Wednesday, January 4, 2012
After sitting through another brutal Nebraska football performance Monday during the Capital One Bowl, PYB has chewed on how to put this story on wax. What to cover, what to bitch about. On a macro level, so much of it will be repeats of repeats from the last two seasons. On a micro level, there were so many embarrassing fuckups during the game itself, and so little time to cover them all. So we'll just forge ahead and rant as we see fit. Regardless of the path we take, just be aware that Parental Discretion Iz Advised....
What we took away from another meltdown that looked so much like many before, was that anyone concerned for the Nebraska program's long-term success should be happy the Cornhuskers lost. Not happy, obviously, as a proud fan and a competitor. But happy, so that we didn't have to sit through an off-season claiming that NU had beaten an SEC team and that Taylor Martinez was 'just about to get over the hump' and become an elite QB that could lead his team to championship hardware. A win would have meant little, or nothing, in becoming an elite program again. South Carolina wasn't very good. They were a borderline Top 25 team, at best. They were in the Top 10 only because college football is so watered down. They were Michigan, part II.
The Gamecocks were entirely beatable. Their speed was not impressive. Their quarterback was forgettable, and would be eaten alive by any decent defense with a pass rush. They were undisciplined, albeit more disciplined than the pathetic Nebraska players and coaching staff. (On a quick side note, when the lack of composure and borderline bipolar behavior of a head coach filter all the way to the top of the team's talent chain (Alfonzo Dennard), a team has problems). In short, NU turned a potential 10-point win into a 17-point drubbing--again.
Nebraska is headed the opposite direction of where they were after beating Clemson in the 2009 Gator Bowl. Then, they were beating more talented teams with discplined, gutsy, smart play. Now, they're losing to teams far less talented than that Clemson squad, even though NU itself has better talent throughout its roster. So, either the coaches ain't teaching fundamentals well enough, or the players ain't listening. Either way, it's not working.
We'll go on record for perhaps the 100th time and say that the problems start, and end, at quarterback. Anyone watching bowl season surely noticed that almost every school has a better QB than Nebraska. The number of mistakes that Martinez makes and the way he makes them is laughable, or embarrasing, depending on who you're rooting for. We were actually getting texts during the game claiming that had Taylorina played well. Looking at the box score, he racked up a whopping 116 yards passing (with a crushing INT before halftime) and 36 yards rushing. When NU fans think that is the mark of a well-played game by its QB, that tells you all you need to know about the state of the program. Until there is a new quarterback under center, we'll keep writing these post-mortems after every game against a decent team. If Bo Pinelli keeps refusing to make a change, he may as well say 'sayonara' to his time in Lincoln.
So, with this said, we delve into the psyche of the rest of the Nebraska team. Football players may be dumb, but they're not stupid. They're definitely smart enough to know that their chances going into any game against a solid team with Martinez as their leader are slim to none. So, once the initial wrinkles and tricks of the gameplan wear off, and the team has to rely on their QB to move the offense with bread-and-butter plays, it all unravels. Mistakes turn a potential 14-point lead into a senseless halftime deficit.
Then, once the team is behind, and Tim Beck breaks out the dreaded dropback passing game, they know it's over. T Vagic freezes in the pocket, takes sacks, holds the ball too long and gets drilled, fumbles, bumbles, and stumbles....game over. An already bad defense has to know this. Has to know they can't stop a decent team and even if they do, their effort will likely be in vain. Can't work. Won't work.....won't DO it.
Offensively, out side of Taylorina, it's too hot-and-cold. Is that because the QB is so sporadic himself? Dumb penalties reared up again from the offensive line. Dropped passes by receivers (Kinnie, Reed, Marlowe). Fumbles in the red zone by a freshman running back (Abdullah). Game plans go into panic mode as soon as NU falls behind.
Defensively, it's worse. Outside of Dennard and LaVonte David there is NO talent. Not one playmaker. Sadly, Dennard and David played their last games Monday and are off to the NFL. Maybe it will be good for Pinelli to see just how bad his team is without the two big Band-Aids they've relied on all season. To see how continuing to run stiffs like Cameron Meredith, Lance Thorell and Austin Cassidy out on the field keeps getting the whole state of Nebraska embarrassed. To see how none of his cornerbacks can stay within four yards of a receiver, once Dennard was ejected from the game. Not good. 2012 may mean a .500 record, unless sweeping changes happen.
As for Dennard, PYB remembers just one other ejection in its 30+ years of following the NU program, and that hardly counts because it was Richie Incognito, perhaps the biggest fuckwad in NU football history. Dennard was one of our favorite players ever....the fact that he melted down like his head coach does nearly every game is telling. Over the years, NU has played teams that talked way more shit than the lowly Cocks. Played way flashier and way more irritating opponents. The fact that Dennard was not well-trained enough to avoid getting into a fight with this fat alley cat says volumes.
Alshon Jeffery beat Dennard once in the first half and got the lucky hail mary TD thanks to Pinelli playing his wide receiver-turned permanent CB-turned bench warmer Stanley Jean-Baptiste in the prevent formation. But otherwise, Dennard was in Jeffery's head with his physical play. He was wearing him out. Had he kept his cool, South Carolina would have lost its only big play threat and NU would have kept its hopes of winning the game. Too bad it didn't happen and the stupidity of a fat, lazy opponent won out.
Side note: We loved that Austin Cassidy blamed not being able to stop the first-half hail mary on the fact that Jeffery is 6'7" when he is actually just 6'4". A loser's excuse, to be sure
The 2011 campaign can certainly be classified as a deep disappointment, and this game summarized all of the recurrent problems within the program. A few one-hitters as we finish up:
--Corey Raymond hinting publicly that the team is short on athletes. True, but didn't he watch any tape before accepting the job in Lincoln?
--Rex Burkhead. It's got to hurt this guy to be surrounded by so many heartless stiffs. We still contend that the junior RB is the best decision-making quarterback on the roster. Would the offense be any worse if he ran the offense full-time? Couldn't be.
--What the hell is wrong with Ciante Evans. Looked promising for two games in 2010 before The Pinellis benched him. Looked awful all of 2011, despite doing the Cam Newton "Superman" celebration on the one play he made all year in Orlando. Is he just bad or is his confidence shot? Maybe this should tell Bo that giving underclassmen experience is important, after all.
--No pass rush. The defensive ends and tackles look weak, slow and are essentially a non-factor.
--The Cotton Factor: Did Barney get more hands-on for this game? Seems that way, with all the dumb penalties that re-surfaced....turning one drive from first and goal to 3rd and goal at the 35-yard line.
--The Gabbert Factor: The Diggler said it best. The longer Cameron Meredith and Austin Cassidy grow their hair, the more they suck. PYB is so tired of watching Meredith stand in pattycake formation with his blocker, before finally deciding to run away from him and waddle behind a play for 20 yards. We're equally sick of watching Cassidy drop his head and whiff on tackles. That is an error that weeds out shitty players in JV high school ball....not Division I.
--Ameer Abdullah: The guy proved to be a spark, but had consistent fumbling issues at inopportune times. Can he learn to hang on to the ball or maybe he'll just keep getting playing time regardless of his errors, like Taylorina Martinez.
--Speaking of T Vagic, we still would like to hear from anyone what he does well? Can't run the option effectively. Can't scramble. Can't pass deep consistently. Fumbles a lot. Throws crushing interceptions in EVERY important game and has the accuracy of a television weatherman. How in the world can this program continue with him as starter? Is Pelini that blind, or that desperate?
--Receivers: The drops have gone from freakish, to ridiculous, to downright paralyzing and demoralizing. It's preposterous! Outrageous! Ludicrous!
--Bo Pinelli: Does he have to melt down every time a bad call is made? Can't the athletic director force him to get counseling? Is he not smart enough to see the results of the games after every one of his tantrums? There was one horrendous call followed by a no-call because one of NU's pussy defensive linemen got body slammed. Lift weights. Quit getting manhandled. Get over it. Had the Huskers not pissed away a myriad of chances earlier in the game, they'd have had a comfortable lead and these calls would have been irrelevant. Again, a loser's MO.
PYB had a hard time writing this column, as it's all been said 100 times before. But someone has to keep beating the drum. Such bullshit efforts cannot be accepted, if NU is to ever regain status as a legitimate Top 15 program. Right now, NU is not even a borderline Top 25 program. It hasn't been elite for 15 years, has been mediocre for 10 years and outright bad for a few of those seasons.
The football team's demise comes at the lowest point we can remember for the entire NU athletic department. As Tom Osborne and company raise money to build some of the nation's best facilities, the teams' play suffer. Baseball....fell from Top 10 program to worthless in five years. Basketball....been shit for 13+ years...and followed up the Capital One Bowl performance by taking a wing-ding-ding-a-ling down their throat against Ohio State with a pathetic 71-40 effort in Columbus. Volleyball....noticeably absent fron the round of 16 this year. Not good.
So, as it goes, we move forward toward next season. Next up...the Spring Game. We hate the fucking Spring Game. But, we may just like it this year. It might be the last time Nebraska will have a starting quarterback not named Martinez before 2014. Ouch.