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 Football. Please feel free to add to the conversation below, share on Facebook and Tweet it!
After half a century of winning and a true decade of dominance (not the Kansas State kind), where Nebraska won three National Championships, we just assume that the Big Red “N” on the helmets will simply lead us to victory.
That’s why, as Nebraska fans, we are so frustrated by games like last Saturday’s @ UCLA. Because of recent history, maybe we just assumed UCLA was soft. There isn’t much reason to have thought otherwise, and let’s be honest, that powder blue color reminds us more of calm, California skies than hardened athletes.
And we lost . . . to them. The Pac-12 . . . the Bruins, not the Trojans. We faltered along the fault line, just a day after a signature 4.1 magnitude west coast earth shake.
Make no mistake, Husker fan, that game could have been a lot worse. In the first half, UCLA had ample opportunity to bury Nebraska. They missed a field goal, they fumbled, and they had a touchdown negated by a rather weak offensive pass interference call that led to just a field goal.
Yes, Nebraska’s pass defense looked suspect all game, and the defensive stats look awful (305 passing yards to a freshman QB and 344 rushing yards, with Johnathan Franklin again going for 200), but they made big stops in the red zone and kept it close. The offense also looked good through 30 minutes, with touchdown drives of 75, 96, and 87 yards.
Here’s the pain to this game. Jim Mora gets a signature win as head coach for UCLA in game two of his tenure. Husker fans are still waiting for a “signature win” from Bo Pelini. “He can’t win on the road, he can’t win an important game against a ranked team,” we claim.
Lest we forget, that Bo’s first signature win might have come in his very first game, as interim head coach after the firing of Frank Solich, in the 2003 Alamo Bowl against Michigan State.
But the Bill Callahan experiment delayed Pelini’s maturity as a head coach. Although its hard to realize, through angry red glasses, that Pelini beat two top 15 teams last year, and two the year before including Missouri, who at the time was No. 6, and he came within three points of beating both No. 19 Texas A&M and No. 9 Oklahoma. Add in three top 25 wins in 2009 and two one-point losses to Virginia Tech and Texas.
Problem is, those close losses are more painful and long lasting than with wins, and the next two wins over true powdercakes won’t go far to heal all wounds.
We need to keep things in perspective. This is a good Bruin team and we will look back on this game, when UCLA gets 10 wins this year, and it won’t feel so bad.
But that’s just it, this coaching staff is immature. Not the yelling, screaming, spitting immature we saw a couple years ago. They just haven’t learned to coach in close games and in games they are behind.
Late in the UCLA game, they panicked. With over six minutes left and down by two, they abandoned the run game altogether. They called three straight passes and went three-and-out. The defense got us the ball back, still down two, and they called two more passes, one of which was picked, game over.
As fans, we must mature with the coaches. We remember the 90′s, we lived them. Almost none of these coaches did and none of the kids did. They must learn how to win and we must allow them to learn to win. Stop over-reacting and calling for a change of the guard.
Nebraska simply needs to learn how to stay out of its own way, coaching-wise and fan-wise. All the goals that were planned this year are still within reach. The Big Ten is soft this year. Michigan is vulnerable, Wisconsin is a shell of itself, Michigan State can’t quite figure it out, Iowa has NO offense and God forbid we lose to Northwestern again. Ohio State can’t win the title, but the can help prevent Nebraska from winning the title.
Now is not the time to be spoiled. Not the time to call for heads. Now is the time to be calling for hands. Clapping, cheering, support, fore-fingers. And just maybe we get back to the Rose again and not run into all the thorns.