Sunday, December 02, 2012

Badger Beatdown

I had a nagging feeling that when Baker Steinkuhler went down to injury, Nebraska was going to find it hard to handle Wisconsin's rushing game.  I never would have thought it have been impossible, but from my perspective, Bo Pelini and the Huskers tried to overcompensate for his loss.  Add in a lapse in basic fundamentals - a problem that has hounded this team all season long - and Wisconsin was off to the races.

Then just before halftime, it got silly.  Melvin Gordon runs yet another sweep, and Nebraska "Blackshirts" (and I use that term loosely) made bad decisions, bad tackles, and then tries to tackle the ball instead of the runner.  Garbage touchdown at just before halftime I step away from the TV at the start of the third quarter for a couple of plays, and boom... now it's 49-10 and well on it's way to an epic beatdown.

In my book, this defeat started last week in Iowa City when Steinkuhler went out. It's a little too trite to blame what happened on the absence of one player, but credit Brett Bielema's staff for recognizing how Nebraska would try to compensate for his absence.  Stack the middle, cheat to the inside to deal with that powerful Wisconsin offensive line. So what does Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada do?  Take it wide; run sweeps.  And nobody was home on the perimeter. All night long.

Wisconsin unloaded their playbook tonight...probably even added a few things to it.  Adding shifts and motions so that Nebraska couldn't identify what was going on until it was running past them.

On defense, Wisconsin broke out a formation I've never seen before.  A 2-4-5 where the two defensive linemen split out wide on the tackles, and nobody is on the guards and center.  It exploited an inexperienced center in Cole Pensick, who was discombulated as to who to try to block.  First play was the Taylor Martinez run of the year.  It's a jailbreak, and Martinez is running for his life...nearly lost 20 yards but scrambled his way out of trouble and into the highlight reels.


Next time, Martinez did find Quincy Enunwa for a completion, but after that, the gig was up.  The line was owned and owned badly.  Once again, Brett Bielema's coaching staff recognized the inexperience at center and breaks out a gadget defense that foils the Big Red.

Was Bo Pelini completely outcoached today?  Yep.  But that's less on Bo Pelini than on Brett Bielema.  It was a masterful coaching job, and you have to give Wisconsin credit for identifying and exploiting Nebraska's weaknesses.  That's not the Wisconsin team we saw in September.

In the second half, it got chippy.  Wisconsin took offense at that devastating block by Kenny Bell and took aim at Martinez.  First it was a dive at his knees long after Martinez threw the ball, then Chris Borland pile-drived Martinez in a move only Hulk Hogan could approve of.  How Borland wasn't ejected, let alone flagged is unclear, but you had to be relieved that it never got any worse than that.

In recent days, you've heard reports that schools like Auburn, Tennessee, and Arkansas were interested in talking to Bo Pelini.  Well, this game will end that speculation right there. It would be impossible to sell a defensive-minded coach who just gave up 70 to your boosters.

Instead, the focus goes onto what needs to change at Nebraska.  It'll start on the defensive line, where with the departure of Steinkuhler, Eric Martin, Cameron Meredith, and Joe Carter, it's got to be an all-out search for bodies in the juco ranks.  Maybe Vincent Valentine is the next coming of Ndamukong Suh, but other than Chase Rome, there's little experience returning up front on the d-line.  Linebacker isn't much better, with Will Compton and Alonzo Whaley gone.  Perhaps Sean Fisher gets a 6th year of eligibility, and hopefully Zaire Anderson is ready next fall.  David Santos needs to get the mental aspects of of his game fixed.  Maybe Michael Rose is going to be ready to be the next Barrett Ruud next fall.

And will the coaching staff be back intact?  Ross Els is getting kudos for his work as a recruiting coordinator, but special teams has been a disaster this season.  Barney Cotton gets a lot of flak for the offensive line, but prior to tonight, they had been playing better.

What's most disappointing is that once again, Nebraska got embarrassed in primetime tonight.  UCLA was bad, Ohio State was worse, and this was, well, Callahan/Cosgrove-esque. There's no doubt that Nebraska is in a better place now with Bo Pelini than it was from 2004-07, and anybody who calls for Pelini to be fired needs to have their head examined.  That doesn't mean that there aren't questions that Pelini needs to answer, and Pelini is going to have to come up with a different answer than "process" and "execute".  But that answer won't be revealed until 2013; Pelini believes in his coaches too much to do anything in November.  Look for changes to be made gradually in January and February.  Remember how Shawn Watson, Ted Gilmore, and Corey Raymond were carefully jettisoned?  Expect the changes to be made much more gracefully than they were.

Those changes also won't be made rashly.  In the pain of the Big Ten championship, it's too easy to reach for the panic button.  And as easy as it is to want to panic, panic is not what you do with a ten win team.

Not even when someone hangs 70 on you.

10 comments:

Section 37 said...

Mike,

There is a very strong chance that I WILL NOT renew my season tickets. This game was the last straw. Another big-name team on national TV, another blowout loss. And this one was the worst.

What it comes down to is business. What I see in Nebraska Football is a defective product. And if the product's defective, I'm not going to buy from them anymore. I work a factory job for a living. The tickets, donation, and parking spot in downtown Lincoln ain't cheap. So you can imagine I'm going to be more than a little pissed off watching 70-31 garbage.

Should there be coaching changes? There better be. If Bo keeps the staff intact and the team is STILL getting its ass handed to them by anybody resembling a quality team, he's getting into "definition of insanity" territory.

One last thing to piss off the Rush Limbaugh/Fox News dittoheads: that military dude Bo brought in to put the team through that "boot camp" thing during spring ball, after hearing his interview on the radio before the game, I was NOT impressed. EPIC FAIL!! Don't talk the talk, walk the walk. Spare me the alpha-male act; the REAL tough guys are very quiet. Look at tonight's scoreboard. Football is results-driven. This guy didn't do his job.

End of rant. Thanks, Mike.

Allan Hernandez said...

As much as I agree that you don't hit the panic button on a 10 win team, there is a more fundamental problem that needs to be identified here. Pelini has a history of being outcoached in big games, and heavy letdowns following good victories (losing to Northwestern after beating MSU comes to mind last year). If we're happy with nine to ten wins a year and the Outback bowl then please proceed. But if we want to get back to winning conference titles and more a change may be needed. I think this is further bolstered by this staff's inability to land big time recruits. I know Pelini's philosophy is that recruiting stars don't mean anything, but we can't ignore the correlation between schools that land in the top 15 in recruiting each year and schools that are consistently in the top 15 in the nation.

Husker Mike said...

A few thoughts:

Giving up your season tickets sends a strong message, but it can be an irreversible action when the stadium has been sold out for 50 years.

I do believe that there is a relationship between polls and recruiting rankings.... But it's the inverse of what most recruitniks believe.

dubhlinn said...

I guess I better line up my head examining session, because reality is blinding me. Based on Bo's full body of work over five years, he needs to go for the same reason Frank was run out of town: Can't win the big one. Heck, Bo can't even get Nebraska back into the top ten. But more than that, I just think Bo's demeanor speaks volumes. A highly visible, angry, reactionary method isn't a good sign of someone in control of things. And really, what fan (or school administrator) wants that to be the face of the organization. Bo is out of his element as a head coach, and Nebraska is a top caliber operation. Nebraska gave him his due opportunity. Time to move on.
Feel free if you wish to continue living in denial if you think otherwise. It ain't going to happen with Pelini. What will happen are more embarrassing losses. That you can take to the bank.

Husker Mike said...

And Frank Solich should never have been fired, if you're going to go there.

Jeff Markel said...

This is a business, numbers count towards the bottom line and investors want a decent return. I just sold my stock. The CEO has to go, plain and simple. I'm done with my investment, the leadership
Of this group has such a lack of integrity and moral character I would never advise my son with a good balance sheet to consider this RISK/REWARD as a remotely viable choice.

Husker Mike said...

The current members of the board of directors issued these statement previously in response to just such an accusation:

"There's no better guy to play for, and there's no better guy to have in your life, as far as leadership and a father figure."

"He's like a second father to some of the kids on this team. He's a great leader, and he has our back and we have his back."

"He's not going to give us the easy way out. And we expect him to not give us the easy way out. We want to compete. He wants to compete. And we want to do it together as a family."


Tom said...

A simple question: Would you want your son to be recruited by Nebraska and play for Pelini? I wouldn't. Most guys I know wouldn't. He looks out of control a lot of the time. He doesn't have his emotions intact. He doesn't inspire teams like Osbourne or any number of other great coaches. In fact, I can't think of a single great coach that behaves the way he does. I'm not saying that he isn't motivated or enthusiastic or loyal. He is all of those things. I'm saying that he does not have the right skill sets to take this team to the next level to win critically important games. His play calling is questionable at best. Recruiting wise, who would want to send their son off to work under this guy? He looks and acts ... off kilter. Combine that with some seriously embarrassing prime-time losses to sub-par teams and, well, we are in trouble with no real hope to recover. Consistency does not exist with this coaching staff or with this team. How many more years of mediocrity will it take before we carefully and gently jettison Pelini? And no, I don't think my head needs to be examined to suggest that Pelini had his shot and missed the target...dozens of times.

Husker Mike said...

Everything I have heard from inside the program runs counter to your opinions. You may be absolutely correct, but I'm skeptical at best.

I love people who call the Pelini era "mediocre". We are talking about four out of five seasons with at least a share of a division championship. Mediocre was what we had the previous four years.

Listen, nobody should be happy with a 70-31 thrashing. There need to be changes made. Changes in philosophy and approach, definitely. Upgrading recruiting? Definitely. Change duties and perhaps some assistant coaches themselves, probably.

Fire Pelini? That's insane.

Ben Polacek said...

Mike, I agree with you. Most of the Husker fans who want Bo are either spoiled fans who will never be satisfied unless they can win a title every year, or they are just trolls who like to get fans riled up. Do changes need to be made? Heck yes they do, but firing a coach who gets 9 and 10 win seasons? Tell me haters, how would that help our team? New coaches mean new systems and new schemes and would just lead to more problems.

Lets say we hypothetically fire Bo after he gets drubbed by Georgia and hire Chris Petersen, Paul Rhoads, or Jim Tressel. At best we could expect 9 wins, but we'd probably get 7 or 8 with our weak schedule. Would you be happy with that? With Bo at the helm I think We have a potential for at worst 9, probably ten, and at best 11 (this team won't go undefeated unless Michigan goes down the tank, Penn State looks tough, but maybe the effects of probation will start). I like my odds with Bo more than some new coach.
Teams that change coaches left and right go through a lot of ups and downs. Look at Arkansas. Houston Nutt has a bad season, they hire petrino. Yes petrino had his motorcycle issues, but he would have left or been fired soon enough. Now Brett Bielema will be coach, and even though he is a great coach, he will struggle in the SEC in his first year (even if he gets a winning record I don't see them ever threatening the SEC west with A&M, LSU and BAMA. Even Auburn will be a tough job and I have a feeling that Gus Malzahn may struggle, or will end up like Chizik and reach the highest highs, but the lowest lows.
My point. You can't fire coaches just because they don't win as much as you'd like. Do Sooner fans want to fire Bob Stoops because he hasn't won an NT since 2001 and hasn't made an appearance since 2006 (I think)? I highly doubt it. Do Oregon fans want Chip Kelly gone because he can't beat STanford? No. It's dumb to fire bo. Rather, fans should hope he gets better and cheer him on to get better. If he goes 6-6 though next year, then you BO haters have an argument