Saturday, October 10, 2015
Just Like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day", Huskers Lose Again At The End
"Nebraska is just one play away from winning each of their games this season!"
Those are the excuses I'm sure some people will point out to justify Nebraska's latest loss - but in the end, they are just that: excuses. Nebraska is 2-4 on the season, and it's not a fluke. Nebraska's not a really bad team - they just aren't a very good team. They don't run the ball well, and they simply cannot defend the pass.
Some people gave the defense a pass (pun intended) because sacrificing the pass to stop the run seemed like a good way to win the Big Ten West. Especially Wisconsin, right?
Except this is not a classic Wisconsin rushing team: prior to today, Wisconsin ranked 74th in rushing offense...and Nebraska still let the Badgers rush for 147 yards with their second string and fourth string backs. Taiwan Deal, perhaps their best back, left the game after just four carries with an injury.
So what happens? Wisconsin's Joel Stave throws for 322 yards. Stop and reflect on that for a moment: 322 yards passing by Wisconsin. 322 yards passing. It'll be one more week for Nebraska with the nation's worst pass defense, and that is why Nebraska keeps losing these games.
Stop the excuses about "forgetting how to win" or the conspiracy theories about this team being sabotaged. Nebraska is losing games because of their ineffective pass defense: it's why Nebraska lost to BYU. It's why Nebraska lost to Miami. It's why Nebraska lost to Illinois. And it's why Nebraska lost to Wisconsin.
And most importantly: it's not a talent issue. It's just fundamentally broken; corners are playing soft and safeties are playing to stop the run (and not nearly as effective as some Husker fans wanted to believe). Against Wisconsin, they were vulnerable time and time again to the comeback route. The defensive line (banged up as it was), didn't get much pressure against an equally banged up Wisconsin offensive line.
Nebraska's porous pass defense isn't helped at all by Nebraska's awful ground attack. If anybody has identified any rhyme or reason in how Nebraska runs the ball, I'd like to know. Frankly, it's almost like they don't want to do, but they feel they have to in Lincoln. Last week, true freshman Devine Ozigbo looked like he might be the answer. Against Wisconsin, he got three carries.
Nebraska didn't even start an I-back in the game; it was Andy Janovich as the lone back on the first series. Terrell Newby played the most with 15 carries - but when it was crunch time, he was nowhere to be seen. On that key third and one late in the fourth quarter, it was Imani Cross in the game - but it was Janovich that got the ball. Great call to use the fullback in that situation, mind you, but Janovich isn't a solution to Nebraska's rushing issues. Especially when you rush up the middle three straight times when Nebraska was in position to salt the game away.
It's almost like last week's third and seven debacle scarred Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf to the point that they were afraid to do anything other than the most conservative play. Of course, with Wisconsin still having their three timeouts, Nebraska needed to do SOMETHING on the ground.
And they didn't.
And with that Nebraska is now 2-4. Even worse, Nebraska has now lost seven of their last ten games. Not all of that is on Mike Riley, mind you. But going back to last season, Mike Riley has lost seven of his last eight conference games; going back to 2013, Mike Riley has lost 14 of his last 16 conference games.
You read that right: Oregon State lost their last five conference games in 2013 and went 2-7 in the Pac-12 in 2014. Riley is right when he points out that he's never lost games like this; at Oregon State, his teams would have lost the game long before the final 15 seconds.
2-14 in conference games dating back to October 26, 2013. I know some fans like Riley's demeanor, and are very hopeful that he's the guy to take Nebraska to the next level.
2-14. Hope all you want - but the record makes it pretty clear where this is heading.
Posted by Husker Mike at 11:15 PM