Thursday, October 05, 2006

NU Re-View: Nebraska 39, Kansas 32 (OT)

Apologies for skipping a week, although evidently the Blackshirts were thinking along the same line last Saturday.

THE GOOD ...

- THE BETTER TEAM LOST: I know it doesn’t sound right, but it makes sense. A wise man once told me that the creation of the Big XII would make the conference look more like the NFL and less like college football. Teams will beat each other up, and you will have one, or two, or three-loss teams competing for the conference crown. Winning the conference doesn’t require looking pretty to pollsters, it just requires wins. That’s what Nebraska got on Saturday.

- HEART, HEART, HEART: This one isn’t limited to just Nebraska. Both teams showed incredible resiliency in coming back from deficits. In the third and fourth quarter, Kansas crept closer and closer, and with a sense of inevitability took the lead. That was a point where a lesser team could have folded the tents and given up. Instead, Nebraska struck back with a 75-yard strike to Franz Hardy. The tent-folding opportunity then went to the Jayhawks, who responded with an 11-play, 81-yard drive to tie the game again. The end of the game was a prizefight, punch and counterpunch, with Nebraska fortunate to come on top.

- AN EXTRA 5,000: I know the Blackshirts said the crowd noise was a problem for them. But it looked like it was a problem for KU as well, especially in overtime. The new seats in the North Stadium really make that end deafening. I sit in the South Stadium, and even from that distance the noise – and the effect on an opposing team – was clear.

THE BAD ...

- THE BETTER TEAM LOST: Kansas outplayed Nebraska. NU scored early, and got two turnovers from Kansas inside the Nebraska 5 yard line. Kansas had three long, march-down-the-field drives. Kansas stifled Nebraska’s offense from the second quarter through the end of the fourth quarter. Make no mistake, Kansas as a football program has improved. But to see the Jayhawks outperform the ‘Huskers in Lincoln – and with a backup quarterback, no less – is cause for concern.

- DEFENSIVE COACHING MINDSET: Bill Callahan and his staff have been called many names, but one of the more disturbing trends over the last 2 years and change has been a marked arrogance in game plans. Defensive Coordinator Kevin Cosgrove’s responses to the Blackshirts’ performance against KU added to that perception. Cosgrove said they played soft around the line of scrimmage to prevent KU’s success with the shovel pass. Seriously, a game plan built around stopping the shovel pass? Is that why there was no pass rush? No significant blitzing until late in the game?

- THE FIGHTING MANGINOS: Remember when Kansas was the afterthought in Nebraska’s football conference season? This is now three years in a row where Mark Mangino’s Jayhawk club has given Nebraska fits. We all remember (no matter how hard we try to forget) the 40-15 debacle in Lawrence last year, but let’s not forget that two years ago Kansas had a pass in the air on the final play to win the game.

... AND THE UNKNOWN

- QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS, EVERYWHERE QUESTIONS: So who is this Nebraska team we're watching? Is it one that got shredded by backup KU quarterback Adam Barmann? Is it the one that played valiantly against a much superior USC squad? Is it the one that dominated lesser foes like Louisiana Tech and Troy? We are now five games into this season, and I know less about this group of 'Huskers than I did at the start of the season.

THE BIG PICTURE

There has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth in ‘Husker Nation about the Kansas game. Could it be possible that the dominant Nebraska team against Louisiana Tech and Troy was just an illusion, and Nebraska is only good enough to squeak by Kansas? Or was last Saturday an aberration, another example of Cosgrove trying to get cute with his game plan (remember rushing only three against Texas Tech? That worked well.) and getting burned by it. Quite honestly, at this point there’s not enough evidence to tell. The jury is still out on the status of The Order.

THE NEXT GAME

NEBRASKA (-6 ½) AT IOWA STATE. Ah, Jack Trice Stadium, one of Nebraska’s new house of horrors. The ‘Huskers have not beaten the Cyclones in Ames since 2000. But Iowa State comes into this game with just as many questions as Nebraska. Last week, Cyclone fans had to hold their breath watching a Northern Iowa field goal attempt sail wide to preserve a victory. Iowa State’s defense, particularly their pass defense, has been suspect all year. Barring a game-plan decision by Nebraska to run the ball 60 times this Saturday (don’t laugh, it’s not out of the realm of possibility) Nebraska should be able to move the ball enough to outlast the ‘Clones. Take the ‘Huskers, give the points.

GBR, baby.

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