Monday Morning Quarterback

I don't usually do one of these Monday morning QB type pieces, but based on what I saw while in Norman and the curious reactions of some since, I felt obliged to interject, if such the case may be. What we saw in Norman was many things, but none of them had anything to do with Nebraska not doing everything it could do to win.

The whole year there have been a myriad of questions about this Nebraska team. Their talent, their strength, their speed, even their heart – all have come under the scrutiny of the average Husker fan, mostly to their disappointment.


What happened in Norman as NU dropped their fifth game of the year to the Sooners, 30-3 was many things, but at least as far as what Nebraska did to try and stay in the game, disappointing wasn't even close to one of them.


First, there seem to be an issue with the fact that Nebraska ran the ball so much and refused to pass, even in certain situations that would normally be considered automatics as instances where you put it in the air.


Well, that would be fine for a team that had actually had some success in that area, but at least for 3rd downs, one of the more obvious passing situations based on distance, Nebraska has been a woeful team this year, achieving 1st downs only 42 times out of 137 opportunities.


Then, you add Joe Dailey's statistics into the equation and with his 1:1 ratio in interceptions to touchdowns along with his sub 50% completion efficiency, you are taking a bigger than normal chance when you opt to start chucking it downfield.


The pass wasn't working. Simply put, if you wanted something reliable, you went to what had been the most reliable part of the beleaguered offense this year.


Cory Ross.


At this point, the young man is approaching athletic hero-status, the exploits of the Junior tailback almost becoming legendary considering the rather torturous circumstances he's trying to perform under from the Baylor game up to now.


That "turf toe" that has limited him to just one full practice a week, relegated his existence for the rest of the week to wearing a boot meant to keep weight off of that toe and meant that during a game, adrenaline or not, he was going to be in pure agony most of the game – well, one would expect not to expect much from the starting running back, but every time you turn around, Ross is dropping jaws in disbelief.


Check out this stat just to give you some perspective of what a real winner does when the chips are down.


Including the Baylor game, Ross averaged 98 yards per game, his highest total being 172, which he accomplished against Southern Miss.


Since the turf toe, Ross has averaged 128 yards a game, his best game being 199 yards accomplished against Missouri.


Any more questions? You run and keep on running it until either Ross's legs fall off or time simply runs out.


That's what Nebraska did in this game, rushing the ball 40 out of its total of 53 plays and what do you know, they were averaging over 5 yards per rush.


The problem is, if you are playing probably any other opponent on NU's schedule other than Oklahoma, this philosophy might bear out a win. With the Sooners, however, because the passing game wasn't working, those nasty third and longs turned into punts, giving OU's formidable offense a chance to get on the field.


You have a Heisman winning QB, you have a Heisman hopeful at RB and you have All-Everything, pro-hopeful draft picks at your beck and call from one side of the field to the other. And, you have a Nebraska defense that in recent weeks has given up almost 350 yards passing to an Iowa State offense that hadn't known that kind of success all year in throwing the ball. You give up almost 300 yards rushing to a Kansas State team that was led by a quarterback most Wildcat fans thought would be the death of them in that game. And, let's not even talk about Texas Tech.


The idea going into this game wasn't about how NU was going to stop OU, because at least on paper, that just didn't seem realistic. The mind-set here is, which unit are you going to put the onus on to give OU some production on the field.


All year many have tried to slow down the OU rushing game. The Sooners, finally with a solid running attack, their two-headed potency proved too much for every team, even during the games where OU had to scrap to the end for a win.


If Adrian Peterson didn't kill you, Jason White did. If White didn't kill you, A.D. came and stole the show.


Damned if you do, damned if you don't, comes to mind when you are trying to evaluate just what you have to do to slow down the second best team in the country.


Nebraska chose the running game as the unit they weren't going to let win this game.


That's not easy as again, OU had much success against pretty much every team they faced, the freshman, Peterson rushing for over a hundred yards in every contest up to this point. The Huskers halted that streak, limiting Peterson to just 67 yards and overall, OU didn't break a hundred on the ground, the first time that, that has happened this year as well.


Of course, what that meant was while NU was busy shutting down OU's running game, Jason White had a record-breaking day, rising to the occasion, at one point hitting 18 straight completions, part of a 29-35 day in which he threw for 3 touchdowns, no interceptions and wasn't sacked even once.


That was another problem in that when you look at the statistics of pass break ups, passes deflected, quarterback hurries and sacks, the Nebraska defense scored goose eggs across the board. The philosophy of playing a minimal front as far as getting to the QB and maximizing the run support with the secondary proved beneficial at one point, very costly for another.


Against OU, that's a problem.


When you looked at the tale of the tape, there was no question who had the stockpile of athletes on their side. I even have an NFL scout to back me up on that as he was sitting in the booth watching what he said was no less than a dozen players for the Sooners. And, when I asked how many there were on the Huskers that he might look at simply out of the convenience of being there, he replied quickly, "none".


When you look at it that way, if both teams play perfectly, NU loses. If NU plays perfectly and OU makes only minimal mistakes, NU probably still loses. What NU needed to have happen in this game was for their offense to work effectively in both areas and for their defense to get at least some pressure on White while managing to stop the run.


They did stop the run, but White killed them. They did run the ball well, but Dailey struggled some, throwing one interception, this one occurring deep inside NU territory.


Point of fact, NU did much of what they had planned to do, but couldn't capitalize on the other areas, because quite honestly, they were simply beaten man for man. It wasn't markedly mind you, but Mark Clayton and Travis Wilson versus the Bullocks was a mismatch. The defensive line of NU trying to get pressure with a three and four-man front against one of the best pass protecting units in the country, well sometimes that was just unfair.


It was a game that came down to exactly what former Husker, Trev Alberts said this game came down to most of the time it was played, one team versus the other and let's see who has the best players on the field.


That was clearly OU.


I looked at this game once more and skimmed it yet again just to satisfy myself on a couple of plays and a couple of drives during the game.


I'm sorry, but I don't see how Nebraska did so terrible in what they managed to do against OU. Sure, there were breakdowns in coverage and yes, the passing-game wasn't working. The thing is, when you match up a team that is barely above .500 with a team that hasn't lost a game all year, I don't know what you expect to happen.


You wanted a win? Heck, we all did. You wanted the game to be closer? I think we can all say that as well.


What NU managed to do in this game was well enough to find out just where it's at and how far it has to go.


Barrett Ruud said himself after the game that against Oklahoma, the Huskers simply didn't match up.


Considering the recruiting class thus far for Nebraska, if that trend continues, there will come a time where Nebraska might very well match up with OU.


Chances are, the outcome of the game will be very different indeed.

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