Welcome to the Husker Monday Marinade. Each week we will take a unique look at the week that was, the week that will be and the opinions that will drive the debate about Nebraska Cornhusker Football. Please feel free to add to the conversation below, share on Facebook and Tweet it!
You want the truth?
Yes, this one hurt, and because of the bye week, it’s going to hurt for two weeks, but that gives us plenty of time to put some things in perspective. I’m not going to tell you the Huskers aren’t broken and that everything is fine. I’m not going to tell you that wasn’t embarrassing, because 63-38 speaks for itself. I’m not even going to tell you that some of the knocks on Bo Pelini and his philosophy aren’t true because Saturday night is enough proof against that defense, no pun intended. So is this a code red?
Let’s cross examine. What if I told you that Nebraska was going to hold Ohio State to seven total yards in the first quarter? What if I told you that even after Taylor Martinez threw two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, we would still have a 17-14 lead? What if I told you that after Braxton Miller finally broke free on a 72-yard run, yet the Huskers came back and re-took a 24-21 lead? And what if I told you the Huskers would score 38 points? Most of you, had you not witnessed Saturday night, would have said we win that game.
Which leads us to General Bo Pelini, the supposed tactical defensive genius. For those that want easy verdicts, all the simple-minded accusations are true again. Can’t win the big one: guilty. Can’t win on the road: guilty. Can’t stop a dual threat QB: guilty. Gets out-coached: guilty. In their last four “big” road games (Ohio State, UCLA, Michigan, Wisconsin), Pelini’s team has given up 192 points. Common thread? Dual threat QBs, decent rushing game.
But if you dig for the truth, here is the most damming accusation: Nebraska is good enough to beat everyone, except themselves. Given all that happened Saturday, do you really think that Ohio State is a better all-around team?
Is Braxton Miller purely a more talented QB? Probably. Is Urban Meyer a better coach? No doubt. But top-to-bottom, I’ll take Nebraska yesterday, today, tomorrow and in the long run. They have to stop beating themselves.
Offense isn’t the problem, it’s as good as it ever has been in the Pelini era. The Huskers have scored 30 points or more in every game this year and they are averaging over 47. Martinez has thrown for nearly 1,300 yards, 12 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The ground attack is good for 292 per game and another 19 touchdowns. To provide some perspective, if Nebraska would have scored at least 30 in every game in 2010, they go undefeated.
Our attack against Ohio State was balanced, 200+ passing yards, 200+ rushing yards. Five offensive touchdowns. On the road, against a brigade of 100,000+ that should be enough. That and Rex Burkhead really ought to be enough.
But it wasn’t. We lost Burkhead, and the old haunting problems unraveled the story. The play callers panicked, again. With over five minutes left in the third quarter, down by 18, Nebraska abandoned the run, again. They pieced together a drive with two fistfuls of pass plays. Martinez completed six of those and had Nebraska on the move before he became Martinez 2011 and lobbed a grenade that was intercepted, which slammed the gavel on Nebraska. Just for good measure, though Martinez tossed in a signature lost fumble on his side of the fence to secure the Buckeye win. Another self-inflicted gun wound to the foot. A movie we are all-too-familiar with.
Our defense, on the other hand, has holes, that’s crystal clear. The D was solid for 15 minutes and porous for 45. In the last three quarters, Nebraska allowed nearly 500 yards of offense. Add to that a defensive touchdown for the Buckeyes and a punt return TD, and it all resulted the most points against since 2007. That’s a pretty sick indictment of a defense we thought was in order. Will Compton is nice, but Bo needs a few more Lavonte David’s, a few more Ndamukong Suh’s a few more guys who feast on QBs and live the Blackshirt mentality.
I said a couple weeks ago in the Marinade that Ohio State can’t win the Big Ten, they can only help prevent us from doing so. But the truth is the Huskers are the only ones that can prevent that goal. It’s still ours to lose.
Urban Meyer made a statement Saturday, especially with that bush league last touchdown, that this is his conference. No, he can’t win it this year, but it’s clearly game on. I think Pelini will dedicate his career to ensure that Meyer doesn’t make a career of owning the Big Ten. And most years that will mean Nebraska vs. Ohio State in the title game, but we’ll take that.
And yes, I’m telling you not to come at me with this “fire Bo Pelini” garbage. If he can survive this change of Athletic Director, we owe it to him, to Tom and to the University to support him and his staff.
Can you handle that?