I've been the guy who's been negative on the prospects of Nebraska football in 2015. Some saw nine or ten victories; I even saw a guy who thought NU could win 11. And then I've been the stick in the mud that called for seven wins.
Overly negative, some say. Mike Riley hater, said others.
They may have a point. But at least acknowledge that I have a point as well.
Did Miami have more talent on the field? Yes. But blaming this loss on "talent" misses the point that Miami outplayed, outexecuted and - yes - outcoached the Huskers for the first fifty minutes. Nebraska beat Miami by ten points in Lincoln last season because Nebraska outplayed, outexecuted and outcoached the Hurricanes. But that was a team with Ameer Abdullah, Kenny Bell and Randy Gregory, right? Well, yes. But that Miami team lost seven guys to the NFL draft; five in the first three rounds.
So talent doesn't explain Nebraska trailing Miami 33-10 in the fourth quarter. The explanation is quite easy: dropped passes, poor pass defense and poor play calling on offense. But then something really weird happened - much like at Michigan State last season, heart took over. And improbably, Nebraska somehow found a way to tie the effin' ball game up.
It's clear that Tommy Armstrong has benefited tremendously from the coaching of Danny Langsdorf, even if his completion percentage was well short of 50%. The problem is that while Langsdorf has improved Armstrong's play, Langsdorf's play calling really hurts Armstrong at time. It starts with a lack of commitment to running the ball. 18 carries for Nebraska's I-backs? That's not good. How many third and short plays became passing downs, where Nebraska failed to convert?
Want to call the defense Cosgrovian? You might have a point with all of the missed tackles, telegraphed blitzes and wide-open receivers in the secondary. People have forgiven Mark Banker the first two games because BYU and South Alabama's running backs weren't terribly effective. Queue Joseph Yearby, who showed what Big Ten backs are going to be able to do to Nebraska later this season. No, Mark Banker is not an upgrade over the previous staff.
But what we still have to work with is the heart of the team. Somehow this team found a way to come back, even without a kick return by De'Mornay Pierson-El. Folks, this team has a lot of character, and it showed late in the game. You can be forgiven if you gave up on the team; they looked dead to rights almost all evening. Tommy Armstrong didn't give up, and he gets player of the game honors for it. Some will criticize the last interception as a bad decision; that's fair. But if not for Armstrong, Nebraska loses by 50 and the mood is very much different.
I predicted a 1-2 start, but I'd be lying if I told you I expected that this is how Nebraska would lose those two games. This is not a great Nebraska football team by any means, and they still could very well finish 7-5. Or worse; Northwestern looks like they might be pretty good. This defense looks bad, and the offense needs to find something other than Armstrong going full Taylor Martinez ridiculous to get points on the board. But all is not bad, and frankly, it's not a team you ever want to give up again...because just when you do, somehow they pull a rabbit out of their hat.