The road back to beginning for NU?

It seems we have been down this road before. It's been a year or so, but the message that was so predominate last season seems to be rearing its ugly head once again and it's hard to see that it's a message that will die anytime soon: Something has to change. You can forgive Nebraska for losing to great offenses like Texas Tech. You can probably handle a Nebraska team getting handled by an athletic Oklahoma defense. Kansas, though? Their offense? That's a road nobody wants to travel.

Texas Tech amassed over 400 yards in offense against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Yeah, and? Texas Tech ranks as one of the elite offenses in all of college football and no matter who they play, it seems like it's almost automatic they will get at least 400 yards.

Kansas isn't Texas Tech

In fact, Kansas is almost the anti-Tech, the Red Raiders prolific, while the Jayhawk's offense is anything but.

They are amongst the nation's worst in passing. They are amongst the nation's worst in rushing. They are amongst the nation's worst in putting points on the board.

And Nebraska gives up over 400 yards in total offense to them, while allowing more points to KU than it did to every single team they have faced except for Missouri.

At least Missouri had Brad Smith.

You see what I am getting at here? For the first time all year, this Husker team was embarrassed. They were humiliated on defense and by a team whose offense is hardly intimidating opponents before the game even starts.

And that's not me saying it, because the coaches are saying it, too. "It's embarrassing. It's absolutely embarrassing," offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Jay Norvell said. "That's about all you can say. We are absolutely sick."

That's significant, because the coaches weren't saying things like this last year, the 2004 season seemingly the free pass this staff needed to get everyone on the same page. And up to this year's contest against Missouri, it was the defense that kept the ship upright, while the offense tried to find some sort of rhythm.

They are still looking

From a team that seemingly was getting nothing but better after six games into this season, they have regressed into a team that seemingly can't block, run, throw, catch or tackle with any consistency.

 Zac Taylor has spent much of this year picking himself up off of the turf.

One of the biggest reasons for the early success doesn't have to do so much with Nebraska as it does with who Nebraska has faced. It's no coincidence that the combined record of the teams Nebraska has beaten is under .500 (22-24). It also doesn't hurt that the first five games were at home and when you are a team that sells out every single game, you can't understate how much of an advantage home field gives you.

Kansas, though. It's back to a team, that while I am more than willing to give them credit for their defense at the line, against the run and in the linebacking corps, their offense shouldn't have been able to move more than a few feet at a time on the Huskers. Instead, the Huskers now have the dubious title of being worse on defense against Kansas than Florida Atlantic.

In fact, only Appalachian State allowed more yards to KU than Nebraska. Seven more yards to be exact.

No more joy for Husker fans

Yeah, embarrassing

On the offensive side it's been just as bad in recent weeks, the once vaunted rushing attack of the Cornhuskers now one of the most futile in the country.

Depressing fact: In the last three games, Nebraska has rushed the ball 75 times for 35 yards.

Depressing fact #2: Nebraska needs 116 yards in rushing over the next two games. If they can't "achieve" that, they will have surpassed the worst single-season rushing performance in Husker history (918 yards) set back in 1947.

Depressing fact #3: They only played nine games that year and the Huskers have already played that many this year.

Depressing fact #4: Not even Texas Tech, a team that passes the ball an incomprehensible amount of the time, has allowed as many sacks (25) as Nebraska (27).

Conversely, the Nebraska pass rush, the one that to this date has tallied more sacks than any other team in division 1-A, has totaled just two in the last two games. Even the head coach doesn't understand this striking disparity. "It's really been non-existent," Bill Callahan said of the pass rush. "We haven't seen it. I wonder where it's at."

"Our four-man rush has been non-existent."

Another thing that has been noticeably absent, especially on the road could one of the most puzzling things of all:


For any person that is participating in something they love, there's passion. For anyone that plays sports, the sheer competition, regardless of the opponent or circumstance, is enough to get the adrenaline going at a frantic pace.

Not with this team, because even they admitted that against Oklahoma, at home, on ABC, the team came out flat.

If you as a player can come out flat in those circumstances, your emotional state on the road is probably predictable. "I don't see it," Callahan said of the energy and passion in road games. "The pride of Nebraska is playing on the road, taking your "A"-game with you and knowing what the challenges are."

"I didn't see it and that's what really bothers me."

Let me say that there are plenty of people reading this right now that have something in their life they love to do. Whether it's golf, volleyball, baseball or whatever, there's something that when you know today is the day, you get fired up to go out there and juust do it.

You don't need someone telling you it's special or it's important. You don't need anyone trying to get you excited or pumping you up about the task at hand. You already are and the bigger the challenge, the more excited you get.

This team has admittedly shown a lack of that and even for some of the biggest challenges of the year and the response to the question of why that is, is the same response you are going to get as to anything someone can pinpoint as to just what in the heck is going on:

I don't know

"We can't put our finger on it," junior defensive end Adam Carriker said as to why the team is performing at such a low level. "We have to do something (but) no one knows what it is," sophomore middle linebacker Corey McKeon said.

That's a problem

It becomes worse when the coaches say almost exactly the same thing, especially when they have seen everything work in practice, but lately none of it has translated to the field. "I've tried hard to figure this out," Callahan said of his team's performance. "We practice this stuff all the time, but we just aren't seeing it happen in the games."

Fans are no doubt frustrated, watching their once great program suffer through mediocrity and at times, look like mediocrity should be the goal, not something they are trying to avoid. For the players and coaches, it's infinitely worse. The optimism that prevailed early in the year seems to be vanishing. The attitude that if they just played their game, they would win, almost completely gone.

Lydon Murtha struggled most of the day trying to stay in front of KU linemen

And the only thing you can pinpoint as to the difference between a team that failed versus the team that won, was the competition.

Well, the competition, not including this last one.

This wasn't a super powered offense or even a team that struck fear into the hearts of any that would face them. They had quality players in some areas, not so much in others and their one-win record in conference play bared out just how good of a team they actually were.

Nebraska lost to them, in every facet and in humiliating fashion. The question now comes, where do you go from here?

With the final home game coming up, it's imperative that Nebraska dig deep to come out with a win. Yes, it's about their bowl hopes, but this goes far beyond that. Against Colorado, on the road, you can almost expect a loss and perhaps a convincing one at that. But against Kansas State, like Kansas, this isn't a team that the Huskers realistically need to fear.

If Nebraska can stop the bleeding, grab a win, get a bowl and prove that what happened at Lawrence was an aberration, then the off-season won't be hugs and giggles, but there will at least be some sort of optimism about the future.

If they can't and the off-season is about having to live down yet another 5-6 season, well, that's not a road that this group wants to travel down yet again.

They are on their way right now and many of the reasons that were used for why last year wasn't a success, can't all be used this time around. Yes, there's still a lack of talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Yes, there's still much to learn about all the subtle nuances of the west coast offense.

A year later, though, inexperience turns into inability, potential turns into disappointment and promise turns into hope, ultimately replaced by an aggravating realization that this team hasn't improved all that much and you are right back on that same road, but your hope about where it might lead is now replaced with fear.

Nobody knows where this road is going to go.


Big Red Report Top Stories