Saturday, October 24, 2009

NU Re-View: Iowa State 9, Nebraska 7

It still seems surreal.

- PISTOLS FIRING: Nebraska unveiled a pistol formation, and looked much more effective both running and passing. The pistol (basically a short shotgun with the running back three yards behind the QB) gave Nebraska a much more dangerous straight-ahead running attack while still giving Zac Lee enough space to operate in the passing game. It's a wrinkle that needs to stay.
- LONG NAME, AMAZING RESULTS: Nebraska has a new number two running back in Dontrayevous Robinson. The freshman brought size and aggressiveness with his carries, as well as surprising speed. His fumble was a freshman mistake, but between him and the injured Rex Birkhead, Nebraska's future at running back looks bright.
- DEFENSIVE SHARPNESS: Nebraska only had two penalties, and had only one instance of a real busted coverage, that being the fake punt. After some shaky performances, Nebraska's defense did just about everything they could to win. If only for ...

- MINUS EIGHT: What is amazing about this game is that Nebraska was minus eight in turnovers and only lost by two. It's a testament to how well the defense played and how anemic Iowa State's offense was that the game was this close. Many of the turnovers were just strange, fluky plays, but when there's eight you have to look inward.
- DROPPED OPPORTUNITY: Just as devastating to Nebraska's chances to win were the repeated dropped passes from Nebraska's wideouts. Niles Paul was the most egregious offender, but all the wideouts played a role. Even with the turnovers, if NU doesn't drop that many passes this game is likely a 'Husker win.
- HERO TIME: Even as bizarre as the game was, Zac Lee had the ball in his hands twice with a chance to at least get Alex Henery onto the field to win the game. He threw two interceptions. I know Iowa State was sitting back and waiting, but this was Lee's opportunity to really claim the QB position as his own, and he spit the bit.

This was, I believe, the worst loss I've ever seen Nebraska suffer. But it's also the hardest one to understand. When you turn the ball over four times inside the opponent's five yard line - and that's only half your turnovers - something weird is going on. Nebraska dominated the game until the fourth quarter, when Iowa State was able to get enough first downs to chew clock and put Nebraska into a longer field. There was a lot to like offensively, and so many of NU's turnovers were Bizarro-style plays that it's hard to know what to take away. But give Iowa State all the credit for the win. They are well coached, played a near-flawless game, and deserved to win. Once Paul Rhodes gets some talent, Iowa State has the potential to be a very salty team in the near future.

No, this isn't delusional sunshine-pumping. Nebraska is one Iowa State conference loss away from controlling its' destiny in the Big XII North. Yes, this was an ugly, ridiculous loss. But Iowa State also should have beaten both Kansas and Kansas State - the 'Clones aren't that far from being 3-0 in the conference. NU's road games are to teams that are reeling as much if not more than Nebraska (Baylor, Kansas, and Colorado) and Kansas State on the road has been atrocious. So, if NU can pull things together, a remarkable end-of-season run is still available. But this week will be Pelini's biggest test ever. Will the offense's will break? Will there be an offense vs. defense split of the team? After this loss, a 4-8 season and a 9-3 season are both equally plausible scenarios.

THE NEXT GAME: Nebraska @ Baylor (line to be announced). Probably the best thing in the world for NU is to get out of town, particularly if the coaching staff continues with the "everyone-in-Nebraska-is-against-us" nonsense. The Bears are free-falling as much if not more than Nebraska - they gave up 24 points to that Iowa State offense last week in Waco. Nebraska's Halloween horror show came a week early. A humbled Nebraska coaching staff should be able to circle the wagons, and a chastened Nebraska offense won't turn the ball over eight times. Nebraska gets a comfortable win, and a shot of confidence going into a huge opportunity when Oklahoma comes to Lincoln.
FEARLESS FORECAST: Nebraska 34, Baylor 3

GBR, baby.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about the game. What a painful loss. Let's hope for a better showing with the offense showing some much needed focus. All is not lost.