Sunday, December 5, 2010
Same Shit, Different Day. The motto of scumbags and convenience store-cash register key chains nationwide is a less than eloquent, yet perfect, summation of Nebraska's come-from-ahead 23-20 loss Saturday against Oklahoma at the NEW Cowboys Stadium.
In honor of that white-trash mantra, PYB will publish its Shit List in an attempt to cover all that went wrong in Dallas as quickly as possible. If not careful, we could easily eclipse 5,000 words, and on an NFL Sunday, that ain't gonna happen.
1. Shawn Watson--Let's start off with the lone good news concernning PYB's most-hated villain. Reportedly, somehow, Twatson is on the short list of candidates to interview for the open head-coaching position at Vanderbilt. Hoo-fucking-ray. Does he need help editing his resume? Honing his interview skills? (Ironically, a Google search yielded this laugh-provoking gem from Steve Sipple in March 2009.) Hell, we will even chip in for some of the premium slate-gray paper from Kinko's to print that Curriculum Vitae. Just get the FUCK gone, ASAP.
In an effort that should surprise nobody, Watson kept going to a play that would not work and shied away from the play calls that have gotten four or more yards EVERY play since the Iowa State game a month ago. He tried to show us all just how genius he is by running zone read after zone read with a gimpy Taylor Martinez and a porous offensive line. The Wildcat formation that has never been stopped for negative yardage since its debut at last year's Holiday Bowl, used sporadically. Why, you might ask?
Watson didn't want to be one-dimensional. Jack of all trades, master of none. Apparently, he's happier using the whole playbook and going backward than running what works, making yards and winning the game. Inexcusable. An embarrassment to the whole state of Nebraska. What's more, he felt compelled to throw 24 passes, mostly seven-step drops, with a freshman quarterback who was pissing the bed with every chance he had. Handing off on conventional run plays to his two stud backs in Rex Burkhead and Roy Helu was clearly a distant third option, even after Helu's 66-yard TD scamper that made it 7-0. The read play has not worked against any team that NU has played that had even a mediocre defense.
Coaching is all about putting your players in position to win. Watson refuses, or is not bright enough, to get that done. Had Zac Lee started this game, Nebraska wins handily. A PYB confidante said before the game that Martinez was worth 10 points on the game's spread. He was right. The jittery QB was worth 10 points (or more) to Oklahoma's chances. Watson ignored that, even when it became apparent that Martinez was cooked. He has also ignored the time-tested formula for aiding young quarterbacks and winning games: run the ball, protect the ball, use play-action passes sparingly, and let your defense take it from there. Elementary, except for our Dear Watson.
2. Fumbles--Martinez continued to put the ball on the carpet with regularity. At one point in the game it made 42 fumbles for the season with only 14 lost. This act doesn't cut it against bad teams, as the Iowa State loss proved in 2009, much less in championship games. Bo Pelini needs to make this cease immediately, even if it means playing less dynamic players (Lee). Helu had perhaps the most crushing drop, as his turnover allowed the Sooners to tie the game at 17 before halftime. It was another soft fumble, Helu's biggest bugaboo in his career. Sure he took a good shot on the arm this time. But this is Division I football. It's the Big 12!
3. Martinez--Let's talk about the diva himself, who had to have been humbled and flat-out embarrassed with his performance. In fact, as Kirk Herbstreit pointed out, he panicked every time he felt a little pressure in the pocket. What followed was either a fumble, sack or near-interception. Sure, Martinez is injured and the way that Watson has failed to protect his young quarterback is unacceptable. But he has failed to develop in areas that championship quarterbacks must. Decision making, pocket presence, elusiveness and the knack for converting first downs in key moments. Martinez's end-zone INT with NU leading 17-0 was Trent Dilfer-esque, as he lobbed the ball back across his body into the waiting arms of any of three Sooner defenders, was the most perfect illustration.
Would NU fans be sad to see him go, considering the rumors about his daddy's interference and demands? At this moment, PYB says not. However, be careful what you wish for when you crown next year's incoming freshman as the next best thing. Remember all the names before: Dukes, Beck, Green et al. So far, there has been just one Tommie Frazier.
4. NU pass rush--Or lack thereof. The Blackshirts, despite ceding 454 yards, actually played pretty well. Just not well enough to make up for the terrible offense. They held OU to one of 16 conversions on third down. They stopped the Sooners twice on four fourth down attempts. However, they sacked Landry Jones just twice and most importantly, forgot to pressure him. Remember last season, when Jones threw five INTs under heavy pressure from Ndamukong Suh & Co.? Apparently Carl Pelini didn't, and apparently he also forgot how to call timely blitzes. In its limited blitzing, NU had good success. They also gave up two conversions when Oklahoma was backed up with 3rd and 25 situations. Did Carl Pelini freeze up? Or was Austin Cassidy that glaring of a weakness that the defensive coordinator couldn't afford to give up one of his defensive backs? The fact that he was burned by three steps on OU's first TD may be the best answer to that question.
5. Cornerbacks--Alfonzo Dennard has been burned several times since returning from his concussion. Has he just been playing poorly due to the after-effects of the injury? Or have other teams discovered a weakness? Or has he finally succumbed to the wear-and-tear of not having any consistent support from his front four? Either way, Dennard was beat several times on key situations that hurt Nebraska.
As for NU's supposed All-American Prince Amukamara, he was out of position on big gains on OU's last scoring drive. Do NU fans ever feel like he's going to make a big play? Can offenses really be scared to throw at him? He is never truly close to picking a pass off, despite being the nations leader in passes broken up.
This is all PYB cares to cover from another frustrating loss. Of NU's three losses, this is the most painful. Texas was a choke. No other explanation. Texas A&M was a farce, as the zebras imposed their will. Last night was a gift given to OU, wrapped in player mistakes and coaching missteps. What could have been a feel-good BCS bid, topped off with a bottle blasting of a Big East charity case, is now a second-fiddle Insight Bowl bid against a bad Michigan team or plodding Iowa squad. This is what NU fans consider success these days, thanks to Frank Solich, Bill Callahan, and now Shawn Watson. Ultimately, this is Bo Pelini's ship and Watson is becoming Pelini's Kevin Cosgrove. Failure to jettison Watson will keep NU stuck as a New Year's Day coulda-been-but-never-will-be. Which will it be, Bo?