Monday, September 5, 2011
The Road to Nowhere
As is our stated policy here at PYB, any Nebraska football game against I-AA / FCS competition is not worthy of a full write up. So, in holding true to that mantra, and in the interest of time, we'll bullet-point the Cornhuskers' mediocre (at best) effort from Saturday. We'll also withhold judgment on NU's lackluster performance until they face a team that could, in theory, qualify for a bowl:
--The offensive line looked the same as it has during both Cotton Regimes. We should have expected as much as soon as the yearly excuses about Barney's Boys started to flow. Within one practice, two linemen were on the shelf with minor injuries. Then, on Saturday, despite having 28 linemen on its roster, NU started a true freshman. So much for developing that elusive depth and toughness.
Making things worse was the fact that Nebraska couldn't blow a shitty defense off the line of scrimmage. Maybe a power run game will emerge next year.
--To be fair to the 'Pipeline', offensive coordinator Tim Beck's playcalling did them no favors. If it's possible, the rhythm of his gameplan was equally bad or worse than that of the excommunicated Shawn Twatson. The pass routes were even more pointless -- two yard patterns that had visions of Bill Callahan dancing in our heads.
One would think that everyone should have learned that not having an offensive identity was the main shortcoming under Twatson. His balanced offense was equally bad at the run and the pass against good competition, and Beck's plan seemed to be a carbon copy.
--To quote one of our readers: "Jamal Turner needs the ball, I am sure we will find a way NOT to get it to him for four years." Amen. Can we just blow this whole thing up and start him at quarterback right now?
--Brandon Kinnie dropped three passes. We're hoping it was an anomaly and not a sign that he will offer Niles Paul-type leadership during his senior campaign. Kinnie has had big drops before, though, and given his possession-receiver-type speed, he can't afford any drops.
--PYB put the over/under on Nebraska fumbles at 35.5 and -12 on turnover margin. After one game, the Huskers are on pace to shatter that figure. Four fumbles, two lost. Negative two turnover margin. Not good enough against a bad team and an instant loss against even a decent team in conference play.
--NU's best offensive player is still its kicker.
--Taylor Martinez is about two games from becoming Eric Crouch Junior. We saw no development in his game. Run fast, run straight. Any deviation from that plan spells instant meltdown. Despite looking terrible in the pocket last season, Beck continued to call dropback passes for the sophomore quarterback. In an overreaction to his freshman season, Martinez does not even try to read his route progressions and immediately scrambles when pressured.
His game in one-dimensional, and since the offense revolves entirely around him, so is the NU offense. His option abilities are akin to those of Crouch, meaning he can't time a pitch or maintain spacing to save his life. The 'option' is just an avenue to get Taylorina 20 carries a game. Unless there are drastic changes, the first good defense with a smart coordinator will stymie this offense with ease. We'll be back realizing that NU can't move the ball in big games, because it doesn't do anything particularly well and plays a QB that doesn't have the intangibles needed to win championships.
--Remember all those young, stud running backs you heard about? They got nine carries. Rex Burkhead got 11. Embarrassing.
--Bo Pelini and Tim Beck wasted two possessions with the game well in hand, where Brion Carnes could have been receiving semi-meaningful reps at quarterback. Instead, Martinez got to feed his ego with a few more carries.
--Seeing Nebraska run a gimmick offense (The Pistol) is sad. Imitating Nevada is not the ticket to winning championships.
--Jared Crick was dominant, as he should have been, against UTC. His tipped balls led to two of Cameron Meredith's big plays. Meredith looks fat. Not much else can be determined from the defensive line's play, considering the level of the opponent.
--Still amazing to PYB is how NU coaches let the linebackers get so bad. Daimion Stafford will need to be on the field all the time during conference play, so will have to overcome a sharp learning curve like Dejon Gomes and LaVonte David did before him. Once Alfonzo Dennard returns, Stafford will likely become a hybrid DB-LB.
Funny how the JUCO ranks of Florida and California prove more fertile ground for talent than Class C Nebraska high schools. Hopefully, the scrub collection of May/Cassidy/Thorell/Ebke/Fischer/Blatchford plays its way out of the rotation in the next two games. Getting burned by four yards on five-yard patterns will usually do the trick. If the Pinelli brothers insist on keeping them on the field, NU will lose four times. Keeping Austin Cassidy on the field last season lost NU the Big 12 Championship game. Well, that and Martinez's god-awful interception in the end zone. Anyway....
--As for special teams, Brett Maher looks great as punter and placekicker. Ameer Abdullah was the first non-terrible punt returner NU has had since Dennard returned a couple early in his career. It's a novel concept, but putting game-breaking speed at the return positions can change games. Hopefully, Abdullah will provide that true touchdown threat, full time, for the first time since Dejuan Groce.
That's about it. An uninspired game recap to go along with an uninspired game. Hopefully, the coaches have something more up their collective sleeves. Given their experience and salary levels, you'd think so. From what we've seen the last 14 years, however, it's not a certainty. Persistent problems remain, and Nebraska is still holding its course on the road to nowhere.
--And in the most shocking development of the week, Niles Paul made the Redskins' 53-man roster. Sounds like the Washington Post was as shocked as we were. We always thought you had to make a play or two to make an NFL team. Apparently, not anymore. Or, maybe a team with a Rex Grossman vs. John Beck quarterback battle is just that bad...
All for now, we'll check in after Fresno State. The Bulldogs barely showed a pulse against Cal.