Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Good, The Bad, The Normal

PYB watched Nebraska play Purdue Saturday. PYB saw what it's seen countless times before. NU fans saw what they'd seen for more than 15 years running. Keeping up with our civic duty, we took notes and hoped to share some striking revelations with our readership. That won't happen today, as this tired storyline lurches forward, jumps backward, veers sideways and ultimately goes nowhere. Here goes:

--Nebraska Offensive Coordinator Tim Beck laid another turd against the Boilermakers and admitted afterward that he was too cute with his play calling. He admitted what NU fans have known and complained about for years -- that his teams have no identity and instead work on countless nuances for even the shittiest opponents. Even as his offensive line appeared to wear down Purdue with power runs, Beck refused to keep at it. Apparently, he learned nothing from this season's Miami game.

Beck kicked off the festivities early, helping fuck up a few early series and turning a 17-0 lead into a 7-0 game. Instead of compiling said fuckups into a cogent collection of thoughts, we'll copy straight from our notes on a drive-by-drive basis:

1st down & goal after starting at the Purdue 15:
-Run for two yards
-Rush to line on second down, gain one yard
-Run with no offensive line push for no gain
-Fumble snap on 4th down. Drive over. No score
-Ameer Abdullah injured.

1st down at Purdue 31
-Long bomb with wind. Overthrow. Obvious that throwing deep would be tough for the day.
-2nd & 10. Run. No blocking. Short gain
-3rd & 7. Dropped WR screen. (Somewhere around the 20th drop of the year)
-Missed FG (Potential 17-0 lead stuck at 7-0 and guess what....it's a game!)

1st down at NU 40
-Pushed back to NU 30 with senseless holding penalty on punt return
-Abdullah gets no blocks on sweep and falls to the turf. Leaves game for good.
-2nd & 15. Four-yard pass route to one wide receiver with a second receiver within a couple yards.
-3rd & 10. Incompletion to narrow window near sideline between cornerback & safety, as Kenny Bell alligator-armed his catch attempt due to potential contact by defender. He has an Afro and a lion tattoo, though, so it's all good.

1st down at NU 39
-Imani Cross two-yard gain. Looks to be running in mud.
-Awful pass attempt with Trey Foster and Bell within two yards of each other on routes
-3rd & 8. Missed pass attempt as receiver ran deep and Armstrong expected short route.

Those are the wasted drives from the first half. We'll address the second half later. We could rail on about Beck for hours, but will take a short hiatus as we share some other thoughts. We categorized them for your ease of reading:

The Good

Two blocked punts: That's more in one game than NU has had in the last decade. DeMornay Pierson-El (or, if you're Ed Cuntingham, DeMornay El) even ran another punt back to the the 15. Nebraska capitalized for a grand total of seven points on the two blocks and El's return. We're just glad that NU went out of its way to get Pierson-El three touches on offense. When your best player gets hurt, find ways to not get the ball to your second most dynamic player -- or so the old saying goes.

Nate Gerry: He can run, hit, tackle, cover receivers and actually make a break on thrown passes. Nebraska should recruit more defensive players like him.

Corey Cooper: Had a tackle for loss AND a pass break up! And no embarrassing whiffs! A banner day for Cooper -- we just hope he wasn't sandbagging and storing up his misses for November 15 as he chases Melvin Gordon.

Cuntingham: Only forced us to listen to two five-minute lectures on tackling safety and concussion-testing protocol, instead of his normal three-hour diatribe.

 Mike Patrick: Proclaimed any of the top four teams in the SEC West would win any other conference in the land, prompting Cuntingham to laugh and say "Yeah, maybe Conference USA", prompting Patrick to restate his embarrassing claim with more confidence the second time.  Likely the only worthwhile exchange we heard from the duo the entire season.

Georgia: Somehow rated in the top five to start this season after losing to NU in a bowl game, the Bulldogs got throttled by a shitty Florida team. We received text messages asking how UGA would react to its demotion from 11th to 14th in the upcoming Top 25 rankings.

Private Bo Pinelli: Was composed and honest about NU's sloppy play during both his halftime and postgame interviews. We admire that personal growth and the fact that he can recognize and admit to his team's shortcomings. We would now like for him to do something about fixing them and gaining control of his offensive coordinator's disheveled strategies.

Blackskirts: Maybe Purdue is just that bad, but we saw NU's defense do things it hadn't done in 17 years. Defend the wide receiver screen. Defend the running back screen. Cover running backs in the flat after play fakes. Stay close to receivers downfield and play the ball. Limit the opponent to 340 yards on 78 plays -- 4.4 yards per play -- while getting no help from its offense. We'll take it, regardless of how bad the opponent it.

The Bad

Randy Gregory: Had four tackles and three QB hurries but was largely MIA.

Abdullah injury: This is really bad. NU thought it had something by recruiting its third straight back that can somehow still gain yardage despite getting no blocks. Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead were the first two. When Abdullah went down, so did Nebraska's hopes of being a legitimate offense. If he's not 100% by the Wisconsin game, chalk up a minimum of three lossess for the season.

Cross and Terrell Newby did a decent job of replacing the "Heisman candidate" (who, by the way, has no chance because he  was third in his own conference in rushing yards entering Saturday's game.), but those two backs require holes to run through and can't reverse field or cut back 45 degrees at will like Abdullah. Going to be hard times in Lincoln in upcoming weeks.

The dropoff was immediate and drastic. NU gained just 297 yards for the game, even after spending most of the first half in Purdue territory.

The Worse

Center-Quarterback exchange: For a second straight week, it was a fucking disaster. Even when Armstrong went under center after the shotgun SNAFUs continued, he fumbled. Shades of Michigan State in 2013.

Ball security: Three fumbles, one lost. Two interceptions thrown. Lost the turnover margin 3:2. At home. To Purdue. Taylor Martinez loved the performance.

Yardage: Outgained 340 to 297. At home. To Purdue

Beck: Reverted to his well-known big-game panic form and continued to force passes as his team's lead dwindled in the fourth quarter, (We all remember Taylor Martinez passing down after down after down with NU trailing by two scores at Wisconsin, turning a run-of-the-mill road loss into an epic bottle blasting). This may have been worse. Nebraska, despite playing poorly and being without its best player, had a 28-7 lead. Time to run the fucking ball, get the FUCK outta Dodge and hope to regroup during its off week.

Beck, instead, bucked any semblance of common sense and blessed us with the following fourth quarter leadership (still leading 28-7, mind you, at the start of this comedy of errors). He asked his run-first quarterback, who was obviously not at his best and was obviously affected by the wind, to keep throwing downfield. Play. After play. After play. For absolutely no reason.

Here is a random sampling of some of Beck's offensive fourth-quarter mastery:

3rd & 8. 30 mph wind at back. 12 minutes remaining.
-Instead of playing percentages, goes with five wide, receiver drops ball and stops clock.
-40 yard punt. 23 yard return that could have been longer if Purdue returner hadn't blown ACL.
-Purdue scores, cuts NU lead to 28-14

1st & 10 on next possession. NU starts at own 40 yard line with 10:10 remaining
-Armstrong three-yard run
-2nd & 7. Another pass on a deep slant route. Interception.
-Possession takes 38 total seconds
-Purdue goes four and out on next possession but still ran twice as much clock as NU did its preceding possession.

Two drives later, starting at the Purdue 20 yard line:
-Botched snap, three yard loss.
-15-yard penalty on the NU sideline (Private Pinelli reporting for duty)
-Two yard run
-Forced pass to the sideline for another near interception which would have been returned for TD.
-Beck apparently attempting to terminate his employment on the spot.

In case you're counting, that's seven drives that Beck butchered throughout the game. NU had 15 total possessions. For you math wizards, that's pissing away 47 percent of your offensive opportunities. For anyone looking to gain fewer yards, at home, than Purdue -- this is a good place to start.

Cuntingham was incredulous as he watched this insanity unfold. We, for once, could not disagree with him. If ever there was a time for Beck to play it close to the vest, this was it. Still, he could not make himself do it. For $800,000 a year, he could not use an ounce of common sense. He admitted so after the game. He admitted what every casual football fan from Pawnee City to Gering has known for a long time. That in itself is mortifying.

That's one reason that the trip to Madison in two weeks won't be a pleasant one. A team that can't outgain Purdue, at home, won't win at Wisconsin. Especially with a horrible offensive coordinator. A bad line. A shaky quarterback who's continually asked to be Tom Brady when he's just Tommy Armstrong. A leaky defense.

Add that to the fact that the Badgers are hitting their stride. Gordon is a stud. Madison fans are drunk. Nebraska coaches and players can't handle big crowds or pressure. It all sets up for a classic bottle blasting. The good news is that the game still may kick at 11am, so at least it won't be in prime time for all the world to see.

So, enjoy that NU has gained its highest ranking in several years, because it won't last for long. A second-tier bowl and nine months of self-loathing await. Nothing has changed. And unless Pinelli makes a change at the top of his offense, it's the unfortunate long-term reality.

Win at Wisconsin, you say? LOL.


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