Is one of Nebraska's foremost challenges to fight off the acceptance of occupying that world? One gets that feeling as Husker coaches and players calmly explain away losses. I've noticed it dating to the Bill Callahan years. I hope it's much harder for them than it appears.
I was fooled last weekend in Minneapolis. That “new” Nebraska team was a one-week wonder. A lot of things went right, and the Huskers got hot.
Nebraska’s Jekyll-and-Hyde offense has plenty of things to work on, but it’s biggest issue might be the only one that matters — scoring. The Huskers are just barely averaging 2 points per drive in Big Ten play and 1.62 points per drive in its three conference losses.
On a day when 89,493 fans honored the 1995 Nebraska team, the 2015 version held the ball for nearly 18 more minutes than Northwestern, running 30 more plays than the Wildcats. And the Huskers still lost — dropping to 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten — for several reasons, some of them new.
Well, no misfortunes, heartbreaks or gut-punches for Nebraska this time. This was a loss well-deserved after poor play all the way around. The fourth-quarter lapse surely can't be blamed on tired legs; the Huskers had defended only 32 plays and been on the field a total of 11:48 through three quarters. From lack of protection for Armstrong to his bad play to receivers dropping passes to an inability to run to bad tackling to losing containment to … whew, well, you get the picture.
I thought I had a good feel about this team all season. But this game really has me stumped. Got to win this kind of game. Ugly/home/talent
The postseason dream is dying for the Huskers, who needed a victory Saturday to get back to .500 for the first time since Sept. 19. Encouraging signs from a big win at Minnesota were erased as Northwestern handed the Huskers a fifth loss in late-game fashion.
For Nebraska, the loss spoiled an afternoon when Tom Osborne and the 1995 national championship team were honored in a pregame ceremony. The '95 team, considered one of the greatest in college football history, walked out of the tunnel ahead of the current Huskers and formed a corridor for them to run through.
We knew today was going to be a hard-fought battle. Those Cornhuskers have been through so many tough games this year, gut-wrenchers. They probably feel the same way today after the way today's went. So I tip my hat to Mike and his young men.
-- Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern head coach
We've beat ourselves. We put ourselves in right situations at times, but we've also bitten ourselves in the foot a ton of times. It's came back to give us a 3-and-5 record. We can't have that happen.
-- Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska quarterback
Football is a crazy game. Lots of ups and downs. It's kind of a roller coaster ride and we're on it right now in full force, but we'll be OK. We have great coaches here, great team, great players and they know what's important and they're mature guys. We're all mature, and we'll be OK. We'll stay together, we'll keep this thing going, we'll stay positive, we'll get back and have a great week at practice and get ready for Purdue.
-- Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska wide receiver