Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hold Out, With Me Tonight

For years, the Big Ten has tried to hide the fact that it's been the worst major football conference in the country by running for roses and playing for axes, pigs, buckets and jugs (unfortunately, not the silicone variety). In recent years, since Nebraska joined this moribund group of underachievers, B1G added the Heroes Game -- to add seasoning to an annual Husker-Hawkeye matchup that had about as much spice as the potato salad at a White Trash wedding.

Friday, PYB was forced to watch the 2016 version of that union from Hell. Our report follows:

-Nebraska fans should have known it would be a long day. Tommy Armstrong's 2016 completion percentage against the 'marquee' teams in the conference was already under 50 percent. He was hurt --
with ankles taped so heavily that he looked more like Clydesdale than a dual-threat quarterback. He's no good anyway. Bad combination.

The result: 13/35, including countless deep balls to receivers who'd actually beaten their defenders several times and who were actually pretty fast but still couldn't get within three yards of Armstrong's panicked, Hero Ball heaves. On several occasions, other receivers ran free, only to be ignored in favor of the deep route. Small-town chicks dig the long ball, apparently. PYB's favorite was the one on 3rd and four, down only 13-0 at the time.

Armstrong's early-game on-field and sideline exchange with wide receiver Stanley Morgan was a telling moment. The quarterback likely told Morgan he should have snared a ball that appeared to be catchable and was for once accurately thrown and properly timed. Morgan, likely shocked that the ball was there right out of his break, wasn't ready. When Armstrong scolded him, Morgan was likely was not in the mood for coaching from a quarterback that fails on more passes than he succeeds. He had tired of Armstrong's act, like the rest of Husker Nation.

-PYB won't blame Nebraska's coaches for the loss. They are still stuck with the losers and non-talents that Bo Pelini recruited to Lincoln. It will take time to purge the lack of mental toughness from the program, while injecting some talent, speed and strength. Looking at the seniors on the 2016 roster, here are the contributors (with some editorial comments for your reading pleasure):
  • Tommy Armstrong (Kill the 'warrior' talk. Couldn't read defenses, couldn't come to terms with his limitations. Consistently hurt his team in the process.)
  • Josh Banderas (improved in 2016, still too many big misses. See first Iowa TD run)
  • Cethan Carter (another talented TE that NU succeeded in not utilizing)
  • Ross Dzuris (inept)
  • Nate Gerry (made some plays in 2016, too many mistakes, absent in most clutch situations.)
  • Kevin Maurice (nice final season, NU's defensive line totally fucked without him)
  • Terrell Newby (would have been a nice third-down back for a team with a QB and OL)
  • Brandon Reilly (A DUI, followed by injury and QB issues stunted his last season)
  • Michael Rose-Ivey (started, and ended his career talking a big game and not doing shit)
  • Sam Hahn (his family has a farm)
  • Dylan Udder (See: Video of him getting trucked backwards 5 yards by a linebacker)
  • Jordan Westerkamp (only senior that showed up big in games against all levels of opponent)
So, there you have it. Twelve contributors, two of which made consistent, positive impacts against the better teams on NU's schedule. Counting the juniors on the roster, there are seven contributors. Scary indeed, considering three of the seven below are defensive backs and the poor performances in the Blackskirt secondary Friday.
  • Drew Brown
  • Chris Jones (Lockdown U)
  • Josh Kalu
  • Marcus Newby
  • De'Mornay Pierson-El (is he struggling with injury or unimaginative coaching?)
  • Kieron Williams (showed promise, but regressed last three games)
  • David Knevel
So, those excuses made, Nebraska coaches did find their team dominated by a team that entered the game averaging 12.7 points in its previous conference games against teams that ended the season with winning records and was coached by a coach that went for a two-point conversion with a 23-point lead instead of kicking an extra point to go up 24, which would have required his opponent to score three touchdowns and three consecutive two-point conversions to tie. That same coach also willingly removed a field goal, and in the process a three-possession lead, from the scoreboard in the fourth quarter. These are game-losing blunders, unless of course the other team has no playmakers, no plan and no balls.

-An Iowa lineman with a girl's name made the ultimate accusation, saying Nebraska players aimed racist slurs toward him during the game, then refused to name names -- the ultimate bitch move. Such allegations require names, so NU officials can investigate the claims and remove any offenders from the team.

-The game included players with names from not one, but two, George Michael songs. Faith and Freedom.

-Mark Banker commented postgame about how bloody Iowa's mid-week practices must be since they dominated Nebraska's shitty lines. Twitter nerds ran with it for the rest of the evening. Imagine how rugged North Dakota State's practices must be?

-All in all, the state of the program could be worse, considering the team won four more games than it did a year ago. We'll ignore the fact that the best win was against Wyoming, who got drilled by New Mexico last night but who will play for the Mountain West Conference title next week. Instead, we'll relish that Nebraska will likely play in one of the nameless Florida bowl games in January, and not the shameful Foster Farms Bowl. We'll enjoy that Bo Pinelli is back under his rock in Ohio, along with Frank Solich.

We'll take solace in the fact that short-sighted Husker nerds will name either a castoff junior transfer from Tulane or a freshman that's never taken a college snap as the program's next savior. In the meantime, PYB is holding out....

Holding out for a hero, til the end of the night. He's gotta be strong. And he's gotta be fast. And he's gotta complete 50 percent.

On to happier topics, for the time being:

-Nebraska's basketball team had a nice win over Dayton in California, despite a late-game meltdown by Jack McVeigh. Glynn Watson, despite the fact that the Omaha World-Herald can't spell his name correctly, looks like a legitimate Division I point guard, and should prove to be so if he can consistently finish at the rim against top competition.

The Omaha World-Herald should be embarrassed, considering it can jerk off every Creighton three-point attempt on Twitter but cannot manage to
send a reporter to a tournament that includes one of the top five college programs ever in UCLA.

-Tim Miles squad will have tough duty in today's third-place game against Virginia Tech followed by a game at Clemson three days and 2300 miles later. A split in those two contests would be a victory for the program. Dropping both games could lead the team on another road to nowhere. We'll hope for the former.

-Anyway, snap judgments after watching two of NU's early games:
  • Watson: See above
  • McVeigh: Struggles against top-tier athleticism. NU needs him to consistently score and defend against those athletic teams.
  • Anton Gill: Appears to have a combination of shooting ability and athleticism. Hopefully it translates in conference play.
  • Ed Morrow: Offensive rebounding has been a pleasant surprise thus far. Will need to continue current level of play the entire season if NU is to have a chance at respectability. 
  • Evan Taylor: Shaky with the ball, at best. Headed for disaster in the near future.
  • Jordy Tshimanga: Hopefully gets more minutes as he works into shape and out of the man boobs.
  • Nick Fuller: Played one minute against UCLA
  • Isaiah Roby: PYB likes his length and liked his backside shot blocking against Dayton.
Anyway, that's all we have for now, as an upcoming flight nears. Enjoy your Sunday.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Boring is the New Exciting

PYB fell asleep Saturday during the second half of Nebraska's 28-7 victory over Maryland. It was the first time we remember such an occurrence, regardless of the Husker's grand level of futility over the last 20 years or our blood-alcohol content during that same span. A team that used to drive us to taking that first sip of booze by the 10-minute mark of the first quarter and that warranted weekly venom-laced blog posts has sedated us with a REM-inducing nine-win season.

So, gone are the days of wild, minute-by-minute swings. Gone are the days where PYB was racked with guilt for not writing enough about the recent season, as other commitments clawed away at our free time.

Here are the days where everyone knows NU's capabilities (beating crappy-to-mediocre teams by
~10 points) and limitations (losing to all the good teams). Less emotion. More realism. More acceptance. More cupcakes, disguised as major-college programs, on the schedule. 

Until Head Coach Mike Riley flushes the remainder of Private Pinelli's recruiting turds from the pipes in Lincoln, nothing is changing. For now, we'll enjoy the good and shrug our shoulders at all the rest.

On with it:

-NU's special teams have been a disaster all year. Every time Bruce Read's units find a new way to fuck up, Twitter teems with stale references to his salary and job status. Apparently, Nebraska nerds are appalled by his $450,000 yearly earnings but are less concerned with the millions the University shells out to Pinelli.

Either way, it's a verified fucking train wreck. Yesterday, placekicker Drew Brown left after one play with a concussion. The field goal unit had just 10 men lined up later in the game, leading to a blocked attempt. Punter Caleb Lightbourn, thrust unfairly into this year's starting role, booted one ball 54 yards and the next 27. It's been that way all year, as has Read's knack of making De'Mornay Pierson-El a non factor. Better luck next year, Bruce.

-Nebraska played its second consecutive game without a turnover for the first time since 2003. Suck on that statistic for a while. Fuck you, Taylor Martinez. Boring can indeed be exciting.

-Maryland is one of the worst five teams PYB has seen play Nebraska in 20 years. Starting their fourth-string quarterback, the Terrapins had no chance to beat a team that started Ryker Fyfe in place of Tommy Armstrong. That's the same Fyfe that committed five turnovers against a ridiculously bad Purdue team in 2015 and who looked like a high-school player against an average (at best) Ohio State team two weeks ago. Let's hope NU fans temper their enthusiasm and don't start talking about Big 14 West titles anytime soon.

-Maurtice Rose-Ivey made a sure tackle for the first time in a long time. PYB noted it on Twitter. His daddy got mad and replied with a YouTube link to a three-minute video highlighting MRI's 2013 game against Iowa. OK.

-Speaking of the Hawkeyes' and their looming post-Thanksgiving showdown with the Huskers..... It should be a stalemate for the ages. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard airs it out for 157 yards a game. Racks up six yards every time he drops back to pass, and is successful 58% of the time he tries to do that.

Nebraska has an offensive line that can't block and below-average running backs. Its top two quarterbacks complete 53 and 49 percent of their passes, respectively. The likely starter, with the 49 percent rage, averages five yards per pass attempt and runs backward more than he does forward.

Sprinkle in some cold weather and dead grass, and Christmas will have come early on the Plains.

Let's finish up with a few non-Nebraska football hits:

Queen James: Took her Bitch Rating into the stratosphere, by whining about Phil Jackson calling James' troupe of cronies a 'posse.' So, a term that's been willingly used for 30 years by those with 100 times more heart and business acumen than QJ now qualifies a racist insult because an old White guy said it. PYB is glad Delonte West fucked James' mom.

Ohio State dismantled 3-7 Michigan State Saturday, 17-16.  Buckeye Blowouts rule.

Finally, we'll touch on the Charlie Strong situation in Texas. Nebraska fans, let your hatred for all things Longhorn melt away. Sure, Texas ruined the Big 12, but NU was too weak to stand up to them off the field and too weak-minded to beat them on it. That's Nebraska's fault.

What is Texas' fault is that it still constantly overrates its place in the college-football food chain. UT hasn't been shit for 40+ years, except for a few years centering around Vince Young. Caught up in all that is Strong, who by all indications is a stand up man stuck in the midst of a myopic program in a state full of racist pieces of shit. Bad cocktail.

As the Longhorns capped off their overtime loss to Kansas last night, media sharks were abound, stating that Strong had to be finished in Austin. You think so? Give the man a break. Let the bigwig boosters swing the axe and bring in the next savior, only to find themselves in the same stance five years from now.

PYB's bet is that Strong will be standing tall, and that the Longhorns will be stuck in the mud with the pigs.

All for now. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Kill Your Television

The Ghosts of  Bo Pinelli
surfaced Saturday night in Columbus, as Nebraska took yet another nationally televised bottle blasting at the hands of an average Ohio State team. As predicted, the Cornhuskers' shortcomings and strategic errors cost them more dearly against an average team than it did the prior week against a subpar team in Madison, Wisc. What follows is a random collection of musings, based on the fact that PYB refuses to organize thoughts and paragraphs over the course of two hours when Nebraska couldn't organize itself enough to stay within 58 points of its opponent.

-Saying the Buckeyes 'hit their stride' Saturday is a bullshit excuse for the 62-3 embarrassment. Entering the game, Ohio State was a proven entity - beating its prior three Big 14 opponents by a total of eight points. NU had already played two of those three teams, on the road, and beat one by 11 points (Northwestern) and lost to one by six points in overtime (Wisconsin).

-Ryker Fyfe should not play another down at Nebraska. Division III material, at best, Fyfe threw four interceptions in his only other significant playing time last season against Purdue. Saving Patrick O'Brien's redshirt is not a valid reason for Fyfe to be allowed to continue to try to jam sidearm throws into triple coverage, either. NU will likely recruit a new quarterback, better suited for Head Coach Mike Riley's system, every year from here forward.

So if Riley's staff is worth its salt in recruiting, the Huskers will be just as well served to get three-and-a-third years out of O'Brien as they would four, while giving him some preparation for 2017 at the same time. And, could anyone be more inconsistent than Tommy Armstrong, especially against top-tier competition? Could anyone, besides Fyfe, make more mistakes or miss more open throws?

-Nebraska would go 1-2, at best, should Fyfe start the rest of the way. Not good enough.

-Armstrong jogging on to the field an hour after being taken to the hospital in an ambulance was awkward, bordering on embarrassing. And PYB agrees with The Diggler, that it was more embarrassing that Armstrong took it upon himself to coach a defensive back on the sideline in the third quarter when his can't even teach himself not to throw horrendous interceptions in his fourth season as a starter.

-That said, could any coaching staff call more ill-advised deep balls for a duo of bad quarterbacks than NU did Saturday? Would any coaching staff continue to do so play after play, drive after drive as Urban Meyer continued to ram the broomstick farther up the Huskers' ass? We hear a lot about players playing for pride, how about coaching to maintain some pride? Can NU fans tell the coaches that incomplete passes stop the game clock, and going 9/33 passing turns 34-10 games into 62-3 games? Christ.

-Nebraska's defense traded its Blackshirts in, yet again, for skirts. The 'Skirts were scared. They were soft. They didn't, and don't, have an ounce of nastiness. Missed tackles. Indecision. Inability to stop ball carriers without being dragged four yards. Missed assignments.

-Michael Rose-Ivey showed the world, yet again, that he's better at making misplaced, trite civil rights announcements than he is at making a play on the football field. Various Buckeyes embarrassed him several times in the first half. Be quiet and tackle someone, please. Make Nebraska Great Again, Michael.

-The kickoff return team continued to be horrible.

-The offensive line is a non-entity.

-NU is bad at running back, and its rotation is worse. Four players cycle in and out with no consistency, with the only inkling of a pattern being that as soon as one makes a run for more than four yards, he's likely coming out of the game.

-Reading Nebraska newspapers, PYB half expects playmaking wide receiver Stanley Morgan to leave Lincoln for the NFL after this season. We just wish he'd have caught more balls than he didn't catch on Saturday.

-Other than the horrendous effort and a 59-point loss, the loss itself is not a big deal. Everyone who knew football, except apparently ESPN's Mark May, knew Nebraska was going 0-2 against Wisconsin and Ohio State. The Huskers' goals are intact - an average to slightly above average bowl game and 10 wins. Included in those goals should be missing the Big 14 Championship game and another catastrophic beating by Michigan.

That's all we've got. Husker fans are back where they belong. Flopping around like a fish out of water, waiting to see if their heroes will man up and beat the three shitty teams left on the 2016 schedule or if they'll turtle, make excuses about injuries and their conference's ruggedness, while giving away wins in the process.

Happy November, Nebraska.

Go Cubs Go.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Nothing Old Can Stay

As PYB pondered possible directions for a post-Wisconsin-loss recap and rant, we realized that our bitter critcism of Nebraska football had diminished in 2016 for a couple reasons. Most notably, on the home front, is a lack of leisure time. Second, improved results based on improved play, fewer mistakes, better overall talent and a cushy schedule full of Big Ten stiffs. It's not as easy as it once was to watch the game tapes again on Sunday mornings, make a laundry list of errors between laughs of embarrassment and cries of dismay, and share them with our dear readers. That's a credit to NU coach Mike Riley, we suppose.

Following NU's 23-17 overtime loss to the Badgers, many fans described the loss as hard to swallow. We were surprisingly unaffected. The result was what we expected, after years of watching Nebraska kill itself against equal or inferior competition -- a close game against an opponent that had difficulty scoring against any team fielding 11 defenders that eventually ended in a loss.

NU finally had a defense good enough to stay close in Madison, and PYB didn't think the Blackskirts would shit the bed like on many prior nationally broadcast occasions. We didn't think Nebraska would win, legitimizing itself by beating a team best known for not getting blown out by a Michigan team with a quarterback named Wilton.

After the clock expired, it was also apparent that NU had few of the other intangibles required to beat top competition, other than that improved defense. Least of all, a difference-maker at quarterback.

Sure, Tommy Armstrong will make some good plays. In year four as a starter, however, he still hits too many lulls, has too many inefficiencies and makes too many crippling mistakes to hide his team's many other shortcomings. Those include, but are obviously not limited to:

-Shaky Special Teams: Punter Caleb Lightbourn had the best game of his young career, thankfully. But a moribund kickoff return team, led by a shaky freshman running back, regularly saddles the Huskers' inconsistent offense with poor field position.

-A lack of offensive playmakers, with De'Mornay Pierson-El being the only home-run threat. Not having the ability to score quickly puts a premium on mounting multiple sustained drives against good teams, and having a quarterback that completes less than 50% of his passes in meaningful games won't get that done. (See an awful missed pass to Brandon Reilly, two midfield drive-killing interceptions and three incomplete Hero Ball heaves as the most recent evidence of this).

-Injuries depleting an already-mediocre offensive line.

-Below average running backs.  After boasting three straight RBs that could gain 1000 yards a season without blocks (Helu/Burkhead/Abdullah), the cupboard is now bare. Thanks, Bo Pinelli.

-Lack of physical dominance - Since Riley arrived in Lincoln, NU has made great strides in strength and conditioning, in our estimation. But there are still more Huskers than their opponents writhing on the turf against top-tier teams. Time for the needle to tip the other way.

-Poor playcalling - Much less prevalent than last year, but against Wisconsin, Danny Langsdorf's selections ranged from mistimed, to limited by personnel, to uninspired, to bad. How about one pass deep over the middle late in the fourth quarter and the chance to win the game?

-End-of-half clock management - Riley is apparently content with Armstrong's continued Hero-Ball antics, but has passed on chances to utilize timeouts, throw Hail Marys, or both near halftime of multiple close games. Mystifying.

-Leaky run defense - The Blackshirts have made significant progress from 2015, but have been bad all season in yards relinquished per carry. Mark Banker's crew gave up several long runs Saturday. Two went for touchdowns, one gave the Badgers an opportunity at a potential game-winning field goal, and one let Wisconsin escape a deep hole late in the first half instead of giving NU's offense a chance to score before intermission. Eliminating any of those may have turned a loss into a win for Nebraska.

None of the above are, on their own, egregious enough to lose a game or ruin a season. In the Pelini Era, they'd have been cause for celebration. But all are the perfect loss-making ingredients when an unreliable quarterback with a penchant for disastrous decisions is under center.

In the end Saturday, it was a little bit of everything. Nebraska gave another opponent a free pass, and Riley relinquished bragging rights to his protege-turned-huge-headed eyesore Paul Chryst.

We understood Armstrong's limitations long ago. Saturday, we knew those limitations would continue to lead to more empty hearts across Husker Nation and to emptier trophy cases in Lincoln.

On to Columbus, against a better, more talented opponent in Ohio State, with the same quarterback calling the shots for Nebraska. Husker fans will hope for different and get more of the same.

Other Quick Hits:

-Dildo on the field in Buffalo. Top Ten Sports Moments of All Time.

-Chicago Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers by working pitch counts, getting to the World Series for the first time in 70+ years. Now they're swinging at every pitch against Cleveland. Good times.

-Sam Bradford remembers he's Sam Bradford and loses to Jay Cutler on Monday Night Football.

 All for now.