Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Tale of Two Shitty Teams

PYB sends greetings from the nation's capital of fuzzy shower mats -- Nebraska. Laziness, mixed in with some vacation-time travel/drinking/November golfing, had prevented our posting an Iowa-game recap to this point. Given today's big news that Private Bo Pinelli had been dishonorably discharged from Husker Nation after seven mediocre seasons at the helm, we'll have more later this week as time allows.

But, since we took the time at 5 a.m. this morning to watch the Husker-Hawkeye-Hero pillow fight once more, we'll post those comments here and let the dust settle on the Bo Madness before chiming in on that topic. We will say that Friday's contest was one more installment of Pinelli's rattletrap rickshaw on the road to nowhere, and that the feelgood win was the final public exhibit leading to his eventual undoing. Let's get to the big-picture topics of the week:

--Nebraska started the Iowa week with a laundry list of injuries. Some usual suspects (Kenny Bell, Randy Gregory) and some newcomers (Mark Pinelli, Corey Cooper, Alonzo Moore, Zach Sterup). Then, of course, some mid-game additions (Ryne Reeves, Tommy Armstrong). What, we ask, is behind all the constant injuries? Poor conditioning? General softness? Bad luck? Tougher opponents? Who knows, but somewhere Thad Randle sits and says, "SMH."

--Matt Millen, despite being a horrible NFL general manager, called a nice game and provided some insightful, impartial analysis. The only point that we called into question was when he said Armstrong had improved between the start of the season and the end.

--Greg McMullen, who credited Bo Pelini as the reason he left Ohio for Nebraska, was awful. He did it all Friday. Got blown off the ball. Played patty cake with pass-blocking linemen. Jogged while pursuing plays. Got shredded for his lack of effort by former NU players' tweets. Watch the tape -- sickening at best.

--Maliek Collins had another good game and cemented himself as one of the handful of playmakers on the NU roster. Is it any coincidence that Nebraska's most impactful defensive lineman came pre-trained as a state champion wrestler and likely didn't require a ton of coaching in that regard?

--Racist NU fans got their wish, as Ryker Fyfe made a two-play appearance after an Armstrong injury. His one pass attempt was nowhere close. Armstrong returned the next drive.

--Iowa turned the ball over four times in the first half, and NU turned it into seven total points in the first 30 minutes. Under Pelini, that was a Husker specialty -- turning potential 14-0 leads into ties or deficits.

--The Hawkeyes' first touchdown came on a poorly called and executed 3rd & 12 pass play. Tim Beck dialed up deep routes for all three receivers, despite having a poor offensive line. Armstrong held the ball for one, two, three counts too long. Ball tipped. Interception. Touchdown.

--Sam Foltz caused one first-half turnover, with a tackle after his punt. He also lobbied for a Hawkeye game ball by recording his weekly shanked punt and also dropping a punt snap that led to an Iowa touchdown return by Nebraska native Drew Ott. Add Foltz's gaffes to a missed Drew Brown field goal, and the kicking game was pretty shaky.

--Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock worked for his game ball as well, accommodating the Cornhuskers by missing several open receivers during the game -- most notably a wide open receiver in the third quarter. Had they connected, Iowa would have taken a 31-14 lead and likely won the game.

--Sam Cotton dropped his weekly pass.

--NU actually used tight end Cethan Carter -- twice. Once on a 34-yard pass in the two-minute drill that helped cut Iowa's lead to 10-7 right before half. The other was on NU's game-tying drive at the end of regulation, on a hot read by Armstrong, no less. Baby steps.

--Mack Brown forgot Ameer Abdullah's name and had to be reminded of it by ABC's John Saunders. Seems the former Texas football coach is as bad in the middle of halftime updates as he was in the middle of games.

--With two game-changing punt returns, De'Mornay Pierson-El cemented himself as one of the best NU playmakers in 20 years. We have trouble naming a consistently better one -- especially at souch a young age...let's hope the new Nebraska braintrust maximizes his potential the next three seasons.

--Private Pinelli's Blackskirts gave us the worst of times. They gave us the best of times. On Friday and all season. After a rocky start, the unit controlled the game the rest of the way. This, a week after giving up 133 yards to a molasses-slow Minnesota quarterback and two weeks after giving up 408 to Melvin Gordon.

The consistency of this defensive inconsistency and the wide variance in the team's ability to function at an acceptable killed Pelini in the end. It was a game-by-game, half-by-half, drive-by-drive proposition. Not good enough for a $3 million defensive guru.

--PYB was happy with the end result, a 37-34 win. PYB was sad after Beck played for overtime with an uninspired combination of playcalling and clock management on NU's set of downs with goal to go. Letting seven seconds expire after second down before calling timeout with 20 seconds remaining was sloppy at best.

Calling timeout with 12 seconds to go after a bad third-down play call and before the tying field goal was unacceptable, as it forced NU to kickoff one more time and risk losing before actually forcing overtime. High school shit. Shit we saw countless times under the Pinelli regime.

Luckily, like Nebraska, Iowa was error prone and had fewer playmakers. Nebraska had five. Iowa had zero. Luckily, Iowa pulled a Nebraska and started its overtime possession with a false start. Luckily, offensive coordinator Greg Davis went brain dead after Iowa got inside the ten and forced his squad to kick a field goal.

And finally, in one last stroke of luck, Bell provided NU fans with one last taste of excitement. Bell, questionable all week with a questionable head injury, caught a long third-quarter touchdown and the game winner to boot.

He left Husker Nation with one last taste of the feelgood drug he sells. Big plays that temporarily cover larger, team-wide flaws. He's like a woman in that regard. Talks too much at times. Whines. Let's everyone know how underappreciated she is and how unfair life is. Makes fans wonder if all the effort is worth it.

But, when times are good, and she feels up to it and gives us the pussy -- nothing feels better and a magic elixir of nostalgia helps us temporarily
forget the realities that paralyze Nebraska's hopes of winning big again.

Nothing felt better Friday, and NU fans reveled toward a warm holiday weekend and 80-degree temperatures. Sunday, cold reality reappeared in the form of Pelini's pink slip, and Cornhuskers across the country braced for another winter of uncertainty. And hope. Onward....

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