As the clock ticked off, another hail-mary to end the game finished, Nebraska escaped yet again with a narrow win over what some might consider an under-whelming opponent. A win is a win, however, and as long as you can notch it under the "W" column, you have to consider that a positive. As it is though, with a game like this, there's plenty of good, bad and ugly to spread around. So, let's.
It's hard to call the defense "good". They were better than that. Befitting the title of this piece though, we'll stick to that, but maybe an asterisk needs to be put on the side as the "Blackshirts" were on the field for 82 snaps against Kansas.
You hear that?
82 snaps. That's no joke and that only goes to tell you two things.
One – This defense is carrying the team just like everyone assumed it might, the honeymoon with the offense over now that they have faced teams that have defenses at least capable of stopping something.
Two – If you wanted proof of what strength and conditioning coach, Dave Kennedy has done and how much good it's been for this team, look no farther than this. Not only did KU snap the ball 82 times on offense to Nebraska's paltry 56, the Jayhawks had almost a full 10-minute advantage in time of possession.
While that is "bad" for the offense, you can't say enough about a defense that while they gave up some yards, only gave up two field goals when it was all said and done.
Head coach, Bill Callahan gave the entire defense the game ball after the contest was over.
I'd have to say I agree. They were definitely good tonight.
The good news against Kansas was that you couldn't say Nebraska came out flat in the second half of the game.
They were flat the ENTIRE game.
Turnovers, penalties and mental mistakes found themselves once again the theme to why this offense still has a very long ways to go. Oh, and there was the safety that occurred in just the second play of the game, that particular play seeming almost auspicious.
Thankfully for Nebraska, it wasn't a microcosm of the entire evening, but it illustrated just some of the little things that are adding up to big problems as this team looks ahead.
Even with the usually defenseless Texas Tech Red Raiders looming, the Huskers have to know that if these seemingly habitual problems aren't fixed, there aren't just losses on the horizon, but bad ones that not even the NU defense can save them from.
When someone says "fat", that means big. When someone says "Phat", that means something pretty darn good. Well, let's call this "BAD" to mean good, because Barrett Ruud is just plain "bad".
Every single time I see this guy take the field, I think I am looking at Zach Thomas or Dat Nguyen or any of those players that most people say that physically they aren't capable, but mentally, there's few that can match their football-intellect.
That's Ruud and he's actually pretty physically capable as well, but if Ruud is one thing above all things, it's smart. He's never out of position, he rarely makes mental mistakes and you could probably count on one hand how many times this year that the Senior has legitamitely missed a tackle.
I don't know what the illustration of "solid" is, but perhaps that is yet another word that can have dual-meanings. One to mean something immovable and another to define just what "dependable" really means.
That's Ruud and he's pretty "bad" as well.
Just when the special teams gets a bright spot in coverage and especially with a that stop on the desperation 4th and 14 fake punt, a couple of field goals go awry.
One doinked off the bottom of the up-right and the other, wide of them.
Let's give some credit to the fact that these weren't gimmee chip-shots, both well over forty yards. No wind though, seemingly a good snap and hold, you'd think that at least one of these has to be made.
High school recruit and kicker extrordinaire, Jordan Congdon was in attendance for this game. I would guess like any recruit he was going into the game wondering just what kind of chance he had to come in right away and play.
I think he got his answer.
Next Husker commit anyone?
He may not be dropping your jaw with the yards, but oh how much you appreciate a guy just catching the ball. That's what Santino Panico has done thus far, not taking it far beyond the catch, but making sure he has it and saving the Huskers some bad field position at times.
I see this young man practicing after practice. He's catching punts, over and over again. 10, 20 and more punts well after practice is over, Panico isn't settling for second best.
There's little doubt that at some point the staff will want something other than just sure-hands at that spot. Until then, however, Panico stopped that part of the bleeding on special teams like a hot iron cauterizing an open wound.
It's not spectacular. It's not pretty, but it is good to say the least. When it comes to special teams, good starts with dependable and that is Panico all the way.
It's not the size of the drive, it's how you use it. Yes, that's to coin a corny phrase, but if you look at the drive-chart for either team, it's apt. to say the least.
Nebraska having just two drives that hit eight plays and no drives that went over that, well, that's ugly in and of itself.
Uglier is the fact that one of those ended up in a punt.
3 drives of 2 plays (those ended up in turnovers), 6 drives of 3 plays (2 of those ended up in turnovers, the rest three and out), 2 drives of 4 plays (both resulting in missed field goals), 2 drives of 5 plays (one punt, one touchdown) and the aforementioned 8 play drives that were accomplished twice, one for a score, the other resulting in a punt.
What does that say?
Not much and a whole lot, neither being all that good for NU.
Is there good news? Well, sort of. They only topped 7 plays for two drives against Western Illinois as well.
Nope, it doesn't make me feel any better either.
I know there's going to be plenty of remarks made in a few weeks about how good of a punch Kellen Huston throws. That's to be expected and Missouri fans are certain to bring it up over and over again.
Well, Huston hits pretty hard during the game as well, Huston responsible for a couple of jaw-jarring knockdowns on players from KU.
Huston was basically a major pain in the butt to the Jayhawks on the day, ranking fourth on the team in tackles for the contest with 5, but 1 of those was for a loss, he got 2 pass break ups and one quarterback hurry.
This is an instance, however, that stats just don't tell you the whole story as Huston was anywhere and everywhere, all at the same time. He may not have had the numbers, but I bet you that after someone reviews that film, they'll say he had the impact to be sure. Literally and figuratively.
Bad as in bad to the bone and that's KU's Charles Gordon. No doubt Joe Dailey will have lingering thoughts of KU's best player, Gordon taking in two of Dailey's three interceptions on the night. Add to that his forced fumble, one QB hurry, the 3 tackles and his effectiveness catching and returning the ball, this kid is a player and a major one at that.
KU may not be overwhelming in talent, but Charles Gordon has overwhelming talent and he's pretty darn speedy to boot.
IT'S A WIN.
I have heard more than a few times how some long-time fans or people that cover the team are amazed at how the Nebraska fan of today seems to have gotten happy with being just good enough.
The old saying "It's a win" was one that not too many years ago would have seemed like an insult to say. It's never "just" good enough as Husker fans look at trophies in crystal form, rather than those bronze plated. They look at wins not as wins, but in grand margins of victory. How did they dominate, who were the super stars on both sides of the ball?
Well, let me be the first to tell you something if you didn't already know.
This isn't Osborne's Nebraska.
The thing is, it's not even Callahan's Nebraska…………….yet.
While the head coach will be the first to say that his system is predicated on utilizing what he has. He would be the last to say that he doesn't have even close to what he needs to run it.
There was a question once asked of Callahan not more than a couple weeks ago as to whether or not he was looking forward to the eventual match up with USC and how that might be used to see just where his team was at.
His first remark? It was pointed to the fact that he obviously didn't have the kind of players they had, in that a paraphrased remark of Callahan's in looking at the comparison with how his team would do against theirs, he asked "with their players?".
That meaning, if he had their players, he might be able to do just what he wanted to do.
He can't and he won't be able to, possibly for the next couple of years. Callahan is a coach and he'll try to win every single game, but the play-calling while more aggressive this week compared to last is still markedly more conservative than what I'm sure he'd be running if he did indeed have every player that fit his system to a tee.
A conversation another member of the media and I had last night as we were walking to the post-game press conference had to do with the perception that Nebraska is taking a step back rather than a step forward as most thought NU might from one game to the next.
7-7 was a step backward, Nebraska is currently 3-1 on the year.
And, they are 3-1 virtually the same way Nebraska went 10-3 just a season ago.
And, as has been said all too many times now, it's a west coast style with option players.
Right now, it should be about "just win". In a couple of years though, that's when you can start hacking on him about the margin of victories. It will probably be that long before any of these changes can really have a marked effect.