Up by almost 30 points and you manage to lose the game. I doubt that Mark Mangino would like that to be his calling card this year, but two times now KU has squandered leads, losing the games in the end.
A combination of collapses on defense and all but inept special teams has led to KU fans saying "what if" rather than "what might be".
With all that being said, it would behoove the Huskers and their faithful not to look at this up-coming game as yet another tune-up in a long line of alleged tune-ups. Rather, look at KU as either an opportunity or an obstacle.
Which one that will be will probably be dependent on whether NU itself can find some consistency in going a full four quarters of play.
That's the theme this year thus far for the Huskers. Start off strong and finish not so much. Head coach, Bill Callahan has been very vocal, however, in being his own worst critic. "I'm most critical of myself in terms of where we are going and the direction of the play selection." He said. "(But) A lot of that is third down."
3rd down. That's almost an expletive for Husker coaches this year and that's on both sides of the ball. To the issue of offense, however, Nebraska only completes the conversion on this down just 38% of the time.
Callahan talked about the adjustments made at half, the localization of what was working in the first part of the game and adding other things not used that might work as well. To that end, Callahan has said the results have been mixed. "In adding to that package, sometimes those plays are fifty-fifty." He said. "Sometimes you'll make it, sometimes you won't."
"We try to be more consistent in what the players can do, what they know and understand than try to trick anybody or come up with a "phantom call" or something of that nature."
The woes on defense have probably not gone as noticed simply because of the success the defense has had, including being now the number one team in the nation against the run. The third and long conversions for teams is a sore-spot though, one that the team is hoping to have fixed very soon. "We have to address what we are doing in those situations." Defensive coordinator, Kevin Cosgrove said. "We need to improve and give our kids a better chance."
Speaking of chances, you don't often look at special teams as a chance for the opposition to make a play. With the fact that Nebraska has given up 2 touchdown returns on kickoffs out of three games, the red flags are flying, as they say.
It's a concern for the entire staff, as you would imagine and the solution is addressing a little of the scheme and a lot of the execution. "It's never good enough." Callahan said of the team's execution and overall energy. "There are times when we did do a good job of covering kicks, but of course, when you do get returned (for scores) as we have twice in three games, there's a particular notice."
"If we can correct that and improve our techniques and the way we attack the coverage and the wedge, those are the things we try to get better at."
What Kansas will try to get better at is improving their ability not to collapse as the games have gone on. Nebraska similarly has had their own second-half issues, but in their last two games, especially the most recent one against Texas Tech, it would appear they are trying to perfect the second-half swoon.
At one point against the Red Raiders, Kansas was up in the game by a score of 30-5. Kansas gave up 4 consecutive scores, including 2 passes for touchdowns of over 25 yards each and a 70 touchdown run.
One would think that as an opposing coach, within that run of Texas Tech, Kansas's weaknesses were surely exposed.
Callahan wasn't so sure. "I don't know it was so much Texas Tech." He said. "I can't speak for Kansas, but myself, I'd look at it critically in terms of what we could have done. "
"Texas Tech, you know what they are going to do. They make no secret about what they are doing. They are going to throw the football and they are going to throw it every down and mix in a run every now and then and try to keep you honest somewhat."
"I just think it's execution, because like I said, they (Kansas) are very good structurally. They have a very good plan. They are a very solid defense. They don't make mental errors and they don't beat themselves in terms of critical mistakes. So, when you beat Kansas, you've got to beat them, physically and man-to-man."
Two of the main men for Kansas will be QB, Adam Barmann and All-Around athlete, Charles Gordon who will more than likely play three positions. Just to illustrate the versatility of Gordon, during the Texas Tech game, he was 4th on the team in tackles (6), had 20 yards receiving, 26 yards passing, not to mention that he returns punts for KU as well.
While Gordon isn't the "go-to" guy for the pass-happy hawks, he's easily the deadliest all-around weapon Kansas has.
Barmann himself has been fairly solid for most of the early part of the season, his completion percentage over 55 and Adam compiling almost 1,000 yards on the year. KU is averaging around 40 attempts per game, so while the percentage doesn't blow you away, as the old saying goes, if you throw it enough, you are bound to hit something good now and then.
That something good for most of this first quarter of the year has usually had the name, Brandon Rideau attached. KU's leading receiver, Rideau is averaging over 10 yards a catch, over 5 catches a game and he's scored 4 times on the year. He will be one of many players that will be seeing at least attempts towards their direction as this weekend's game goes along.
On defense, KU is giving up around 328 yards a game. Some might call that a rather skewed number, because a team like Texas Tech has 150 yards in offense just getting off the bus. As it is though, the other two teams Kansas faced (Toledo and Tulsa) have three combined wins, those coming over Eastern Michigan, SW Missouri State and Temple.
For Nebraska, this game comes down to a few simple things if they want to bring out a win:
Don't turn the ball over
Cover on special teams
Don't forget to show up for the second half
Considering Kansas's last game, that last one could fit for both. In fact, instead of calling the second half a time where we see who wants to win, perhaps we'll dub this the time when we'll see who least wants to lose.
It is the home crowd though for the Huskers and considering the trials of what happened the last time Nebraska was at home, one might assume that the second-half narcolepsy will have been cured, at least for the time being.
There's really no way not to give the edge to Nebraska, especially because of the Huskers' formidable defense. Granted, Kansas runs about as much as often and field goal kickers around the country are actually making extra points, but with any good defense, you start with stopping the run first.
Nebraska will do that, plus you can expect a healthy dose of inside, outside and all-over blitzing on Barmann as this will be the first real pressure-cooker he's faced.
And, while Joe's interception against Pitt. Got a few highlights, the best highlights were that he was markedly better in his decision-making from the prior game to that one. I wouldn't figure Joe to make a decline here and if that's the case, it could be a long day for the Hawks.
Or, in this case, night, but either way you put it, Kansas has a good team, but they are as of yet untested by a team that can play them both ways. Nebraska's offense isn't potent by any means yet, but until KU proves they can stop a team for four quarters, Nebraska has the edge in this one, going away.
Our lofty, bold and bodacious prediction: NU 38 KU 6