Monday Morning Quarterback: K-State

The story goes that 'back in the day' when T.O. was coaching the Big Red, if somebody made a mistake in a game, jumped off-sides, fumbled, whatever, he had some stadium steps waiting for him the following week when practice resumed. Usually at some un-Godly hour of the morning.

Society has changed a lot in recent years, and discipline at every level has become more difficult. Parents aren't even sure if it's legal to spank their kids any more. As a college football coach, it's probably pretty tough in 2002 to force kids into something like an early morning sprint up the steps of Memorial Stadium, without starting a revolution of some sort.

But Frank Solich has to do something. Call it discipline, determination, whatever, but Frank has got to find a way to get inside his players' helmets and turn on the 'focus' switch in their heads every week. That doesn't mean going 'Frank Kush' on his players, trying to twist there heads off when they make a mistake, but something, anything, to get a handle on this plethora of screw-ups.

We watched the K-State game get ugly in the fourth quarter, and we knew if a couple of plays had gone the other way, the game could actually have turned out differently. It was there for the taking. A plus 3 in the turnover category? You kidding me? We'd have all taken that in a heartbeat before kick-off. What we didn't account for was that the 'Cat turnovers would be balanced out by other factors in the 'screw-ups' department.

Some of it you can attribute to youth and inexperience. A freshman running back taking his eye off the ball to run, and dropping a pass when he's 20 yards behind the defense. A first year starting QB failing to execute and option pitch, instead eating the ball on a fourth and one play inside the bad guys red zone. A normally reliable senior kicker clanking one off the goal post from gimme range. (Okay, so they can't all be attributed to youth...).

Will just 'growing up' fix these problems? Or is some other form of negative re-enforcement needed to sharpen the focus? When opponents and their follower say that "this doesn't look like Nebraska anymore," that's what they're talking about. It's not a drop off in talent. It's a drop off in performance and consistency.

In 1995, T.O.'s National Champs went into Boulder and played a perfect game. No turnovers, no penalties, and routed a decent Colorado team. That team had a lot of great players, but Colorado was their match in pure talent. NU won with superior focus, superior execution, and superior determination. That was then.

This is now. In ten days, Nebraska has a chance to face another Colorado team - that has clinched the Northern Division of the Big 12 with no better talent than the Huskers have. Not much is riding on the game for the boys from Boulder. Much is at stake for Frank Solich and his team. We'll see if youthful screw-ups can be overcome with a focus born from a sense of urgency. That focus has been missing at times.

It worked back in the day.


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