Was it the coaches? No. Was it the effort? Certainly not. What would cause a team with only one loss and a defense ranked amongst the best in the entire country to fold so convincingly to the Texas Longhorns down in Austin. A few reasons, as a loss like this never comes down to just one thing, but players make plays, it's just who has the best players won this game, this day. One of many themes for NU.
Nebraska's defense had 3 interceptions yesterday, Josh Bullocks once again taking the nation-lead, grabbing his 8th on the season. Matt Herian caught two long balls from Jammal Lord, 1 a 48 yarder for a TD. Kyle Larson also proved that if he's not the best punter in the country, you might have to look to someone in the NFL to find that's better. Larson averaged a whopping 54.4 yards per punt.
Ok, that pretty much covers all the good from the game against the Horns, Nebraska's 31-7 loss accomplished by a variety of factors, part Texas, part Nebraska and well, more of Texas in the end.
The Texas Longhorns came to play and if you wanted the Longhorns' truly first big illustration of just what all that talent can do, Nebraska's offense and even the vaunted Blackshirts defense could tell you firsthand.
Against the run, Nebraska has been the epitome of stubborn this year, not allowing a single 100-yard rusher. Against Texas, NU's defense allowed over 350 yards on the ground, Cedric Benson galloping for 174 yards and scoring 3 times. To add insult to injury, UT's freshman phenom, Vince Young proved his ball-toting mettle, putting the Nebraska "D" on it's heels early, Young ending up with over 160 yards rushing after it was all said and done.
The yardage allowed by Nebraska's defense will no doubt come under great criticism, the voices chanting loudly already about a unit vastly overrated. While the defense was on it's heels early, were it not for that defense, this game would have been over before halftime. This game would end up being typical as to what you might have expected, the defense eventually folding because it simply couldn't get off the field.
Part of that was because Texas played as well as they did, in my estimation, the best they have played all year. Most of it could be contributed to the bane of NU's success this season, an offense that was woefully inadequate, but that wasn't the story of the day.
More on that later.
Jammal Lord proved that he also played a similar theme in being able to hit Matt Herian with two exceptionally thrown deep balls, but his consistency was all but completely absent aside from that. There were contributing factors in that the offensive line was either soundly beaten or missing blocks, Texas defenders in the backfield almost as much as Lord.
Head coach, Frank Solich said that it was obvious Nebraska didn't play as well as they needed to. Coach Pelini said something to the extent that he wasn't going to change the way they did things on defense, one having to agree with him to a great degree, because it wasn't an offensive philosophy that propelled Texas to their biggest win of the year and Nebraska, it's most convincing defeat.
It was talent.
Yes, the often overused word when describing the oft-times underachieving Horns, such could not be said of this game as you saw exactly what that much talent can do when it's all on the same page and playing with a fiery intensity.
There shouldn't be any delusions about the outcome of this game resting solely on the shoulders of the NU coaches. Also, the blame should likewise not be thrust upon the players for Nebraska, simply for the need to have someone to blame.
It was about players, the caliber of those players and the fact that for once, you saw Texas exhibit just how much talent they have.
Whether it was a physical mauling on offense, the offensive line of Texas running over the overmatched D-line of NU or it was the defense, speed, size, strength and ability all glaringly obvious, making it even more obvious just how far into the talent-pool Nebraska is going to have to dig.
Up to this point of the season, you might say Nebraska has over achieved. You might also say that they haven't faced any reasonably stout teams in terms of talent until the game down in Austin.
So, that point has been reached, the differences in personnel obvious, but the good news for Nebraska is that for the rest of the year, no team they will face has the horses, side-to-side that Texas does. Few teams do.
The loss to Texas yesterday didn't come from what NU coaches did or didn't do yesterday nor was it a sole product of everything Texas managed to accomplish. You might say Nebraska lost this game three years ago, two years ago and even years beyond that, that being in the recruiting wars.
Nebraska has some players, even a few stars here and there. They do not have even remotely close to what they need however for Husker fans to feel like Nebraska is truly back, nor do they have the players that NU coaches need to win games like the one they lost so convincingly yesterday.
The future is bright for Nebraska as there is not a load, but a decent amount of young and budding stars on the horizon, some already on the field. Until that is realized and this team can be bolstered by continuing success in recruiting, well, the future isn't now.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619