Wednesday, December 30, 2009

NU Re-View: Nebraska 33, Arizona 0

THE GOOD ...
- DEFENSIVE DOMINANCE: Sure, it's stating the obvious, but the Blackshirts absolutely snuffed out any hope Arizona had of competing in the game. To pitch a shutout - the first in Holiday Bowl history and in 'Husker bowl history - is a real testament to how far Bo Pelini has brought the defense since NU lost 65-51 in Bill Callahan's last game.
- UN-TURTLING: Hey, how about that! Open up the playbook a little bit, get a wildcat formation running, get a playmaker like Niles Paul in space, and Nebraska can put up yardage against a pretty solid defensive team. An offensive performance like that not only gives NU confidence going into next year, but also makes NU a much easier sell to offensive recruits. Keep an eye on NU's signings from now until signing day in February. If the 'Huskers land some offensive stars, you can thank that performance in many ways for closing the deal.
- ALEX MVP: It's probably clear by now that I have a bit of a sports crush on Alex Henery, but he did his thing again. He was perfect on field goals (including an almost-effortless 50-yard strike), and killed two more punts inside the UA 10 yard line. Three of the most beautiful words for a 'Husker fan looking towards the 2010 campaign are "junior Alex Henery."

THE BAD ...
- OH, NOW YOU RUN THE WILDCAT!: Sure, it was a ton of fun to watch NU humiliate Arizona in the San Diego rain (it rains in San Diego? Who knew?). But it's a little bittersweet to see NU get that kind of offensive production and show that kind of creativity and wonder what might have been against Texas in the Big XII championship. Cast your mind back towards the end of that game, when a Paul return sets NU up with first down at the Texas 10. Think one of those Burkhead wildcat runs might have been a little more effective than what NU threw at the Longhorns? Just saying ...
- VERY GREEN: True to his word, Pelini gave freshman QB Cody Green a series early in the game. In a word, yeeesh. Every practice report says that Green is improving and playing well. That's sure not translating to his performance when the spotlight is on. Green was very fortunate not to throw a pick-six and potentially give Arizona a little life. He's very young, and hasn't had an opportunity to work a lot with the first team. But, good Lord, it looks like he's got a long way to go before he's going to compete for playing time.
- HELU, GOODBYE: I've also made no secret about my sports crush on Roy Helu, but it became obvious as the game wore on that Rex Burhkead is the starting tailback going into next season. Things can change a lot over an offseason, and maybe this will be a motivator for Helu, but Burkhead looks like he fits NU's new offensive vision a lot more than Helu does.

... AND THE BEGINNING OF THE OVEREXCITEMENT.
Please, don't think I'm trying to be a wet blanket. But ESPN's crew calling the game was in a great hurry to anoint NU as a top-10 team going into next year. I'm all for giving Nebraska some credit - quite honestly, they've been too easily written off since their throttling by Miami in the Rose Bowl in 2001. And while this game certainly was encouraging, I think it might be wise to avoid carving NU's name in any 2010 trophies just yet. Wise, but unlikely. After this performance, 'Husker fans will be dreaming about national titles in the coming year.

THE BIG PICTURE.
Usually, coaches are reserved and try to tamp down expectations. Leave it to Pelini to be contrarian. In the rain, while giving praise to his staff and his players, he finished his speech to the 'Husker faithful with the following:

"Nebraska's back, and we're here to stay."

Cue the t-shirt printing machine. Holy cats, this is a man who is confident in his team coming back. He's already talked about NU being "five times" better next year than this year. Is this bravado? Coach-speak trying to sell recruits? An attempt to raise the bar for his guys in the offseason?

Beats me. I think defensively, though, he's got a lot of reason to be confident. Sure, big Mr. Suh will be gone (but please, please, please, not to the St. Louis Rams), but the area of the defense I have been most impressed with is the growth of the secondary. They're still going to be very good, and I am really interested to see how the defensive line looks with Baker Steinkuhler plugging in Suh's spot. My guess is that you'll see the ends, particularly Pierre Allen, be the stars of the show next year.

It's the offense that's the question. Zac Lee played his best "big" game of his career, hands down. If we get THAT Lee for all 12 games next year, then the offense should be in good shape. It does look like Shawn Watson and Pelini have come to a detente about what the offense should look like, which will make all the difference in the world. Keep in mind, this is a team that had to completely reinvent itself halfway through the season.

But it's still a team with, at best, a question mark at quarterback, one playmaker at wide receiver, and spotty offensive line play. Yes, I'm just as excited as everyone else about the bowl win. But lets not kid ourselves, there's a lot of work for Pelini and Co. to do between now and August 2010 before Nebraska can be thought of as legitimate conference or national title contenders.

I will throw a little gas on the "NU in 2010" fire by looking at the schedule. Good gravy, that's a nicer looking slate than 2009. Only three road tests of note (Washington, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M), with Texas, Kansas, and Missouri at home. If NU is going to make a run, it's not a terrible schedule for it.

What I want to leave you with, though, is a look back to marvel at where NU has come. Two years ago, Nebraska ended it's season by scoring 51 points in Boulder - and losing by two touchdowns. NU gave up 76 points to Kansas - KANSAS, fer cryin' out loud! After that sad season ended, did anyone realistically think that two years later you'd be hearing Craig James talking about NU as a sure-fire pre-season top 10 team?

Heck, just go back to October of 2009. This is the same Nebraska team that lost - at home - to Iowa State. Let me say that again to let it sink in. The same team that lost at home to Iowa freaking State just throttled a team that was three seconds away from the Pac-10 title. It's been a heck of a ride.

Bask in the glow of this one through the haze of basketball season (because, Lord knows, it ain't like Creighton is going to do much to keep you warm). I have to say, I think Mr. Pelini is right on this one. I'll need to see more before I'm ready to start talking trophies, but I think Nebraska is definitely back as a player on the national college football landscape.

Is it August yet?

GBR, baby.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

JTG 12/23/09 - Friend me!

I have to say, I'm disappointed P'Allen Stinnett hasn't responded to my friend request on Facebook. He's definitely worth following if you want to keep things interesting.

Since last we convened, Creighton has played three games, won two, lost one, and caused at least one Jay-Talking Guy to go through a half-bottle of antacids. The Bluejays now sit at 5-6 preparing to enter conference play.

The first game in the series was a home contest against Savannah State. While the Bluejays did get a 77-62 win, there were still signs of trouble. Creighton roared out to a 14-2 and 23-8 lead early, and appeared to believe the game won at that point. Savannah State continued to come at the Bluejays, cutting the lead to single digits in the second half. Creighton held on to win comfortably, but not convincingly.

Was that a big deal? Were the Bluejays looking ahead to their trip to New Mexico? Possibly. But Creighton has suffered a number of heartbreaking losses (more on that to come), and what you want to see as a Bluejay fan is a sharper mentality to close out these tough games and get wins. Fiddling around and letting a team like Savannah State stay in the game in the second half does not bode well for the development of that mentality.

Then, the trip to The Pit. Unbeaten and nationally ranked New Mexico faced Creighton, in the Bluejays last opportunity to exorcise the demons of Orlando. And it all started so well. Creighton played stifling defense and ended the first half with a 12-point lead. Could this be the breakthrough, the game that could catapult the Bluejays in conference play?

Not so much. New Mexico started the second half with a 7-1 run, which got the crowd back in to the game. Creighton played gamely and fought throughout the second half, but New Mexico took the lead as time wound down. Creighton had the ball in a one-possession game with an opportunity to seize the lead and momentum. But, in a scene that was all to reminiscent of Creighton's end-game performances throughout this season, they were lost offensively and turned the ball over without ever threatening to score. New Mexico pulled away and escaped with a 66-61 win.

The Bluejays came home and demolished Houston Baptist 85-56 at the Qwest. It's definitely a positive that Creighton blew out a team, but Houston Baptist was also rated dead last in Division I programs by realtimerpi.com. You never say no to a win, but it would have been an even bigger concern had Creighton struggled.

So, Creighton is 5-6 as the non-conference season ends. Where do we stand? There is a lot of raw talent on this team - more talent, I think, than any other team in the Valley. But that means nothing if it doesn't come together. With gut-wrenching road losses to Michigan, George Mason, and New Mexico, the question has to be raised about the team's mental state. That question was heightened when Stinnett slammed Creighton fans for questioning the team in a foul-mouthed Facebook rant.

You don't think he was talking about me, do you?

I really do think there is a ton of potential in this squad. Ethan Wragge is coming on as a real star, and Wayne Runnels is adding a physical presence to the team on defense and on the boards. Justin Carter is maturing into a leader, Stinnett can go off for 20 at any point, and Cavel Witter is making his presence felt. And, while 5-6 is incredibly disappointing, think about how close Creighton is to something else. A bounce here, a foul there, and Creighton wins those tight games they've lost. That puts them at 8-3 (and that's keeping the Iona loss on the books) with road wins against national powers along with a home win over a Nebraska team that keeps winning. That's a much difference scenario than what Creighton is looking at now.

As we've said many times before, everything Creighton does now is preparing for Arch Madness in St. Louis. But that might be liberating for the Bluejays. Everyone starts conference play at 0-0, so Creighton can look at a tough non-conference experience as a tune-up for the Valley. The talent is there, and if Dana Altman can focus that disappointment into sharp play on the court (and Creighton can break through and win one of those tough road games), then it could be a fun March for the Bluejays. Northern Iowa is up next at the Qwest, followed by a trip to Terre Haute to play Indiana State.

By the way, congratulations to Anthony Tolliver, who got called up to the Portland Trail Blazers. A-Train worked hard and had a phenomenal senior season in Omaha, and it's always good to see Creighton players get some time in the Association.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

JTG 12/14/09 - The TWEET heard 'round the world

It’s been a tough week for a Jaysker. I had to spend a week dealing with a phantom second on the clock in Cowboys Stadium, and now I have to deal with a phantom technical foul that helped seal the Bluejays’ fate against George Mason.

Let me set the table for you. After being behind at halftime, Creighton took solid control of their game against the Patriots, extending to a three-possession lead in the final minutes. George Mason put on a spirited comeback, including giving Creighton all kinds of fits with an aggressive full-court pressure, and cut the lead to 73-72 with 18 seconds left to play.

The Bluejays were on the wrong end of a blocking call at the defensive end, setting George Mason up for two free throws. Coach Dana Altman informed Missouri Valley conference official Brad Gaston of his disagreement with the decision.

TWEET!

A technical foul is called. Altman insists that his disagreement did not include any foul language, and nothing has surfaced to contradict Altman’s claim. Regardless, George Mason hit two free throws and took the lead. After a turnover, the Patriots extended their lead to 75-72 and Creighton did not score further.

Bluejay Nation, understandably, was incandescently angry with the technical foul. And yes, the referee has no business making that call unless there is a stone-cold, undeniable reason to blow the whistle. Gaston and the Valley owe the Bluejays in specific and basketball fans in general an explanation for the call.

But having said that, Creighton has no one to blame but themselves for their fourth loss in five games. CU had the game in hand and absolutely frittered the game away. Here’s just a few things that went wrong for the Bluejays in crunch time:

- Missed free throws: On more than one occasion, Creighton missed the front end of one-and-one shots that prevented them from opening up a bigger lead and pulling away from the Patriots. For the game, Creighton was only 10-18 from the charity stripe, mirroring the poor performance that dogged them in the Old Spice Classic.

- Offensive confusion: Even after everything that happened with the phantom technical foul, Creighton had the ball with 18 seconds and the ball. There was plenty of time to settle into an offensive set and get a good shot to win the game. Instead, the only way to describe the Bluejays’ attack was one of panic. CU ended up turning the ball over after Justin Carter fell over, with no Creighton player around.

- Lack of aggression: Does 18 free throw attempts seem like a low number? It might. But when you compare it to George Mason’s 44 attempts, you see how gargantuan the differential is. It’s fair to question the refereeing of the game (particularly after the TWEET heard around Bluejay Nation), but the fact is that Creighton settled for the perimeter for much of the game, while George Mason was more aggressive. Creighton’s 29 three-point basket attempts underlines the Bluejays’ satisfaction to remain outside the key.

Against Nebraska, Creighton was in a similar circumstance, with the lead late and needing to put a team away. At home, Creighton looked more comfortable and hit their free throws to grind out a win. On the road, just like in Orlando, the Bluejays collapsed at the end.

As harsh as it sounds, I don’t see how you avoid the conclusion that Creighton choked this game away. For much of the game, Creighton looked strong and athletic, and were the better team on the court. But when crunch time arrived, all that strength and athleticism crumbled.

In some ways, the debacle in Orlando makes the ramifications of this game less dire. We knew before the tip against George Mason that CU needed to win the Valley tournament to make the Big Dance, so the game against the Patriots really would have no effect on their post-season fate.

There were many positives to take from the game for Creighton, and hopefully Altman will be able to rally the troops. CU gets a mid-week softie against Savannah State at the Qwest, and then they go on the road to play New Mexico in The Pit on Saturday. Coming home, Creighton sits at 3-5 with 22 games remaining. That means, to keep their streak of 20-win seasons intact, Creighton can only lose at most seven games the rest of the season.

So the New Mexico game has meaning in part for the streak. But mostly, Creighton needs to get a win on the road against a legitimate (if not overpowering) opponent just for their confidence. Their first road conference game is New Years’ Day, against Indiana State and former Creighton assistant coach Kevin McKenna. It’s a daunting prospect, and we will find out in the next week if some leadership and maturity will emerge from this years’ Bluejay squad.

JTG 12/07/09 - Confessions of a Jaysker

From the Omaha CityWeekly

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CURRENTLY: 3-4, 0-0, unranked.

NEXT WEEK: December 12, at George Mason

It was a tough weekend to be a ‘Husker. But for a Jaysker, the weekend was just plain confusing.

For those of you who had WAY too much turkey on Thanksgiving and are now just waking up, you missed a heartbreaking and controversial end to the Big XII Championship game which saw Texas steal a glorious upset from Nebraska on the gridiron. The truly die-hard ‘Husker fans then dragged themselves off the mat after the burnt orange sucker punch they received and headed to the Qwest Center to see the intra-state basketball rivalry game between Creighton and Nebraska.

A Jaysker, for those not familiar with the term, is a person who is a fan of Nebraska football and Creighton basketball. Usually the term is made in derision, accompanied by words like “frontrunner” or “bandwagon jumper” or [snip – CityWeekly editorial staff]. As discussed in previous columns, I bear the name with pride, and never suffer from any cognitive dissonance as a result of being a Jaysker.

Well, almost never. While there’s no question that I’m rooting for Creighton to win, it’s a very complicated emotional response I have to Creighton-Nebraska games. I don’t wish any ill on NU’s basketball program – quite the opposite, I really like Doc Sadler as a coach and I hope Nebraska wins every game except against Creighton.

But there’s something primal about being a sports fan. And when “Hail Varsity” gets played by the NU band as Nebraska goes on a run against Creighton, I have to control the tribal urge to stand up and scream.

It would help if Creighton had a better fight song. I’m sorry, “The Blue and the White” just doesn’t cut it.

Creighton found themselves in an unusual position this year with regards to the Nebraska game. Usually, it’s Nebraska that’s looking at Creighton as a great opportunity to get a good win, while Creighton is just hoping not to stub their collective toe against a lesser foe. This year, Nebraska came to Omaha at 5-1 with a decent road win under their belt. Creighton, on the other hand, was limping home after their epic FAIL in their Orlando tournament, losing to Michigan, Xavier, and (yes, really) Iona.

This year, the game was much more important for Creighton than for Nebraska. And, to my pleasant surprise after the Orlando disaster, the Bluejays played like the game was important. Creighton gutted out a 67-61 win over Nebraska, improving their record to 3-4 on the season.

Yes, the win was very important. A loss to Nebraska would have put Creighton at 2-5, and taking a four-game losing streak on the road to George Mason. These aren’t the Patriots that made their magical run to the Final Four a few years ago, but I don’t think anyone was anxious to see the Bluejays’ staring a trip to Philadelphia in the face to avoid opening 2-6.

What is more encouraging, though, is the way that Creighton beat Nebraska. Usually Creighton, like most mid-major schools, is pegged as a lightweight team that needs to hit threes in order to succeed. On Saturday, the Bluejays dropped in only one three-pointer and still won.

To make up the difference, Creighton played solid defense, forcing Nebraska into 20 turnovers. Creighton out-rebounded Nebraska 31-25, and drew 32 free throws. More importantly, Creighton hit 12 straight free throws down the stretch, to put Nebraska away after the ‘Huskers had closed to within two with just over two minutes left in the game.

Kenny Lawson was Creighton’s player of the game, going 7-13 from the field, 11-12 from the free throw line, and getting 10 rebounds. Cavel Witter was the only other Bluejay scoring in double digits, getting 13 points off the bench.

Coming back from the Orlando debacle, coach Dana Altman almost could not have scripted a better result for the Bluejays. The game was far from perfect for CU – I’m sure Altman would have written the 15 Bluejay turnovers out of the script – but the way Creighton responded to adversity was what mattered. The Bluejays kept steady pressure on Nebraska for the final quarter of the game, did not turn the ball over, and sank their free throws when they matters to close out Nebraska.

hat grind-it-out, gut-check type of win was exactly what Creighton needed. It’s going to be the blueprint for how Creighton will be successful this season. This Bluejay squad has plenty of talent, but no transcendent player to take over a game night after night. The closest thing Creighton has to that type of player is P’Allen Stinnett, but he has not shown that ability this season to date.

So, Creighton will need to play the type of basketball that Altman’s teams are known for – tough, smart, high-pressure defense, and enough offense to get by. The performance in Orlando leaves Creighton’s chances of an at-large tournament bid perilously slim, so the Bluejays need to be preparing now for their run in Arch Madness to win the automatic bid. Performances like the one Creighton got against Nebraska are exactly how tournaments are won. The Bluejays now have to show they can repeat that performance, especially on the road.

JTG 11/30/09 - The Old Spice disaster

No, this isn't about a bad high school prom experience. From the Omaha CityWeekly.

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It is the downside of getting an opportunity. If you finally get the chance to shine on the big stage, and you blow it, your failure gets magnified.

Creighton couldn’t get out of Orlando fast enough, losing all three games in the Old Spice Classic and dropping the Bluejays to 2-4 on the season. Creighton hasn’t started a season this poorly since the 1993-94 season.

Things started so promisingly on Thanksgiving night against nationally-rated Michigan. The Bluejays played scrappy defense and hung around enough to take the game into overtime. They needed sophomore guard Antoine Young to channel his inner Tyus Edney and go coast-to-coast on the inbound pass with time expiring in regulation to send the game into extra time, but getting that kind of play seemed to bode well for things to come.

Creighton played valiantly, keeping the game close for the first two minutes of the extra period. But the Wolverines got themselves out to a six point lead and the Bluejays looked spent. Creighton’s offensive possessions after that lead were either ill-advised drives into heavy coverage or quick three-point shots out of rhythm and out of the offensive structure. Michigan held on for an 83-76 win that was probably more comfortable than the score indicated.

There were lots of positives to come out of that game, however. Clearly, Creighton is a better team with Justin Carter in the lineup. His presence on offense and defense makes things work better, and he seems to present problems for opposing defenses in spades. Young is starting to look more comfortable running the team, and looks like he has real potential as a point guard.

So, the Bluejays drop a heartbreaker to a nationally ranked team. Sure, there’s no moral victories, but that’s a moral victory. Creighton can pick themselves up, get a win or two in the tourney, and come home ready for more.

Oops. Creighton next gets to play the Xavier Musketeers (and please, no more comments about playing the Musketeers outside of Disney World), a team they’ve faced every year since about the Eisenhower administration. Creighton never had a lead in this game. They were down eight at the half and ended up losing 80-67, again with a score that probably flatters to deceive for the Bluejays.

Coming out flat after a disappointing overtime loss? Understandable, I suppose. Again, some positives to take out from the game. Most importantly, and surprising to me, was Creighton’s ability to rebound. Xavier is a much bigger team than Creighton, and yet only out-rebounded the Bluejays by one. Creighton’s new additions to the lineup have added some size and some rebounding prowess that will serve the Bluejays well as conference play arrives.

In many ways, after the Xavier loss you could already chalk up the trip to Orlando as a disappointment. Creighton missed their opportunity to get a resume-building win on their schedule, and was left playing the seventh-place game against Iona. No, not Iowa. The Iona Gaels. Surely the Bluejays could get at least one win, right?

Iona 63, Creighton 55.

It’s not even the loss that’s the most disturbing. Creighton center Kenny Lawson told the Omaha World-Herald that “[i]n a game this early, it comes down to who's going to bring the most energy. I don’t think our guys were dead, but we also weren’t as energetic as they were.”

That clicking sound you hear is the noise of Bluejay-colored panic buttons being repeatedly pressed. The Bluejays weren’t as energetic? Come on guys, this was game six of the season. If the Bluejays can’t find the energy to put on a solid performance against Iona in game six, what are they going to look like in Evansville, Indiana, on a cold February night?

There’s a lot of details that we could discuss about the Bluejays performance statistically, most alarmingly their poor free throw shooting and their propensity to turn the ball over. But from a big-picture perspective, it now comes down to the Missouri Valley. While Creighton has some at least solid road games upcoming (at George Mason, at New Mexico), the fact of the matter is their poor showing in Orlando likely means that Creighton will have to win the Valley in order to make the NCAA tournament.

Maybe that will be a positive, as they can look at the rest of the non-conference season with less pressure and find a way to integrate the new players. It’s not like things get simple. The Nebraska Cornhuskers come to town this Sunday. Nebraska has found its’ stride a little bit with a solid win over TCU earlier in the season and a road in Los Angeles over USC. Not that either of those schools is a force like Iona, but it’s still a good start for Doc Sadler’s crew.

The Qwest Center should be rocking for the Creighton-Nebraska game. If the Bluejays ever needed to come out flying, Sunday would be the time.

LTG 11/30/09 - On Polanski

From the Omaha CityWeekly

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Is 58 days in jail worth 31 years of life as a fugitive?


By the time you read this, noted film director Roman Polanski may have been released from a Swiss jail to house arrest in his chalet in Gstaad, pending his extradition to the United States. There’s been a lot of noise about Polanski’s case, which I thought made it ripe for discussion.


Plus, I wanted an opportunity to make a Gstaad reference in a column. I watched too many James Bond movies growing up, apparently.


Polanski’s legal problems started back in 1977, when he was arrested for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Although charged with a number of felonies, he ended up pleading to a single count of “unlawful sexual intercourse.” It was when he reached sentencing that his case got a little strange.


After the plea, but before sentencing, Polanski was sent to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. The doctor evaluating him released Polanski after 42 days, but the judge let it be known that he wanted Polanski to serve the full 90 days in custody.


Polanski was not pleased with the prospect of spending an additional 58 days in the Grey Bar Hotel, and therefore decided not to show up for his sentencing hearing. A warrant was issued for his arrest, and Polanski has been a fugitive since February 01, 1978.


France was Polanski’s destination of choice, home of the Louvre, Thierry “Handball” Henry, and most importantly, a lack of extradition. He’s lived and worked in France ever since, at least until he made the mistake of attending a film festival in Switzerland. Apparently, a deal was made between American and Swiss authorities to arrest Polanski if he came to Switzerland.


The Swiss judge set a bail of $4.5 million for Polanski to be released pending his challenge to extradition, requiring Polanski to give up his identity papers and wear a locator bracelet. He must also remain on house arrest in his Gstaad (there it is again) chalet, which apparently has a breathtaking view of the Swiss Alps.


Um, can I be put on house arrest there, too?


Polanski and his friends have mounted a vigorous defense in the media and the courtroom. The primary legal challenge is that the judge overstepped his authority by deciding Polanski’s sentence prior to the hearing date. Therefore, Polanski’s lawyers argue, the sentence should be thrown out so Polanski can – I don’t know, stay at his Gstaad chalet, I guess.


The legal challenge is relatively easy to deal with. Yes, the judge acted inappropriately if he said definitively what he was going to do. It’s a judge’s job to be neutral and to render a decision based solely on the evidence presented to him or her. If the judge had pre-judged Polanski’s sentence before hearing the arguments of his attorney, that did deny Polanski a fair hearing.


However, if that happened, Polanski shouldn’t get a literal “get out of jail free” card. The remedy is for the judge to recuse himself, and for a different and neutral judge to preside over sentencing.


More importantly, the fact that the judge may or may not have done something inappropriate is secondary to the issue of Polanski’s choosing not to join everyone else at the Palace Hotel ballroom for his sentencing. Polanski was under a legal duty to appear in court when ordered to do so, regardless of whether he thought the process was unfair. By skipping out on sentencing, Polanski committed a separate crime even if the underlying sentence would have been thrown out in a later proceeding.


That’s part of how the criminal justice system works. Not only is there insufficient space in our jails to hold every person accused of a crime, there are many times when jailing someone while they wait for trial wouldn’t be fair. There has to be a system in place where people can be released with a promise to appear later in court, even if it means something bad will happen to them when they show up. But that system can only work if there’s a punishment for someone who breaks the rules.


Polanski’s defenders have also argued that the crime happened a long time ago, that the victim doesn’t want to see Polanski in jail, and that Polanski has made a lot of great films. For all those reasons, they say, the authorities should forget about the whole sex with a 13-year-old thing.


Sure, Polanski has made some wonderful films, like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown.” (Although, strangely enough, not “The Fugitive.”) But, last I checked, making great movies is not a defense for statutory rape. And in criminal cases, it’s the government and not the victim that makes a decision on how to proceed. If victims controlled whether a criminal case went forward, then there would be an even greater opportunity for an accused to escape prosecution by intimidating or threatening their victim. The system, quite rightly, takes the decision on whether to prosecute away from the victim in part for the victim’s protection.


Those who know me should understand I’m the last person to channel my inner Sarah Palin and rail against the “Hollywood elites.” But the behavior of Polanski and his defenders is sickening. If Polanski had just sat his remaining 58 days out, none of this ridiculous story would be happening. It’s really a story of arrogance and celebrity entitlement at its worst. I hope the judge throws the book at Polanski, and leaves him to rot in his Gstaad chalet.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

NU Re-View: Texas 13, Nebraska 12

THE GOOD ...
- BLACKSHIRTS: There's nothing cute to say, really. Nebraska put on one of the most dominating, inspired defensive performances in ages. They took the effort against Oklahoma and doubled it. They ended Colt McCoy's heisman candidacy (and should have kick-started Suh's candidacy, but we all know how that works). And they came up a half-second short.
- ALEX MVP: Well, he probably wasn't the MVP today, given his struggles punting early. But when he stepped up to give NU the lead, was there ever a doubt the ball was going through the posts?
- NOTHING. THERE IS NO THIRD THING.

THE BAD ...
- 106: As in, that was NU's total yardage. Nebraska's offensive ineptitude wasted a pristine defensive show. NU looked at least a step, if not two, slower than the Texas defenders. Sure, UT is a great defense and their offense was no great shakes. But UT has people that will scare you, and those guys made the plays to put UT into range for the winner. Nebraska doesn't, offensively. Are they in the pipeline? Can Bo recruit them? The defense is unbelievable, but what will it look like next year without Suh and Dillard?
- ADI-OS: If you get a scholarship and your only job is to kick the ball off, you cannot - cannot - ever kick the ball out of bounds. Especially on the biggest kick of your career. NU made a couple of mistakes on that drive to put UT into position (although not NEARLY as big as the one ol' Mackie boy made on the last play), but putting Texas on the 40 started everything rolling downhill.
- PLAYING THE CONSPIRACY CARD: Let's get this out of the way. I think it was the right call to put a second back on the clock. I am less convinced about some of the penalties (particularly the two pass interference calls against Eric Hagg, both of which the officials got his number wrong. If you can't even see the number on the shirt, how can you be that sure to call the penalty?) Even some of the spots NU got were dicey at best. I don't think there's enough evidence to claim a conspiracy - with the Big XII officials making sure a Big XII team is playing for the national title - there sure as heck is a motive.

... AND THE CRUELEST OF CUTS.
Folks, I have seen Nebraska lose in a whole lot of different ways. At no point have I ever seen a more painful, more difficult loss. Fate was even cruel enough to suggest that Mack Brown coached his way out of a national title game with what might have been the dumbest play call this side of Mark Mangino's last series at Kansas.

THE BIG PICTURE.
Let me get this out of the way first. Whatever the line is for the Alabama-Texas game (and my guess it will open at about 8-9 points), take Alabama. McCoy isn't even as good as I thought he was, after watching this game, and Alabama absolutely mauled a more talented Florida team earlier in the day. I'm not at all convinced that TCU isn't a better team, right now, than Texas.

But this is a Nebraska 'blog, not a Texas one. And it's good to remember that this is a Nebraska team that, two years ago, missed a bowl game after giving up 65 points to a Dan Hawkins-coached Colorado squad. It's a team that, this year, lost to Iowa State at home. Yes, it hurts to not have "2009" on the conference championship board up on the west stands. But it's nice to be in the position to have your heart broken, and as quickly as it has been.

And I so want to be optimistic going forward. I'm just struggling with it right now. Suh will be gone next year, and with him goes a lot of the double-teams that made the rest of the defense better. More disturbingly, I'm trying to see where the cavalry is coming for the offense. Is Lee going to get that much better in the offseason? Is NU going to get a playmaking receiver? NU had the ball twice in Texas territory - including once at the freaking 10 yard line - and got six points. Just like at Virginia Tech. NU has had to "find its' identity" on offense throughout the season, much like a bad soap opera squeezing out drama until the season-ending cliffhanger. I think there's a real combination of a lack of offensive talent and a lack of creativity from offensive coordinator Shawn Watson to get something going. I was more than a little surprised to see such a lack of misdirection in the game plan. With the speed of Texas' defense, it seemed that was waiting to be pulled out, but we only saw it once or twice. And how about the bubble screen? Or the wildcat? Or ...

Feh. This is the Big Picture portion of the piece. We'll know a lot more about what Pelini thinks of the reasons for Nebraska's offensive struggles. My guess is he thinks it's a lack of talent, and that will be addressed through recruiting. Because, I'll tell you this. Just about anywhere else, the offensive display that Nebraska has put on this season would get Watson a pink slip. If he doesn't get one, then Pelini thinks he gets a pass because he doesn't have the tools to work with.

THE NEXT GAME: Stay tuned, kids. NU will likely be going to San Diego on December 30 to play in the Holiday Bowl against Arizona. Those of you with long enough memories will remember that didn't work out so well for Nebraska the last time that happened. But after seeing the Wildcats live against Iowa this year, and Nebraska enough as well, I think this trip to San Diego will be a lot more comfortable for the 'Huskers than last time. As if a trip to San Diego could be anything BUT comfortable.

GBR, baby.