Hard Questions Need to be Answered on the Field

Since late into the Saturday evening, just about every fan could spend hours trying to figure out if there is anything worth saying that has not been said by someone else about Saturday's heartbreaking loss to UCLA.  To look at the stat line, the 36-30 game seemed like a much more like a significant blowout than a 1 TD game at the end.  This off-season followed by about 90 minutes of football gave a handful of pundits, coaches, and of course myself a major case of confirmation bias.  The good things meant that "we" were right about this team gearing up for a successful season, and the bad things meant that it was just an outlier.  Those missed tackles, just off passes, or missed assignments on both sides of the ball were incidental occurrence not to be attributed to this team.

So to look back with a keen analytical eye, there are a few frustrations that clearly are hard to understand.  Some of the defensive talent and speed might be right there, sitting on the sidelines because Bo Pelini would prefer that all college freshmen be redshirted.  Weighing where talent trumps game knowledge is a fine line, one easily crossed when a player like Lavonte David took the field 2 years ago.  Although, were it not for Will Compton's injury at that time, would David still have been on the field overrunning opponents with ease?  What players this year are missed because three senior linebackers have earned their spots through practice, experience, and knowledge of the complex scheme (and avoided injury)?

Which brings it around to the next couple of frustrations.  If a scheme is so complex that it cannot be picked up in a reasonable amount of time by a talented enough player, is it too complex?  The answer depends on what Pelini is trying to accomplish.  If the goal is to get the best talent to field quickly, then this is a failure.  If the goal is to draw out the maximum potential from a player over 3 or 4 years, it is hard to evaluate whether this goal has been accomplished.  The most senior players on the defense are available but underperforming.  If a sufficiently experienced player can win out over a more talented backup by sheer knowledge, the scheme does not provide value.

And this ties in to the hardest part to comprehend, the evaluation of talent.  In all of spring ball and summer preparation, the coaching staff evaluated, moved around depth charts, and looked at starting players who "earned" a spot in the rotation.  Yet, a green player like Taylor Martinez a few short years ago was so talented there was no choice but to start him.  A player like Jamal Turner was able to take the field, but pulled from it because of efforts in practice later on.  Life lessons sure can be taught to players in those areas, but do the lessons come with a pill too tough to swallow?

Still in all of this, these questions have been on the minds and lips of Husker fans since the clock read 00:00.  There is no new way to look at the problem.  These questions need to be answered with some on-field success against stiff competition, not by platitudes in press conferences.

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From this point forward, Husker fans need to temper their expectations for this season.  Clearly, this defense is less talented than last year’s outfit (which was ranked 64th in total defense by year’s end) and will be a work in-progress all season long.  The Blackshirts last year were out-classed by Michigan and Wisconsin on the road giving up huge plays and massive amounts of yardage (sound familiar???).  In addition, losing 3 NFL draftees from last year’s squad depleted even more depth. 
Perhaps it is a scheme issue as the article demonstrates?  It is probably a combination of both too complex a scheme for the current players and lack of team speed/athleticism on the field. So, I can see why Papuchis and Pelini were saying they need to get more team speed on the field this Saturday. Hopefully, Zaire Anderson and David Santos step up. 

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Too complex of a defensive scheme is a joke and gives way to much credit to the defensive coaches. That is not the case, the problem is reads and missed assignments. Last weeks games looked just like us last year, chasing Wilson around the field after 2-4 missed tackles.

Unfortunately, if we continue to hire mediocre coaches, we will continue to be a 9 win team. It’s that simple

This one I feel needs to land on the coach’s lap.  The players do have to play better and harder, but they also need to be prepared to play.  Last Saturday night, that defense was not prepared to step into that game, by no means!  There is no attitude on the defense; it is as flat as I have ever seen them.  The mistakes were mistakes that are corrected at the lower level football clinics that all of these players have attended, and they only come out when you are clearly not ready for what is happening around you.
The offense needs to learn to adjust, it doesn’t matter at what point, they just need to adjust.  There was no reason for a 200 yard/ 24 point drop off in the second half of that game.  That again goes back to whoever is doing the play calling, not the players.  They run the play that is handed to them, and if the defense has your number there is nothing that you can do but adjust.  I would like to point out that the pipe line was not prepared either, getting pushed off the ball like that, that should never happen to a Nebraska offensive line!
T-Mart I thought that he played a good all around.  He could have made some better passes, but he also didn’t have any lanes to throw through, not to mention how many were just dropped.
Maher showed that he can be a great kicker, just not consistently, maybe trying to hard?  I don’t know but a coach needs to coach him to be more consistent.

GBR!

Pelini was a genius at LSU with that talent pool with 4 and 5 star legitimate players not 3 stars that they try to coach into 4 stars.
His D needs 11 studs to run not 2(compton,stafford) till the recruiting improves and we stop moving receivers to d back
and running backs to d backs and qb’s to receiver we will go thru
this year after year…..Wont change my faith to my team but
gets harder as the years go on.

Not to mention the Center….Oooooops…forgot the Center.  Oh well, TMagic should just be able to scoop the ball up off the grass…how difficult can that be?

No one has talked about this, it is actually simple. the scheem we use is the cover 2 most of the time. if you have a chance to watch the game again look at are 4 down lineman and one linebacker going against there 5 off lineman plus a Quarterback and Tailback. that is 7 on 5. they have the numbers and will 90% of the time win this battle with the zone read. Alabama played it to perfection with their defense, with 7 on 7 and stopped them at the point of attack. this is a simple adjustment.  but will probably never be discovered. GBR…

^ Mike,

I will have to look for that in the future.

Here is to BO turning this around getting a nice win streak. GBR

It’s not a new concept. Charlie McBride used it with great success.
5 things usually happened.
1. Stops run plays.
2. Quarterback hurried/ sacked.
3. Pass is off either completed/intercepted. Short yards due to pressure.
4. 3 and outs with QB rattled and sometimes knocked out of game.
5. Would fire up our Offense with some great Defensive play.
I think our talent is sufficient. just need to put 7 on 7 up front and let these very talented corners we hear so much about go man to man, watch the yards just drop and are Defense Crush opponents. its already been proven… GBR

Something that has been on my mind and maybe other Husker fans is what are we getting in terms of our bang for the buck. Meaning, with all of the money going into this football program are we seeing equal results on the field? We have spent millions upon millions on new facilities, stadium seating, upgrading locker rooms, etc. We are told that we have the gold standard in weight training facilities and training methods on the cutting edge.  Our coaches must be some of the better paid coaches in the country. Nebraska has to be near the top of the list of money spent on its college football program, yet when was the last time we had a team rated in the top ten nationally or even played in a BCS bowl?.  I’m asking how the money spent equates into wins and success on the field?

Mark…it doesn’t. Not by a long shot.
I say fire the lot of them and start over. What could it hurt? We miss a season? Unless you weren’t looking, we have no team anyway, therefore no season. Unless 7 or 8 wins is good enough for you. If so I suggest you go to Iowa.
96th on defense? $3 million a year for 96th? Who made that investment…the only guy who can fix this…Tom Osborne. I think it’s time he step in, because if we go through another game or season like this last one, it would be best to fly them all out of here in the middle of the night. I think it’s time to wake up and realize the Bo Pelini experiment didn’t work. It’s time we go out and hire real coaches, and real assistants, and real coordinators that have EXPERIENCE!!! This is not a proving ground for new coaches. Sorry.

The 7 on 7 D comment has some merit, but let’s not be too hasty, PE.  Firing coaches especially all the coaches throws a program into complete turmoil.  I don’t have to mention the “C” word to elaborate on that abomination.

We lost the time of posession battle by 15 minutes for crying out loud.  You put a D in a game for 94 snaps and they are going to get tired, worn out and ragged.  What we needed was more performance in the running offence.  We need to get ahead, which we did, and stay ahead, which we didn’t.  Why?  Because we never had our D off the field long enough to coach them up.

They like to say that “This isn’t your Grand Daddy’s Nebraska.”  Well I hate to say it, but our Grand Daddy’s Nebraska was a heck of a lot better than this.  I think Beck needs to be reminded that he is the OC for Nebraska not Florida.  Three pass plays in a row, when you are only down by 2 points is innexcuseable!  We were tearing them up with the run, then we would simply, for some unexplained reason, “fall in love” with passing the ball.

Did I see the “Belly G Option?”  No
Did I see the Diamond Formation?  No
Did I see the Power I?  Yes, three times, and they never stopped it.
Did I see the Zone Read?  Yes, Martinez ran for 92 yards and a TD.
Did I see the Triple Option?  NOPE!
Did I see Play Action Passes?  NOPE!

Many of you are getting down on a D that was out there for 70% of the game.  You are dogging them and not understanding that if they simply had about 5 more minutes off the field, it probably would have been a profoundly different outcome.

I don’t blame the D.  I blame the OC.  Mix it up Beck.  Going three and out due to incomplete passes when you are only 2 points down is NOT our Grand Daddy’s Nebraska, it’s not what Nebraska is now, and it is NOT WHAT NEBRASKA HAS EVER BEEN. 

They never stopped our run.  We stopped our own run.  It was like watching the Wisconsin game from last year.  Except there was only 1 interception in this game and not 3 inside of 12 plays.

I agree that defensive problems do fall with the coaches. The primary task should be to get the most talent on the field as quickly as possible, period. That should hold true for the offensive side as well. I also had to seriously question some of the play calling on the offense. Some of it really didn’t make any sense. But, the entire team lost the ball game. Bad defense in the first half. Bad offense in the second. And, the kicking game is not where it should be. The Huskers need a punter desperately. As to the defense, perhaps the entire defensive scheme and strategy needs an overhaul. This defense needs to get better to be competitive in the Big 10.

I agree a 100% with PE&JOHNNY; its coaches&schemes;.The play on the field is god awful!!!!! On both sides of the ball.If something is working go away from it if its not working stay with it!!!! WHAT the hell????

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