Sunday, October 11, 2015

One for the Thumb?

PYB never played college football. But, while watching Nebraska gift another win to another awful Big Ten (redundant) opponent, here are some things that may help turn two-point losses to bad teams into wins against bad teams.


 Use them. Or in Nebraska's case -- use him.

-DeMornay Pierson-El made one mistake on his first play after returning from injury. He's been banned from punt returns ever since, in favor of Jordan Westerkamp's Panico Method. Nebraska's pedestrian offense and poor passing game are known entities. The team needs some scoring punch. So, coaches are comfortable letting Tommy Armstrong underthrow ball after ball after ball downfield and into the wind at a Gabbertian clip of four yards an attempt, but aren't comfortable giving DPE a chance at redemption after scoring three times in 2014?

Westerkamp has averaged 12.2 yards in four attempts, a nice fill-in job when not fair catching. DPE averaged 17 yards a return in 2014, with a long of 86. Most importantly, he had the knack for making the first man miss and turning a fair catch or no gain into a gain of five to 15 yards. Precious real estate indeed, when your offense is garbage. Mike Riley is turning 'catch-the-ball-kind-of-games' into lose-the-game-kind-of-games.

Offensive Identity

-Find one. Run the ball and minimize mistakes, instead of passing 28 times in swirling winds, against a mediocre team, with an inconsistent quarterback who completed 10 of 31 passes a week prior in swirling winds against a bad team. Rocket surgery, apparently.

Nebraska ran the ball 37 times Saturday for 196 yards. Hardly oustanding numbers, but still more than five yards a carry -- as it has been all season.

Running Back Rotation

Use common sense.

Use your best runners the most. Shorten games. Keep the nation's worst pass defense off the field as much as possible.

Andy Janovich has proven to be Nebraska's best back this year, but got three carries Saturday. Two afterthoughts and then a 56-yard touchdown on which he broke away from the pack. He looks like Nebraska's fastest in-game back, yet still can't get consistent touches. Had 30 yards on six carries on what should have been the game-winning drive against Illinois, but can't get the ball on first or second down on NU's final possession yesterday. OK. What. The. Fuck. Ever.

Terrell Newby is mediocre. His 3.9 yards per carry yesterday sums up his ability as a back perfectly. Good at ball security, and nothing else. Limited vision. Indecisive. Too small and/or weak to break contact and turn three-yard gains into seven-yard gains.

Imani Cross has made some nice power runs this year. Deserves five carries a game. Trucked a Wisconsin defender, to the delight of the Nebraska fans. Should not have carried the ball on first and second downs on Nebraska's game-losing drive.

Devine Ozigbo showed promise in his first significant action against Illinois. Got three carries yesterday. Apparently, NU Head Coach Mike Riley has adopted Private Bo Pinelli's Permanent One-Game Starter system.

Jordan Stevenson burned his redshirt to return one kick for 14 yards and bobble the ball on an 18-yard loss that ended the game. If the kid demanded to play or transfer, shouldn't a coaching staff with 100 years of experience be able to negotiate its way to a better solution than that?

Passing Game

Castrate it.

Gets worse each week. Armstrong is 21/59 the last two weeks and underthrows almost every single deep ball. The Omaha World Herald should have that ugly stat ready for us later today. He can't hit a running back on a screen play, so in crunch time, NU dialed up an even more complex wide receiver screen. Botched.

Armstrong's BFF, Westerkamp, has three catches the last two weeks for 16 yards. Even the good plays are essentially jump balls. Alonzo Moore made a nice catch for a touchdown at the end of the first half. It surely encouraged more bad play calls by Danny Langsdorf and Armstrong's hero complex in the second half. Even worse, the play got Top 10 accolades on ESPN Sportscenter. Style being rewarded over substance. The new age of college football. Fuck that.

Most horrifying is that after NU rushed for nine yards on its first first down of the game, Langsdorf found a way to overpass his offense into 2nd & 10  SIX times the rest of the game while setting the unit up in 2nd & 9 three times. That's NINE possessions begun with little or no gain. That won't work for an offense without any big-play players (besides the fullback).

Situational Football

Learn it.

Riley and company butchered the clock twice more Saturday. Say what you will about whether NU should have fired a pass on its final possession. Maybe so. But PYB knows that bad teams can't piss away chunks of yards multiple times a game by screwing up the most elementary principles of clock and wind management.

  • Pass on 3rd & 4 at the end of the first quarter. Miss. Punt 39 yards into the wind down to the 20-yard line instead of pinning Wisconsin deeper.
  • Take the wind in the third quarter, because Riley said NU 'had the momentum.' Knowing full well that both teams struggle to score points, it was a rookie move.
  • At the end of the third quarter, NU ran the ball on second down and let about 30 seconds tick off the clock so that it had the honor of throwing an incomplete pass on 3rd & 4 and then punting into the wind to start the fourth quarter. 


Try it, sometime.
  • Nine penalties for 89 yards. An unsportsmanlike conduct on Riley that put his team into 2nd and 25.  PYB thought that's one reason why NU hired a creepy nice guy in place of an asshole. Six weeks into 2015, the Huskers are the nation's ninth-most-penalized team 
  • Another 15-yard flag for a late hit out of bounds.
  • An illegal formation penalty (one of several this season) wiped out a long Armstrong run.
So, another expected loss to another bad opponent, and Riley seems to offer no answers in the interim. Media and fans are now forced to scratch their heads at a 2-4 start and pore over the remaining schedule to look for four possible wins and a shot at bowl eligibility:

Minnesota - Can't score on anyone not named Purdue

Northwestern - Started its yearly meltdown yesterday by getting rolled at Michigan.

Purdue - We are who we thought they were. Terrible.

Michigan State - Overrated after looking bad all year and nearly losing to Rutgers. Too good for NU.

Rutgers - Awful, but so was Illinois.

Iowa - Getting fat on cupcakes and just pedestrian enough to let NU hang itself during the Thanksgiving weekend season finale.

There it is, NU's remaining slate. Six shitty teams and MAYBE two wins. Four wins and eight losses is real. And it's not spectacular.


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