Over my lunch hour today, I happened to catch Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer being interviewed following the suspension of Zach Luckett following his DUI Sunday morning. While Beamer feels good about his freshman receivers, he told ESPN Radio's Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt that he has no expectations for this season, just that they compete hard. (For those of you who missed it, Virginia Tech lost their top four receivers to graduation as well as their top returning receiver to a torn Achilles on top of the Luckett suspension. Add in the dismissal of top running back Brandon Ore and injuries to their next two running backs, and they've got huge question marks on offense.)
That reminded me of Tom Osborne's preseason expectation of "playing harder" rather than a certain number of wins in 2008?
Is that good enough for Nebraska fans?
Except for a few flashes in the first three quarters against Texas and then against Kansas State, fans didn't see a lot of effort from their favorite team from about the second quarter of the USC game onward last season. So I've heard many fans say that they'd be happy with a team that "plays hard" all season.
Certainly playing hard would be a vast improvement over last season, to be sure. But would that be enough? Somehow, I doubt it. In 2003, Nebraska played much harder than they did in 2002, but that wasn't enough for some fans who were dismayed by fourth quarter collapses against Missouri, Texas, and Kansas State. The 2001 season isn't remembered as much for Eric Crouch's Heisman Trophy or a BCS Title Game berth, but rather for a defensive meltdown against Colorado as the Buffies gashed through the Blackshirts like a hot knife through butter.
Did giving up 38 points in one half to Oklahoma State and 76 points to Kansas lower our expectations? That's a good question. To some extend, I'd have to say yes. Prior to Bill Callahan, not winning a championship was considered a failure to some extent. Now, Husker fans are focused more on just seeing the program pull out of it's tailspin.
That being said, I don't think Husker fans are going to be perfectly happy with seven, eight, or even nine wins in 2008. Deep down, fans still want their program to compete for the biggest prize. I don't see Husker fans being happy with any losses. If it's a close loss, they'll bemoan a penalty, a missed tackle, a boneheaded play call, or some sort of error that may have made a difference between a victory and a loss. (Including yours truly.)
That being said, after last season, merely showing good effort would be a sign of progress. But will that be enough for fans? I'd doubt it, but it's more likely in 2008 than at anytime during the previous fourty years or so.