If you are looking for a moral victory or perhaps something just to ease the pain of today's Husker loss to Virginia Tech, perhaps the place to look is that this wasn't a game that Nebraska "could've" won, like Texas Tech last season. This wasn't a game that Nebraska "would've" won, perhaps like Texas Tech in 2005 or Texas in 2006. This really was a game Nebraska "should've" won against a higher ranked team on the road.
Looking around the internets, much derision is going towards Matt O'Hanlon who finally hauled down Danny Coale 81 yards down field. I admit, I took ABC's lead and blamed Anthony West who let Coale sprint downfield. But is that true? Marvin Sanders indicated in his post game comments that O'Hanlon didn't get deep enough. But was O'Hanlon in a no-win situation here? I found the video of the play on YouTube, and look at the situation that O'Hanlon faced:
As Taylor prepares to throw, three receivers broke free in the deep zone, with two on O'Hanlon's side of the field. Does he take Coale, and hope that Lance Thorell can recover against tight end Greg Boone? Does he try to position himself to chase down either one? Tough position to be in, and in hindsight, not covering Coale is probably the biggest mistake he could have made.
But let's be honest, while that play sticks in everybody's mind, there were plenty of other reasons why Nebraska lost to the Hokies. Let's start with no touchdowns by the offense. Unlike 2007 at Missouri, Nebraska had plenty of opportunities to score touchdowns...just never could do it. One could argue that Nebraska could have won this game by two touchdowns if they could have capitalized on those drives. That fiasco that turned 1st and goal at the Virginia Tech 6 into 4th and goal from the 37 resulted in no points. If one of those holding calls isn't made, perhaps Alex Henery kicks another field goal, and suddenly that breakdown late in the game merely puts Virginia Tech into position to tie the game with a 2-point conversion.
Zac Lee is going to take a lot of heat for his 11-for-30 performance today...and rightfully so. Certainly Lee missed a few throws, and could have ended the game earlier by hitting Curenski Gilleylen in bounds so that Gilleylen could have turned and raced to the end zone rather than worry about getting a foot inbounds. But Lee kept several drives alive with his running, carrying eight times for 38 yards. I wonder if part of the problem today was Lee feeling pressure to become a playmaker instead of a manager, causing him to force plays at time.
The team plane should now be back in Lincoln, and if the fan base is any indication, this game should be knawing their insides apart. The biggest objective for this week is to move past this week and rectify the errors this week. Nebraska still is tied at 0-0 with everybody else in the Big XII North, so every goal on the season is still intact. Tough road games lay ahead in Columbia, Waco (even though they lost to UConn today), and Lawrence. Oklahoma defeated a decent Tulsa squad 45-0, and Texas Tech gave Texas more of a battle than some thought tonight. If Nebraska plays the way they played today, they can win some of those games. If they rectify the mistakes they made today, they could win most of them. And starting tomorrow, winning those games is now the goal.
But for tonight, a lot of tossing and turning await, wondering just what if...