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.

1 comment:

Brian J. Lockwood said...

Very good analysis...except Arizona will probably decline. As the Pac-10 champion, I'm guessing they'll opt for the Rose Bowl. The pass interference call with McCoy throwing the ball away as he was getting sacked...and the ball was solidly 3 yards over the receiver? Questionable. And it led to a Texas score. The second P.I. against Hagg. Questionable. Putting 1 second back on the clock...when replay did NOT show the ball hitting the ground. THE FIX WAS IN...BIG TIME.