Shooting Point Blank

After Kansas' win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday, no doubt several fans across the land are scratching their heads, gnashing their teeth and wondering what has gone wrong. However, there is also the flip side of the coin that sees a bit of a different picture. We delve into just what lead to Nebraska's fall in Lawrence and identify if and how it will get better.

Now, as of this writing, I have yet to peruse any message boards where no doubt outcries of rage are being thrown about like garland on a Christmas tree (understandably so), but before I begin this week's column/review, I would like to point out a few things, some that may or may not apply, you can make the choice on that.

- Steve Pederson is not going to be fired. Go ahead and let that one go.

- Bill Callahan is not going to be fired. Go ahead and get that out of your system as well.

- If any assistant coaches leave, it is going to be because other schools covet them or Coach Callahan feels they are not performing up to their standards, which, at this point, I doubt is the case.

I think that pretty much covers everything, so let's begin. Kansas' win over Nebraska marked another streak that has fallen during the past several years and as the goalposts came crashing down in Lawrence, Kansas, I found myself wondering the same thing that several others no doubt were at the same moment: How did we find ourselves in this predicament?

Well, folks, you can lay blame at the feet of Steve Pederson, Bill Callahan, Kevin Cosgrove, the head trainer, the assistant trainer, it doesn't really matter, because the problem arose when one man arrived on the scene as Head Football Coach of Nebraska and no, I'm not talking about Bill.

I hate to dust off this old chestnut, but the fact of the matter is, I find it rather funny how some Nebraska fans (and even opposing fans) wish that Frank Solich were back at the reigns of the Cornhuskers when, quite honestly, he is the man who has put the Scarlet and Cream where they are today. Oh sure, he had a glorious winning percentage and a Division 1-AA team to stop him from breaking a streak that Coach Callahan eventually would in his stead, but the fact remains, those calling for a re-hire may want to take a step back.

The 2005 Cornhuskers are literally limping across the finish line, decimated by injury at the most crucial of areas that couldn't afford them and inexperience at the others. Also, it doesn't help that an offense once claimed to be so complex has been converted into a collegiate style that other coaches now have nine games of film to study to exploit weaknesses.

The main issue here is depth. When Nebraska's offensive linemen started dropping like flies in the offseason, it did not spell good things for the Cornhuskers in the future and this is what Cornhusker fans are seeing now. Steve Octavien was a large loss but Stewart Bradley on the opposite side was monumental. It also doesn't help when you have a defensive backfield that is, again, plagued by lack of depth.

Coach Callahan has had just about two seasons to implement his vision for the future and we, as human beings, tend to be creatures who demand instant gratification. If you honestly feel that Nebraska, in its current state, should be blowing people out left and right, I'm sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree. Now, with basically 1 ½ recruiting classes done, people want to can Callahan, Pederson, the whole staff (or at least part of it) and start from scratch. That sounds an awful lot like something an NFL team would do, a professional football mentality if you will or even more familiarly, the same thing Nebraska's current athletic director seems to get railed for the most.

Off of that topic for a moment, I'd like to give credit where credit is due. Mark Mangino has a doff of my cap for an excellent game plan and fantastic defensive execution with a front seven that are probably the finest Kansas has seen since 1995 (and their defensive backs aren't bad either.) He was able to exploit a Nebraska team that obviously did not match up well with his and the end result? Goalposts in a pond.

When you have a linebacking corps of that caliber healthy and ready to go, you've got yourself one stout unit to build around (as would've Nebraska had Steve and Brad stayed healthy, but this is football and that's why you play the game).

There's not much you can say today other than it was a very confusing game plan put out by Coach Callahan and company, but I seem to recall some saying the very same about Tom Osborne and judging by the amount of people who want to fire Callahan now as opposed to the spaced out time T.O. received, Callahan should be the greatest coach in Nebraska history when it's all said and done.

In the end, folks, it really comes down to this: There is a larger picture here and 40-15 at Kansas on November 5th can be a very small speck on it if given proper cultivation. The days of not rebuilding but reloading are gone, at least for now, due to the reasons listed above. Now, if you choose to be upset and rage against the Nebraska machine during a rough patch, that is your decision, however, growing up as a young lad in Omaha, I always heard a line in the Nebraska fight song that I heard even today: "We all stick together in all kinds of weather for Dear Old Nebraska U."

Right now, it's pretty cloudy and occasionally storming over the land of the Big Red, the question that needs to be answered by the fans is: Is that part of the fight song true or is it merely lip service? That's a question that can be answered very quickly. As quickly as say…next Saturday.

Now, Kansas State presents Nebraska an interesting opportunity. The Wildcats, they aren't what they used to be, not this season at least and the Cornhuskers, even in their current state, should be able to come out of Senior Day with a win and bowl eligibility in hand. With that, the possibility is there that they will venture to Boulder loose, with nothing to lose and may do something few, if any, believe they can do at this point and actually beat Colorado. At that point, hard recruiting begins as does bowl preparations and several hundred thousand dollars and national television exposure doesn't sound too bad. Just my humble opinion there, folks, take it or leave it as you please.

Questions and comments can be sent to Blankman71@cox.net


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