Lessons learned for the Big Red

It's kind of funny that the national media actually has it right this time. When the local faithful still seem to be trying to figure out what happened against SDSU, everyone else has moved on, because unlike some the Huskers didn't lose. That matters for all the right reasons and it's some of those same reasons that can help to ensure the mental lapse doesn't happen again.

While Husker nation is still breathing somewhat uneasily following the lackluster performance against South Dakota State, the national perception seems to be that Nebraska came off this huge win against Washington on the road, and there was a certain inevitability to the emotional swan dive they took when facing a Football Championship Subdivision team.

The Huskers didn't move down in the polls as some of the local faithful feared. In the AP they stayed the same, and in the coaches poll they actually climbed a notch following Texas' lopsided loss to UCLA.

Maybe the fact that the Husker game wasn't even on regional TV helped a bit. I would agree that it certainly didn't hurt that everyone who watched it had to pay to do so. That takes a lot of the eyes out of the equation from a regional and national perspective, outside of those who actually attended the game.

But those were scarce as well, because this was South Dakota State, after all.

After the absolute pounding Nebraska put on the Huskies, who people are still saying good things about as well as quarterback Jake Locker, whose Heisman hopes took a climactic plunge after the Husker game – South Dakota State was an afterthought.

And based on how the Huskers played, it would appear the team thought so as well at times.

While the going was tough against
SDSU, (Rex Burkhead pictured)
people shouldn't expect that lull to
to continue for the Big Red.

We do have to give credit to the Jackrabbits. They played their you-know-what off. Players and coaches always talk about who wants it more or playing with "want to." SDSU showed they did and they had it in abundance.

Let's keep our fingers crossed for them for the rest of the year so that they can build off that performance. They got the respect they perhaps lacked and confidence that maybe wasn't there.

But let's move on to the reality.

Nobody is going to sit here and say that SDSU matched up with Nebraska.

They don't.

Probably not at any position on the field.

And while it's going to be easy to tear apart performances by individuals like Taylor Martinez, who was a turnover machine and the offensive tackles who seemed to be playing Matador for most of the game – that too would be an incorrect assumption.

It's the world of instant information, but the consequence of that is not seeing the obvious due to the fact that it's not the most recent thing we've seen.

Washington was just a couple of weeks ago, but after the SDSU game, it might as well have been last year.

I would be the last one to start going rah-rah for the Big Red, because it's not my place to make excuses for a team that in the last game played horrendously across the board.

But SDSU is a blip.

Florida had a season-low 212 yards against Miami of Ohio, along with an eye-popping eight fumbles, three of which they lost.

Sound familiar?

They won, but that mediocre win over a bottom tier FBS team had people wondering if Florida was for real.

They have beaten their last three opponents by a combined total of 117-45.

You could say that this weekend's game with #1 Alabama is their true measuring stick. Florida is ranked in the top 10, and they now have a Tebow-like offense with freshman QB Trey Burton at the helm.

It's been perhaps since
Cedric Benson (pictured) toted the rock for the Horns that Texas had a legit workhorse at running back that they could count on.

With the return of Mark Ingram at running back, though, the Tide have the deadliest running back tandem in the country. QB Greg McElroy hasn't lost a game since he was in eighth grade. The defense, while seemingly not the world-beater of last year, still ranks as the top scoring defense in the country as well as the fifth best defense in regard to pass efficiency.

But they are just eight-point favorites at home against the visiting Gators.

Husker fans still wanting to dwell in the abyss of uncertainty would retort that the Huskers' pass rush is almost non-existent right now as they rank a fair 47th, nationally in sacks, but a woeful 105th in tackles for loss.

Alabama ranks 103rd and 116th in those same categories, respectively.

If anything, SDSU is perspective, and the Huskers can count themselves lucky they got it without having to throw a loss onto their overall record.

Teams like Virginia Tech can't say the same thing. They lost to a very good Boise State team, but then were humiliated at home by FCS opponent James Madison. The loss to Boise State hurt them, but the loss to JM destroyed them, and now their goals based on preseason hype, have drastically changed. The ACC is still potentially there as is a BCS bid. But national title?

Yeah, not so much.

The Texas Longhorns have to deal with a loss, and a humiliating one at that. UCLA pounded them into oblivion with the running attack courtesy of the "Pistol" offense.

But unlike Nebraska, who can indeed point at that Washington game as what they can do, Texas has in their rearview mirror no running game, a quarterback still trying to establish himself, but with no real mobility to make the other team defend all 11 players.

It's a mess, and they have Oklahoma this weekend.

That's not a great formula for a team trying to get back on track. Nebraska simply has to stay on the track it currently resides.

SDSUs are going to happen. They happen to everyone. Nebraska got through it without losing, and now they enter conference play coming off a bye-week.

Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas scares the hell out of most people. He should. He's one of the best backs in the country. And considering the fact that Nebraska has allowed individual rushers to go over a hundred yards in the games against SDSU and FBS bottom feeder Western Kentucky – red flags are flying in the land of red.

But let's get back to motivation for a team that seems to need it to perform at its best. There is absolutely no lack of that for the Huskers from here on out.

  • Kansas State is on the road and it opens conference play
  • Texas is….well…Texas. The fact that the administration is auctioning off the game-worn jerseys from this contest says just about all that needs to be said for the emphasis on October 16th, when the Longhorns invade Lincoln
  • In the last two meetings with the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Nebraska gave up 41 points in each of those losses, the most humiliating one coming at home as OSU routed the Huskers in front of the 1997 national championship team which was being honored for that game.
  • Missouri is Missouri, which means the division could be on the line based on what happened with Kansas State, and there is always a ruckus atmosphere when the Tigers come to town.
  • You think the players aren't motivated to wipe the memory of the Iowa State debacle from their mind when they turned the ball over a team-record eight times as they lost at home to the Cyclones and first-year Head Coach Paul Rhodes?
  • Kansas at home might be a snoozer by most anyone's account, but their win against the option attack of Georgia Tech should help to keep everyone's attention when the Jayhawks come to town.
  • Texas A&M in College Station is a game that many have picked the Huskers will lose. I have to throw myself into that mix. They have an insane, albeit inconsistent offense, and their defense is markedly better than last year.
  • And Colorado? At home? The final regular season game of Nebraska's Big 12 existence?

Yeah, ‘nuff said.

You don't have to worry anymore about motivation. As you can see, there is plenty to be found, and against every single team the Huskers will face. The fact that this is all within conference play makes that unnoticed but very important factor of "want to" seem almost automatic.

Nebraska's one sin against South Dakota State was not being able to match the intensity of its opponent. And that led to all of the mistakes that they made and in some cases, that SDSU forced.

But as the kids love to say, "it's on" from this point forward, and if Nebraska loses a game from this point, in my mind it won't be because they weren't ready, prepared for even mentally up for the challenge. They will have simply gotten beat by a better team on that day.

I like their chances. All Husker fans should like their chances.

SDSU was a lesson that Nebraska had to learn the hard way. But not the hardest way.

Now everyone just has to move on.


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