Follow the Yellow Brick Road...Back

Going into the Texas Tech game, there are the doomsayers who find themselves with some momentum coming off the record home-loss to the Tigers. Then there are those who figure it really can't get much worse. I take a little different approach as I think that the Husker coaches finally know where they stand.

Going into the Texas Tech game, there are the doomsayers who find themselves with some momentum coming off the record home-loss to the Tigers. Then there are those who figure it really can't get much worse. I take a little different approach as I think that the Husker coaches finally know where they stand.

The bad news isn't that Nebraska faced Missouri for the first game of conference play. The bad news is that they didn't face them as the first game of the season.

Teams like San Jose State, New Mexico State and Western Michigan, all of which ran some sort of spread, were markedly deficient in the kind of talent Missouri had, meaning that Nebraska could have probably gotten just as good of a look from their Scout Team.

In addition, Virginia Tech, the one team which was obviously good enough to beat Nebraska going in, did so in a completely different fashion than what they saw against the Tigers, as well as what they will see from Texas Tech today and other teams like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

The transformation of the Big 12 into the most spread-happy conference in the country and certainly the best when it comes to this wide-open offense, means that non-conference schedules have to be structured around giving you as close to the same look.

The fact that schedules are made so far in advance is one issue for Nebraska not going into conference play prepared to face teams like this. But another is that five years ago only the Red Raiders were a "true" spread team.

To make matters worse even if Nebraska could schedule a year in advance, who are they going to get who could give them the same kind of look and duplicate the quality of the offenses in what is perceived to be this year, as the best overall conference in the nation?

The number one team in the country is Oklahoma

They run the spread

The number two team in the country is Missouri

They run the spread

The number seven team in the country is Texas Tech

They run the spread

You have to go toward the bottom of the top 10 to find BYU as the only spread team which even comes close to having similar success with a similar system.

What all of this leads you to is the inevitable conclusion that is probably frustrating to Husker fans, but the reality is hard to ignore:

Until Nebraska faced Missouri, they didn't have a clue what they had on their own team.

Now, I don't mean that in respect to personnel. I am sure they had a decent grasp of that. What I mean is that when it comes to facing spread teams, how you are made up, what will and won't work, you need to face a great spread team before you are ever really going to know.

Now they know.

Not a surprise then, that much of the theme this last week of practice has been about starting over, basically, and going back to scratch, trying to cater the system to what they have and more importantly, what they can do against the vast amount of spread teams they will still see the rest of the year.

Probably not the best time in the world to start rethinking some things, but you don't have to remember back to even a year ago when much or the arguments against the defensive coaches at Nebraska had to do with the fact that they never seemed to want to change a thing.

Now they are


One of the basic messages Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini had in the Tuesday press conference before a game, involved how he didn't like his plan, now that he had time to think about it - the one he used against Missouri.

One might grumble a bit at the recent memory of the 52-17 lambasting at the hands of the Tigers, but as gross as the disparity of the final score, it wasn't nearly as much in regard to what happened during the course of the game. As they say, it's a step here, a step there and suddenly, you are giving up a touchdown. Well, when you face a team like Missouri, that's a lot of steps and potentially a lot more touchdowns.

It doesn't get any easier against Tech, but a plan Pelini called too "cute" has been streamlined so that it's perhaps a little less attractive, but it will probably be a lot more effective against the Red Raiders... hope

That plan could also get a big reality check if come game time the team leader in tackles, senior linebacker Cody Glenn, isn't on the field, still rehabbing from an injury which happened in last week's game. He may not know the defensive intimately, but he's easily the biggest play maker they have behind the defensive line.


After two straight games where Nebraska ran for 55 yards and 79 yards, total, the "Pipeline" is resembling a sewer drain.

It certainly isn't your daddy's offensive line, or perhaps even your uncle on your mother's side, twice removed.

It's gotten so bad that Offensive Line Coach Barney Cotton said that they were going back to basics, back to the beginning, back to re-teaching his group of seemingly capable "bigguns" that if there is someone in your way, and you need them out of your way, it's your job to make it happen...

...and against a team that matters.

So, yes, the 330 yards against New Mexico State was nice, but seeing as how they have given up close to 300 yards in every game since, we might want to chalk the extra 30 yards to Aggie-first-game blues.

As it is and as it was when they faced Missouri, the best help your defense can get in trying to stop the Red Raider offense, is simply by not letting them on the field.

That means sustained drives. That means running the ball. That means more than three yards per carry. Between the tackles, outside the tackles and maybe a shovel pass or bubble screen inside, which Tight End Coach Ron Brown says may be technically a pass, but is basically a run, because it happens so close to the line.

It's something Nebraska hasn't done against a team ranked in the top...hmmm..fifty?

Either way, this back to basics strategy is a good one, but with the caliber of teams they are likely to face, it's probably going to go one of two ways:

One: It will work, and all the world will rejoice as Nebraska can move the ball on the ground. It won't be four yards and a cloud of dust, mind you, but something respectable, something consistent and something which will keep their own defense off the field.

Two: They won't be able to at all, forcing Nebraska to go the way of the Texas Techs of the world, shotgun formation, throwing it 50 times a game, and when Joe Ganz doesn't have something in regard to an open receiver in three seconds, it's option left, right or wherever, to try and move the chains that way.

You could say that Nebraska should just do that, go Florida a bit, cater to what the senior QB can do both inside and outside of the pocket. If he isn't going to have a running back, and he isn't going to have consistent pass protection, he might have to do his best imitation of that Heisman winning QB from Gainesville.

Either way, they HAVE to move the ball on the ground, whether it's Marlon Lucky, Roy Helu, Joe Ganz or even the fullback himself. Somehow, someway, someone needs to grind that ball down someone else's throat, preferably the team they are playing at the time.


No, it's not the road paved with golden bricks. You know - the one on Price is Right, which always has the best car they can give away, at the end.

Nobody ever wins that thing

Nope, this road is more figurative than anything, perhaps a little metaphorical. It's a road that will go through some more of the top teams in the country, whether they like it or not, and now that Bo and Co. Know what they have, it doesn't mean they will win even a single one. But I have to think that this team is mentally far more ready to face the trials and tribulations ahead.

No, I don't mean they will be able to deal with losing.

If their head coach is any barometer for that, they will be as pissed about it at the end of the season as they were just this last weekend, which is just what this team needs.

I can't recall a single player after last year, talking about a first-class butt-whooping that previous week in terms which made you believe that they honestly thought it wouldn't happen again.

It was about the little things were killing them, and that it was just one guy here and there on every play.

Yeah, OK, we have heard that this year too, but no time do I remember any coach saying last year of the offense, defense or whatever, that during the season they were going to tear everything down and start over again.

An admission? A surrender? A realization?

I doubt it's the one in the middle.

But it does indeed take a big person to say that five games into the season maybe they just don't have it right. Maybe they overestimated their talent. Or maybe they overestimated the conception of being able to take a system which worked with LSU talent, worked with Oklahoma talent and figure the magic wand is going to get waived and the Blackshirts will rise once again.

Yeah, too melodramatic for me, too, and you can bet your behind that Bo never thought he'd have former LSU Tiger and first round draft pick Glenn Dorsey waiting for him in Lincoln or even a reasonable facsimile.

What he has are the Huskers.

It's not to say that it's worse. Well, yeah, it kind of is. I mean, it's hardly an insult to say that this Husker defense isn't as good or as talented as the one Bo left behind him in Louisiana.

But until you know that for a fact by watching them play yourselves and against a darn good team, how do you really know?

Maybe you don't. Now they do.


Starting over isn't that bad when you consider where you've been. Sometimes it might be just what you need.

It doesn't mean they will beat Texas Tech today, but maybe it won't be as bad as the home stand against Missouri.


But even if it is, it's another step which is only five steps old, and is going to be only two teams into conference play.

I'm not blowing sunshine up your backside either, just so you can understand the reality of the situation. I am just saying that now Bo understands the reality of his.

It's time to begin again.

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