Who are those defenders playing a ‘prevent defense' the whole game?
Who is that guy that on the Nebraska sidelines, the one wearing the headset, passing up a makable field goal attempt on the opening drive, choosing to punt instead so he could try to pin the vaunted OSU offense deep in it's own territory in the first quarter?
Whoever these guys are, they are playing and coaching scared.
Trev Alberts calls it a lack of passion. That's certainly part of it, but it goes deeper. It's not just a lack of passion that has put Nebraska in danger of missing out on a bowl game. It's a suddenly passive attitude – playing not to lose – that's so ‘un-Nebraska' it's frightening.
Nebraska used to be about instilling fear in the opponent. Playing the most physical of physical football games every week. When Tom Osborne and Charlie McBride opted to go to a more aggressive defensive approach in the early 1990's, it signaled the start of one of college football's greatest runs of success. Now, when faced with dealing with the same kind of meltdowns that Osborne's teams went through in the late ‘80's and 1990 (the loss to Colorado, and the ugly season-ending blow-outs to Oklahoma and Georgia Tech), the current coaching staff has chosen to revert back to ‘safer' defensive schemes and ineffective offensive plans.
We expected the offense to struggle some, and we all know why. We still don't know if Jammal Lord is ever going to be a winning QB, or if he's going to go down as another Steve Taylor.
It was not the offense that was the problem in the mind-blowing loss to Oklahoma State (although it's still incomprehensible that Frank Solich would not let Josh Brown attempt a 45-yard-field goal with the wind in the opening few minutes.) It was the passive defense being played - not against Miami mind you - but against an Okie State bunch that scored seven whole points against K State the week before, and also lost to Louisiana Tech.
When you are letting the other guy take the fight to you, you're going to be the one that makes the mistakes – the penalties, the turnovers, the blown assignments. Can anyone remember a more penalized NU team? Can anyone remember when the defense actually excelled at taking the ball away from the other team?
Aggressive defensive teams create turnovers. Unless the other guy flat drops it, NU (aside from D. Groce's nice picks) never gets a take-a-way.
Aggressive offensive teams make fewer mistakes, they make big plays, and they don't get holding calls on simple sweep plays.
Nebraska has neither right now. And it all starts at the top. We'll see if things change at all this year – or if we are sitting at home with a 6-7 record during Bowl season.
Cheer up. It could be worse. The other teams could NOT be tearing down the goal posts. That is where we're heading if things don't get turned around.