Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Before Looking Ahead...Let's Look Back...

Next week are the Big XII's Media Days...which means that pre-season practice starts soon...which in turn means football season is just about here. But before looking ahead to 2007, let's sum up 2006. Overall, it was an improvement over 2005: 9 wins instead of 8, a Big XII North championship (complete with bogus trophy celebration). There were some nice games: a comeback against Texas A&M and nearly upsetting Texas. But there were still bad games: a meltdown against Oklahoma State and an assume-the-fetal-position gameplan versus USC.

The highlight of 2006 has to be the comeback against Texas A&M, with the near upset of Texas a close second. Both games were inconsistent, with Nebraska looking like a top-10 team at certain points of the game and then other times looking like Callahan's 5-6 2004 clusterf***. Which really highlights the main problem of 2006 and much of the Callahan era: a Jekyll-and-Hyde offense that sometimes wants to grind the ball out and other times wants to turn into an aerial circus. When you look at the overall numbers at the end of the game, it looks balanced. But that's usually the only time it looks balanced because during the game, it frequently looks more like run-run-pass (if it's 3rd & long)-run-run-run-punt followed by pass-pass-pass-pass-pass-punt.

Some fans like to point to Pete Carroll giving Nebraska credit for showing how to beat USC as being proof that Callahan's game plans have been all right. Weird thing is that most of those fans used to view credit from opposing coaches as kind of a reverse psychology. The fact is that teams that played USC tough didn't follow the Husker game plan of run the ball on first and second downs, then throw on third and long. They mixed it up in an attempt to have a balanced attack -- a far cry from Nebraska's arch-conservative game plan. Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated kind of sums it up in today's mailbag:
Finally -- and this doesn't apply just to Callahan but to nearly all the NFL-bred coaches in the collegiate ranks today -- you do not win championships in college anymore by playing not to lose (as they often do in the pros). It's a huge pet peeve of mine and a common theme among the worst coaches nominees (see Dorrell, Karl; Gailey, Chan). The strange thing is, Callahan has shown he's more than willing to break out the flea flickers and other trick plays, but in last year's USC and Oklahoma games, and when the game was on the line against Auburn, he retreated to all-out, run-it-into-the-line-three-straight-times-and-play-defense mode. I can't emphasize this enough. I hate that.
The thing that I find hard to understand is that at key times, Callahan can make some of the dumbest play calls. Swing passes out of the end zone. Throwing the ball on 3rd and short with time running out against Texas. So I criticize him for throwing the ball in the wrong situations...and for running the ball in the wrong situations. Inconsistent? Only to a simpleton. Each situation is different. Some people think the choice of game plans against USC was run the ball or throw the ball on every down...but isn't there something in the middle? Couldn't you throw a pass on 1st down sometime during the first 40 minutes of the game? (Look it up...16 straight runs on first down to open the game.) Arkansas proved that you don't want to turn into Air Coryell against the Trojans...but you also don't want to run the Millard North offense either. (Especially when you supposedly have been practicising the "West Coast Offense")

No comments: