You might say to yourself after watching Nebraska fold against Kansas State, ‘will the real Nebraska please stand up'. Or, you might sit back, roll your eyes in frustrating acknowledgment and wonder about coaches, quarterbacks and what might have been. What might have been of course could have actually been worse, but what is right now, well, that's not great either.
I wanted to believe that he was getting better. As I watched Jammal Lord in the first half, I saw glimmers and even a brief spot of luminescence as a fairly diverse game in regards to play-calling combined with Lord being just efficient enough on certain situations, NU was moving the ball, time of possession was about even for both teams and it seemed that Nebraska had a chance in this game.
Yeah, that's when the wheels fell off.
When the 3rd quarter was normally owned by the NU defense, it was the defense that got owned.
When Lord was under the most pressure to succeed, interceptions and some crucial passes missed marked the theme of most of the game.
When it was put up or shut up time, the sound of silence emanating from Lincoln is almost deafening.
Not even the one score Nebraska caught was legit, a missed call by a referee not spotting a great effort by Lord, but one that was taken with one knee already down.
Odd and ironic in that a knee that a Nebraska player that wasn't caught couldn't outdo the collective knee the entire team took in the second half of the game as Kansas State took the ball and ran away, Ell Roberson probably still talking after he put up over 400 yards in offense on the NU defense........by himself.
Nebraska's defense showed up early. You knew they would. Despite the lop-sided 38-7 loss, the defense was game, Josh Bullocks grabbing yet another interception, a crucial pick and Josh's 10th on the year. That interception halted what appeared to be a certain touchdown for the Wildcats.
In fact, early on in the game, it was Ell Roberson making some bad passes that helped Nebraska stay in this game, NU's offense managing to move the ball a little here and there.
You want to know the play that summarizes the disappointments up for Nebraska? It was a QB sneak for a first down by Jammal Lord in the 4th quarter when the game was clearly over...........and he fumbled.
A QB that despite all his ability to run and all that heart he has showed in never wanting to give up and never stopping to even acknowledge the criticisms levied upon him week after week, Jammal Lord could never pass well enough and make enough good decisions for Nebraska to be even a remote offensive threat against teams geared against the run, but actually haven't the personnel for that philosophy to work.
Nebraska couldn't come from behind. Nebraska couldn't be any sort of consistent threat down field. Nebraska couldn't....well, you get the point. It was just a matter of what Nebraska couldn't and Kansas State could, thus the difference in the game.
Nebraska could stop Darren Sproles..........for awhile.
Nebraska could stop Ell Roberson from completing big passes down field...........for awhile.
Nebraska could stop the running game of Kansas State from gaining any real serious momentum......yeah, for awhile.
Eventually, even that defense had to give in. Eventually, they had to tire out and when Kansas State runs apprx. 25 plays in the 3rd quarter alone, they aren't going to get just tired, they are going to get flat-out gassed.
That's when Kansas State stepped on the gas, scoring twice in the 3rd quarter and just for good measure, threw on 3 more in the last stanza to put Nebraska's slight hopes for a Big XII title game showing back to where most believed they belonged in the first place, out of any possible reach.
Highlights for the Huskers were few as expected, but along with Bullocks adding to his already gaudy total of picks, Cory Ross ran well, averaging over 5 yards a carry during the game. His elusiveness was very effective early on when the running game was still plausible for NU to stay in the game.
Another defensive performance worth nothing was of course that of Demorrio Williams, who is known for being verbal on the field, but also known for backing it up, notching double-digits again, tallying 14 total tackles, 9 of them unassisted. Lornell McPherson and Pat Ricketts each added picks of their own.
I said in my Kansas State preview that you could virtually copy and paste the Texas preview with the exception that KSU just isn't as talented as the Horns. The early part of the game proved that, because NU was getting things done on the offensive side of the ball. Point of fact, the only thing that stopped NU was NU themselves, not penalties this time, rather just poor execution and a lot of missed passes. Golden opportunities lost, over and over again.
As Jammal Lord stood in the post-game press conference, he appeared not just disappointed, but beaten. His last home game, his second to last regular season game of his Husker career, what can he be thinking of other than what was or what might have been?
He said that this wasn't the ending he wanted. He said that he didn't know what there was to say.
He's right. There really is nothing more to say, because what's been said about why this NU team hasn't jumped over the hump against the better teams is the same reason as it was the week before or even before that.
What there is to play for though is something that NU showed very little of last year, pride. It's a pride that so many coaching changes and a new attitude was supposed to have been re-injected back into the football team.
In the next two games, especially the one up next in Boulder, we'll know whether this season has been the real-deal or NU has just taken advantage of an easy schedule, other teams falling off more than this year being an example of Nebraska being all that much better.
The defense has improved. Nobody can deny that, but defense wins championships, however it takes at least some offense to get you to one in the first place.
Something Nebraska simply doesn't have.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619