The Nebraska football team finds itself 3-5 following (get this) another heartbreaking loss, this time to Northwestern. At this point, that may very well mean no bowl eligibility, a sobering thought.
Regardless of whether or not the Huskers find themselves with extra practices come the holidays, something jumped out at me while analyzing the Big Red following its most recent defeat. I’m trying to figure out why the season is unfolding the way it is just like you, you see.
When I watch a team like Ohio State, for example, I see some fantastic athletes. Some of the best in the country in fact, but what I also see is a number of players that can trust each other to get their respective jobs done and perhaps more importantly, the Buckeyes’ coaching staff can, too.
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If everything breaks down on offense for OSU and I ask myself who I’d get the ball to if I were head coach Urban Meyer, I don’t even have to think. Let Ezekiel Elliot win the day. He’s proven he can and will. He’s earned that trust from his teammates and the guys calling the plays.
As the Husker Twitterverse and radio waves were spitting hot fire on Saturday evening, I looked over the Nebraska roster and took a hard look at the starters. A 3-5 record with as much heartbreak as this season has provided deserves a hard look.
Tommy Armstrong, tough as he is, is still making poor throws, reads and final decisions. If he doesn’t throw a touchdown pass to the Wildcats, we’re talking about a Nebraska victory in The Battle for NU.
The running backs, the guys fans have been literally screaming for over the past few weeks, can you find one that you’d toss a playbook aside for a la Elliot?
Terrell Newby’s good, but he can’t consistently pick up tough yardage. Imani Cross can be the battering ram, but he’s too reliable for fumbling when it’s least opportune.
Devine Ozigbo falls into this category, but only because he doesn’t fully know the offense yet.
The offensive line has its own issues per man, but if it’s third and short do you honestly expect them to effectively run block for any of the backs I mentioned?
I truly thought Cethan Carter would have the opportunity of a lifetime in Riley’s offense as it favored the tight end. However, when he’s had his chances, most of them have fallen to the turf even when they touch his mitts.
The defense, well, let’s not pretend there are no worries beyond even the secondary.
From what I saw earlier this year, I was positive linebacker Josh Banderas would be a rock for the Blackshirts. He runs a step slower these days. The sure tackler I watched has faded from memory.
Where is the Nate Gerry that didn’t bobble interceptions and if he didn’t house them, he came darn close?
For the most part, Nebraska’s Blackshirt front four has been able to contain the run, but we saw against Northwestern that this is not an iron-clad promise.
As for the secondary well, you’ve been watching.
Nebraska fans and especially coaches want to trust these guys collectively. Naturally I can only assume they want to be in a position where they can be a band of brothers, not a collection of players.
The fact is that eight games into the season, the bonds aren't that strong and that, my friends, is a large part of how you lose five games by 13 points. There’s an absolutely obscene amount of bad bounces in there too somewhere, but along the way you have to make your own luck.
Like Ameer Abdullah did versus McNeese State last season or LaVonte David versus Ohio State during the biggest comeback in Nebraska football history. When 10 other players did their job, they knew those two were good for doing theirs on an exemplary level.
I’ll be extraordinarily impressed if it can be pulled off, but it’s highly unlikely that trust can be built between this team in four games’ time.