Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hold Out, With Me Tonight

For years, the Big Ten has tried to hide the fact that it's been the worst major football conference in the country by running for roses and playing for axes, pigs, buckets and jugs (unfortunately, not the silicone variety). In recent years, since Nebraska joined this moribund group of underachievers, B1G added the Heroes Game -- to add seasoning to an annual Husker-Hawkeye matchup that had about as much spice as the potato salad at a White Trash wedding.

Friday, PYB was forced to watch the 2016 version of that union from Hell. Our report follows:

-Nebraska fans should have known it would be a long day. Tommy Armstrong's 2016 completion percentage against the 'marquee' teams in the conference was already under 50 percent. He was hurt --
with ankles taped so heavily that he looked more like Clydesdale than a dual-threat quarterback. He's no good anyway. Bad combination.

The result: 13/35, including countless deep balls to receivers who'd actually beaten their defenders several times and who were actually pretty fast but still couldn't get within three yards of Armstrong's panicked, Hero Ball heaves. On several occasions, other receivers ran free, only to be ignored in favor of the deep route. Small-town chicks dig the long ball, apparently. PYB's favorite was the one on 3rd and four, down only 13-0 at the time.

Armstrong's early-game on-field and sideline exchange with wide receiver Stanley Morgan was a telling moment. The quarterback likely told Morgan he should have snared a ball that appeared to be catchable and was for once accurately thrown and properly timed. Morgan, likely shocked that the ball was there right out of his break, wasn't ready. When Armstrong scolded him, Morgan was likely was not in the mood for coaching from a quarterback that fails on more passes than he succeeds. He had tired of Armstrong's act, like the rest of Husker Nation.

-PYB won't blame Nebraska's coaches for the loss. They are still stuck with the losers and non-talents that Bo Pelini recruited to Lincoln. It will take time to purge the lack of mental toughness from the program, while injecting some talent, speed and strength. Looking at the seniors on the 2016 roster, here are the contributors (with some editorial comments for your reading pleasure):
  • Tommy Armstrong (Kill the 'warrior' talk. Couldn't read defenses, couldn't come to terms with his limitations. Consistently hurt his team in the process.)
  • Josh Banderas (improved in 2016, still too many big misses. See first Iowa TD run)
  • Cethan Carter (another talented TE that NU succeeded in not utilizing)
  • Ross Dzuris (inept)
  • Nate Gerry (made some plays in 2016, too many mistakes, absent in most clutch situations.)
  • Kevin Maurice (nice final season, NU's defensive line totally fucked without him)
  • Terrell Newby (would have been a nice third-down back for a team with a QB and OL)
  • Brandon Reilly (A DUI, followed by injury and QB issues stunted his last season)
  • Michael Rose-Ivey (started, and ended his career talking a big game and not doing shit)
  • Sam Hahn (his family has a farm)
  • Dylan Udder (See: Video of him getting trucked backwards 5 yards by a linebacker)
  • Jordan Westerkamp (only senior that showed up big in games against all levels of opponent)
So, there you have it. Twelve contributors, two of which made consistent, positive impacts against the better teams on NU's schedule. Counting the juniors on the roster, there are seven contributors. Scary indeed, considering three of the seven below are defensive backs and the poor performances in the Blackskirt secondary Friday.
  • Drew Brown
  • Chris Jones (Lockdown U)
  • Josh Kalu
  • Marcus Newby
  • De'Mornay Pierson-El (is he struggling with injury or unimaginative coaching?)
  • Kieron Williams (showed promise, but regressed last three games)
  • David Knevel
So, those excuses made, Nebraska coaches did find their team dominated by a team that entered the game averaging 12.7 points in its previous conference games against teams that ended the season with winning records and was coached by a coach that went for a two-point conversion with a 23-point lead instead of kicking an extra point to go up 24, which would have required his opponent to score three touchdowns and three consecutive two-point conversions to tie. That same coach also willingly removed a field goal, and in the process a three-possession lead, from the scoreboard in the fourth quarter. These are game-losing blunders, unless of course the other team has no playmakers, no plan and no balls.

-An Iowa lineman with a girl's name made the ultimate accusation, saying Nebraska players aimed racist slurs toward him during the game, then refused to name names -- the ultimate bitch move. Such allegations require names, so NU officials can investigate the claims and remove any offenders from the team.

-The game included players with names from not one, but two, George Michael songs. Faith and Freedom.

-Mark Banker commented postgame about how bloody Iowa's mid-week practices must be since they dominated Nebraska's shitty lines. Twitter nerds ran with it for the rest of the evening. Imagine how rugged North Dakota State's practices must be?

-All in all, the state of the program could be worse, considering the team won four more games than it did a year ago. We'll ignore the fact that the best win was against Wyoming, who got drilled by New Mexico last night but who will play for the Mountain West Conference title next week. Instead, we'll relish that Nebraska will likely play in one of the nameless Florida bowl games in January, and not the shameful Foster Farms Bowl. We'll enjoy that Bo Pinelli is back under his rock in Ohio, along with Frank Solich.

We'll take solace in the fact that short-sighted Husker nerds will name either a castoff junior transfer from Tulane or a freshman that's never taken a college snap as the program's next savior. In the meantime, PYB is holding out....

Holding out for a hero, til the end of the night. He's gotta be strong. And he's gotta be fast. And he's gotta complete 50 percent.

On to happier topics, for the time being:

-Nebraska's basketball team had a nice win over Dayton in California, despite a late-game meltdown by Jack McVeigh. Glynn Watson, despite the fact that the Omaha World-Herald can't spell his name correctly, looks like a legitimate Division I point guard, and should prove to be so if he can consistently finish at the rim against top competition.

The Omaha World-Herald should be embarrassed, considering it can jerk off every Creighton three-point attempt on Twitter but cannot manage to
send a reporter to a tournament that includes one of the top five college programs ever in UCLA.

-Tim Miles squad will have tough duty in today's third-place game against Virginia Tech followed by a game at Clemson three days and 2300 miles later. A split in those two contests would be a victory for the program. Dropping both games could lead the team on another road to nowhere. We'll hope for the former.

-Anyway, snap judgments after watching two of NU's early games:
  • Watson: See above
  • McVeigh: Struggles against top-tier athleticism. NU needs him to consistently score and defend against those athletic teams.
  • Anton Gill: Appears to have a combination of shooting ability and athleticism. Hopefully it translates in conference play.
  • Ed Morrow: Offensive rebounding has been a pleasant surprise thus far. Will need to continue current level of play the entire season if NU is to have a chance at respectability. 
  • Evan Taylor: Shaky with the ball, at best. Headed for disaster in the near future.
  • Jordy Tshimanga: Hopefully gets more minutes as he works into shape and out of the man boobs.
  • Nick Fuller: Played one minute against UCLA
  • Isaiah Roby: PYB likes his length and liked his backside shot blocking against Dayton.
Anyway, that's all we have for now, as an upcoming flight nears. Enjoy your Sunday.

-PYB

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Boring is the New Exciting

PYB fell asleep Saturday during the second half of Nebraska's 28-7 victory over Maryland. It was the first time we remember such an occurrence, regardless of the Husker's grand level of futility over the last 20 years or our blood-alcohol content during that same span. A team that used to drive us to taking that first sip of booze by the 10-minute mark of the first quarter and that warranted weekly venom-laced blog posts has sedated us with a REM-inducing nine-win season.

So, gone are the days of wild, minute-by-minute swings. Gone are the days where PYB was racked with guilt for not writing enough about the recent season, as other commitments clawed away at our free time.

Here are the days where everyone knows NU's capabilities (beating crappy-to-mediocre teams by
~10 points) and limitations (losing to all the good teams). Less emotion. More realism. More acceptance. More cupcakes, disguised as major-college programs, on the schedule. 

Until Head Coach Mike Riley flushes the remainder of Private Pinelli's recruiting turds from the pipes in Lincoln, nothing is changing. For now, we'll enjoy the good and shrug our shoulders at all the rest.

On with it:

-NU's special teams have been a disaster all year. Every time Bruce Read's units find a new way to fuck up, Twitter teems with stale references to his salary and job status. Apparently, Nebraska nerds are appalled by his $450,000 yearly earnings but are less concerned with the millions the University shells out to Pinelli.

Either way, it's a verified fucking train wreck. Yesterday, placekicker Drew Brown left after one play with a concussion. The field goal unit had just 10 men lined up later in the game, leading to a blocked attempt. Punter Caleb Lightbourn, thrust unfairly into this year's starting role, booted one ball 54 yards and the next 27. It's been that way all year, as has Read's knack of making De'Mornay Pierson-El a non factor. Better luck next year, Bruce.

-Nebraska played its second consecutive game without a turnover for the first time since 2003. Suck on that statistic for a while. Fuck you, Taylor Martinez. Boring can indeed be exciting.

-Maryland is one of the worst five teams PYB has seen play Nebraska in 20 years. Starting their fourth-string quarterback, the Terrapins had no chance to beat a team that started Ryker Fyfe in place of Tommy Armstrong. That's the same Fyfe that committed five turnovers against a ridiculously bad Purdue team in 2015 and who looked like a high-school player against an average (at best) Ohio State team two weeks ago. Let's hope NU fans temper their enthusiasm and don't start talking about Big 14 West titles anytime soon.

-Maurtice Rose-Ivey made a sure tackle for the first time in a long time. PYB noted it on Twitter. His daddy got mad and replied with a YouTube link to a three-minute video highlighting MRI's 2013 game against Iowa. OK.

-Speaking of the Hawkeyes' and their looming post-Thanksgiving showdown with the Huskers..... It should be a stalemate for the ages. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard airs it out for 157 yards a game. Racks up six yards every time he drops back to pass, and is successful 58% of the time he tries to do that.

Nebraska has an offensive line that can't block and below-average running backs. Its top two quarterbacks complete 53 and 49 percent of their passes, respectively. The likely starter, with the 49 percent rage, averages five yards per pass attempt and runs backward more than he does forward.

Sprinkle in some cold weather and dead grass, and Christmas will have come early on the Plains.

Let's finish up with a few non-Nebraska football hits:

Queen James: Took her Bitch Rating into the stratosphere, by whining about Phil Jackson calling James' troupe of cronies a 'posse.' So, a term that's been willingly used for 30 years by those with 100 times more heart and business acumen than QJ now qualifies a racist insult because an old White guy said it. PYB is glad Delonte West fucked James' mom.

Ohio State dismantled 3-7 Michigan State Saturday, 17-16.  Buckeye Blowouts rule.

Finally, we'll touch on the Charlie Strong situation in Texas. Nebraska fans, let your hatred for all things Longhorn melt away. Sure, Texas ruined the Big 12, but NU was too weak to stand up to them off the field and too weak-minded to beat them on it. That's Nebraska's fault.

What is Texas' fault is that it still constantly overrates its place in the college-football food chain. UT hasn't been shit for 40+ years, except for a few years centering around Vince Young. Caught up in all that is Strong, who by all indications is a stand up man stuck in the midst of a myopic program in a state full of racist pieces of shit. Bad cocktail.

As the Longhorns capped off their overtime loss to Kansas last night, media sharks were abound, stating that Strong had to be finished in Austin. You think so? Give the man a break. Let the bigwig boosters swing the axe and bring in the next savior, only to find themselves in the same stance five years from now.

PYB's bet is that Strong will be standing tall, and that the Longhorns will be stuck in the mud with the pigs.

All for now. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Kill Your Television

The Ghosts of  Bo Pinelli
surfaced Saturday night in Columbus, as Nebraska took yet another nationally televised bottle blasting at the hands of an average Ohio State team. As predicted, the Cornhuskers' shortcomings and strategic errors cost them more dearly against an average team than it did the prior week against a subpar team in Madison, Wisc. What follows is a random collection of musings, based on the fact that PYB refuses to organize thoughts and paragraphs over the course of two hours when Nebraska couldn't organize itself enough to stay within 58 points of its opponent.

-Saying the Buckeyes 'hit their stride' Saturday is a bullshit excuse for the 62-3 embarrassment. Entering the game, Ohio State was a proven entity - beating its prior three Big 14 opponents by a total of eight points. NU had already played two of those three teams, on the road, and beat one by 11 points (Northwestern) and lost to one by six points in overtime (Wisconsin).

-Ryker Fyfe should not play another down at Nebraska. Division III material, at best, Fyfe threw four interceptions in his only other significant playing time last season against Purdue. Saving Patrick O'Brien's redshirt is not a valid reason for Fyfe to be allowed to continue to try to jam sidearm throws into triple coverage, either. NU will likely recruit a new quarterback, better suited for Head Coach Mike Riley's system, every year from here forward.

So if Riley's staff is worth its salt in recruiting, the Huskers will be just as well served to get three-and-a-third years out of O'Brien as they would four, while giving him some preparation for 2017 at the same time. And, could anyone be more inconsistent than Tommy Armstrong, especially against top-tier competition? Could anyone, besides Fyfe, make more mistakes or miss more open throws?

-Nebraska would go 1-2, at best, should Fyfe start the rest of the way. Not good enough.

-Armstrong jogging on to the field an hour after being taken to the hospital in an ambulance was awkward, bordering on embarrassing. And PYB agrees with The Diggler, that it was more embarrassing that Armstrong took it upon himself to coach a defensive back on the sideline in the third quarter when his can't even teach himself not to throw horrendous interceptions in his fourth season as a starter.

-That said, could any coaching staff call more ill-advised deep balls for a duo of bad quarterbacks than NU did Saturday? Would any coaching staff continue to do so play after play, drive after drive as Urban Meyer continued to ram the broomstick farther up the Huskers' ass? We hear a lot about players playing for pride, how about coaching to maintain some pride? Can NU fans tell the coaches that incomplete passes stop the game clock, and going 9/33 passing turns 34-10 games into 62-3 games? Christ.

-Nebraska's defense traded its Blackshirts in, yet again, for skirts. The 'Skirts were scared. They were soft. They didn't, and don't, have an ounce of nastiness. Missed tackles. Indecision. Inability to stop ball carriers without being dragged four yards. Missed assignments.

-Michael Rose-Ivey showed the world, yet again, that he's better at making misplaced, trite civil rights announcements than he is at making a play on the football field. Various Buckeyes embarrassed him several times in the first half. Be quiet and tackle someone, please. Make Nebraska Great Again, Michael.

-The kickoff return team continued to be horrible.

-The offensive line is a non-entity.

-NU is bad at running back, and its rotation is worse. Four players cycle in and out with no consistency, with the only inkling of a pattern being that as soon as one makes a run for more than four yards, he's likely coming out of the game.

-Reading Nebraska newspapers, PYB half expects playmaking wide receiver Stanley Morgan to leave Lincoln for the NFL after this season. We just wish he'd have caught more balls than he didn't catch on Saturday.

-Other than the horrendous effort and a 59-point loss, the loss itself is not a big deal. Everyone who knew football, except apparently ESPN's Mark May, knew Nebraska was going 0-2 against Wisconsin and Ohio State. The Huskers' goals are intact - an average to slightly above average bowl game and 10 wins. Included in those goals should be missing the Big 14 Championship game and another catastrophic beating by Michigan.

That's all we've got. Husker fans are back where they belong. Flopping around like a fish out of water, waiting to see if their heroes will man up and beat the three shitty teams left on the 2016 schedule or if they'll turtle, make excuses about injuries and their conference's ruggedness, while giving away wins in the process.

Happy November, Nebraska.

Go Cubs Go.

PYB

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Nothing Old Can Stay

As PYB pondered possible directions for a post-Wisconsin-loss recap and rant, we realized that our bitter critcism of Nebraska football had diminished in 2016 for a couple reasons. Most notably, on the home front, is a lack of leisure time. Second, improved results based on improved play, fewer mistakes, better overall talent and a cushy schedule full of Big Ten stiffs. It's not as easy as it once was to watch the game tapes again on Sunday mornings, make a laundry list of errors between laughs of embarrassment and cries of dismay, and share them with our dear readers. That's a credit to NU coach Mike Riley, we suppose.

Following NU's 23-17 overtime loss to the Badgers, many fans described the loss as hard to swallow. We were surprisingly unaffected. The result was what we expected, after years of watching Nebraska kill itself against equal or inferior competition -- a close game against an opponent that had difficulty scoring against any team fielding 11 defenders that eventually ended in a loss.

NU finally had a defense good enough to stay close in Madison, and PYB didn't think the Blackskirts would shit the bed like on many prior nationally broadcast occasions. We didn't think Nebraska would win, legitimizing itself by beating a team best known for not getting blown out by a Michigan team with a quarterback named Wilton.

After the clock expired, it was also apparent that NU had few of the other intangibles required to beat top competition, other than that improved defense. Least of all, a difference-maker at quarterback.

Sure, Tommy Armstrong will make some good plays. In year four as a starter, however, he still hits too many lulls, has too many inefficiencies and makes too many crippling mistakes to hide his team's many other shortcomings. Those include, but are obviously not limited to:

-Shaky Special Teams: Punter Caleb Lightbourn had the best game of his young career, thankfully. But a moribund kickoff return team, led by a shaky freshman running back, regularly saddles the Huskers' inconsistent offense with poor field position.

-A lack of offensive playmakers, with De'Mornay Pierson-El being the only home-run threat. Not having the ability to score quickly puts a premium on mounting multiple sustained drives against good teams, and having a quarterback that completes less than 50% of his passes in meaningful games won't get that done. (See an awful missed pass to Brandon Reilly, two midfield drive-killing interceptions and three incomplete Hero Ball heaves as the most recent evidence of this).

-Injuries depleting an already-mediocre offensive line.

-Below average running backs.  After boasting three straight RBs that could gain 1000 yards a season without blocks (Helu/Burkhead/Abdullah), the cupboard is now bare. Thanks, Bo Pinelli.

-Lack of physical dominance - Since Riley arrived in Lincoln, NU has made great strides in strength and conditioning, in our estimation. But there are still more Huskers than their opponents writhing on the turf against top-tier teams. Time for the needle to tip the other way.

-Poor playcalling - Much less prevalent than last year, but against Wisconsin, Danny Langsdorf's selections ranged from mistimed, to limited by personnel, to uninspired, to bad. How about one pass deep over the middle late in the fourth quarter and the chance to win the game?

-End-of-half clock management - Riley is apparently content with Armstrong's continued Hero-Ball antics, but has passed on chances to utilize timeouts, throw Hail Marys, or both near halftime of multiple close games. Mystifying.

-Leaky run defense - The Blackshirts have made significant progress from 2015, but have been bad all season in yards relinquished per carry. Mark Banker's crew gave up several long runs Saturday. Two went for touchdowns, one gave the Badgers an opportunity at a potential game-winning field goal, and one let Wisconsin escape a deep hole late in the first half instead of giving NU's offense a chance to score before intermission. Eliminating any of those may have turned a loss into a win for Nebraska.

None of the above are, on their own, egregious enough to lose a game or ruin a season. In the Pelini Era, they'd have been cause for celebration. But all are the perfect loss-making ingredients when an unreliable quarterback with a penchant for disastrous decisions is under center.

In the end Saturday, it was a little bit of everything. Nebraska gave another opponent a free pass, and Riley relinquished bragging rights to his protege-turned-huge-headed eyesore Paul Chryst.

We understood Armstrong's limitations long ago. Saturday, we knew those limitations would continue to lead to more empty hearts across Husker Nation and to emptier trophy cases in Lincoln.

On to Columbus, against a better, more talented opponent in Ohio State, with the same quarterback calling the shots for Nebraska. Husker fans will hope for different and get more of the same.

Other Quick Hits:

-Dildo on the field in Buffalo. Top Ten Sports Moments of All Time.

-Chicago Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers by working pitch counts, getting to the World Series for the first time in 70+ years. Now they're swinging at every pitch against Cleveland. Good times.

-Sam Bradford remembers he's Sam Bradford and loses to Jay Cutler on Monday Night Football.

 All for now.

--PYB

Friday, October 7, 2016

27 Shots to the Dome

Thanks to Hurricane Matthew and some cancelled work travel plans, PYB is able to offer some random thoughts following last week's Nebraska-Illinois football game. Hopefully, it provides some off-week filler for a weekend where NU sits idle while preparing for its monster showdown against Indiana on October 15.

-Michael Rose-Ivey continued his four+-year career as a program mouthpiece early in the week, making a seven-minute statement about his choice to kneel during the national anthem prior to his team's mediocre effort at Northwestern. Since making that choice, he's logged eight tackles, prolonging his penchant for providing more meaningless talk than he does impactful results.

PYB would prefer he make more plays on the field, and tweet fewer mid-week platitudes off it. But hey, everyone has a right to free speech in America - fuck yeah - regardless of how inconsequential that speech is to actually impacting the bottom line.

As for the statement itself, it was uncomfortable bordering on disastrous, read at breakneck speed, eyes down, with one respite made to slosh water all over the podium during an impromptu water break. PYB would think that NU's Sports Information Department would have provided its student-athlete with more training prior to making such a high-profile appearance, at least enough so that the awkward moments didn't detract from the valid points Rose-Ivey made. It would have also been wise for the SID and the player to validate the blanket statements that MR-I made that painted the entire university and state of Nebraska as racist entities. Better luck to them both next time.

Moving on to the game itself, and away from shunning independent thought and using athletes and movie stars as our political and civil rights role models.....

-Chris Jones again dubbed himself "Lockdown U," despite not being very good at cornerback and continuing to not make plays against subpar competition. The media and meaningless award-hander-outers joined in the fray. Early season All-American teams sound like a good idea. What 'analytics' could this group possibly have that would allow them to evaluate every player on all 110+ teams in one month? Did they watch the Wyoming game? Jones has 13 tackles, four passes broken up and two interceptions in five games against teams with a combined 9-14 record.

Using this methodology, could we name Bo Van Pelt a 40-time 'early PGA tournament champion'? The Atlanta Braves a 10-time 'early season World Series Champion'? Ben Roethlisberger a two-time 'early rape' convict? Possibilities abound....

-Mid-game, PYB received a Twitter education from one Damon Benning, former Elementary Education major, who claimed that Terrell Newby was being 'sudden' in the hole -- whatever the fuck that means.

Benning, the same person who claimed on national television that Lawrence Phillips was framed for a 2015 murder in a California prison, bristled at our innocuous reply to said tweet, exposing a mental softness that is likely the reason he couldn't stay on the field as a player while at Nebraska.

The only evidence he provided was a video that showed Newby make one cut and fall forward for a six-yard gain. The video also showed a hole to the left that an elite back with good cutback ability would have seen and darted through for a long gain.

Benning also said that he preferred the way Newby ran through holes over the way Pittsburgh Steeler Le'Veon Bell did so. That's the same Le'Veon Bell that ran for 144 yards on 18 attempts a night later against the Kansas City, an NFL team. That's the Chiefs, not Illini -- but that's another racist story for another day. That's eight yards a carry. That's also the same Le'Veon Bell that ran for nearly 1800 yards his senior year at Michigan State.

Newby ran for 140 yards on 27 carries, a 5.2-yard average. Without Illinois Head Coach Lovie Smith reminding everyone why he got fired from two NFL jobs and punting the ball down just one score with three minutes remaining and gifting Nebraska a final possession , it was 77 yards and 2.96 yards per carry.

As we've often stated, PYB holds no ill will toward Newby and roots for the kid. He's an outstanding pass catcher, hampered with a quarterback who had not been able to complete a simple screen pass for three seasons until this season -- and this season only about 60 percent of the time.

But, for Benning to portray Newby as having elite abilities is both disingenuous and dishonest, and signals that he has an ulterior motive. Damon, please tell us you brought more to the table to prop up an argument that anyone who's watched Newby the last 3.5 seasons can tell has no merit. You'll need more than that, and a thinly veiled "I can discount your opinion with some smarm and vague psychological references, because I was a third-string running back in college" strategy. Hell, Desmond Howard won the Heisman Trophy and is a weekly laughing stock due to his weak analysis and ridiculous prognostications on each ESPN College Gameday episode.

Anyway, Benning and PYB have planned a film session for the next time we travel to Nebraska. It will be an occasion to behold, as two Nebraska alums in their early 40s get together to talk football and trade differing opinions. We'll come equipped with a notebook and an open mind, as we try to soak up as much knowledge as possible during a rare chance to pick the brain of someone with an 0-27 record as a head football coach. Recapping, that's 27 games and zero wins.

-As mentioned earlier, Smith showed everyone that he was not only in over his head twice as an NFL head coach, but may also be as a college coach. Showing complete detachment from how college and professional football differ, and forgetting that his Illinois team sucks and got blasted by a MAC team a week earlier and that he did not have an NFL defense with Warren Sapp, John Lynch or Brian Urlacher, he actually defended his decision to punt the ball back to Nebraska trailing 24-16 with three minutes remaining in the game. Nice guy, good coordinator, bad head coach. On the bright side, Andy Reid and Frank Solich loved hearing about Smith's late-game call.

-Looking at the big picture, Nebraska has been OK, but not great. Sluggish wins against bad teams like Northwestern and Illinois are unimpressive but would have likely been bad losses against bad teams the past couple years. Concerns, though, are plenty and may provide motivation for NU to ignore its inflated ranking and to concentrate on weekly improvement. PYB's short list of concerns:
  • The Shit-the-Bed Factor - NU finding continued ways to shoot itself in the foot. The Cornhuskers' turnover margin is -2 the last two games, and Tommy Armstrong threw another bad interception.
  • Lackluster competition - Oregon's continued slide downward takes the shine off  Nebraska's win over the Ducks, and struggling into the fourth quarter against Wyoming and two pathetic Big 14 teams is cause for concern.
  • Injuries - The offensive line is dinged, and Nebraska's two most consistent top-level receiving threats, Jordan Westerkamp and Cethan Carter, are out and their current odds of returning soon appear shaky. That said, the team's physical conditioning seems much improved. The players don't look fat and there is not one writhing in pain on the ground after every other play. #BoWasFine
  • Running back - Injuries and ball security issues add more pressure to a group without a top-level, three-down player.
  • Tackling - Has been inconsistent. Is more rugby training needed? How much does the Level II Seminar cost the NU Athletic Department?  Did the team complete Level I?
  • Kicking Game - The legs at punter and placekicker are unproven at best, and more likely a full-blow weakness by season's end.
-All of the above make PYB wary as NU heads to Bloomington next week to play the Hoosiers. Indiana, fresh off an upset win over fading Michigan State, certainly has the wares to beat a Nebraska team that has struggled to various degrees in every game so far against suspect opponents. Enjoy the ride.

Moving on to a few non-Nebraska football one-hitters:

Ryder Cup - Great action over the weekend, coupled with an American team that hit better shots and had more likeable players with some guts. Gone were pussies and known chokers like Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Webb Simpson, and Hunter Mahan. In their stead, and being more clutch, more likeable, or both were players like Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Ryan Moore. Hell, even Phil Mickelson joined the fray and played well.


Crime Beat - Boulder, Colo. police shot dead a machete-wielding nut on the University of Colorado campus Wednesday. PYB poses two questions:
  1. Why is the new complex at CU's Folsom Field named the "Champions Center"? Outside of the Colorado State Championship, the Bluffs haven't won anything in more than a decade.
  2. Why aren't losers rioting after the death of this white male in his 20s?
NFL Beat - On a lighter note, PYB is a long-time Philadelphia Eagles fan and New York Giants hater. However, we'll always secretly root for New York's new head coach, Ben McAdoo, in hopes that he keep his job and enables us to continue with a litany of  'Sleeping With the Enemy' jokes for years to come.
Images included here as visual aids, but one really must see a live sideline shot of McAdoo, complete with poorly sculpted mustache and 1980s snap-up windbreaker, in the midst of another Giants beating. Priceless.

Finally, Week 5 of the NFL started in fine form last night. PYB beamed like a proud father, as he watched the G.A.B.B.E.R.T. system spread its way to yet another team. Arizona, led by Drew Stanton, beat the Blaine-Gabbert-led 49ers 33-21. The two quarterbacks passed 59 times for 251 yards -- 4.25 yards per attempt -- less than Le'Veon Bell career 4.4 yards per rushing attempt. Gabbert has been so bad, to noone's surprise, that early-morning radio personalities have penciled in Colin Kaepernick to start San Francisco's next game. We've come full circle.

We're gone. Enjoy your off week. For now, bow down, to the kings in Raider hats...

PYB

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Quack It Up, Quack It In

PYB apologizes for the delay in recapping Nebraska's momentous win over Oregon last Saturday. We were unavoidably delayed by a Sunday fly-out for work, then understandably distracted by scumbags rioting in Charlotte because they were mad a guy with seven kids and arrest record dating back to 1990 got shot by an African-American cop for pulling out a book that looked like a Glock on said cop. And who said Colin Kaepernick's pointless form of protest wasn't making a difference. Throw in his protests, along with his huge Afro, and you've got MLK-Level social changes in the making.

We'll share some snippets for this week, as it's doubtful that we'll have an update on NU's annually disappointing performance against Northwestern, due to an upcoming golf trip and more work travel. We have no doubt, however, that Pat Fitzgerald is dusting off his pawns and rooks, while Tommy Gun and Mike Riley fight over the red and black checkers.

Anyway, let's get down to business. The thoughts below come without a second viewing of the game tape and in full disclosure that we watched the game in illogical fan mode and spent the last five minutes of game clock juggling taking a dog that had to piss outside with a pissed-off wife that was ready to leave for an anniversary dinner in Uptown (aka downtown) Charlotte. It was a good thing we made it there before this week's riots, or our after-dinner Cognac, the drink that's drank by Gs, would have been just a pipe dream.

  • Riley did his best he could to overrate his opponent early in the game and give away the game in the process. Going for it on fourth down instead of punting made it apparent that the NU coach had no idea that this was a non-vintage Oregon team, with a shaky-at-best transfer quarterback from the second-best of two FCS schools in Montana leading the Ducks' offense and starting running back Royce Freeman already departed due to injury.
  • Punter Caleb Lightbourn picked a good time to make his first good punts at the college level. In fact, he made multiple and kicked five times for a 47.2-yard average. At least a couple benefitted from lucky bounces, but no style points are required here. Nebraska will need for that to continue the rest of the season.
  • Nate Gerry blew enough assignments throughout the game to keep PYB wondering if he is indeed point shaving. It's either that, or he's clueless about assignments, or he's just headhunting - concerned more about the big hit than game results. Or a combination of all three. If he doesn't adjust, he'll lose NU a game before 2016 is over.
  • Cornerback Chris Jones, who hasn't locked down any receiver during his tenure at NU and just days after being embarrassed by Wyoming, took Oregon week as a chance to proclaim Nebraska as Lockdown U. He then took game day as a chance to embarrass himself again, as he was outclassed by the Ducks' superior athleticism and speed. PYB would almost be fine with Jones' being no good, if he'd keep his mouth shut.
  • Was Lamar Jackson still hurt or benched? If not hurt, at least a few snaps would have been valuable experience, especially considering he could not have botched coverages worse than Jones did at times.
  •  Despite giving up plenty of big plays and yards to the Ducks, the Nebraska defense may be on the verge of trading its Skirts for Shirts. The unit pressures the quarterback more consistely. It tackles better, yet still far from perfectly. It takes better pursuit angles. It has more depth. It has more speed. Who the hell knew this would be helpful? We were fine.
  • Brandon Reilly was too injured to swerve through traffic against Oregon, but he was not too injured to wear a sleeveless shirt on the sidelines and celebrate with those who did play in the locker room after the game. Question: Does he have a mid-temperature shirt selection to bridge the gap in the fall when it's too cold for sleeveless and still too warm for the full hoodie?
  • The win was so awesome, in fact, that Nebraska's cutting-edge athletic department (Iron N logo, with a side of Script Huskers, anyone?) released a video featuring a 20-year-old rap tune that was horrible when it came out. With all the possible options from 1990s rap, PYB can't believe NU chose Let Me Clear My Throat. Did nobody consider It Ain't No Fun (If the Homies Can't Have None)? What about Deez Nuts? Blowjob Betty? Would Coolio not release the rights to Fantastic Voyage? What about Jump Around? Moving on....
  • It was nice to see that Nebraska's offensive line dominated Oregon in the second half. It became apparent that NU could reach into the chest of the Ducks' defense, remove its heart and stomp on it. They could control the clock, and limit the number of chances Oregon had to spring big plays around a soft defensive edge and past Lockdown U and Nate Gerry. For those reasons, PYB was especially pleased when NU Offensive Coordinator Danny Langsdorf decided to forego Devine Ozigbo's pounding run style for an entire second-half series, opting instead for a first-down run by a quarterback with severe leg cramps, followed by two throws by the same cramped-up quarterback who displays sporadic accuracy and questionable decision making even when not limited by injury. Fucking A. Luckily, the result was a one-yard run and two knuckleballs into the turf, when disaster was the more likely result. It was indeed Nebraska's day.
  • De'Mornay Pierson-El turned the tide of the game with his first-half punt return and reminded NU fans of his game-changing abilities. Unfortunately, he also reminded NU fans that he's the only home-run threat on the Husker roster.
  • In the end, Tommy Armstrong rose from the dead, shook off the cramps, and returned to Hero Ball form just in time for the game winning drive. Sure, he laid a turd early in the game with another horrendous screen pass. In fact, Nebraska's screen pass game reverted to 2015 form and will be a real concern if Armstrong can't execute it against good teams. This particular screen pass was so bad that it went backward and resulted in a 14-point swing when Oregon recovered the fumble scored from 50-yards out one play later. 
  • All in all, he completed just over 50% of his passes for 200 yards and 6.6 yards per attempt against a suspect defense that will likely prove subpar over the course of the season. But, such is life with Armstrong at the helm. His Devil-may-care/I-don't-know-any-better style will lose a game or three in 2016. But for a day, he and Husker fans earned a reprieve and got to celebrate a much-needed win by an opponent that was much stronger in national branding and reputation than it was on the field. 
  • But hell, that's the Oregon way. And Nebraska needed this win in the worst way. It put to bed its consecutive loss streak in games described as "if we can just win this game, we will be X-0 heading into the next game on the schedule against a team with a pulse and we could be rated #X by then." Niles Paul, Texas Tech and Cody Green firing pass after pass into triple coverage, anyone? What happened to the good times?
Finally, PYB offers some non-Nebraska football bonus coverage:
  • After watching him throw a backbreaking interception in the endzone Sunday against Dallas, it's nice to see that Kirk Cousins is still Kirk Cousins and can still provide fans with endless comic relief. That fact that he got overpaid by Washington this offseason makes it more priceless. Maybe Dan Snyder should trade a few first rounders for Connor Cook.
  • PYB hates the Minnesota Vikings. Mostly because we ignore them and the entire state of Minnesota, we'd forgotten they had a new stadium. We'd forgotten because of that, and because the new field looked like it had been painted by a middle-school art class just like the old field did. The old field was the league's biggest embarrassment for thirty years running (narrowly edging the Raiders' half-baseball field, which is so bad, it's nostalgically good).
  • Another question is why did Adrian Peterson, after hurting his knee, have to hobble past beer-swilling fans down a hallway with the help of two trainers? Did architects botch this when designing the stadium? Seriously, there is no way for a cart to wheel him to the locker and/or X-Ray rooms?
  • The bad news, of course, is that Peterson is out for the year with a torn LCL. The good news is that time away from football will allow him to spend more time with his eight kids. Or maybe that's not so good news. If that is indeed his plan, PYB hopes he has a lot of frequent flyer miles saved. And remember AP, pack the Trojans, as you're one more knee injury away from zero income.
  • NDSU beat Iowa. No worries, all the Hawkeyes' "real" goals are intact: Big 14 West title. Rose Bowl. Not losing to a MAC team.
We're gone for now. We'll return as soon as possible. But, in the meantime, remember if you're out rioting and looting your neighbor's business, make sure not to run across a cop and make extra sure not to let it be a black and a white one. Cause they'll slam you, down to the street top, black po-lice showing out for the white cop.

Happy Thursday.

PYB

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tommy Dangerously

Nebraska's 52-17 win over Wyoming Saturday did little to impress Husker Nation and did less to calm its fears that 2016 would turn out just like the last 10 versions of the Traveling Turnover Machine that has become NU football.

Sure, a 35-point win looks good on paper. Nebraska covered. Its starting quarterback set the school record for career touchdown passes and got a game ball and a hug from his touchy-feely coach. Balloons soared across the Lincoln sky, before eventually wafting into Iowa, popping and choking local wildlife. Ross Dzuris got continued media props as a difference make, after picking up a ball and running three yards with it following a fumble recovery.

But none of it mattered after quarterback Tommy Armstrong dug deep into the bowels of Taylor Martinez's "Quarterbacking for Dummies" and threw a horrendous, drive-killing, first-and-goal, in-the-end-zone, Big-12-Championship-game-ahead-17-0-against-Oklahoma-type interception. So, instead of taking a commanding 14-point second-quarter lead, NU put itself in yet another dogfight with another undertalented and overmatched opponent, whose motivation to win came primarily from all its players and coaches ignored and/or done wrong by the Big Red program.

Only because Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen bested Armstrong's Martinez impression late in the second half, did the Huskers escape with what appeared to outsiders to be an easy win. Allen embarrassed his team with a rapid-fire succession of turnovers, last seen during national-television performances in the T-Ragic era.

In this era of watered-down football, is a win a win? Yep. Is it reason for Nebraska fans to hold their breath until this year's Cornhuskers prove they can play four good, smart, error-free quarters of football against a good team? Yep. A win over a non-vintage-but-still-ranked Oregon team would qualify, and would be NU's first triumph over a rated non-conference opponent since 2001.

That win came against Notre Dame, when Frank Solich could have driven the Fighting Irish into the ground, pissed on them, and given his program some much-needed inspiration but decided against it. After taking a halftime lead of 27-3, Solich instead laid off, let Notre Dame outscore his team 7-0 after halftime and crafted one of the most boring second stanzas in history as a special treat to Nebraska fans that had shelled out hundreds and thousands of dollars for hard-to-find tickets for this once-in-a-lifetime event. Great job, Rat. Pure genius, program killer.

On with a few more random takes, since we have to get back to work since our Sunday writing time was interrupted by a last-second visit to the community swimming pool and a birthday party for the three-year-old kid next door. At least there was free beer provided and football on the television. Here's to Mondays and three-beer hangovers.

  • Terrell Newby showed he can contribute to NU's offense, when Armstrong hit him in stride with three accurate passes in the same game. Those accurate passes allowed Newby to run in open space, where he's not required to make a cut, elude tacklers or run through contact to gain yardage. Keep it up, guys.
  • Armstrong continues to look slow one game and fast the next. In fact, that seems to change carry by carry. Whatever.
  • PYB likes the Blackshirts' depth at defensive back. Sure, the group is far from perfect in coverage, but has more speed than it has in the last decade and at least a couple players that can tackle. That's a start.  After reviewing the Fresno State tape, we were impressed by Lamar Jackson's sure tackling. Of course, he missed most of Saturday's game with a groin pull. NU needs to get him as many snaps as possible to develop as a cover corner, especially considering Chris Jones' continued difficulty in making anything resembling a play on a ball thrown to an opposing receiver. 
  • After two games, Caleb Lightbourn has posted a 34.1-yard punting average. That needs to improve drastically and quickly. If it doesn't, it will cost Nebraska wins. Tough spot for a freshman thrown into the mix at the last minute, but NU needs him.
  • The fake punt against Wyoming was there for the taking but was ill-timed, pointless, and an utter fucking disaster. That said, the net punt on that play wasn't much less than a few other attempts so far in 2016.
  • PYB wants to see an opposing punter actually kick a ball far enough so that a Nebraska returner can catch the ball and run with it. NU needs De'Mornay Pierson-El to rekindle his gamebreaking abilities, and giving him token opportunities on reverses and spot screens isn't cutting the mustard.
  • Armstrong completed 58% of his passes and threw three touchdowns, but nobody in the stadium or watching on television cared, because of the awful interception (one of his career-worst) and because they want to see such production against a better team in a meaningful game.
  • Perhaps they were also concerned that NU ran 43 times for 170 yards for 3.2 yards a carry. Yeah, right, the Cowboys put eight in the box. We've heard that for 30 years. Three yards per against bad teams won't get it done, especially when passing chances for the scatter-armed Armstrong are tougher later in the season against the mediocre-to-good teams.
  • Brandon Reilly had the longest run of the game for Nebraska, at 12 yards. This time, he looked good swerving through traffic. Now his hamstring is busted. His nice 46-yard grab was overturned by replay after being correctly called as a catch on the field. College officials continue to impress, right Okie State? Most importantly, what temperature is it cold enough for him to break out the hoodie again this year?
Will Nebraska ever change for the better? On Saturday, Armstrong both dazzled and disappointed. On Sunday, RG3 Griffin, adorned with his precious man bun,
broke like the fragile China Doll he is. On Monday, Blaine Gabbert threw for 170 yards on 35 attempts and a sub-five-yard-per-attempt average.

Some things are meant to be.

All for now. Enjoy your week of local media overkill, hammering you with the last 15 years of Oregon Ducks vs. Riley's Beavers analysis.

PYB