It's Still Taylor's Team

It's one thing to have the defense falter, the secondary get lit up and the special teams to be the difference in turning a win into a loss. But when it's Zac Taylor, there's something you don't see everyday. With four interceptions all year coming into this game, not many would have predicted three in this game alone. And as you would expect, that was the difference.

It should go without saying that the only reason Nebraska was even in Kansas City yesterday was due in large part to the effort and headiness of senior quarterback Zac Taylor.

Through this seemingly unflappable personality the team worked its way through the year opportunistic sometimes, but efficient almost always, within the game plan of what this team was asked to do.

Offensively, that is

That's been the big thing. It was the defense that lacked. It was the secondary that couldn't tackle. It was the defenders that couldn't get to the edge fast enough to stop the quicker running backs like Jon Cornish from getting there, cutting up field and gashing the big red for big gains.

It wasn't Zac, though. Sure, you could pick some spots here and there where he wasn't stellar, but when your touchdown to interception ratio is right around 6 to 1, there's not a whole lot of room to complain.

Unfortunately, in what could have been a defining moment for him, and certainly the highlight to a pretty storybook-type season, Taylor had arguably the worst game of his Husker career.

Let's give credit where it's due in that the Sooner secondary was spot on, and if you are looking for the best future tandem at safety, you might want to look no further than Reggie Smith and Nic Harris. Two recruits who Nebraska went after and lost on in rather dramatic fashion as far as recruiting battles go, were equally dramatic in helping to make Taylor's life a proverbial living hell.

Throughout the entire year the slogan was "balance", head coach Bill Callahan citing very proudly this team's ability to both run and throw effectively. Nebraska, whose running attack was almost hopeless last year, had almost doubled its output this year, taking pressure off Taylor, freeing up every facet of this vaunted and multi-faceted attack.

That strategy looked nice on paper or the cue card Coach Callahan was looking at so intently the entire game, but 50 passes and 25 rushes later, amounting to one touchdown, three interceptions and just 84 yards on the ground, the best laid plans basically went into the tank.

And unfortunately, Taylor's game went with it

From the alarming number of under thrown balls to the balls he shouldn't have thrown at all, Nebraska's unquestioned offensive leader seemed like he didn't know where to go.

The pressure being put on by the Oklahoma defense didn't help as an intent defense took Taylor's rather reluctant game and turned it back in on itself.

There was no shortage of irony in that Nebraska's most dependable force turned into its more erratic on Saturday. Add to that Tierre Green and Andrew Shanle, who collectively probably had their best game of the season. Granted, there was the long ball for a touchdown off play action on first down, but you could say that for over a half, with everything the Husker offense did to put the big red in jeopardy, they were actually looking pretty darn good.

I had to do a double take on the scoreboard at the half, because with the turnover to start the game, basically giving Oklahoma seven points, they were still only down seven at the break.

It wasn't until that insane 99 yard drive, that the wheels fell off, but the fact that they weren't riding on the rims at that point is a miracle.

It was a great defensive effort actually, the blackshirts absolutely stuffing the Oklahoma running game. But Stoops, equal to his Big 12 Coach of the Year title, figured that would happen, and while the accomplished passer in Taylor seemed to miss at most of the key times, Oklahoma's quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-back-to-quarterback Paul Thompson hit when he had to hit.

I can tell you that I have never seen so many "outs" in one game in my life.

There's another irony in that the pass Thompson was living off of in torching the Huskers on that backbreaker drive, was the same kind of pass Taylor struggled to get anything on almost the entire game.

Of course, you can't blame Taylor for the called rollout on fourth and a half of yard deep in Oklahoma territory. Fourth and a half of a yard and you pass?

I don't know which section of the cue card coach Callahan was looking at, that contained that particular play, but it should be cut out now and thrown into the dumpster. Seriously, on that card, which I am sure contains varying plays for varying downs and distances, is there really somewhere written on there that you run a rollout pass to the tight end on fourth and half a yard?

Haven't we been down this road before?

Taylor has, but in this instance, the one clear instance in his time as a Husker, when everyone expected him to pull another Texas A&M, it just wasn't to be. There was no miracle drive to take the lead or even tie the game. There wasn't Taylor picking himself up slowly from yet another sack, sticking in the huddle dazed, but coming out firing and hitting the very next play. There wasn't the usual stuff we got used to, because sometimes it just isn't your day.

He just picked a bad day to do it.

There will be a small number of people, who will use this game and Taylor's last game at Butler Community College as depressing bedfellows when it comes to marking a rather unfortunate trend.

You have one game at the junior college level being played for the national title and this one, Nebraska's first shot at Oklahoma, Taylor's home town, and for the Big 12 Trophy. It wasn't just a game, but THE game that would put Taylor over the top, cementing him as the topic around coffee shops in Nebraska for years and even decades to come.

In this game Taylor had three interceptions in the loss and against Pearl River, Butler playing for its second straight national title, Taylor threw five, as Pearl River upset the Grizzlies 35-14.

Both were big games, and one would probably be accurate to say that each was the biggest game for Taylor at these of those levels of play.

Again, it's unfortunate, but as they say, it is what it is.

Take into account, though, something I said above, and it's absolutely legit: Nebraska wouldn't even be in this game if it weren't for Taylor.

They wouldn't have beaten Texas A&M, probably wouldn't have beaten Michigan, and who knows, maybe they aren't in the Alamo Bowl at all. Let's not forget that the running game for Nebraska wasn't exactly lighting anyone on fire last year, except Husker fans incensed at the futility of it all.

Taylor picked up the slack, took way too many hits, and all he did was come back, ask for nothing and give everything he had in the tank. And up to this game, you can nitpick about certain games, but take the broad scope of what he's done and as Bill Callahan said himself, how far he's advanced this offense, this was a big game, an important game, but Nebraska doesn't live or die based on its outcome.

I can only imagine that there isn't one person out there that feels worse about this loss than Taylor does right now. I can figure that he'll beat himself up and hit the film room and practice field that much harder, trying to rectify what happened in K.C.

Ok, that's fine, and I would agree that there are a few things that need to be fixed. But it isn't all just him. So, it's ok to be critical, because that's what we are and that's what we do. But just think about where Nebraska would be without Taylor and this game, while significant, doesn't account for all the positives he's given to the program.

He's been knocked almost completely out, but got up and instead of berating his linemen, he gave them the credit for getting it done when it mattered. When Oklahoma sacked him a school record nine times last year, Taylor was the first one to say that it was him that did things wrong rather than saying it was stuff the linemen weren't doing right.

He's been a card-carrying role model as both a player and a person, and this wasn't his day in the sun. It's ok. It happens. When Taylor was the hero at Texas A&M, he gave credit to everyone except himself. I figure we can return the favor. You win as a team, you lose as a team, and have no doubts, this is Taylor's team.

We're all just along for the ride.

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