Tag Archives: Huskers

B1G Friday Night Lights?

2 Nov

Jim Delany has announced that Big Ten schools will play six games on Friday nights, starting in 2017.  The Chicago Tribune broke the story, and their report has good information on what is known so far.

As for what is unknown, here are my thoughts and best guesses:

This is a perk / nasty side effect of the ginormous TV deals the league signed with ESPN and Fox.  What, you thought the networks were going to shell out all of that money and not ask for more?  That’s precious.  Consider these Friday night games a cost of doing business.

What games make the Friday night slot?  All we know so far is three of the games will be league match-ups and the other three will be non-conference games.  I doubt that the marquee match-ups move away from a prime Saturday time slot.  ESPN doesn’t gain anything by moving Ohio State – Nebraska from a Saturday night to Friday.  The same could probably be said for most of the league’s 2:30 games.

If I had to guess, the Friday slots will be primarily filled by the “Beth Mowins rejects” – the mid-level league games that would normally end up on ESPN at 11 am.  Think Indiana – Northwestern or Rutgers – Maryland.

Should Nebraska participate?  In the Tribune report, Teddy Greenstein notes that Michigan has refused to participate in Friday games – home or away.  I would suspect other schools may have similar agreements – or at least veto power before dates and times are announced.  The Tribune also reported that the conference will be “reluctant to ask schools with giant seating capacities to host” Friday games.  NU certainly fits that bill.

From a NU perspective, it’s hard to see hosting the average Friday night game being that enticing – especially now that NU has to publicly work to maintain the sellout streak.  And as always, there are recruiting implications to consider.  I imagine it would be tough to get a lot of recruits to campus on a Friday night.  My guess is with the right circumstances – such as the Friday of Labor Day weekend, or their annual Black Friday game – Nebraska could be convinced to host a Friday night game.

Will Nebraska participate?  Probably.  Nebraska is new enough where they may choose to play nice, and not take a hard-line like Michigan.  I can definitely see Nebraska being willing to play a Friday game on the road.  For the sake of calling my shot, I’ll predict that Nebraska’s game at Illinois next fall will be NU’s Friday debut.

As a Husker fan, how will this impact me?  Honestly, it’s too soon to tell.  From what I’m seeing, you should expect at least one of Nebraska’s games in the next three years to move to Friday.  My guess that it will be a road game that most of us would not attend in person.  For those with busy social calendars, fans of high school teams, or those not home from work, it will create some tough choices.  But my guess is the random Friday game will be an unexpected treat, opening up a weekend to do other things.

This also means one extra Saturday in the fall where you don’t have to worry about a wedding interfering with Game Day – and that is always a win.

Big Ten Power Rankings – week of 10/24

27 Oct

We’ve crossed the half way point in the season, so it’s time to start looking ahead to the division races, and who can make it to a bowl game.  As always, I make no apologies if you feel your team is too high (or too low), but feel free to let me know in the comments.

  1. Michigan.  Ohio State’s loss means the Wolverines move up to the penthouse.  More importantly, it means Michigan can afford a slip up in one of their remaining non-Buckeye games.  Path to Indy:  Win out, beat Ohio State, or hope for a second OSU loss.
  2. Ohio State.  All is not lost for the Buckeyes, who still control their destiny to win the East and yes, make the Playoff.  But they cannot afford to make any more mistakes.  Path to Indy:  Win out or beat Michigan and pray the Wolverines drop a game.
  3. Wisconsin.  The Badgers stayed alive in the West race by knocking off Iowa.  Next up is another do-or-die game against the Huskers.  Very little that the Badgers do is pretty, but for the most part it is effective.  Path to Indy:  Beat Nebraska and hope the Huskers trip one more time.
  4. Nebraska.  Don’t hate on me for having unbeaten NU fourth.  The Huskers get two straight opportunities to prove themselves worthy of a promotion, starting with a trip to Madison.  The Huskers can all but wrap up the West with a win.  Path to Indy:  Beat the Badgers.
  5. Penn State.  Unfortunately, I never published last week’s rankings so you’ll have to trust me that I said “PSU is coming off a bye week, and gets to host Ohio State who played a physical overtime game against Wisconsin.  I’m not going to call the upset, but it would be tough to script a better scenario”.  Regardless, a big win for PSU.  Path to Indy:  Win out, and hope for Michigan to lose twice.
  6. Northwestern.  The Wildcats are silently playing some good football, rattling off three straight conference wins.  But their road gets much tougher, starting with a trip to Columbus to face an angry bunch of Bucks.  Path to Indy:  Just keep winning and pray Nebraska loses twice.
  7. Iowa.  This is the point in the rankings where we have teams with chances of winning the division should be categorized as “mathematically possible, realistically improbable”.  Iowa is a great example.  With only two losses, they could technically still win the West, but considering the losses are to division foes ahead of them (Northwestern and Wisconsin) it means the Hawkeyes have to root for every upset.  Meanwhile, the Hawks get the week off to get ready for a tough stretch run.  Path to Indy:  Win out, let chaos reign.
  8. Minnesota.  The Gophers also have two losses (Penn State and Iowa), and have yet to play most of the teams in front of them (Wisconsin and both NU’s).  But when you allow Rutgers to score 18 more points than they did in their previous four games combined, I wouldn’t go making any hotel reservations.  Path to Indy:  Win out, hope everybody else loses.
  9. Maryland.  The Terps are also technically alive, with games to come against Michigan and Ohio State.  But let’s be realistic, their focus should be on getting bowl eligible.  Path to bowl game:  beat Indiana or Rutgers.
  10. Indiana.  Since their dramatic win over Sparty, the Hoosiers have dropped three straight and will need to kick-start the offense if they want to go bowling.  Path to a bowl game:  find three wins in their remaining five games.
  11. Purdue.  In their first game post-Hazell, the Boilermakers showed some fight, but could not hang with the Huskers at home.  I think the Boilers are good enough to sneak out at least one more win.  Path to a bowl game:  Like Indiana, they need three wins in five games, but Purdue has a much tougher schedule.
  12. Michigan State.  I really, really, really want to have the Sputtering Spartans lower than 12, but Michigan State’s last win (at Notre Dame, five weeks ago) is better than either of Illinois’ two wins (Murray State and Rutgers).  Path to a bowl game:  Surprisingly still open, but as MSU needs to win four out of five (including at least one over Michigan or Ohio State) it is not likely.
  13. Illinois.  It’s hard for me to justify a lot of words on a team whose best win is over FCS Murray State.  Path to a bowl game:  Hope four of their next five opponents don’t show up.
  14. Rutgers.  The Knights broke 30 points for the first time since September 17 – a day when #12 Michigan State beat Notre Dame, Indiana and Maryland were undefeated, and Northwestern improved to 1-2.  This  week allows me to use one of my favorite Lee Barfknecht one-liners:  “Rutgers is idle – and should remain that way.”  Path to a bowl game:  Not out of the question, but they would need to win out against Indiana, Michigan State, Penn State, and Maryland.

Pur-fection

27 Oct

Hello loyal readers, family members, Twitter/Facebook e-migos, and those who blindly click on hyperlinks!

As you may know, this column is also available on HuskerMax.com.

Why should you CLICK THIS LINK and read this fine piece of Feit Can Write content on a site that is not feitcanwrite.com?  Well, to put it bluntly, I get paid cash money for the views I get there.  I like cash money (even if it is more like coin money).  My beautiful wife and three adorable children appreciate it when I earn cash money and spend it on them.

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Now, quit screwing around and CLICK THIS LINK.

*   *   *

Do you remember back in the pre-BCS days – probably when it was called the “Bowl Alliance” or some nonsense like that – when margin of victory was important?  If memory serves, at least one of the computer polls in used margin of victory to help determine which team was best.  As a result, the Steve Spurriers, Bobby Bowdens, and other coaches of contending teams would make a point of trying for a late garbage time touchdown.  The way the computer saw it, 31-14 was a more impressive win than 24-14.  Heck, the same could be said for several writers and coaches filling out their Top 25 ballot every Sunday.  After some hand-wringing that coaches were sacrificing sportsmanship in the name of running up the score, margin of victory went away.

But the perception lives on.  We’ve been so conditioned to look at the margin of victory (and if the Vegas spread was covered), that anything failing to meet our expectations is reason for concern and complaining.  A 13 point win over a 3-3 team that just fired their coach?  Clearly Nebraska is no good, vastly overrated, and due for a blowout loss against a “real” team.

It’s time to embrace the NFL “just win” mentality.  Outside of Alabama, there are very few teams in college football with the talent and depth to steamroll opponents week in and week out.  What matters are the wins and losses.  There are no figure skating judges looking at degrees of difficulty or deducting points for sloppy education.  No, in the big picture of championship football – and that is the standard we all want, right? – the only thing that matters is if you won.

Obviously, the coaches, players, and you the fan all want perfection – or at least improvement – week after week.  But don’t confuse failure to meet a standard of play for a lack of success.  It’s okay to be critical of how Nebraska plays – and you better believe I’ll continue to be critical where needed – but at the end of the day the wins and losses are the most important thing.

And right now, Nebraska is a perfect 7-0.

So what did we learn?

Don’t worry about rankings or perceived snubs. Each week, the amount of Husker fans up in arms over Nebraska’s national ranking and/or perception seems to grow. They’ll wonder why teams with losses are ranked ahead of NU.  They bristle at the criticism that Nebraska is a sham that has not been tested.  They get fired up over a comment or tweet from some national pundit or talking head who discounts Nebraska’s first 7-0 start in 15 years.  Every employee at ESPN – down to the cafeteria guy serving Chicken Curry – hates Nebraska.  Heck, some of that disrespect is here at home. The lone AP voter in the state (the World-Herald’s Sam McKewon) has the Huskers at #11 in his poll. Only three other voters have Nebraska lower.

But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter.

Once more for emphasis: It. Does. Not. Matter.

Why, you ask? There are two key reasons: 1) Nebraska gets two prime time chances to prove itself against top competition. Even with the losses they’ve suffered, playing at Wisconsin and at Ohio State are big games against tough conference foes. Should Nebraska win one (or both) games, a lot of the perceived negativity will go away.

2) In the College Football Playoff world, rankings are irrelevant. Yes, it’s great to say that Nebraska is a Top 10 team (regardless of if you believe it or not), but NU’s ranking today, tomorrow, or next week has zero implication on their chances to win the Big Ten West, win the conference, or – dare to dream – make the Playoff.  I firmly believe that an undefeated team from a Power Five conference will ALWAYS make the playoff.

If you want to revisit this if/when Nebraska clinches the West, we can. But for now, sit back and enjoy a 7-0 start without getting caught up on snubs, slights, and stupid banter from an overrated pregame show.

It is time to fully embrace Terrell Newby. For much of his Nebraska career, fans have been slow – if not reluctant – to embrace Terrell Newby as NU’s feature back. There are many reasons for this, both in his control (his reputation as a “dancer” reluctant to run to contact) as well as things he couldn’t change (he followed one of the all time greats, and fan infatuation with other backs on the roster). He’s spent most of the last five years hearing about how fans and pundits (myself included) would rather give the ball to anybody else.

But I would hope that we can now recognize that Newby is deserving of our respect and praise. He has destroyed the old narrative that a player cannot improve between their junior and senior seasons. Newby is more decisive and shows greater acceleration through holes. Instead of running around would-be tacklers, the 2016 Newby is running through them. In the fourth quarter, when Nebraska has needed to burn clock and put away games, Newby has been a stop-him-if-you-can workhorse. You can discount the teams he’s owned in the fourth quarter (Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue) but respect the performance. More importantly, respect the player who never gave up and worked hard to improve himself.

The Blackshirts are improving.   All in all, this was one of the defense’s better games.  Purdue marched 75 yards in nine plays for a touchdown on their first full possession (ignoring the “what are you doing?” halfback pass that was intercepted on the first play).  Early in the second quarter, Nebraska gave up an 88 yard touchdown.  After that, the Blackshirts locked down allowing just 128 yards on 46 snaps (2.8 yards per play).

In the stretch of almost three full quarters, Purdue was 3-11 on third down and 1-4 on fourth down.  The Blackshirts picked up two sacks, hurried the quarterback twice more, broke up six passes, intercepted a pass, stopped a fake punt, and allowed zero points.  Heck, after their first touchdown, Purdue only ran eight plays in Nebraska territory.

The most impressive part was the contributions at all levels of the defense.  The tackles clogged running lanes and allowed the linebackers to run free.  The linebackers made tackles all over the field.  The secondary turned in two interceptions, broke up a half-dozen passes, and should get credit for at least two of Nebraska’s sacks.

Discount the opponent if you wish, but this is a really good time for the defense to hit their stride.

So what don’t we know?

Where is the depth on the offensive line?  Do you remember Greg Austin? He was a left guard on the 2006 team who battled injuries for most of the year. He would limp on the field, block somebody to the best of his abilities, and limp back off when the possession was done. I remember seeing him hobble down the field after big gains, unable to keep up with his teammates. It was sad to watch a guy struggle that badly, and frustrating that a guy who could barely walk was apparently Nebraska’s best option.

Ten years later history is repeating itself. Nebraska’s offensive line is really banged up. Right tackle David Knevel could not finish the game due to injuries. Left tackle Nick Gates arguably should not have finished the game. The current line is chock full of walk-ons, some of which have their own injuries.

Look: I get that throwing a freshman in at tackle is much different from having a frosh play running back or receiver. It takes time to develop an offensive lineman, and apparently youngsters Jalin Barnett, Michael Decker, and Christian Gaylord aren’t there yet. But…are those guys worse than Nick Gates at 70%? Is the gap between sophomore walk-on Cole Conrad and redshirt sophomore Barnett (a highly touted four-star recruit) that big? With two season defining games coming up, wouldn’t it be good to rest an injured player and give valuable reps to a youngster?

Can Nebraska win in Madison? Of Nebraska’s four wins over Wisconsin, only one has occurred in Madison – 50 years ago in 1966. Since joining the Big Ten, the Huskers are 0-2 in Madison, with a combined score of 107-41. The 6 pm kickoff (and the full day of tailgating beforehand) will make it tough on the Huskers.

Personally, I so no reason why Nebraska cannot win. Yes, NU’s injury situation is dicey, but I’m sure Badger fans would tell you the same thing. It really comes down to the (on-field) issues that have plagued this program for years: turnover margin, penalties, and third down. If Nebraska can win in those categories, they can win anywhere.

Is Wisconsin a “must win” game?  On the surface, it’s odd to think that an undefeated team playing a team with two losses is anywhere close to “must-win” territory. However, that may be the case for Nebraska – especially for their plans of winning the Big Ten West. Right now, Wisconsin has two conference losses, and Nebraska (obviously) has none. But a loss to Wisconsin puts the Huskers’ title hopes on a tight rope with Wisconsin owning the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Considering that Wisconsin closes out their schedule with Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue, and Minnesota, the Badgers may not lose another conference game. The Huskers would have to win at Ohio State and at Iowa (while avoiding slip ups against Minnesota and Maryland) to win the West.

This game may not be a true “must win”, but a NU victory gives the Huskers a healthy lead going down the stretch.

The best thing I saw on Saturday: The two F/A-18 Super Hornets flying over Memorial Stadium. I love pregame flyovers, they can make even games against Purdue feel special. I wish they occurred more often.

The worst thing I saw on Saturday:  A young Husker fan losing his lunch in the North stadium concourse at halftime.  Aside from being a somewhat apt metaphor for how many fans viewed the first half, I felt bad for the little guy – and his dad.

5 Players I Loved

  1. Brandon Reilly.  With Jordan Westerkamp and Cethan Carter injured, Reilly has embraced the role of “go-to receiver”.  His four catches for 73 yards led the team, and he contributed some key plays.
  2. Caleb Lightbourn.  After the punt game woes at Indiana, you could hear some whispers of criticism about the true freshman who was thrust unexpectedly into a starting job. The addition of a rugby kick was a great way to boost his confidence.  He responded with a 43 yard average on four kicks, with three landing inside the 20.
  3. Kieron Williams.  Frankly, I was tempted to put him on here for his celebration after rushing the passer on Purdue’s fake punt (a sweet cross-over dribble, fade-away jumper combo).  But his pass break up, tackle for loss, and two interceptions are certainly deserving.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  if a big play is happening on defense (or special teams) the odds are good that Kieron is in the middle of it.
  4. De’Mornay Pierson-El.  DPE operates so well in space.  It’s what makes him an elite punt returner, and it’s why Danny Langsdorf should keep the quick slant route in the playbook.  Give Pierson-El the ball in the middle of the field, set up a couple of blocks, and let him do the rest.  Additionally, Pierson-El is becoming a skilled perimeter blocker.
  5. Josh Banderas and Dedrick Young.  Nebraska’s linebackers combined for one heck of game.  Banderas led the team with 13 tackles, and Young was right behind him with 11.  Bando is playing some of his best ball as a Husker and Young just keeps getting better and better.

Honorable Mention:   Terrell Newby, Mick Stoltenberg, Nate Gerry, Sam Cotton, Stanley Morgan, Alonzo Moore, Tommy Armstrong, Tre Bryant, 70 degree days in late October

5 Areas for Improvement

  1. Red Zone Scoring.  The good news is NU was 3-3 on red zone scoring chances.  The bad news is two of those were field goals.  The horribly ugly news is that it took a 51 yard field goal to salvage points from a first and goal on the 10 yard line.  13 points in three red zone trips may not be enough to get it done the next two weeks.
  2. Offensive Line.  I get the injuries.  I saw that Purdue played most of the game with eight or nine guys in the box.  I know that Nebraska was able to exert some of their fourth quarter dominance to seal the game.  But nobody can – or should – be happy with the performance of the offensive line.  The level of play needs to be much higher in the next two games.
  3. Husker Fans. The stadium vibe was rather relaxed on Saturday. Even though Nebraska trailed for a good portion of the game, I never got the sense that sellout crowd 352 had a strong desire to get overly involved. I would describe the atmosphere as “an 11 am BTN game” where the prevailing attitude of fans toward the team was “Please don’t make me have to work today.” Additional demerits to fans attempting to start the wave during what was then a three-point game.
  4. Purdue Fans. Did Purdue bring anybody to the game? The visiting team section was quiet and appeared to have as many people wearing red as black and gold. Before, during, and after the game, I saw as many fans wearing Iowa gear as I Purdue clothes (two of each). I get this is not a prideful time in the Boiler Nation, but couldn’t you find a couple of hundred people to put on a black shirt and feign interest?
  5. Ed Cunningham.  I joked that if I had $1 for every incorrect, inane, or ignorant thing Ed said during the NU-Purdue telecast I could pay for my ticket. By randomly scrolling through Twitter during TV timeouts, I got up to about $20 – a number I’m sure I could double if I watched the game at home. There are announcers Husker fans dislike because of a perceived bias. And there are announcers who just aren’t very good. Mr. Cunningham falls in the latter category.

Big Ten Power Rankings – week of 10/3

7 Oct

With the first full week of Big Ten play in the books, it’s time to roll out the weekly Power Rankings.  These are no specific by division, but rather reflect where each team is from week to week.  I make no apologies if you feel your team is too high (or too low), but feel free to let me know in the comments.

  1. Ohio State.  Still the best in the league, by a wide margin, but playing Rutgers makes that gap look bigger than it probably is.  Indiana should be a good gauge for how the Buckeyes truly are.
  2. Michigan.  Held off one of the toughest teams in the league, thanks in part to this super-human interception. For a reward, the Wolverines get two straight bye weeks…oh wait…they play Rutgers, then the bye week.
  3. Wisconsin.  If not for one of the craziest interceptions you’ll ever see, the Badgers are easily #2 in these rankings.  So forgive me if I don’t punish them too much for a seven point loss.  A well-deserved week off before the second half of their gauntlet.
  4. Nebraska.  The Huskers entered the fourth quarter trailing Illinois by six.  A year ago, the Huskers lose that game.  This year, they win by 15.  That said the Huskers are literally limping into their bye week with the meat of their schedule still to come.
  5. Indiana.  It’s possible I’m rewarding the Hoosiers for Michigan State being overrated – and/or melting down in overtime, but who would you put ahead of them?  We are going to learn a lot about the Hoosiers in their next two games (at Ohio State, Nebraska).
  6. Maryland.  Yes, the Terps are 4-0, but arguably their best win is a six point victory over Central Florida, who has a new coach.  If Maryland is for real, the next two games (at Penn State, Minnesota) should be wins.
  7. Minnesota.  It is way too early to consider the Floyd of Rosedale game to be a West Division elimination game.  But it may be tough to overcome two conference losses before the middle of October.
  8. Iowa.  Who is Iowa?  Are they the team that beat up on MAC-level competition (Miami of Ohio and Iowa State) by a combined 87-24?  Or are they the team that lost to an FCS school, Northwestern, and only beat Rutgers by seven?  All I know is I feel like I have the Hawkeyes too high.  What I said about Minnesota applies here too.
  9. Penn State.  This is probably as good of time as any to note that while I do consider head-to-head results, they are not a necessarily the final word.  In this case, while Penn State’s three point win over the Gophers was duly considered, it doesn’t overcome the Lions’ 39 point loss to Michigan.
  10. Michigan State.  I have a very hard time putting the defending conference champions this low.  But then I realize that they are 2-2, with only one win over a FBS team (an equally disappointing 2-3 Notre Dame).  It was shocking to watch the overtime period of the Indiana game.  Michigan State looked sloppy, undisciplined, and clueless – adjectives rarely connected to MSU in the last five seasons.  The harsh reality is Sparty’s visions of a repeat may already be dead.
  11. Northwestern.  Give credit to the Wildcats for taking the battle to Iowa, and having the ability to close out the victory.  I’m looking forward to their next game (at Michigan State on 10/15) as a measuring stick of both schools.
  12. Illinois.  With back to back games against Purdue and Rutgers, the Illini have a golden opportunity to distance themselves from the dreaded teen spots (13 & 14) in the rankings.
  13. Rutgers.  For those who like to compare teams using common opponents, Rutgers – fresh off a 58-0 drubbing by Ohio State – hosts Michigan this weekend.  Of course, you could also compare the Buckeyes and Wolverines based on how they fared in their spring scrimmages.  Probably the same difference.
  14. Purdue.  They say bad things come in threes:  First was a 50-7 beating by Maryland.  Second was this blistering column by Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star, saying that he can’t be care enough to be mad about Purdue because nobody cares about Purdue.  Finally, a burst pipe caused a sinkhole in one of Purdue’s end zones.  I’ll let you make your own joke for that one.

You Can’t Hide Your Illini

6 Oct

Hello loyal readers, family members, Twitter/Facebook e-migos, and those who blindly click on hyperlinks!

As you may know, this column is also available on HuskerMax.com.

Why should you CLICK THIS LINK and read this fine piece of Feit Can Write content on a site that is not feitcanwrite.com?  Well, to put it bluntly, I get paid cash money for the views I get there.  I like cash money (even if it is more like coin money).  My beautiful wife and three adorable children appreciate it when I earn cash money and spend it on them.

As always, you have my sincere appreciation for reading, commenting, and sharing (hint hint).  

Now, quit screwing around and CLICK THIS LINK.

*   *   *

What a difference a year makes.

A year ago, after (what was then) the ugliest and most painful loss of the 2015 season, I wrote this*.  Rereading it brings back all of the struggles and difficulties Nebraska was facing a year ago:  highly questionable play calling, horrible game and clock management, not utilizing talent correctly, abandoning the run, players with horrible attitudes, a secondary that couldn’t cover their own shadow, fourth quarter collapses, and other things that you and I have still managed to repress.

*And given that I used a song title last year, I’ll continue the theme this year with a horrible pun that I absolutely love.

A year later, the transition is dramatic.  Danny Langsdorf called another strong game, playing to the strengths of his personnel.  Clock management was not an issue.  Nebraska is running the ball – and sticking with it.  After what could have been a divisive week the team unity and focus seems to be strong.  I thought the secondary played one of their worst games of the season on Saturday and they held Illinois to 14-23 for 146.  The Illini had almost 100 more passing yards a year ago, despite ridiculously windy conditions.  Finally, Nebraska’s biggest transformation may be in how they are owning the fourth quarter.

Now let’s be clear:  everything is not magically fixed.  There are plenty of flaws to be found in this game and where the team is at today.  There is a ton of work left to be done and room for improvement.  Heck, another 5-7 season is not out of the question at this point.

But take a moment to acknowledge the progress that has been made so far.

So what did we learn?

The Huskers are literally limping into their bye week.   Thank goodness the bye week is in the middle of the season, instead of at the end like last year.  Here is a partial list of guys who did not play – or did not finish the game – on Saturday:  Nebraska’s best receiver, their NFL-caliber tight end, arguably their best running back, their fastest receiver, two starting offensive linemen, and it feels like I’m missing a couple more.

Depth continues to be a major concern for the Huskers.  There are a number of positions where the drop-off between starter and backup – in terms of talent, experience, or both – is dramatic.  There was a play in the 3rd quarter where the guys on the field resembled a lineup you might see in the 3rd quarter of a Red-White Scrimmage.

The bye week, and the opportunity to rest and heal it provides, could not come at a better time for this team.

Milt Tenopir would be proud of the last four Husker drives.  When word came out about legendary line coach Milt Tenopir’s passing, I said the best way for Nebraska to honor him would be to have the team rush for 300+ yards.  While that didn’t happen, the team did the next best thing:  they dominated the ball in the second half.  Look at these two drives:

  • 18 plays, 75 yards, 10:42 of possession.  Touchdown.  A drive for the ages.  18 plays???  Almost 11 minutes of possession???  And by the way, Nebraska took the lead with the score.
  • 11 plays, 59 yards, 5:49 of possession.  Touchdown.  This drive opened up with seven straight runs.

Those are numbers straight out of Milt Tenopir’s heart.  You can picture the old coach getting a little misty eyed watching his boys control the line of scrimmage for most of the second half.  And just like in Milt’s day, those two drives played a huge role in the last two drives of the day:

  • 2 plays, 70 yards, 0:54 of possession.  Touchdown.  First play: a run up the middle for seven yards.  Second play:  an offtackle run for 63 yards and a giant nail in the coffin.
  • 2 plays, -1 yard, 1:14 of possession.  End of game.

Rest in peace, Milt.  You will be missed.

One of the Big Ten’s “sleeping giants” may be waking up.   Illinois is often described as a “sleeping giant” program – one with resources, deep pools of in-state talent, and the biggest obstacle to success being themselves.  Think Missouri prior to Gary Pinkel.  The Illini have talent within their borders, the ability to recruit Chicago, and are the only big time public school in the state.  Big Ten membership gives them money for anything they might need, namely coaches buy-outs and new training facilities.  All that is left is for the administration to care, and to find the guy who can build something sustainable.

There is a chance that Lovie Smith may be that guy.  His first team may be 1-3, but you can see his blueprint coming together already:   build from the lines out, make your name on defense, and play physical football.  Illinois is clearly a couple of years away talent-wise, but Lovie has the NFL cred that is valuable in recruiting.

Don’t be shocked if in the next few years Illinois gets out of their own way long enough to become a contender in the West.

So what don’t we know?

Does NU win this game a year ago?   Walking out of the stadium, enjoying the glow of victory, a thought crossed my mind:  Trailing by six headed into the fourth quarter, would the Huskers have won this game a year ago?  Obviously there are a lot of factors that make it tough to compare and impossible to know for sure, but my gut says Nebraska loses this game.

For me, the only question is how Nebraska would have lost.  Do promising drives end with interceptions, with a pick-six to ice the game?  Maybe the Huskers reclaim the lead, but Illinois proceeds to march down the field and win in the final minute.  Is the spot on the 4th and 1 carry by Newby marked short (or overturned on replay) stalling all momentum?

Was the reaction to the National Anthem protests a distraction?  The offense got off to a slow start, only scoring 10 points in the first three quarters.  Meanwhile, the defense had issues with soft coverage and softer tackling.  As Husker fans tried to understand why this was happening (without giving any credit to the Illinois defensive line) one of the theories tossed out was the national anthem protest was a distraction.  Or more specifically, the reaction by media, fans, and elected officials was a distraction.

To that, I say:  Bull.

Yes, that protest – and the various reactions it spawned – were the hot topic of conversation across the state all week long, and across all mediums.  But aside from Michael Rose-Ivey having a conversation with the Governor, and a few extra questions during the team’s media availability, I truly believe it was a non-issue in the locker room.  You may doubt the validity (or the sincerity) of Riley’s team being a “melting pot”.  I’m willing to guarantee multiple players on the team did not care for the protest, but I’ll also guarantee that the culture of respect is fully in place.

Who knows how it would have played out if Rose-Ivey knelt in Riley’s first year – or in one of Pelini’s last two seasons.  My guess is it would not be nearly as seamless as we’ve seen so far.

Can Nebraska clean up their sloppiness?   Your Huskers are 5-0, but not without their flaws.  The good news is, three of the biggest warts are things they can control.

  • Red zone turnovers.  Brandon Vogel of Hail Varsity pointed out that five of Nebraska’s six turnovers  occurred inside the opponent’s 15 yard line.  Since I consider Drew Brown to be automatic inside 35 yards, red zone turnovers cost the Huskers at least three points every time.  Protect the ball and get your points.
  • 15 yard flags.  It says something about how sloppy this team can be that picking up two 15 yard penalties in a game is a major improvement.
  • Quarterback decision-making.  Tommy Armstrong is trending in a bad direction with his decision making.  His one interception was a ball under thrown into triple coverage.  He deserved a second INT when he was flushed out of the pocket, rolled to his right and threw a lob back to the middle of the field.

It’s actually rather impressive that Nebraska has made it to 5-0 as sloppy as they can be.  But unless those things get cleaned up – or at least drastically reduced – they will lead to losses.

The best thing I saw on Saturday:  The defensive intensity in the second half.  In the first half, Illinois had 169 yards on 24 plays (an average of 7 yds per play).  But in the second half, the Blackshirts raised their game allowing just 101 yards on 20 plays (5 yards per play).

Remember those amazing ball control drives in the 3rd and 4th quarters that won the game?  Don’t forget the defense’s role in that.  After giving up a 74 yard field goal drive to get the score to 16-10, Illinois had three more possessions.  The Illini gained just 18 yards on 10 plays, with no first downs.

The worst thing I saw on Saturday:  Two of Nebraska’s best receivers being taken to the locker room with injuries.  Get better soon, boys.

5 Players I Loved

  1. Terrell Newby.  After an injury to Ozigbo and a fumble by Wilbon, the much maligned Newby was asked to be a workhorse in the second half.  And did he respond.  He gained 143 on 27 carries, and scored two touchdowns.  He also caught two passes for 26 yards.  Newby is probably the least respected NU I-Back since Dahrran Diedrick or Josh Davis, but he has been a much improved player in 2016.
  2. Sam Cotton.  Speaking of much maligned Huskers, let’s take a minute to appreciate the youngest member of the Cotton clan.  Watch any clip of a Nebraska back running, and you’ll likely see Cotton somewhere in the frame blocking his man, setting an edge, or chopping down opposing players.  And I have a hard time thinking of a better catch by a Husker than his fingertips grab of a Tommy Armstrong missile for a big first down.
  3. Kevin Maurice.  The stats (2 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 hurry) don’t really show it, but the “Space Cowboy” has been playing at a very high level of late.
  4. Stanley Morgan, Jr.  When you see him blocking defensive backs to the sideline, or making big catches on third down, it is tough to remember that he is just a true sophomore.  This kid Stan has a bright future – and with Westerkamp and Carter out, a big opportunity to increase his role.
  5. De’Mornay Pierson-El.  I love watching him return punts.  The way he moves in space, accelerates, and finds creases cannot be taught.  I like seeing him getting touches in multiple facets of the game (returns, receptions, and rushes).  Finally, his work as a perimeter blocker was equally impressive.

Honorable Mention:   Trey Foster, Jordan Westerkamp, Joshua Kalu, Michael Rose-Ivey, Dedrick Young, Freedom Akinmoladun, Ross Dzuris’s old-school black cleats, Corey Whitaker

5 Areas for Improvement

  1. Tackling.  As impressive as the overall defensive performance was, I’d love to see how it would have looked if the first (or even second) defender would have made the tackle.  Far too often, an Illinois player was bouncing off two or three guys before going down.
  2. Loose coverage.  The secondary spent most of the game playing way off the Illinois receivers.  It was not uncommon for there to be an 8-10 yard cushion between Chris Jones, Kalu, or one of the Williams boys and the receiver.  Illinois gained a lot of yards on basic pitch and catch throws that could have been avoided with tighter coverage.
  3. Option Football.  Let’s set the stage:  3rd & 2 from the Illinois 5.  NU is down six and on play 14 of their marathon drive.  Settling for a field goal is not an option.  So what play does Danny Langsdorf opt for when he needs two yards?  An option to the left.  Armstrong had to pitch the ball early and Newby was fortunate to get a yard.  Hopefully, we all know by now that I love me some option football.  But that was not the right time or situation for Nebraska to run their first option of the year.  From the execution, it looked like they could use a little more work.
  4. Referee Don Capron’s Microphone Etiquette.  Dear Don – I’m not sure how long you’ve been a referee for major conference football, but here is a pro tip for you:  After you explain a penalty or other procedural thing, you will want to always – ALWAYS – turn off your microphone before blowing your whistle.  Otherwise, you end up rupturing eardrums, shattering eyeglasses, and pissing off every dog for 30 miles.  And you really don’t want to do it three times because 90,000 of the greatest fans in college football will boo the crap out of you.
  5. Mike Rozier’s headwear.  It’s always great to see the former Heisman Trophy winners back in town, but I was a little bummed to see Mike Rozier in a black ball cap.  I’m not expecting him to break out his glorious two-tone suit and matching hat, but getting Rozier in a ball cap is like being served chicken nuggets at a five-star restaurant.

 

Big Ten Predictions – 2016

30 Sep

My lovely wife works in the financial industry, specifically with retirement plans.  And whenever you discuss retirement plans and investment options you often come across a specific disclaimer:  Past performance does not necessarily predict future results.  In other words, just because that fund heavily steeped in dot com startups grew exponentially in the early years, you shouldn’t purchase that vacation home just yet.

The same thing hold true when attempting to predict how the teams in the Big Ten will finish the season.  It’s easy to look at Wisconsin’s two big wins, or Iowa’s loss to a FCS school and make quick assumptions on who will win the West.  But past performance does not necessarily predict future results.  Iowa may improve, dramatically, from their loss and folks will realize that North Dakota State is, regardless of their “lower tier” status, a pretty damn good football team.  Michigan State may have looked inept against Wisconsin, but you count out a Mark Dantonio team at your own risk.  Past performance does not necessarily predict future results.  Indiana football has stunk for most of this century, but past performance does not necessarily predict future results.  The Hoosiers could challenge for the upper half of the East.

Really, there are only two exceptions to “past performance does not necessarily predict future results”:  Purdue will continue to suck, and there will definitely be a “what the hell was I thinking?” prediction that will look foolish in two months.

So with the first full weekend of Big Ten conference games kicking off this weekend, what will the standings look like on December 1?  What will each team need to have happen in order to make it to the conference championship game in Indianapolis?  Let’s take a look:

East Division

1. Ohio State.  The Buckeyes have the best talent in the conference, a coaching staff that has proven they take talent and produce championships, and Michigan playing in the Horseshoe.
To make it to Indy, Ohio State will need to:  Beat Michigan.  Start preparing yourself now, because the hype for that game is going to be ridiculous.

2. Michigan State.  The loss to Wisconsin was surprising, but it says here that the Spartans have the second best coaching in the conference, and an underrated pool of next-level talent.  Like an 18 play drive to win the game, you don’t count the Spartans out until the bitter end.
To make it to Indy, Michigan State will need to:  Win out.  The rest of their schedule is very manageable.  Both Michigan and Ohio State are at home.  Their remaining West games are Northwestern and Illinois.

3. Michigan.  I remain skeptical of Jim Harbaugh and his ability to restore Michigan as a legitimate power.  He seems to be more distraction than savior.  Let’s put it this way:  if the Wolverines’ on-field success approaches the off-field media attention Harbaugh draws, it could be a special year in Ann Arbor.
To make it to Indy, Michigan will need to:   Beat Ohio State in Columbus, and avoid last second meltdowns.

4.  Indiana.  It should be noted that there is a significant gap between 1-3 and the rest of the East.  I think the Hoosiers are ready to make a step up – six conference wins is not out of the question.  Of course, I’m pretty sure I said that last year…and probably the year before that.
To make it to Indy, Indiana will need to:  Play out of their minds, and root for chaos to open the door.

5.  Maryland. I’ll be honest, I have no idea if Maryland will be good, bad, or indifferent.  In the Big Ten East, that gets you 5th place.
To make it to Indy, Maryland will need to:  Hypnotize teams with their hideous “pride” uniforms and steal a couple of wins.

6.  Penn State.  I’ve seen where James Franklin is referring to this as “season one” with full scholarships, which sounds to me like he’s keeping expectations low.  I think when November rolls around PSU will be wishing they could trade the 9th conference game for another non-con cupcake to get themselves bowl eligible.
To make it to Indy, Penn State will need to:  Fly so far under the radar that nobody knows what is happening until they run out of the tunnel at Lucas Oil Stadium.

7.  Rutgers.  As you read this, Jim Delaney is furiously Googling “conference expansion return policies”.
To make it to Indy, Rutgers will need to:  Go full Jersey mafia on teams 1-6.

 

West

1. Iowa.  Do I think the Hawkeyes are the best team in the West?  No.  So why do I have them #1?  It comes down to what they have (a proven quarterback, experience winning the division, Wisconsin and Nebraska at home) and what they don’t have (Wisconsin’s schedule).
To make it to Indy, Iowa will need to:  Realize that North Dakota State would be picked no worse than 3rd in the West.

2. Nebraska.  The Huskers are off to a best case scenario 4-0 start, with a very manageable road to 7-0.  The challenge for the Big Red is getting past Wisconsin (one win in six tries since joining the league, zero in Madison), Ohio State (they’re kinda good), and Iowa (when the Heroes Trophy  – sponsored by Hy-Vee – is on the line, you throw the records out the door!!!).
To make it to Indy, Nebraska will need to: Keep Tommy Armstrong healthy and win their road games – all three of the games mentioned above are on the road.

3. Wisconsin.  With the Badgers, it’s more about why they won’t win as opposed to why they could win.  Those reasons are:  at Michigan State, at Michigan, (bye), Ohio State, at Iowa, and Nebraska.  They aced the first exam, but that is as brutal of a stretch as anybody in the conference.
To make it to Indy, Wisconsin will need to: Win the head to head contests in division, and brush up on other tiebreaker rules.

4.  Minnesota.  If Wisconsin has the hardest schedule in the league, the Golden Gophers may have the easiest.  When you draw Penn State, Maryland, and Rutgers as cross-over games, you’ll have a fighting chance at the division title.
To make it to Indy, Minnesota will need to: Handle their business in the West, and let Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State help them out.  Having Mitch Leidner live up to his hype as a first round NFL quarterback certainly wouldn’t hurt.

5.  Illinois.  Sheesh, the bottom of the West is a mess.  Three teams combined for four wins in September.  I’ve seen Northwestern play (and lose) twice, and I have no confidence in Purdue, so that leaves us with Illinois at #5.  Not exactly a glowing endorsement of the Illini’s chances.
To make it to Indy, Illinois will need to:  Have Lovie Smith pretend he’s still the head coach of the Chicago Bears and get the Illinois players in the stadium when the Bears play the Colts on October 9.

6.  Northwestern.  The Wildcats are not a good team.  I really like their running back Justin Jackson, who could start for most of the teams in the league.  But after that, Northwestern doesn’t have much of anything.  But since I can’t see a Pat Fitzgerald team going from 10 wins to the cellar, I’m sticking them here.
To make it to Indy, Northwestern will need to:  Find a loophole to get Trevor Siemian another year of eligibility, and bring Von Miller with him.

7.  Purdue.  With two non-conference wins, and cross-over games against Maryland, Penn State, and Indiana.  Purdue could get themselves bowl eligible this year.  But as we said at the top:  Purdue is an exception to the “past performance does not necessarily predict future results” rule.  Until they prove me wrong, they live here.
To make it to Indy, Purdue will need to:  take I-65 south towards Lucas Oil Stadium.  They arguably will be able to purchase tickets at the stadium, but I’d recommend using the secondary market to get seats below face value.  They’ll need the extra money to hire a new coach.

In the Big Ten Championship, I’ll predict Ohio State proves they are much, much better than North Dakota State:  Buckeyes 56, Hawkeyes 13.

For a dark horse prediction, let’s go with Tommy Armstrong throwing for 300 and rushing for 100 as the Huskers beat Michigan 38 – 34.

NU vs. NU: They Played A Game Too?

29 Sep

Hello loyal readers, family members, Twitter/Facebook e-migos, and those who blindly click on hyperlinks!

As you may know, this column is also available on HuskerMax.com.

Why should you CLICK THIS LINK and read this fine piece of Feit Can Write content on a site that is not feitcanwrite.com?  Well, to put it bluntly, I get paid cash money for the views I get there.  I like cash money (even if it is more like coin money).  My beautiful wife and three adorable children appreciate it when I earn cash money and spend it on them.

As always, you have my sincere appreciation for reading, commenting, and sharing (hint hint).  

Now, quit screwing around and CLICK THIS LINK.

*   *   *

My apologies – I, like many of you, have been so caught up in the discussion around the three Husker players who knelt during the national anthem that I forgot to actually write about the game.  It turns out, after the national anthem concluded Saturday night in Evanston, Illinois they did play a football game.  That’s not to discount or discredit the silent protest by three Husker players, but to not so subtly let you know that we’re going to keep our focus* on what happened between the opening kickoff and the end of the game.

*As an aside, I do have several thoughts and opinions on the coverage, controversy, and conversation over the three Husker players who took a knee during the national anthem.  I encourage you to read them here.  Now back to your regularly scheduled column.

As is our custom for the Northwestern game, the winner gets to be referred to as “NU” for the remainder of the column.

So what did we learn?

Don’t panic over losing two fumbles in the end zone.   It was shaping up so well.  Nebraska took the opening kickoff and was flying down the field.  Terrell Newby broke loose and was about to score from 50 yards when he fumbled the ball stretching for the pylon.  In the second quarter, Devine Ozigbo was trying to score from a yard out and had the ball stripped away by a Wildcat defender.  I know the natural instinct is to freak out about ball security and squandering scoring opportunities.  But you shouldn’t lose sleep over either play.

Newby tried to make a hustle play and it backfired.  Sure, you can look at the play through hindsight and say he should have tucked it and gone out of bounds at the three.  But that is not realistic.  I want players who refuse to step out of bounds to avoid contact.  I want players who will make every effort to get into the end zone.  As an example, look at the touchdown Newby scored in the second quarter.  He twisted, spun, displayed the balance of a gymnast, and made it into the end zone.  Are you telling me that level of effort is any different from the play he fumbled on?

As for Ozigbo, it was an unfortunate set of circumstances.  You could certainly argue that his forward momentum had stopped.  But how often do you see a back squirt through the scrum into the end zone – or as we saw earlier this year, be pushed and pulled in by your teammates?  If the refs had a quick whistle and Ozigbo appeared to score, we would be understandably upset.  This is the flip side to that play.

Bottom line – I have a hard time faulting a player for a fumble when they are giving max effort trying to get into the end zone.

Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf trust Armstrong and the offensive line.  It was one of those “am I seeing this correctly?” moments:  second drive of the game, 4th down and 1, from your own 30 yard line and Nebraska lines up to go for it.  If NU gets stuffed, you are all but giving Northwestern points.  I assumed Nebraska would do the old routine where you line up, try to draw ’em offsides, call a timeout and punt it away.  Instead, Armstrong lined up under center, took the snap and plowed forward for two yards and a first down.

Aside from bucking every tenet of “conventional coaching wisdom”, the decision to go for it in that scenario showed that Nebraska’s coaches have extreme confidence in the offensive line to get a push and in their senior QB to get the necessary yardage.  What makes that decision even crazier is on the preceding 3rd and 1, Ozigbo was stuffed for no gain.  On the subsequent first down play, Ozigbo lost a yard.

Keep an eye on this as the season goes forward.  If Riley feels that he can get a yard or two whenever he needs it, we may see more 4th down attempts from all over the field.

Northwestern should hire a graduate from the real NU to take care of their field.   Did you know that Nebraska offers a major in Turfgrass & Landscape Management through the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources?  Clearly, our friends in Evanston do not.

Early in the week, I felt the concerns over Northwestern’s field – particularly the length of their grass – were overblown.  Then I saw the field and realized they were growing the grass long to attempt some type of Gene Keady comb-over to hide the numerous bald spots.

How bad was it?  My yard is composed of 65% weeds, 30% grass, and 5% toys and other crap my kids leave out.  I think I’ve mowed once in the month of September.  And I’d put my lawn up against the Ryan Field “turf” any day.

So what don’t we know?

Do we need to worry about bad snaps again?   In years past, Nebraska centers have struggled with getting the snap properly placed.  It felt like Tommy spent the majority of a season snagging snaps aimed at his helmet or a random point two yards to his right.

Through the first three games, there were no glaring issues between Dylan Utter and Armstrong.  But on Saturday, there are multiple snaps that sailed high, wide, or both.  A couple of them cost NU yards and/or stalled drives.

I don’t know if it was a fluke thing, a result of the first road game, playing on Northwestern’s bomb crater of a field, or if Utter was distracted by the chrome facemasks.  But here’s hoping it is a one game thing.

Why do Nebraskans insist on getting married on Saturdays in the fall?   I missed the majority of the game as we were attending the wedding involving a family friend.  Thanks to the fine folks at BTN, I was able to watch a rerun late Sunday night, but I’ll honestly never understand why Nebraska natives get married in the fall.

I’m sure the bride didn’t care for people asking if there would be a place at the reception where they could watch the game.  And when I was leaving to take my youngest two kids back to the hotel (around the end of the 3rd quarter) there had to be 20+ guests in a separate room from the reception watching the game on TV.

Engaged couples:  I assume you want the complete and undivided attention of your guests on your special day.  Nobody wants their wedding day soured by friends and relatives in a bad mood because NU turned it over five times and lost on a last second play.  And do you really want to make Grandpa pick between coming to your wedding and his tickets in West Stadium that he’s had since Nixon was in office?  Are you sure you’ll come out on top?

Nick and Danielle, I wish you a lifetime of love and happiness.  To everyone else, remember:  there are 40 other Saturdays in the year without a Nebraska game.  Pick one of those.  Please.

What is Bruce Read’s secret to defending field goals?  With another missed kick on Saturday, Nebraska opponents have now made just two of six field goals this season.  I’m not really sure what Bruce Read is doing schematically to confound and confuse opposing kickers, but it is working.  There doesn’t appear to be an overwhelming surge at the line, extreme pressure off the edge, or safeties sitting back working voodoo dolls.

Heck, Oregon was so intimidated by NU’s field goal defense that they chose to go for it on fourth down multiple times instead of attempting kicks.  Northwestern tried a fake field goal, which was also shut down.

I don’t know about you, but a 33% success rate on field goals is probably worth $450,000 a year.  Seriously, how much would you pay to go back and have any two Texas field goals sail wide left?

The best thing I saw on Saturday: Four Huskers (Sam Hahn, Zack Darlington, Drew Brown, and Nick Gates) stepped up to help Northwestern with a giant American flag being displayed before the game.  Setting aside the other (and completely separate) thing with the players who knelt during the anthem, this was a very cool thing to see.

The worst thing I saw on Saturday: Northwestern’s purple M*A*S*H tent where they took injured players for evaluation away from the prying eyes of opposing teams, sideline reporters, and degenerate gamblers.  Are you really that paranoid about your opponents getting an edge – or possible HIPAA violations – that you need to quarantine guys who sprain their ankle?

I do know this:  somewhere in Kansas there is another purple-clad Wildcat who is ticked off that he didn’t think of it first.

5 Players I Loved

  1. Blocking Receivers.  The receivers and tight ends put on a perimeter blocking clinic.  From the first carry of the game until the final carry, the receivers were locked in on their man with the apparent goal of pushing them into Lake Michigan.  While I can think of an example from every single receiver and tight end who played, special recognition goes to Stanley Morgan, Jr. He was a complete beast all night long.
  2. Tommy Armstrong, runner.  Armstrong racked up a career high 132 yards on just 13 carries.  He was fast, decisive, elusive, and Northwestern had no answer for him.  His running ability opened up a lot in the passing game.
  3. Mikale Wilbon.  Remember the guy who looked so good in the 2015 opener that fans wanted him to start for most of the season?  He’s back.  I don’t know if Wilbon has been coming on in practice (my assumption), if he got an opening due to the fumbles by Newby and Ozigbo, or if his expanded role was due to being Chicago kid playing close to home.  Regardless, he made the most of his opportunities and earned more touches down the road.
  4. Dedrick Young.  With all due respect to the other guys on the roster, Young may be the most complete linebacker on the team.  He is instinctive in run support, a sure tackler, and is getting enough pass break ups to earn an honorary degree from Lockdown U.
  5. Offensive Line.  There will always be a spot here for the O-Line when NU rushes for more than 300 yards.  I really like knowing that in the final game of Milt Tenopir’s life, the Huskers rolled up their first 300 yard day of the season.  Rest in peace, Milt.

Honorable Mention:   Kevin Maurice, Cethan Carter, Aaron Williams, Joshua Kalu, Chris Jones, Alonzo Moore, Sam Cotton, Nick Gates having to shush “Go Big Red” chants so the team could hear – on the road, BTN’s mobile app.

5 Areas for Improvement

  1. 15 Yard Penalties.  The good news is Nebraska was only flagged for four penalties.  The bad news is all four were 15 yard personal foul / unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.  This needs to get cleaned up, pronto.
  2. Defensive Timeouts.  I thought calling two timeouts on defense in less than 30 seconds of game time was a nice tribute to the Bo Pelini era.  But maybe we can get things figured out during the first timeout and keep the second one.  Just in case.
  3. Tommy Armstrong, passer.  The raw numbers (18-29, with a TD and no picks) look pretty good.  But Tommy had arguably his worst passing day of the season.  He overthrew Jordan Westerkamp at least three times, costing him an easy touchdown and a shot at a second.  Early in the fourth quarter, Armstrong misread a coverage and threw what easily could have been a pick-six.  After a bad snap on a 3rd down play, Armstrong scrambled and tried to make something out of nothing, firing the ball across the field.  Just because Alonzo Moore made the catch, doesn’t mean it was a smart play.  Throw it away, punt, and get ’em next time.
  4. 3rd and long defense.  On a 3rd and 22, Northwestern managed to pick up 15 yards, finding a wide open receiver.  This is the second week in a row the opponent has taken a 3rd and impossible and set up a 4th and possible.
  5. Holiday Inn of Lakeville, MN.  You are in a suburb of a major metropolitan area that boasts the flagship university in the state, but you don’t carry the Big Ten Network as one of the 55 channels provided to guests?  Boo.

 

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