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.


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