Thursday, September 22, 2016

Quack It Up, Quack It In

PYB apologizes for the delay in recapping Nebraska's momentous win over Oregon last Saturday. We were unavoidably delayed by a Sunday fly-out for work, then understandably distracted by scumbags rioting in Charlotte because they were mad a guy with seven kids and arrest record dating back to 1990 got shot by an African-American cop for pulling out a book that looked like a Glock on said cop. And who said Colin Kaepernick's pointless form of protest wasn't making a difference. Throw in his protests, along with his huge Afro, and you've got MLK-Level social changes in the making.

We'll share some snippets for this week, as it's doubtful that we'll have an update on NU's annually disappointing performance against Northwestern, due to an upcoming golf trip and more work travel. We have no doubt, however, that Pat Fitzgerald is dusting off his pawns and rooks, while Tommy Gun and Mike Riley fight over the red and black checkers.

Anyway, let's get down to business. The thoughts below come without a second viewing of the game tape and in full disclosure that we watched the game in illogical fan mode and spent the last five minutes of game clock juggling taking a dog that had to piss outside with a pissed-off wife that was ready to leave for an anniversary dinner in Uptown (aka downtown) Charlotte. It was a good thing we made it there before this week's riots, or our after-dinner Cognac, the drink that's drank by Gs, would have been just a pipe dream.

  • Riley did his best he could to overrate his opponent early in the game and give away the game in the process. Going for it on fourth down instead of punting made it apparent that the NU coach had no idea that this was a non-vintage Oregon team, with a shaky-at-best transfer quarterback from the second-best of two FCS schools in Montana leading the Ducks' offense and starting running back Royce Freeman already departed due to injury.
  • Punter Caleb Lightbourn picked a good time to make his first good punts at the college level. In fact, he made multiple and kicked five times for a 47.2-yard average. At least a couple benefitted from lucky bounces, but no style points are required here. Nebraska will need for that to continue the rest of the season.
  • Nate Gerry blew enough assignments throughout the game to keep PYB wondering if he is indeed point shaving. It's either that, or he's clueless about assignments, or he's just headhunting - concerned more about the big hit than game results. Or a combination of all three. If he doesn't adjust, he'll lose NU a game before 2016 is over.
  • Cornerback Chris Jones, who hasn't locked down any receiver during his tenure at NU and just days after being embarrassed by Wyoming, took Oregon week as a chance to proclaim Nebraska as Lockdown U. He then took game day as a chance to embarrass himself again, as he was outclassed by the Ducks' superior athleticism and speed. PYB would almost be fine with Jones' being no good, if he'd keep his mouth shut.
  • Was Lamar Jackson still hurt or benched? If not hurt, at least a few snaps would have been valuable experience, especially considering he could not have botched coverages worse than Jones did at times.
  •  Despite giving up plenty of big plays and yards to the Ducks, the Nebraska defense may be on the verge of trading its Skirts for Shirts. The unit pressures the quarterback more consistely. It tackles better, yet still far from perfectly. It takes better pursuit angles. It has more depth. It has more speed. Who the hell knew this would be helpful? We were fine.
  • Brandon Reilly was too injured to swerve through traffic against Oregon, but he was not too injured to wear a sleeveless shirt on the sidelines and celebrate with those who did play in the locker room after the game. Question: Does he have a mid-temperature shirt selection to bridge the gap in the fall when it's too cold for sleeveless and still too warm for the full hoodie?
  • The win was so awesome, in fact, that Nebraska's cutting-edge athletic department (Iron N logo, with a side of Script Huskers, anyone?) released a video featuring a 20-year-old rap tune that was horrible when it came out. With all the possible options from 1990s rap, PYB can't believe NU chose Let Me Clear My Throat. Did nobody consider It Ain't No Fun (If the Homies Can't Have None)? What about Deez Nuts? Blowjob Betty? Would Coolio not release the rights to Fantastic Voyage? What about Jump Around? Moving on....
  • It was nice to see that Nebraska's offensive line dominated Oregon in the second half. It became apparent that NU could reach into the chest of the Ducks' defense, remove its heart and stomp on it. They could control the clock, and limit the number of chances Oregon had to spring big plays around a soft defensive edge and past Lockdown U and Nate Gerry. For those reasons, PYB was especially pleased when NU Offensive Coordinator Danny Langsdorf decided to forego Devine Ozigbo's pounding run style for an entire second-half series, opting instead for a first-down run by a quarterback with severe leg cramps, followed by two throws by the same cramped-up quarterback who displays sporadic accuracy and questionable decision making even when not limited by injury. Fucking A. Luckily, the result was a one-yard run and two knuckleballs into the turf, when disaster was the more likely result. It was indeed Nebraska's day.
  • De'Mornay Pierson-El turned the tide of the game with his first-half punt return and reminded NU fans of his game-changing abilities. Unfortunately, he also reminded NU fans that he's the only home-run threat on the Husker roster.
  • In the end, Tommy Armstrong rose from the dead, shook off the cramps, and returned to Hero Ball form just in time for the game winning drive. Sure, he laid a turd early in the game with another horrendous screen pass. In fact, Nebraska's screen pass game reverted to 2015 form and will be a real concern if Armstrong can't execute it against good teams. This particular screen pass was so bad that it went backward and resulted in a 14-point swing when Oregon recovered the fumble scored from 50-yards out one play later. 
  • All in all, he completed just over 50% of his passes for 200 yards and 6.6 yards per attempt against a suspect defense that will likely prove subpar over the course of the season. But, such is life with Armstrong at the helm. His Devil-may-care/I-don't-know-any-better style will lose a game or three in 2016. But for a day, he and Husker fans earned a reprieve and got to celebrate a much-needed win by an opponent that was much stronger in national branding and reputation than it was on the field. 
  • But hell, that's the Oregon way. And Nebraska needed this win in the worst way. It put to bed its consecutive loss streak in games described as "if we can just win this game, we will be X-0 heading into the next game on the schedule against a team with a pulse and we could be rated #X by then." Niles Paul, Texas Tech and Cody Green firing pass after pass into triple coverage, anyone? What happened to the good times?
Finally, PYB offers some non-Nebraska football bonus coverage:
  • After watching him throw a backbreaking interception in the endzone Sunday against Dallas, it's nice to see that Kirk Cousins is still Kirk Cousins and can still provide fans with endless comic relief. That fact that he got overpaid by Washington this offseason makes it more priceless. Maybe Dan Snyder should trade a few first rounders for Connor Cook.
  • PYB hates the Minnesota Vikings. Mostly because we ignore them and the entire state of Minnesota, we'd forgotten they had a new stadium. We'd forgotten because of that, and because the new field looked like it had been painted by a middle-school art class just like the old field did. The old field was the league's biggest embarrassment for thirty years running (narrowly edging the Raiders' half-baseball field, which is so bad, it's nostalgically good).
  • Another question is why did Adrian Peterson, after hurting his knee, have to hobble past beer-swilling fans down a hallway with the help of two trainers? Did architects botch this when designing the stadium? Seriously, there is no way for a cart to wheel him to the locker and/or X-Ray rooms?
  • The bad news, of course, is that Peterson is out for the year with a torn LCL. The good news is that time away from football will allow him to spend more time with his eight kids. Or maybe that's not so good news. If that is indeed his plan, PYB hopes he has a lot of frequent flyer miles saved. And remember AP, pack the Trojans, as you're one more knee injury away from zero income.
  • NDSU beat Iowa. No worries, all the Hawkeyes' "real" goals are intact: Big 14 West title. Rose Bowl. Not losing to a MAC team.
We're gone for now. We'll return as soon as possible. But, in the meantime, remember if you're out rioting and looting your neighbor's business, make sure not to run across a cop and make extra sure not to let it be a black and a white one. Cause they'll slam you, down to the street top, black po-lice showing out for the white cop.

Happy Thursday.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tommy Dangerously

Nebraska's 52-17 win over Wyoming Saturday did little to impress Husker Nation and did less to calm its fears that 2016 would turn out just like the last 10 versions of the Traveling Turnover Machine that has become NU football.

Sure, a 35-point win looks good on paper. Nebraska covered. Its starting quarterback set the school record for career touchdown passes and got a game ball and a hug from his touchy-feely coach. Balloons soared across the Lincoln sky, before eventually wafting into Iowa, popping and choking local wildlife. Ross Dzuris got continued media props as a difference make, after picking up a ball and running three yards with it following a fumble recovery.

But none of it mattered after quarterback Tommy Armstrong dug deep into the bowels of Taylor Martinez's "Quarterbacking for Dummies" and threw a horrendous, drive-killing, first-and-goal, in-the-end-zone, Big-12-Championship-game-ahead-17-0-against-Oklahoma-type interception. So, instead of taking a commanding 14-point second-quarter lead, NU put itself in yet another dogfight with another undertalented and overmatched opponent, whose motivation to win came primarily from all its players and coaches ignored and/or done wrong by the Big Red program.

Only because Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen bested Armstrong's Martinez impression late in the second half, did the Huskers escape with what appeared to outsiders to be an easy win. Allen embarrassed his team with a rapid-fire succession of turnovers, last seen during national-television performances in the T-Ragic era.

In this era of watered-down football, is a win a win? Yep. Is it reason for Nebraska fans to hold their breath until this year's Cornhuskers prove they can play four good, smart, error-free quarters of football against a good team? Yep. A win over a non-vintage-but-still-ranked Oregon team would qualify, and would be NU's first triumph over a rated non-conference opponent since 2001.

That win came against Notre Dame, when Frank Solich could have driven the Fighting Irish into the ground, pissed on them, and given his program some much-needed inspiration but decided against it. After taking a halftime lead of 27-3, Solich instead laid off, let Notre Dame outscore his team 7-0 after halftime and crafted one of the most boring second stanzas in history as a special treat to Nebraska fans that had shelled out hundreds and thousands of dollars for hard-to-find tickets for this once-in-a-lifetime event. Great job, Rat. Pure genius, program killer.

On with a few more random takes, since we have to get back to work since our Sunday writing time was interrupted by a last-second visit to the community swimming pool and a birthday party for the three-year-old kid next door. At least there was free beer provided and football on the television. Here's to Mondays and three-beer hangovers.

  • Terrell Newby showed he can contribute to NU's offense, when Armstrong hit him in stride with three accurate passes in the same game. Those accurate passes allowed Newby to run in open space, where he's not required to make a cut, elude tacklers or run through contact to gain yardage. Keep it up, guys.
  • Armstrong continues to look slow one game and fast the next. In fact, that seems to change carry by carry. Whatever.
  • PYB likes the Blackshirts' depth at defensive back. Sure, the group is far from perfect in coverage, but has more speed than it has in the last decade and at least a couple players that can tackle. That's a start.  After reviewing the Fresno State tape, we were impressed by Lamar Jackson's sure tackling. Of course, he missed most of Saturday's game with a groin pull. NU needs to get him as many snaps as possible to develop as a cover corner, especially considering Chris Jones' continued difficulty in making anything resembling a play on a ball thrown to an opposing receiver. 
  • After two games, Caleb Lightbourn has posted a 34.1-yard punting average. That needs to improve drastically and quickly. If it doesn't, it will cost Nebraska wins. Tough spot for a freshman thrown into the mix at the last minute, but NU needs him.
  • The fake punt against Wyoming was there for the taking but was ill-timed, pointless, and an utter fucking disaster. That said, the net punt on that play wasn't much less than a few other attempts so far in 2016.
  • PYB wants to see an opposing punter actually kick a ball far enough so that a Nebraska returner can catch the ball and run with it. NU needs De'Mornay Pierson-El to rekindle his gamebreaking abilities, and giving him token opportunities on reverses and spot screens isn't cutting the mustard.
  • Armstrong completed 58% of his passes and threw three touchdowns, but nobody in the stadium or watching on television cared, because of the awful interception (one of his career-worst) and because they want to see such production against a better team in a meaningful game.
  • Perhaps they were also concerned that NU ran 43 times for 170 yards for 3.2 yards a carry. Yeah, right, the Cowboys put eight in the box. We've heard that for 30 years. Three yards per against bad teams won't get it done, especially when passing chances for the scatter-armed Armstrong are tougher later in the season against the mediocre-to-good teams.
  • Brandon Reilly had the longest run of the game for Nebraska, at 12 yards. This time, he looked good swerving through traffic. Now his hamstring is busted. His nice 46-yard grab was overturned by replay after being correctly called as a catch on the field. College officials continue to impress, right Okie State? Most importantly, what temperature is it cold enough for him to break out the hoodie again this year?
Will Nebraska ever change for the better? On Saturday, Armstrong both dazzled and disappointed. On Sunday, RG3 Griffin, adorned with his precious man bun,
broke like the fragile China Doll he is. On Monday, Blaine Gabbert threw for 170 yards on 35 attempts and a sub-five-yard-per-attempt average.

Some things are meant to be.

All for now. Enjoy your week of local media overkill, hammering you with the last 15 years of Oregon Ducks vs. Riley's Beavers analysis.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Can't Be Stopped

PYB has multiple reasons to rejoice this Labor Day weekend. Those reasons include, but are not limited to, the fact that the Philadelphia Eagles dumped the biggest pussy to play quarterback in the NFL in years and got a first- and fourth-round pick in the process. Chipmunk Chase Daniel is mad that Carson Wentz leapfrogged him for the starting position, so hopefully he's stored enough acorns in his chubby cheeks to keep him warm on the sidelines on the cold falls days ahead.

And Texas is BACK -- just ask ESPN -- after winning a game at home against Notre Dame, a 4.5-point favorite. On with the show, where we'll jump in with some randomly quick thoughts. A win where Nebraska held serve (first-ever PYB tennis reference) against a crappy Fresno State team deserves nothing more.

  • Local media outlets fawned, as always, over Nebraska's proven mediocrity, claiming Terrell Newby's performance was a 'night-and-day' difference from 2015. That, when even a casual fan can see he's the fourth-best running back in a four-man rotation and that he simply doesn't have the juice. Statistics support it. Newby ran for 5.1 yards a carry, while his two backups ran for more than six and seven yards a tote, respectively. Add that to rave reviews for Ross Dzuris, who did nothing for PYB but bring back flashes of Mike Petko. We'll watch the tape later today to make sure he's not the next Grant Winstrom, just in case we're being hasty with our negativity. 

  •  We were glad to see De'Mornay Pierson-El not involved in the game, sent to timeout after fumbling a handoff in the first half. All the while, Jordan Westerkamp keeps getting the call to run back and ensure NU's punt return game remains a non-factor. Considering special teams can sway games in a team's favor, we're happy that Nebraska continues to ignore that phase of the game. Jason Garrett would be mortified.
  • Most concerning in our eyes was the lack of explosiveness on the offensive end. Very few home-run hitters, especially at running back. With Tommy Armstrong throwing just 10 passes, who knows about the receiving corps.
  • That said, we were also glad to see that tight end Cethan Carter caught zero passes.
  • The Big Ten Conference made a statement Saturday, winning three games against MAC opponents and losing JUST one. #BIG
  • Nebraska lined up in a cheesy extra-point formation, allegedly something they'd installed to maximize Sam Foltz's athletic ability. After  his death, they opted to keep it in. Following NU's touching delay-of-game tribute, followed by Fresno State's declining of that penalty, what better way to repay an opponent's classy gesture than by going for two with a 34-10 lead. DOUBLE EXTRA POINT! DOUBLE EXTRA POINT!!
  • Nebraska defenders racked up two targeting penalties, and one ejection. Both were bullshit. Luke Gifford's was for patty-caking the Fresno quarterback, and Aaron Williams' was for hitting a defender in the shoulder on a crossing route inside the 10-yard line. Williams was also justifiably flagged for his embarrassing post-hit flexoff. PYB was under the impression that NU was going to use rugby techniques to solve all tackling woes this season. Guess not.
  • Devine Ozigbo was the best Cornhusker running back Saturday night, running for 103 yards on 17 carries.  NU will still need to find a change-of-pace back that can score from distance.
  • PYB hopes punter Caleb Lightbourn improves quickly, or a weak special teams unit will become a full-blown achilles heel.
  • Kieron Williams looked good, playing fast and with fury and hitting with authority. NU will need that in all 12 games, as well as in the Big 10 Championship and the two BCS playoff games.
  • Lamar Jackson got torched on multiple occasions. He looked athletic, however, and PYB hopes for rapid improvement from the freshman cornerback. Hell, he can't be worse than Nebraska's recent crop of defensive backs, so there's hope there. As a whole, the defense looked more capable and faster -- we'll see how that plays against a mediocre team in the coming weeks.
  • Random question: How can all 100+ teams in college football have the "Best Fans in College Football"? Is it for the same reason that every religion believes in its God, even though there are thousands of religions worldwide. We're fucking confused.
PYB is back, you say? Just like Texas, we never left.

All for now. Enjoy your holiday.