Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sooner Magic Strikes Early and Often

In the 70's and 80's, Nebraska fans became used to the sight of the Oklahoma Sooners scoring quickly in the closing seconds of the football game. Sadly tonight, all that Sooner magic occurred in the first six minutes of the game. Anybody who tuned in a few minutes late were probably shocked to see the Sooners up 28-love barely six minutes into the game.

And that's the ballgame. If you look at the yardage, it doesn't look like such a mismatch: NU 418 yards, OU 508 yards. First downs: NU 15, OU 21. But then there is the key statistic of turnovers: NU 4, OU 1.

To be sure, Nebraska wasn't going to win tonight's game without playing a perfect game, and frankly, I'm not sure that even then could Nebraska have won this game. Take that first offensive play: Dominiq Franks identified that overused wide receiver screen pass before the snap, and jumped on it before the ball ever left Joe Ganz's hand. Touchdown Oklahoma.

And that is why Bob Stoops is the best coach in the Big XII conference. The Sooner staff had their players ready to play, and had their players ready to exploit what has become Nebraska's bread-and-butter play this season.

Call me weird, call me a homer, call me an apologist for this staff, or call me desensitized to bad losses, but losing 62-28 to Oklahoma doesn't sting quite as bad as giving up 76 to Kansas and 65 to Colorado last season. The Sooners are #2 in the country in scoring, averaging over 48 points a game. I fully expected Oklahoma to put a bunch of points on the board...just not 28 points in the first six minutes of the game. Disappointed and disgusted, to be sure. Just not to the extremes of 2007.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports that Lydon Murtha and Marlon Lucky left the game due to injuries. I'm not so sure either was missed. In the second quarter, I saw two complete whiffs by Murtha on one drive. I guess I've never gotten over the scenes of Murtha getting repeatedly beaten in his early years of his career, so I'm never surprised when I see him regress back into a sieve. Lucky nearly got his head taken off on that high pass that was deflected for the second interception. But his absence wasn't felt not because of what Lucky wasn't doing, but rather what his eventual replacement did do. Quentin Castille continues to have issues with ball security which makes you wonder if he'll ever move beyond it. After the success Cody Glenn has had at linebacker, the idea of a position switch doesn't seem completely insane.

But Roy Helu made another strong bid for more playing time. Last week, I questioned why Helu didn't handle the ball more, and tonight, he once again came through when the other backs weren't. Please. Get Helu the ball more.

And before you get too worked up about getting blown out by the Sooners, just look at what the Big XII South did today. Texas and Texas Tech may have played the defacto national championship game tonight. Oklahoma State laid waste to Iowa State. And Missouri needed a field goal with under 3 minutes left in the game to beat Baylor.

I'll throw out another scenario: if somehow Alabama, Penn State, and Florida lose down the stretch, the BCS title game in Miami could match up two Big XII South teams. The South is just that good right now.

But enough of that talk... Nebraska needs to bounce back strong for their final three games. They are all winnable...and all losable if Nebraska doesn't play well.

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