This one is a gut shot that frankly might be this team's Waterloo. Last week was ineptness on offense, but for the most part, the offense was ok today. The Huskers moved the ball ok most of the day...until they got inside the Iowa State ten yard line. In the upper reaches of the South End Zone, someone yelled to "quick, kick the field goal before someone screws up" in the third quarter. Two plays later, Dontravious Robinson was stripped of the ball. Postgame video showed offensive lineman Keith Williams reading Robinson the riot act as he came off the field. Not a good sign for team unity, though the frustration was certainly understandable. (And it's not like Williams had a particularly good game either; the left side of the line struggled all afternoon..)
We all know what was bad today, but there were some signs of optimism to build on.
- Dontravious Robinson showed good power in his first action at I-back. Looking at the replays of his fumble, that was a ferocious attack on the ball by Iowa State's defense. I'm going to give Robinson a pass on this one; it's a learning experience for him to work on ball security. In fact, I'm so concerned about Roy Helu's injury status, that I think Robinson should start next week at Baylor. I'm not convinced Helu is able to adequately maintain possession of the ball with his shoulder injury; it might be best to let this thing heal.
- Zac Lee isn't the answer, but isn't the problem either. His receivers didn't help him at all today, though Lee did stare down his receivers much of the day. Not as blatantly as Sam Keller, mind you. But bad enough that it makes you fear the Sooners when they come to town.
- I'm going to say it again: Ndamukong Suh for Heisman. I know it's become a quarterback award in recent years, but nobody else is having this kind of year. Right after Iowa State scored their touchdown, I started wondering if Suh would get a hold of the kick and allow the Huskers to tie the game at 9-9. Unfortunately, Suh got too much of the ball and it squirted out of bounds before Prince Amukamara could field it. If Amukamara had gotten to the ball, he had clear sailing for a 2 point conversion.
- Shawn Watson still called too many screen passes today, but he did try to stretch the field today. And I loved the power formations with multiple tight ends. The right side of the line was productive...the left side, not so much.
- Phillip Dillard is performaning at an all-Big XII level at linebacker. Not bad for a guy who disappeared this spring and in the first two games of the season.
It all starts tomorrow by acknowledging the great job the Iowa State defense did in forcing some of those turnovers, and starting over with ball security drills. At the same time, team unity and resolve is an even bigger concern at this point. A loss like this can either spur the team on to resolve the problems, or implode like 2007. And let's not kid ourselves...the 2007 Huskers were bad for much of that season on BOTH sides of the ball. (Remember the long stretches without touchdowns in October of that season?)
I don't know what the solutions are, but giving up isn't one of them.