Thursday, January 16, 2014

If Charlton Warren Lands at Nebraska, Misperceptions of Pelini Are Destroyed

By most accounts, Nebraska will be announcing that Air Force defensive coordinator Charlton Warren will become Nebraska's newest secondary coach in the next few days, replacing Terry Joseph, who's now at Texas A&M. Sad to see Joseph go, who was a definite upgrade over Corey Raymond. Hopefully it was a case where Joseph wanted to be back in the SEC, as opposed to a money situation.  You'd like to think that Nebraska has the funds to properly compensate a coach like Joseph.

Warren is an unknown in these parts; he's not a big name. That certainly disappoints people who wanted a "splashy" hire.  (Not sure who would be a "splashy" hire, other than maybe Ron Zook.) His background as a secondary coach is pretty good, considering the unique characteristics of service academies. In 2010, the Falcons finished second in pass defense in division 1-A; in 2011, third.  Granted, that's against Mountain West competition, but that's a decent track record.

Some people hate the hire.  That's fine, though I believe it's impossible to really evaluate the hire at this time. The proof will come in the fall, not now.  That doesn't stop people from firing their criticism.  "Nebraska didn't make a splashy hire."  Fine.  "Nebraska settled for Warren because Pelini couldn't hire anybody better."  Maybe.  "Nebraska couldn't hire anybody better because of all of the uncertainty over Pelini's future."

Stop right there. Warren left his alma mater after NINE seasons for a job where he's likely out of a job in less than a year?  Is that your point?  Better try again...

Has Warren struggled as a defensive coordinator?  It kind of looks that way.  He might not be cut out to be a defensive playcaller. Nothing wrong with that. Bill Callahan, by all accounts, might be one of the best offensive line coaches in football today. Not so good as an offensive coordinator.  (And we won't go into the clusterfools of his head coaching career.) So he steps back into a role that it appears that he excels at - and at a school where he can coach better athletes.

Up to now, people have criticized Bo Pelini because he "only hires his buddies".  Well, that narrative gets bombed by this hire. There's no lineage between Pelini, Youngstown, and Warren. This hire is outside the box that people have tried to frame Pelini with.

On KOZN-1620 AM this morning, Gary Sharp and Damon Benning interviewed an Air Force beat writer about Warren.  He said that Warren has had opportunities to leave before for better jobs, but hasn't done so until now. That seems to speak of the opportunity at Nebraska.
I think this is an intriguing hire. Not saying it's great.  It doesn't look bad, though.  We'll have to wait and see, though.

And the critics are going to have to come up with some new material.  Maybe they'll revert back to Pellllini, which seems to be their tired and tested formula.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why Does Peyton Manning Keep Calling "Omaha! Omaha!"?

Peyton Manning's #OmahaOmaha snap count has had much of the football world abuzz over what he means.
The talking heads on ESPN tried to make some sense of it this week, now that it's gone viral.
Of course, it's not really new. Former Chicago Bear Brian Urlacher said months ago that it was code to direct the play the other direction. (i.e. "Omaha" = "Opposite side of field")
Today, Manning finally clued everybody in as to what it means.  Well, kind of.
OK, so it's not a punt. Knowing how special teams work around here, that's probably a wise choice.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Sorry Alabama, 1993-97 Nebraska Still Reigns As The Greatest Five Year Run in College Football

Last year, we heard the claim from Alabama that the modern Nick Saban era is the greatest in college football, with three national championships in four years. Nebraska fans countered by pointing out that Nebraska played for four in five seasons, and almost played for five straight in the mid 90's.

Well, now let's look at the tale of the tape.  Nebraska went 60-3 from 1993 through 1997.

Alabama's record?  60-7 after tonight's loss to Oklahoma.

Close, to be sure.  Impressive, most definitely.  But Nebraska's five year run still reigns supreme.

Oh...and I couldn't resist this:

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Huskers Survive Late Georgia Push At the Gator Bowl

Pick your narrative:  Another four-loss season for Nebraska.  Or, Nebraska beat an SEC team on New Year's Day.

They're both right, of course. It all comes down to how you want to view this game and this season. There were a lot of good things to like:  Ameer Abdulllah rushing for 122 yards. Nebraska going +1 on turnover margin. Todd Gurley being held to just 86 yards rushing. The Blackshirts holding Georgia to four field goals in the first three quarters.  Andrew Green playing one of his best games ever in his last game for the Huskers.

And a few things to dislike: Unable to cover Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch for most of the game, and then Gurley in the fourth quarter.  Tommy Armstrong underthrowing quite a few passes in the rain.

Biggest, of course, was Nebraska winning the turnover battle. Some thought that was impossible, especially in the rain.  Frankly, could Nebraska have won this game without the turnovers?  I suspect not, because Nebraska struggled with sustaining drives all day. The touchdown drives were 2 plays (14 yards), 7 plays (38 yards), and 3 plays (95 yards).  Nebraska's best drive of the day was actually a 9 play driver for 48 yards that led to a field goal in the second quarter.  (If Jamal Turner makes that catch in the end zone, it becomes a 77 yard touchdown drive and the game takes an entirely different tone.)

Yes, that was a better drive than the 95 yarder. Mind you, the touchdown pass from Armstrong to Quincy Enunwa was the undisputed play of the day, but it followed a fumbled snap that Armstrong miraculously was able to keep an inch shy of the goal line. I don't think it'll ever be possible to watch a longer Nebraska touchdown pass, mostly because it would be nearly impossible to get the ball placed any closer to the goal line without it being a safety.  That 99.9 touchdown pass may be matched at some point down the line with another 99 yarder on the stat sheet, but Enunwa's 99.9 yarder will always be the longest.

The Blackshirts played well at times, except in covering all-SEC tight end Arthur Lynch and Gurley.  Both are physical mismatches, though.  The NFL will be drooling over Gurley for the next 16 months, and Lynch is going to be playing on Sunday's this fall.  Some people will point out that Gurley wasn't 100% today, but by all reports, he was healthier today than he's been since mid-October.  And today, Nebraska held him to his lowest yards per carry average (4.1) of the season.

And that's the story of the 2013 season. When the season began, the story line was asking whether Bo Pelini could coach defense anymore.  Other than the first half of the UCLA game, Nebraska's defense seemed to still be suffering from the Wisconsin-scored-again syndrome for the entire month of September. We saw little bits of improvement in October, but in November, we saw the formation of a Bo Pelini defense. It's not quite there yet, but there's a sound foundation of freshmen and sophomores that could make Nebraska a formidable force the next couple of years.

Offensively, Armstrong had his moments today, but he's still got some improvement to make in reading defenses and adjusting to field conditions.  Today, he was short on many of his passes.  He wasn't short - or long - on the play of the day, and that's important.  When a receiver is that open, you cannot overthrow him.  Rule #1 - make sure the ball is catchable.  Throwing it to the receiver in stride is merely a bonus.  I don't think that Armstrong has locked up the starting quarterback position for 2014, but it'll take quite the effort by Johnny Stanton to overtake him in the spring and summer.

The big question for the next couple of weeks is watching to see what Ameer Abdullah chooses to do. A lot of people think that he'll head for the NFL, knowing that running backs only have so many carries in their legs.  It would be hard to argue against that decision, except to mention this.  Abdullah's one liability is his ball security; he improved this season, but his five fumbles is only one less than Tulsa's Trey Watts, the most fumble-prone running back in college football this season.  The NFL will keep that in mind...and more importantly, he probably won't have as much of a chance to improve on that in the pros.  Look at Rex Burkhead, who only played in one game for the Bengals this season.  You may only get one chance to prove yourself to the NFL, and unless Abdullah thinks he's headed for a multi-year career in the NFL, he's best advised to build his resume in his senior season.

And if Abdullah returns in 2014, things set up rather nicely for Nebraska to finally break out of that four-loss "rut". (There are worse things than that, mind you.)  Already, this winter and spring sets up to be a little more positive thanks to a bowl victory on New Year's Day.