Sunday, September 20, 2015

Miami Unsound Machines

PYB checks in fresh off four hours of sleep, after watching the finish of Saturday's Nebraska-Miami football game of mediocre teams for the ages for the first time early this morning. Stuck on an uber ride en route to an unavoidable anniversary dinner, we watched 33-18 turn into 33-33 and then, inevitably, 36-33. Wild works, at times, against poorly coached teams (See: Miami/Al Golden). Wild doesn't work, as a rule of thumb. On to it, with some snap judgments. A full-blown, microanalysis is both repetitive and pointless, as we all know that Private Bo Pinelli left too many problems to count on his way out
the door.

--Fire Al Golden banners flew above the stadium before the game. They were warranted. Golden took a page from the Pinelli Handbook of Operational Inefficiency, turning a potential 28-0 lead into a 20-3 margin and forgetting to run the ball on three consecutive fourth-quarter drives. When ABC's Rod Gilmore notices, it's fair to say he fucked up. Let's also not forget that he pulled a red-hot Brad Kaaya, who hadn't seen a receiver of his covered all game, in favor of his running quarterback for a red-zone read option package. UM's near-meltdown should begin the end.

--Nebraska has one proven offensive playmaker in De'Mornay Pierson-El. He's out several more weeks. Outside of that, not one other player who can score from distance on a consistent basis -- against teams not named South Alabama. That's not going to work.

--Tommy Armstrong. Game effort. Not a ton of help from his receivers for the first 3 quarters of the game. Still too many missed throws. Still too many big misses that kill drives and/or risk interceptions. Taariq Allen was open on the first play of overtime. The ball was 10 yards underthrown. Turnover. 21/45. 309 yards. 4 TDs. 3 INTs. Armstrong needs a more consistent running game and coaches who will protect him. Neither is likely to happen any time soon. (Side note: NU did average almost five yards per carry for the game).

--Alex Lewis. Penalty Machine. On Saturday, Lewis wasn't happy with his garden variety false starts and holding penalties. He added a game loser in Miami, taking a blatant, stupid cheap shot following the Hurricanes' overtime interception. It put Miami in chip-shot field goal range to start its overtime possession and ended Nebraska's hope of a miracle victory. The lesson here: Lewis is a liability (misses many assignments, racks up penalties and is consistent only in making bad plays) and it's still easier to beat the shit out of a kid outside a bar than to block a Division I defensive lineman. In the words of Paul Silas, C U Next Tuesday.

--Terrell Newby confirmed what we thought we knew. He's a decent running back. Nothing more. Nothing less. Reliable with the ball, thus far. No chance to break the game open. Considering the offensive line play, that won't be enough for this team.

--Imani Cross: After taking some considerable heat from PYB the last couple seasons, he has had some nice power runs this year. Unfortunately, the coaches haven't tried to establish that consistently.

--Mikale Wilbon: Showed flashes against BYU. Perhaps more than any other Cornhusker back this season. Hasn't played since. Huh?

--Brandon Reilly: Proved he's a legitimate major college player Saturday. Had the speed to get past Miami defensive backs several times and held on to the ball after at least two big hits. That's more than can be said for several of his counterparts.

--Stanley Morgan, Jr: Showed flashes. Let's hope he becomes a playmaker, and soon.

--Nate Gerry: NU's only defensive stud. Hits with authority. Hawks the ball, at times. The Blackskirts need five more like him.

--Daniel Davie: Career over. Did the Nebraska coaches really not have enough sample size to know that he was incapable of covering receivers? South Alabama destroyed him, for fuck's sake, a week ago. In essence, they spotted the Canes 17 points (remember: should have been 28 but Golden did his best Frank Solich) and the win. Madness.

--Pass rush: Lack of defensive ends is quite apparent. Neutralize the tackles and make a moribund bunch on the edge beat you. Won't happen. Freedom Akalakaboomboom has shown some promise, but those occasions have been few and far between.

--Linebackers: Still sporadic. A T-shirt of the week, at best. Michael Rose-Ivey hasn't shown playmaking skills against top-tier teams. (No, we're not claiming Miami is top tier, but they have some speed). Banderas was exposed as slow Saturday. Dedrick Young is young and appears to be out of position by just enough enough times to relinquish big gains. Understandable, but yet another point of vulnerability.

--Secondary: Davie was an unmitigated disaster. Josh Kalu has some skills but isn't a fluid cover guy -- needs to be a safety. Jonathan Rose showed some promise. He'll need to continue to grow, or the next nine games won't be pretty. Chris Jones was burned several times. Trai Mosley is rarely used, so obviously doesn't have the coaches' stamp of approval and won't be a major contributor this season, if ever. Byerson Cockring tries, but will never cover good receivers successfully.

--All-White Uniforms: Continued their run of futility. Seriously, if one could find the numbers -- the only thing more staggering than the pathetic Win-Loss record would be the Points For-Points Against column. It's a pussy look. Go Big Red. Come out in all white. Put it to bed.

--Special teams: A smoldering cigarette in a dry forest at all times. Sam Foltz was in his normal big-game form early, with two consecutive near shanks in the first quarter. Yes, we know he's injured. But let's not forget this is his modus operandi, before flourishing late in the game when NU is behind by three touchdowns.

Drew Brown made a field goal, but every kick moves hard from right to left and borders on a duck hook. This one just stayed between the trees and landed in the fairway. Jordan Westerkamp has done an admirable job on punt returns, but is obviously not in the same class as Pierson-El.

There you have it. A random summary of just a few of the problems facing Nebraska's football program, as it hopes to Restore the Order and compete with .500 teams on the road once again. Mike Riley inherited a case of gonorrhea from Pinelli and is charged with not only getting rid of it but with starting to bang supermodels once again.  A difficult task, indeed. It's week three and Dennis Rodman ain't walking through that door.....

Nobody will know Riley can move the needle on this jalopy for couple months, at the earliest. If he can do it with a cupboard this bare, it will be an accomplishment. Pinelli made an impact by the end of his first year, gravy training Bill Callahan's NFL talent to go 10-4. Somewhere along the way, the former NFL coach forgot having NFL-level players on college teams was important.

Riley's task won't be as easy. His biggest asset will be not being a high-school bully meathead cocksucker. That's no small trait, considering how mentally abusive Pinelli was.

Here's to hoping, but not expecting, Nebraska football again becomes relevant. The program is countless recruits and even more fundamentals, from that point. The only meaning of NU football Saturdays, at this point, is that it means catching up with rarely seen friends at a tailgate or via group text, as we all gawk in amazement at the latest edition of an unfathomable shit show.



Wednesday, September 9, 2015

That's the Fact, Jacks

PYB checks in after a horrendous loss to BYU and its merry band of hypocritical Mormons. A horrendous loss, that after a second viewing, isn't as horrendous as once suspected but is still a sad reminder of Nebraska's status in the college football food chain. Let's go down the line with some snap judgments:

The Bad

Luke Gifford: Looked foolish on at least three plays early in the game and was the main offender in not defending the final, game-blowing play. Apparently, the preseason word from camp that he 'showed promise' was propaganda. Wayne State or bust.

Alex Lewis: Apparently, it's still easier to beat the shit out of a civilian outside a bar than it is to block opposing Division I defensive lineman. Lewis appears to have traded his reputation as a penalty machine into one as a rag doll. We saw him in the backfield multiple times after missing an assignment or getting railroaded straight backward. Kudos, Captain Alex.

Penalties: Twelve flags. 90 yards. Won't get it done. Private Pinelli would be proud. His process is in place.

Run game: 126 yards. 37 attempts. 3.4 yards per carry. Awful. Even worse was the coaching staff's lack of imagination in getting Tommy Armstrong into the open field. The one option they ran worked well. Even worse was the reliance on the jet sweep (to the short side) on the game's most critical third and short. At least the coaches owned the mistake. Sadly, we all realized how many holes Ameer Abdullah, Rex Burkhead and Roy Helu have covered the last several seasons. Gaining 1500+ yards with no blocking is indeed a gift.

Cornerbacks: Can this be considered bad, if NU doesn't have any cornerbacks? Josh Kalu is a potential star at safety. The coaches have him playing CB, either because they've failed to properly evaluate his skill set or because they have no other options at corner. We wish Pinelli could make him a permanent, one-game starter at corner and move him to safety.

Daniel Davie is incapable of covering good wide receivers. A possible contributor as a dime corner, the fact that he'll be covering the opponent's top pass-catcher every game is horrifying.

BYU Cheap Shot: Safety Jordan Preator took NU tight end David Sutton out of the game and for several weeks with a cheap shot for the ages. That came at the 11-minute mark of the second quarter and was Preator's third dirty play of the game. We shouldn't act surprised. The most self-righteous teams are usually the cheapest. Brawl vs. Memphis, anyone?

So, the awful Big Ten officials shouldn't have been caught by surprise. The only thing more disappointing than the officials not calling the penalty is that Nebraska did not retaliate. This should have been policed on the field, without any coaching. Instead, NU turtled.

The Roster: The lack of depth (not to mention talent) is shocking. Saturday was a true measure of just how pathetic the former staff was at recruiting and player development. No proven running back to replace Abdullah. One healthy tight end. An offensive line with a combined 15 starts going into the game (13 for one player)

On defense, not one proven defensive end. A suspended starting linebacker and another making his first start as a true freshman. A horrendous defensive backfield.

On special teams, the return game was again a non-factor with DeMornay Pierson-El out. Drew Brown wa and is a disaster at placekicker, missing two easy field goals. Sam Foltz hurt his ankle, and there is no backup. We're fine.

Strength and Conditioning: BYU owned the line of scrimmage. Countless Cornhuskers were carted off the field, and in some cases, came back in the game only to get carted off again. BYU was tougher, both physically and mentally (see: no retaliation for cheap shot). This is a direct indictment of the last staff. The team, as a whole, looked lead-footed. Hell, if the team's last strength coach didn't even believe in publishing 40-yard dash times (the standard index for all of football for the last 40+ years), what does that say?

The Not As Bad As We Initially Thought

The Offense: PYB, as many fans likely did, remembered the second quarter and let it taint our memory of the full-game performance. The first quarter was good -- 180 yards and a 14-7 lead. Just 58 yards in the second quarter. Obviously, not optimal, but not as disastrous as suspected. The pass game got slightly off track in the second quarter and stalled a couple drives, as did a fumble near the end of the half. It's the risk of passing 40 times a game with a streaky (at best) passer at quarterback. The staff will have to find the right mix of plays to ensure this doesn't happen regularly.

In the second half, NU used a solid run game and gained 146 yards in the third quarter. In the fourth, the lack of push and third-down conversions hurt and the unit only gained 65 yards. 445 total. Certainly enough to win a home game. But, in the end, if it's taking 41 passes to net 319 yards, those 445 aren't as meaningful as it would be for an offense that's controlling the clock and/or has big-play potential. This group, for now, has no proven home-run hitters.

Armstrong: 24/41. 319 yards. One damaging interception. 58.5% completion rate. He'll never be a great passer but wasn't supposed to be. PYB still maintains the guy could be an above-average quarterback if he had a coordinator that used his full arsenal of talents. His one option run gained 15 yards. Maintaining that threat would open up easy passes to the tight ends and the deeper routes to wide receivers.

He'll need much-improved decision making, whether it be eliminating the crucial interception or simply throwing the ball away rather than trying to perfect the Taylor Martinez "spin away and throw the ball blindly to try to avoid a sack and instead throw an interception or get an intentional grounding penalty" play. Either way, would prefer not to see him crying on his dad's shoulder at the end of the game. If it meant that much, make more plays and fewer errors
the previous four hours.

The Offensive Line: Obviously, not great push or sustained run production. But, considering the unit had only 15 career starts prior (13 for Lewis), we liked that the same five linemen got every rep during the game. Develop a smaller, core group rather than a menagerie of mediocre players. Interesting theory.

Play calling: Despite the aforementioned short-yardage misses, PYB saw glimpses of strategy in the play calling. Progress indeed. The switch to straight-ahead running in the third quarter was nice. We wish the staff had found a way to keep that momentum going.

The Defense: Gave up 511 yards. 293 in the first half. 218 in the second, 81 of which came on two last-gasp, fourth quarter jump ball plays against outclassed athletes (Davie & Gifford).  Outside of that, they controlled BYU in the second half.

The Good

Dedrick Young: The true freshman from Phoenix wasn't perfect and looked to be feeling his way around. Understandable. He was second on the team with seven tackles and should only improve. Let's hope he stays healthy.

Josh Banderas: Showed flashes of what we thought he would two years ago. There's that Pinelli/player development thing again.

Nate Gerry: His third-quarter interception changed the game's momentum. PYB would love him to be more consistent and to be the teams consistent, spiritual leader. (Translation: make a play himself on the game-losing play)

Tackling: The Blackskirts actually tackled offensive players. Even made a few stops in open space. Progress. Let's hope it continues.

Defensive Tackles: Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine led the core of this talented unit, and stabilized the interior of the defense -- especially in the second half. Here' to hoping the rest of the defense can improve greatly in the next couple weeks before a road game at Miami.

So, there you have it. Another predictable punch in the nuts for a team and fan base that didn't need one. Losing on a Hail Mary made it worse, like hitting one's head on the bike rack while falling to the ground after that playground shot to the groin. Hopefully, NU will be able to get healthy and refine some things during a should-be layup against South Alabama this week. Surely, some overmatched BTN announcer will tell us that a team improves most between its first and second games and we'll all rejoice that Nebraska is back and here to stay and ready to take on the Hurricanes.

Reality tells us that the cupboard is widely bare. That Old Mother Hubbard (Pinelli) was too busy bending over and taking the Big Ten's bone to stock up, develop and keep talent in house. Mike Riley is stuck with that reality. We can only hope he's smart enough to make the transition to his offense a gradual one. A 1-2 record after Miami is a cold reality, either way. Should Riley try a full year of square peg/round hole, he can expect a nuclear winter in Lincoln.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Tired, Hungry and Poor - The Old Frontier

It's gameday, and the sun has risen on another rendition of the Nebraska football soap opera. Tomorrow, after the game against BYU, we'll check back in to analyze whether NU will wallow in shit with the pigs for another 12 months or if we think there's light at the end of the 18-years-and-counting tunnel. Who the fuck knows. Another press of the reset button, another coach with a potentially ill-fitting offensive scheme.

In the meantime, let's start this morning off right - by being negative about something other than Nebraska football -- hopefully before the family awakes and ruins a rare, lucid train of thought:

--The Big Ten still sucks. But hey, it's getting better. Minnesota hung with a highly overrated TCU team and only lost by a touchdown at home. PYB enjoyed seeing former Cornhuskers Aaron Curry and Aaron Green starting for the Horned Frogs. Good job, Bo. Honestly, we're more upset about Curry, who flashed potential while in Lincoln than we are Green -- who couldn't hold Ameer Abdullah's jockstrap and who wasn't even as good as Braylon Heard.

Mediocre Michigan and its hype machine traveled to Utah and lost to a slightly above mediocre Utah and its Mormon Brainwashing outfit. We're just thankful Michigan State was there to defend thy Olde Conference's honor on Friday nite, downing Western Michigan 37-24 in a treacherous road game. Yay.

--Superwoman is a still a pussy. From the "Are You Fucking Kidding Me?" Department, Dwight Howard is caught with a gun in his luggage at the Houston airport? A guy too fucking scared to do battle in the lane during a basketball game feels the need to arm himself while sitting in a First Class seat?  But, as we well know, this guy is dumb enough and self-absorbed enough to pull it off.

--The PGA Tour canceled the Grand Slam of Golf, its contrived off-season event that nobody watches or gives a fuck about because it's football season. Good riddance. The reason: the PGA, an organization run by old white guys, made up of young- to middle-aged white guys and Tiger Woods, and that caters to middle-aged-to-old white guys, had to pretend to act insulted by some comments that Donald Trump made about Mexican immigrants. If they don't like what he said about them, they should hear what he said about the Orientals!

Anyway -- the lesson here: Remember to pretend that it's OK for undocumented immigrants to break the law, get free shit from the United States, crush the economies of multiple states -- especially if they're from Mexico. And, if anyone has the gall to cite the economic and financial repercussions of the aforementioned actions -- feign horror and call that person a racist. Final side note: Trump still claims to be beloved by Hispanics and plans to garner their votes in 2016.

--The NFL is still a week away, but CBS has graced us with their broadcast team lineup for 2015. Led obviously by Jim Nantz and his barely hidden wish for a menage a trois with Tom Brady and Fred Couples, it's a wildly mediocre crew. Phil Simms remains as Nantz's parnter while, fittingly, the duo containing Simms' son, Chrissy, pulls up the rear.

But, if you're lucky or bored enough to tune into that mid-December game between 3-11 Oakland and another equally bad team (do they play Jacksonville this year?) -- you're sure to hear several unintentional laugh-out-loud analyses from Simms himself. #buttocks  Good times!

That's all we have. The Omaha World Herald offered nothing of substance the last three days, unless you wanted to know that Mike Riley is nervous, yet excited. Five players (three scrubs, a well-known but unproven starter, and a potential star tight end who has the production and depth-chart status of a scrub) got suspended. Lincoln is a "Sea of Red" on football Saturdays. Traffic can be a bit rough. Tom Shatel, coming as weak as he does most days, these days, fortunately only made one, vague reference to food in his gameday column.

But, Runzas are awesome. There was rain in Ohio and someone misspelled lightning. Oh -- and the NU volleyball team choked in another five-set match with Texas. Who said things had to change? 

Mediocrity is back. And it's here to stay.