Sunday, November 13, 2011
PYB chimes in after NU racked up a good win over Penn State in University Park/State College/Happy Valley, especially considering the week's events after the nation learned about Jerry Sandusky's going the 'Second Mile' to speak San Franciscan.
The win was good, because it was a conference road win over a team with a good defense. We'll conveniently forget, for now, that the Nittany Lions had the worst offense that Nebraska faced all year and that the Cornhuskers still almost blew the game with its requisite number of stupid and untimely errors.
The win was good, because it keeps NU's slim Big 10-title hopes alive. The win was good, because they didn't lose to one of the supposed superpowers in its new conference. Two more to go. Can the weak-minded Huskers bring their B-minus game two more weeks in a row? That remains to be seen. Let's run through a quick recap of points we want to cover, as we dissect what needs to improve or keep going successfully if NU is to finish 10-2:
--The dropped balls have to stop. With Bo Pinelli ill-advisedly hitching his wagon to Taylor Martinez's arm, converting third downs is critical. Catching the ball helps in those situations. NU had five drops, all costly....Kinnie x 2, Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa, Khiry Cooper. The Ghost of Niles Paul lives....
--We all know that no PYB column would be complete without bitching about Martinez for a couple paragraphs. His presence as NU QB still limits the team. His option running is sporadic at best, but his passing has been much better. What is inexplicable is why he is such an awful scrambler. If he could prolong two or three drives per game by bolting the pocket for 10-15 yards, it would be priceless to this offense. Again, his lack of vision and feel for the game hurts the Huskers. Oh well. 28 more starts to go.
--Why do we feel more comfortable with Rex Burkhead under center than Martinez? Is it because he throws like a man? Is it because he's sure-handed (except when Yoshi Hardrick whiffs on his assignment)? Is it because he runs the option like it should be run, makes decisive cuts and positive yards? Is it because we have faith that he will not force the ball into triple coverage. Well...all of the above.
--Instead of hammering Twitter two hours before kickoff, maybe Hardrick should watch extra film and quit missing assignments. He did, however recover the Burkhead fumble that was caused by the missed block. The Big 10 referees, though, did their best impersonation of a Big 12 crew and awarded PSU the ball without seeing who recovered the ball or having any idea where it was. Then, conveniently, the play was deemed unreviewable. The rig was on.
--PYB was impressed that the NU offensive line started opening up holes on the strong PSU front. Most frustrating is the fact that blown assignments are still too frequent and put the team in second and third-and-long situations. Obviously, not optimal for a team with a mediocre QB and butterfingered receivers.
We were urged by a reader to watch the play of Mike Caputo this week. Said reader said Caputo had to be the worst center in college football. We won't go quite that far, but in watching the film, we counted six times where he whiffed on his assignment entirely. Obviously not acceptable, especially considering half the time he is just helping one of the guards double a DT.
--It was nice to see Kyler Reed reappear as a weapon on the offense. Funny how utilizing an All-America caliber TE can open things up for the rest of the offense.
--As Reed re-emerged, Ameer Abdullah has vanished as a threat in the kick return game. He did rack up a whopping two yards on two carries, but after a couple misplays on punts in prior weeks, it seems the coaches have turned the freshman into the next Santino Panico--the human fair catch.
--Will NU ever convert a 4th and 1 this year? We would be fine with continually not converting, as long as Tim Beck would dial up a different play just once...
--Defensively, the Blackshirts were as good as they can be. They're fine against one-dimensional offenses. It's when they play good teams that they struggle. The line fought well, considering it's injury problems. Two of the team's three linebackers played great games. LaVonte David, as usual, was excellent. Will Compton continued his development as a solid contributor, and had 13 tackles. Sean Fisher was a day late and three steps slow, as usual. In all seriousness, how can NU not have more than three viable linebackers in its whole rotation?
--The defensive-back play has improved from early on this season, which isn't saying a damn thing considering how bad it was to start. Most disturbing is the fact that all but one of the DBs looks cluless when it comes to making a play on the ball. Penn State's first TD was the result of Andrew Green losing sight of the ball, losing his man and then flailing around helplessly as the receiver pulled in the reception. Too many times, NU's DBs were close enough to get to the ball but weren't looking for it and gave up the catch. Shades of 1988.
--PYB poses a question: What is the role of the DE in Nebraska's defense? They get slower each year. Don't contain plays. Don't make sacks. To us, it looks like they are there to handfight with their blockers for 10 seconds before waddling after the QB as he easily escapes to run for a few yards or complete a pass downfield. Annoying.
--Also annoying is the fact that Austin Cassidy SUCKS but keeps playing. In watching the entire game film, we counted seven major errors and then three more shitty plays that anyone with D-II talent would have made. Three of his errors came on the reverse throwback to PSU QB Matt McGloin. To start, Cassidy overpursued on the reverse action. Then, after finally recognizing it was a trick play, he ran back the other way, only to get burned by McGloin because he looked at the WR with the ball instead of playing McGloin. Finally, as the lob ball arrived to McGloin, Cassidy got spun around and misplayed the ball and allowed a big gain. Just brutal.
--Thankfully, NU escaped with the 17-14 decision despite stepping on its own dick numerous times. Thankfully, McGloin has to be one of the worst white throwing QBs of all time. Thankfully, Penn State's playcalling was overly conservative. Thankfully, Penn State took a page for Michigan State's playbook by continually throwing at Alfonzo Dennard, the only capable NU cornerback. A high school QB could throw jump balls against any of the other three DBs and complete 50% of his passes.
--On a side note, PYB sources said the PSU fans were annoyingly and overly nice. We spotted more mustaches on men under 40 than we have seen since 1983. We also feel compelled to let PSU know that having its band play the White Stripes while the student section hums/sings along for 30 straight minutes isn't cool....especially considering the band itself is terrible. We'd settle for Taking Care of Business instead...possibly....well, probably not....
Anyway, there it is. An unspirited column for a run-of-the-mill win. But at least it's a column. Two more wins needed to make this year mildly successful and to secure a decent bowl. Two more wins, and maybe we'll be happy. But probably not. Well, we're out. NFL action awaits, as does another 11am kickoff next week in Ann Arbor.