Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Playing Harder: Is That Enough for Husker Fans?

Over my lunch hour today, I happened to catch Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer being interviewed following the suspension of Zach Luckett following his DUI Sunday morning. While Beamer feels good about his freshman receivers, he told ESPN Radio's Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt that he has no expectations for this season, just that they compete hard. (For those of you who missed it, Virginia Tech lost their top four receivers to graduation as well as their top returning receiver to a torn Achilles on top of the Luckett suspension. Add in the dismissal of top running back Brandon Ore and injuries to their next two running backs, and they've got huge question marks on offense.)

That reminded me of Tom Osborne's preseason expectation of "playing harder" rather than a certain number of wins in 2008?

Is that good enough for Nebraska fans?

Except for a few flashes in the first three quarters against Texas and then against Kansas State, fans didn't see a lot of effort from their favorite team from about the second quarter of the USC game onward last season. So I've heard many fans say that they'd be happy with a team that "plays hard" all season.

Certainly playing hard would be a vast improvement over last season, to be sure. But would that be enough? Somehow, I doubt it. In 2003, Nebraska played much harder than they did in 2002, but that wasn't enough for some fans who were dismayed by fourth quarter collapses against Missouri, Texas, and Kansas State. The 2001 season isn't remembered as much for Eric Crouch's Heisman Trophy or a BCS Title Game berth, but rather for a defensive meltdown against Colorado as the Buffies gashed through the Blackshirts like a hot knife through butter.

Did giving up 38 points in one half to Oklahoma State and 76 points to Kansas lower our expectations? That's a good question. To some extend, I'd have to say yes. Prior to Bill Callahan, not winning a championship was considered a failure to some extent. Now, Husker fans are focused more on just seeing the program pull out of it's tailspin.

That being said, I don't think Husker fans are going to be perfectly happy with seven, eight, or even nine wins in 2008. Deep down, fans still want their program to compete for the biggest prize. I don't see Husker fans being happy with any losses. If it's a close loss, they'll bemoan a penalty, a missed tackle, a boneheaded play call, or some sort of error that may have made a difference between a victory and a loss. (Including yours truly.)

That being said, after last season, merely showing good effort would be a sign of progress. But will that be enough for fans? I'd doubt it, but it's more likely in 2008 than at anytime during the previous fourty years or so.


Missouri Husker Fan said...

For this year, I'd have to say playing hard for 4 quarters would be good enough. But I would expect continuous improvement until such time as we are competing for the NC.

Husker_Engineer said...


I believe like me, you are from Omaha. As such, you must have some familiarity with average Husker fan. Your doubt that playing hard will be enough is, therefore, well founded.

I have heard some people say they will be happy with a team that plays hard. However, when you ask them about how they see the season playing out, they also expect 8-10 wins. When you press a little more and ask, "What if the team plays really hard and goes 5-7 again?", the true colors come out. Many believe that when you add Bo Pelini's defense to a team that plays hard, it will result in 8 wins minimum because "That Callahan" brought talented kids, but no coaching. They honestly believe that Tom, Bo, and any number of random former players from the 199x National Championship team will flip some switch with this team and they will roll through this schedule.

I put us with anywhere between 6 and 9 wins, depending on how the DL and LB play, how well Joe Ganz manages the offense, and what happens after this team gets slapped hard with a loss.....

Only 9 days left......

Kalthalior said...

I think it depends on the interest level of the fan. People following the team closely generally think progress would consist of playing better defense, a winning record and a bowl game. The casual fan will likely gripe about any loss, but particularly one in which we get spanked.

Patrick said...

I think Kalth is right. Personally, I don't "expect" a bunch of wins this year. Sure I want them. But just like Callahan's first year, there's going to be an adjustment period. I do want better effort and coaching. If we lose, I can handle that, particularly if we're losing to good teams and look respectable doing it. Losing to Kansas or Missouri by 10...ok. Losing by 30 or 40, definitely not ok. Losing to Directional State U, not ok.

Now, four years from now, it can be different. I wanna WIN! Back on top the Big XII North and hopefully making the South eat the Arrowhead turf. :-) But for now, better effort, desire, passion, etc. is progress.