Sunday, October 09, 2011

Huskers Rain Down on Ohio State and Dirk Chatelain

It was a tale of two completely different football games in one sixty minute game when Nebraska faced Ohio State in the first Big Ten game in Lincoln. The Huskers came out fired up and the crowd responded with an electric atmosphere. But then the game started, and the Huskers bugaboo from last week continued:  poor secondary play let Ohio State dominate the opening period.  Early on, Nebraska was stout against the Buckeyes offense in rushing situations, only to let the Buckeyes off the hook with passes or scrambles in passing situations. Second and 12?  21 yard pass play. Second and 9? 11 yard pass. Third down scrambles by Braxton Miller for 12 and 24 yards... and boom, the Buckeyes led 17-3 in the second quarter.

Meanwhile on offense, Nebraska kept trying to pound the ball, primarily with Rex Burkhead.  Eleven first half carries, 10 yards. Nebraska tried a variety of short screen passes early on, but couldn't sustain a drive.  Martinez wasn't playing badly for most of the first half, but wasn't able to get the offense untracked either. Just before halftime, a potentially fatal strategy error struck.  Rather than let the clock run out, Martinez overthrew Kyler Reed, with Orhian Johnson intercepting the pass at midfield with seconds left. Braxton Miller scrambled for 29 yards on the next play to set up a field goal.  Halftime score in Lincoln:  Buckeyes 20, Huskers 6. (Edit: Someone on the Grand Island Independent forums pointed out my typo on the score. That's what I get for writing well past my bed time. I've corrected the score.)

I'm sure if I had a smartphone at the game and checked Twitter, I'm sure the ridicule would have been extreme. Everyday Should Be Saturday simply said "Nebraska you are horrible." And they were right.  A few fans booed the horrible strategy decision and the horrible interception.

The second half didn't start much better.  Martinez slipped on the wet turf on the Huskers opening possession and punted.  Then cornerbacks Ciante Evans and Andrew Green got roasted by the Buckeyes on deep passes.  Five minutes in, it was Buckeyes 27, Huskers 6.  Blowout city. Maybe the Huskers belong in the Mountain West or Conference USA.  The people who sit in front of me packed their bag and headed home.

Then the game changed.  I attributed it to the insertion of Stanley Jean-Baptiste at cornerback. But Lavonte David's incredible strip of Braxton Miller was the big play.  Suddenly the Huskers had the ball in scoring position, and Taylor Martinez used one of his incredible slight-of-hand ball-fakes to send the defense (and every cameraman covering the game) chasing Burkhead on the sweep while Martinez sprinted into the end zone. On Ohio State's next possession, Miller injured his ankle and the mobile quarterback was replaced by the immobile Joe Bauserman. And from that point on, it was game over.

Without needing to worry about scrambling, the Husker defense was able to pressure Bauserman into errant throw after errant throw.  Bauserman was able to complete only one of 10 passes; the one completion took advantage of a Jean-Baptiste miscue to extend an Ohio State drive.  But without the threat of a mobile quarterback, the Huskers were able to shut down Ohio State on offense the rest of the way.

Whether Nebraska's offensive line was able to make some adjustments or they finally wore down the Buckeye defense isn't clear, but the Nebraska offense took over from there.  Those 2 yard Burkhead runs in the first half became six yard runs.  And to complement Burkhead, Martinez time and time again stepped up and picked up key first downs on scrambles.  Need three? Martinez picked up four yards twice. He kept his poise all night long, much to the chagrin of a couple of Martinez-bashers that were within earshot of me. He completed clutch passes to Kyler Reed, Kenny Bell, and then checked down to Rex Burkhead for a 30 yard touchdown to tie the game at 27-27. And with the Buckeyes on the ropes, Nebraska pummeled them into submission. You knew Rex Burkhead was going to get the ball, and Ohio State couldn't stop it. And suddenly, Nebraska's greatest comeback in school history was complete as the Huskers led 34-27.

Jean-Baptist's diving interception was a beauty and I firmly expect him to start in two weeks at Minnesota. After the game, I overheard parts of Bo Pelini's postgame press conference where he lit into Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World-Herald for his hatchet piece in Friday's newspaper. Some members of the media took offense, but the offense was Chatelain's yellow journalism. It's one thing to report, another thing to analyze and critique. Then there is simply trying to inflame people...and that's what Chatelain tried to do. Should Pelini have just brushed off Chatelain's article? That wouldn't be Bo Pelini: he's always going to look out for the people in his program first and foremost.

Chatelain has a serious dilemma on his hands. His Friday article destroyed his relationship with the football program.  He could choose to continue to be the contrarian for Nebraska football...but he'll likely have to do it with minimal interviews and comments from the program. Or, he may need to find another beat to cover because I don't think he's going to be able to cover the Huskers anymore.  Whether that's another sport (Creighton basketball?), going outside of sports (politics?), or even leaving Omaha and finding another employer, I don't know.

This criticism of Chatelain isn't to criticize people who write critical articles. Chatelain went beyond that with a horribly biased and conflicted article. It was a muddled mess:  Martinez played injured last year, there are no other quarterbacks ready to play, therefore Martinez should be benched.  Got that?  Maybe that's a gross over-simplification of Chatelain's article, but Chatelain's article was a gross over-simplification of the Huskers' quarterback situation.

Nebraska's comeback against Ohio State gives fans a taste of the football team fans like myself hoped we'd see this season. Good defense and a potent offense.  We saw about 25 minutes of that tonight, 20 minutes last week against Wisconsin, and a quarter against Washington.  Have the Huskers turned a corner?  We may find out in three weeks when Michigan State comes to Lincoln.


Anonymous said...

"he may need to find another beat to cover because I don't think he's going to be able to cover the Huskers anymore. Whether that's another sport (Creighton basketball?), going outside of sports (politics?), or even leaving Omaha and finding another employer, I don't know."

Can we hope? The guy has no qualifications as a writer let alone as the coach he fancies himself as.

Well he does have 1 qualification. His kin runs the Kearney Hub but that is it.

Red said...

Mike, good for you for calling out Dirk on that horrible piece he wrote. An absolute mish-mash of words written only to gain "hits".

Keep up the excellence.

Matt said...

I think calling the piece a "hatchet piece" is a bit strong. Was it muddled? Yes. Was it critical? Yes. But it didn't state anything that a lot of people didn't already think. This is the same writer who did a very nice piece on Ron Brown and Ameer Abdullah that you praised in an earlier post.

Press conference questions are often pretty bad. I'm not sure why it is so difficult to think of a better question than "Talk about that play in the second half, coach." But Bo usually takes it as an opportunity to act like a jerk.

I'm a big fan of our program. I think Bo is a really good football coach. And it's clear he cares about his kids. His demeanor in the press conferences, however, is pretty embarrassing.

His team just led the greatest comeback in NU history and instead of celebrating that moment while at the podium, he uses the opportunity to berate a writer who put something in print he didn't like. It went beyond "defending his player." It was petty.

bobcat45 said...

At least Chatelain rips the program using his own name so we can know he is the jerk who runs down our program and the young kids who have made it great. Much worse are those who booed yeaterday. They are probably the same self-annointed experts who anonomously rip the coaches and players on the internet and sports talk radio. What must the recruits at the thought? Or Suh and the Husker legends have thought? I have been going to games for over 50 years. They are not fans. I wish they would stay at home or watch in a bar and bore the guy next to them with their analysis of all that's wrong with the Huskers.

Omababe said...

>Much worse are those who booed

:( That's being a poor sport, plain and simple! :( I've almost always considered Nebraska fans to be a classy bunch, but this behavior is uncool and unclassy! :(

Having said that, I'm hearing a lot of frustration from the Nebraska fans and this has been fairly consistent ever since the time Frankie was summarily fired.

This year there's a whole new league and a new set of opponents with whom the players and coaching staff are not really familiar. Anyone who thinks this will be that magic winning season is being optimistically unrealistic. Those who are outspokenly critical this year, fans and media, need to lighten up a bit!

Kelly said...

I agree with Matt. Chatelain's piece was well written and spoke the truth. All he was saying was that Bo has hitched his wagon to Martinez and for Bo's sake it better work out. Nothing wrong with that. The game against Wisconsin was a disaster and coaching all the way down to players were terrible. Writers have a job to do and Chatelain did his. It pissed Bo off and of course everybody in Nebraska has to tiptoe around Bo and his shitty attitude towards the fans and the media. Dirk is just doing his job. He does not have an axe to grind. He is paid to write and opine on Nebraska football. He wrote what he felt. So we've come to the point where the World Herald and the Lincoln Journal Star are just supposed to be Pravda for the Cornhusker football program. That's not journalism. Frankly without the papers covering the team and the fans selling out every game Bo isn't pulling in $2 million a year. And frankly that entitles them to speak their opinions and criticize if necessary. I don't remember people standing up and screaming for moderation when writers and fans were rightfully skewering Callahan. Somehow Bo sits on this untouchable pedestal. Fans and writers can't criticize Bo or the team without him getting pissed. He has a strange and weird relationship with Taylor Martinez and his defense of him comes off as surly and petulant. People can't even ask questions about Martinez without Bo getting defensive. That is beyond just protecting one of his players. Like a stubborn man who knows that Taylor is not the guy to lead this team to the championship but will never admit it. The fact is nobody especially Chatelain is trying to tear down Taylor Martinez they are being critical of the coaching decision to place the hopes of this program on this kid. He's not that good. He played well last night and Beck called a good game but lets not kid ourselves we had to come from behind to beat a really bad Ohio State team and probably only accomplished it because their starting quarterback went out of the game.

Last night's game was a must win. Maybe the week off lets them work on some things and get some things fixed. That said they have a lot to fix and right now this is a 8 maybe if we're lucky a 9 win team. I am hoping though that last nights win turns into a catalyst that propels us to the Big Ten Championship Game.

Husker Mike said...

Chatelain's article cannot be considered "well-written" when it suggests that teammates are "printing articles" or insinuate that Pelini doesn't criticize Martinez. (Have people forgotten what happened at Texas A&M? Heck, go back and listen to Pelini's Monday presser.)

The only people who think Chatelain's article was well-written are the people who agree with the conclusion: Bench Martinez.

Kelly said...

Well obviously Husker Mike you have an axe to grind with Chatelain and that you read the article with that mindset. It was well written and I think so and I don't want to bench Martinez. He's the best option we have right now and that in and of itself says more about this program than anything that has ever been written about Martinez or Pelini. Its a mindset that says we are happier being Iowa than Alabama. Because if you look at any team that is serious about challenging for a national title I guarantee Taylor Martinez starts at quarterback for none of them.

Obviously you are one of those Bo can do no wrong and its your blog so you can say what you want. I just disagree and instead of debating the issue on its merits and seeing the bigger picture you revert to saying I'm just an idiot who wants to bench Martinez.

tomoehler said...

Nice column Mike, I agree wholeheartedly, Chatelain went too far a few times this season. Two columns comparing this team to the '07 squad and then that crap on Friday. He has a right to his opinion but we also have the right not to read him. Bo also doesn't have to field his questions. He did a nice job of inserting himself into the story and now he's going to have to pay for it. Keep up the good work!

jamie said...

Mike, The only hatchet piece of yellow journalism was the one you just wrote about Dirk (as well as the liberal political drivel you have written in the past). When people like you accuse others of a certain kind of behavior, there is a good chance that they are already guilty of that very behavior! This is your only "subjective" criticism of Dirk's article:

"Martinez played injured last year, there are no other quarterbacks ready to play, therefore Martinez should be benched. Got that? Maybe that's a gross over-simplification of Chatelain's article....."

You think?? Really?? Talk about Yellow Journalism! That is not what Dirk said at all. Jealousy is such an ugly emotion Mike -- try to reign yours in just a little.

Go back to covering politics -- you seem to be a pretty big fan of censoring any form of criticism that you don't agree with. This is your final call for your flight to communist China.

Husker Mike said...

You are right about one thing. I don't think much of much of Chatelain's work. At times, he goes overboard and goes for the sensational. Friday was the perfect example, and he actually was due to be dressed down by Pelini.

You are wrong about much of the rest. I didn't call you an idiot. I'm open to all viewpoints. You are guilty of rejecting my criticism of Chatelain because you disagree with it's conclusion.

Husker Mike said...

Very nice Jamie. Well played parody there...

crowe1856 said...

Chatelain, Bishop, and the like are a cliquish, catty, self-important bunch who feel the coach doesn't give them the respect they deserve by not providing adequate sound bites/quotes. They're not very solid journalists, so when there's no softball tossed their way, this type of drivel is the best they can come up with.

When was the last time a game was won in a press conference? Yet how much have we seen printed and tweeted about how so-and-so isn't good with the media, or grading the coach's/player's performance in press conferences, or going so far as to say "the us-against-the-world mentality is really sad." Really? The press/opinion makers publicly call someone out and are then appalled when that person has a chip on their shoulder?

I'm all for holding people accountable and not candy-coating the truth. Freedom of the press is a magnificent thing, and there are several journalists in this state who do an outstanding job balancing fact with opinion and presenting both with even-handedness. Chatelain is entitled to his opinion, and I don't necessarily disagree with everything he said- however much of his work, including the hatchet job in question, reads like a mid-level amateur blog entry and is not befitting a credentialed member of the press.

Even his article today- in which he ate a modest serving of crow- included a line about Martinez "not fitting in here" because he's a "West Coast introvert." Really? Then I'm not sure where I fit in, because as a Midwest introvert, even I think Chatelain's a bit of an ass.

Husker39211 said...

When I heard the press conference, I didn't know who Bo was talking to or what the Hell he was talking about because I had not read the article. I tracked it down and read it afterwards. I can't blame Bo for taking up for his guy and after reading it, I could certainly see some of the things that pissed Bo off. I would say about 70% of the article was reasonable and pointed out things that had happened on and off the field. Unfortunately, for the writer, he went overboard with a few things and was unfair with the other 30% of what he said. There's a fine line between being critical and just plain being an ASS and this guy crossed that line. So, in this instance, I definitely side with BO! Also, I'm not one who's been overly critical of Martinez myself. I said from the beginning that he's only a sophomore so cut the kid some slack. I was more prone to be critical of the defense because it has been so very disappointing thus far. However, regarding that, I have also said (before the WI game) that whether or not we were worthy of our ranking would depend on how fast our young guys grew up on defense. After the Wisconsin game I pointed out that obviously, it was not quite fast enough. I was very dejected Sat night...... after we fell behind 27-6 but then a funny thing happened. One guy, a guy that remembered who is coach was and that remembered who his whole team would run through a brick wall for, did something special. That guy was LaVonte David and all he did was get really pissed, did everything but turn green, and ran through that wall by himself like the Hulk, ripped the ball out of Miller's hands and into his own, and set the tone for the rest of the game. From that point forward, it was as if a bunch of infants turned 21 over about a 30 second span. No longer did the NU defense look like they were worried about "if" they could do it. They suddenly had the confidence of that 21 year old that knew he could walk into the bar, slap his ID down and know he was going to get served without having to worry about getting busted for it being phony. That's something everyone, at least everyone who drinks, can relate to....and it makes one Helluva difference. Now what? It depends really. I think this NU team can certainly go on to have a special season. Sure, there's a couple of road bumps along the way but one thing's for sure, Sat night against OSU was a character building, defining moment for this bunch. Everything's in front of them and all that's left is to just go take it. Feed off of what you learned guys and lastly, as a tribute to the late Al Davis...."JUST WIN BABY!" Congrats on a scentilating victory & GO BIG RED!!!!!!!!

MeatyBob said...

I don't mind that Pelini is sticking up for his players, but he could have handled it better. All he had to say was "I thought you wrote an uninformed, unfair piece on Friday and I will refuse to answer/aknowledge your questions." And the clapping at the end seems just a bit backwaterish. Clampett-ish.

The problem with Pelini is that he goes off on the media on how nobody on the team bothers to read the their articles, then he says he read Chatelain piece on Friday. So which is it? If you read the stuff and then us it as motivation, then fine, just say it.

Scott said...

You can agree with Bo or not, it makes no difference at all. The problem here is that as a representative of Nebraska you simply do not act like that in a presser PERIOD! I love Bo as a coach and can't blame him for being pissed at an article, however don't act like a petulant child while representing a program we all love, he can lay into Dirk all he wants in private!

Anonymous said...

Crowe1856 and Mike --well said.

The Anti-Pelini / Martinez stuff is nothing but "Payback" , for the "entitled" OWH writers not getting their way and Bo continually protecting his players and coaches. Yellow Journalism 101.

Barf's tantrum Column today pretty much is the proof in the pudding.

Just a thought--Bo and the players may well have not read dirty dirk's trash--but it sounds like all of Lincoln and Omaha was shoving it in their face--they didn't have to read to understand the hit job.

Anyway, I'm glad redemption occurred (not that it needed to) and the Big Bad OWH got what was coming to them.

Shatel--why do you let these clods do your dirty work? Are you that into the Old 'Good cop/ bad cop stuff, to be honest.??

Signed, Former reader of the OWH.