no business playing Florida State.

In other words, I should have trusted my instinct. I thought better of it on Monday and made a quick prediction on, since I didn't have time to blog it. So as Florida ran up and down the field on the Buckeyes, I wasn't all that surprised. They play great football in the SEC, and the Big 10 is continually overrated, plus factor in the extra layoff the Buckeyes had as well as the Heisman jinx.

For what it's worth, here's my top 5 for the 2006 season:
  1. Florida
  2. Boise State
  3. LSU
  4. Southern Cal
  5. Ohio State
Why drop the 12-1 Buckeyes to 5th? Simple...they not only got beaten, but also exposed. Their win against Texas was nice, but Texas proved to be overrated this season as well. What about their win against Michigoon? Didn't the Weasels struggle to beat Ball State? Heck, let's compare Ohio State's results to Frank Solich's Ohio Bobcats in common opponents: Ohio State 35, Northern Illinois 10; Ohio 35, Northern Illinois 23; Ohio 20, Illinois 17; Ohio State 17, Illinois 10. The Big 10 finished the bowl season 2-5.

In other words, forget the preseason hype and look at what Ohio State did this season on the field. Since nobody beat Boise State, you have to give them credit. LSU was about as dominant as anybody in college football (especially with the BeauxShirt defense), so they get #3. The difference between USC and Ohio State? How they did against Michigoon, and the Rose Bowel gives the Trojans the edge here.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Jordan Congdon's Priorities

Yesterday's Omaha World-Herald had a great article about Husker kicker Jordan Congdon's decision to leave Lincoln and donate part of his liver to his uncle. Say what you will (I certainly have) about his kicking abilities, but this decision shows Congdon's priorities ("God-family-football") are in the right order.

The Lincoln Journal-Star has a different version of the story, though. According to Steve Sipple, Congdon is one of many candidates to provide a liver to his uncle, and there is a "very slim" chance that Congdon would actually be the donor. Also, in recent months, Congdon has lost a grandfather and two friends of the family, so he wants to be closer to home.

Which version of the story is true? Don't know, and does it really matter? Congdon has enough things to worry about in his life that are more important than football. Hopefully, he'll work through them.

One item in the Sipple/LJS article does raise an eyebrow, and that's where Congdon's mother declined comment and referred questions to Bill Callahan, who in turn declined comment. I understand not wanting to talk about it, but it seems curious to say "ask Bill Callahan" about the situation of a player who is leaving the Nebraska program. The interesting wrinkle in this whole situation is that Nebraska has a verbal comittment from kicker Adi Kunalic to join the team this fall.

Is there more to this story? I hope not, other than a happy ending for everyone. In the meantime, prayers and good luck to the Congdon family.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Mathematically Defending the Fake Punt via Game Theory

The DoubleExtraPoint blog has an interesting analysis that attempts to mathematically justify the fake punt in the Cotton Bowl with Game Theory. It's an interesting, if not mentally exhausting read, and definitely makes some good points. In my opinion, it's flawed because it doesn't account for momentum or the context of the situation. In a 7-7 game against Ohio State or the 1995 Huskers, running a fake punt makes more sense since you only have so many opportunities and you have very little to lose. At the other extreme, in a 7-7 game against, oh, say 1-AA Maine, it makes no sense because you risk falling behind an underdog and giving them momentum.

Against Auburn, a team you are otherwise dominating at that point? I still go with: dumb, dumb call. But it is an interesting read.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Cotton Stuck in our Craw

The reaction from Husker fans seems to be fast and especially furious over the Cotton Bowl game. I'm getting lots of hits from people Googling "Fire Bill Callahan"... even though I've never called for his firing. (His boss is another matter entirely...) More has been said in the last 36 hours than was said in the 4 weeks prior to the game, which makes me wonder if the reason for the silence and seeming lack of interest before the game was more anxiety and uncertainty about the direction of the program.

I see the point...and don't see the point at the same point. Looking at this game, it was definitely a winnable game. Auburn Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp really came off condescending towards Callahan's offense in today's Birmingham News:
"I told the kids going into the game that if we just get through these 12 to 15 plays, we'll be fine. He's going to show all of his motions, all of his shifts, and after that it's over. All these West Coast guys are programmed."
Of course, Nebraska got off to a hot start, and dominated the first half. Muschamp saw what Nebraska did, made the necessary adjustments, and shut down the Husker offense in the 2nd half. However, Callahan's offense didn't really adjust to Auburn's adjustments, thus resulting in all of the scorn coming Callahan's way.

Here's Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated in his blog:
You know, I’ve tried to be patient and give the guy a fair shake considering the unique circumstances of his hiring and transformation of the program. And obviously he deserves credit for leading Nebraska to its first division title in seven years. But it’s become painfully obvious over the course of the season that Callahan is one questionable game-manager -- and never was that more abundant than the final six minutes of Monday’s Cotton Bowl.
How about the Dallas Morning News?
Callahan has demonstrated an affinity for overthinking the college game, and he did it again Monday.
Or Tom Shatel?

This morning, Auburn remains in the top 10. And the Huskers likely will drop out of the rankings.

They're close. But the closer they get, the further away it looks.

Shatel is onto something. 9-5 looks disappointing today, but you have to remember what people expected. 9-3 and a Big XII North title looked like improvement in July, and that's what it is. There was only one embarassing, inexplicable loss on the road this season, down from 2 last season. The teams we lost to in 2006 are definitely better than the teams we lost to in 2005.

Next season the talent excuse disappears, as there really won't be many players left in Lincoln that weren't recruited by this staff. But Callahan's knack towards mismanaging the game continues to haunt him. That's what's fueling the angst.

We're heading into year 4. The time for excuses is now over. Some fans wanted to claim victory in "hey we weren't embarassed at USC"; others said "if only" after Texas. It's now time to start seeing results.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Cotton Bowl: More of the Same

My vote for worst call of the year has to be the fake punt that Callahan called early in the 2nd quarter in today's Cotton Bowl. (I almost called it the worst call of Callahan's career, but that goes to the swing pass out of the end zone against Kansas State last season.) Callahan has made a habit out of trick plays this season, and apparantly this fake punt was all that was left in the bag of tricks. It should have stayed there, as this one was all-wrong.
Run from deep in Nebraska territory, there's no guarentee that it would have led to to points as we were far from being in a position to capitalize. Simply put, the risk-reward balance was too high on the risk side without that much reward. It was poorly executed, as Dane Todd's pitch to Andrew Shanle was fumbled, giving Auburn even better field position.

14 of Auburn's points were the result of ill-advised playcalls that turned into disasters. I also disagreed with Callahan throwing the ball on 3rd and 3 in the first quarter that was intercepted. I don't consider 3rd and 3 a passing down, especially with the way Nebraska was running the ball.

Defensively, Cozbohl had a pretty good scheme in holding Auburn to 178 yards. Cozbohl gets a lot of criticism, but he gets props today. And the offensive game plan in the first half was pretty good with a heavy dose of "pounding the rock".

However, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville schooled Bill Callahan at halftime with his adjustments. Nebraska only averaged 2 yards a play after halftime, and Auburn managed to have a couple of good drives to take control of the game.

The playcalling after Barry Turner recovered an Auburn fumble late in the 4th quarter is going to be a headscratcher all winter long. The shovel pass on 3rd and 9 that went for negative yards was a headscratcher, and Zac Taylor throwing the ball away on 4th and 11 was an uncharacteristic mistake that ended any hope the Huskers had of winning the game. Callahan and Jay Norvell preach that it's better to throw the ball away and not make a mistake, but in that situation, it was do-or-die. In that situation, find the receiver with the best chance to make a catch and pray. An incompletion is just like an interception in that situation.

Many folks will wonder why Nebraska didn't kick a field goal in that situation. The sad fact is that Nebraska no longer has a field goal kicker capable of making a 48 yard field goal. We had one in David Dyches, but Callahan benched him last year, and he transferred to Northern Colorado to play his senior season, where he did kick a 48 yarder earlier this season. If you've watched Jordan Congdon on kickoffs, it's clear that while he has a fairly accurate leg, it's not powerful. If you believed the recruiting hype on Congdon, well, shame on you. Maybe Rivals will give you a refund. Remember, even Rivals own experts say it's all "make believe until they hit the field."

In the end, this one hurts. Nebraska had it's chances, but made way too many mistakes today, like they did against Oklahoma.