It's more than annoying looking at the ABC Regional map and not seeing Dallas getting the Nebraska game when that happens. It is even more annoying knowing that your cable provider, which you regularly cuss and more often threaten to switch from, doesn't even offer the game on pay-per-view.
So right away on Saturday morning, I am not happy.
I said 24-14 or something in that area for my score prediction this weekend. I was such an optimist. When people see the 7-6 final they'll wonder if that is a baseball game. I made fun of UTEP and Houston having a 5-0 score last night. Guess the joke's on me.
Anyway, let's get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about the game, shall we? I was encouraged by the early play calling to show some versatility in the passing game. Throwing the ball to a running back in the flat and even the failed Mike Stuntz play.
There was also come creativity in the run game. I liked the idea of getting the ball to Lucky on an end-around, seeing Cody Glenn come out of his redshirt and the play to Tierre Green was just pretty. However, why did we go away from it?
I mean, six yards a pop is what Cory Ross was averaging per run. So, two of those runs and I have a first down? Cool. This year could turn around very quickly if we start to embrace something and that is we just don't have a very effective passing game, yet.
So how do you make it effective? Well, last week I said you needed to throw more to get the run to work. Throw it more? Maybe not, but be more creative with the football and spreading it out about helped.
This year's offensive line just isn't very good and I am not sure why. I watched these same players last year and they seem to have regressed. I would guess that a lot has to do with health. Austin will never be 100% healthy, I would have loved to have see Christensen this year, Helming isn't fully healthy and add to that list Murtha, Slauson and Mann.
Let me just pause for a moment and just say that I think that being the offensive line coach at Nebraska would have tried my patience on a whole new level. Coach Wagner has finally been able to see one of the scholarship players that he and this new staff recruited to run this new offense finally take the field. Not only that, but injuries have plagued this line this year and last year.
Getting back to how to get this offense effective, I believe now that the spreading of the field, throwing the ball laterally as well as vertically and a hard running game with Ross at the wheel is how this team will get rolling. You need third down conversions. You need consistency. And lastly, but most importantly, you need confidence.
I couldn't help but stop every time Gary Danielson opened his mouth tonight to talk about the lack of difference makers on Nebraska's offense. Is that true? Personally, I don't think so. I mean, I think that Ross had a difference making performance tonight. I also believe without looking it up that you have seen just as many big plays from the line of scrimmage or in the return game this year as you did all of last year.
The problem is that those big plays haven't gone for a touchdown and the offense has stalled out not even to come up with a field goal and in some cases a field goal try. This is where you need to understand where more conservative, less-risky play calling comes in. Once you take a punt return to the opponent's 30 you want to put it in. So, take the safe road and do your six yard a pop run plays. It doesn't seem to be rocket science to me, but that is why I am doing what I am doing and why they are doing what they are doing.
Late in the third quarter today I actually heard someone cuss Steve Pederson's name. Why? Are people still upset about the firing of Frank Solich and the catastrophe of the hiring of a new head coach? Do they think that Steve Pederson scrapped tradition when he brought in a head coach that runs a different offense?
What tradition do you care about? The option oriented attack that you could come to the line, tell the opposing team what you were running and then tell them to stop it or success? Because, I don't remember a lot of peaks under Solich. There was beating Oklahoma in 2001. That was definitely a peak.
However, I seem to remember the valleys far too vividly. Being in Austin two years ago. Taking my wife to the Kansas State game two years ago for her 30th birthday. 62-26 in Boulder. Judd Davies throw on a fake punt!
There was really nothing good that could come of today. There was no margin of victory today large enough to keep the anti-Callahan, anti-West Coast Offense and anti-Steve Pederson's from coming out in full-force today. It's simply put, a tragedy.
The West Coast Offense is what it is. However, what it should not be is pre-determined and ineffective. I don't grasp the "we'll take what we want" offense. I don't even think that the people who have run or run the West Coast Offense would say that is the strength of this type of offense. I embrace the "we'll exploit what you give us" concept.
The comment from Bill Callahan that Jack Arute said from halftime was that Nebraska was going to take more chances down the field on first down. I say, more chances for the running back on first down to give me second and five, second and four or second and three that gets the defense on their heals thinking about what I might do now.
Is it predictable? Maybe. But that is when you stretch the field and throw. Pound it on first down and then when you start seeing eight or nine in the box on every first down then send it down the field. Incompletions in those situations are just as good as completions.
While the Nebraska game rolled along I was able to watch Oklahoma and I sat there and wondered. I wondered which team I would rather have, Nebraska's or Oklahoma's? Are we really that far away? Personally, I don't feel so. I was encouraged by some variety in the play-calling today, new faces on the field especially on offense and the character of this team.
How easily could you have let your head fall after realizing that Pitt was going to get another shot to win that game after the bad snap/hold? Our watch party had already moved on to playing "There is No Place Like Nebraska" over the stereo system celebrating the win. Then there is one second left and a chance to lose this game all over again.
If you think that these kids aren't trying and aren't playing their guts out then you didn't see what I saw when the next play happened. A blocked field goal attempt is how this team bounced back. This team is oozing with character. The defense has the confidence that the offense only needs to smell to make this a better football team. Give it time. Give them a chance.