You don't see them for the longest time and bam, they pop up and potentially change a game.
Well, for Nebraska, they were the game.
Eight turnovers, a total that I still have a hard time grasping.
Five turnovers in the red zone, a total I will probably never comprehend.
It says something that junior quarterback Zac Lee, who had another ordinary performance with the exclamation point of three interceptions, was as Bo Pelini himself put it after this debacle, the least of Nebraska's problems today.
Basically, it was Nebraska. They were the problem.
The first turnover happened on the first drive of the game. It actually happened on the first play of the game. And it happened as a result of the usually dependable Roy Helu Jr. giving it up on the Nebraska 39-yard line.
In hindsight, a pretty ominous play, and I'll get back to Helu in a bit.
Iowa State got a field goal out of that.
The second turnover happened on the third drive, Nebraska's second drive actually resulting in a touchdown, a three-yard burst by freshman running back Dontrayevous Robinson, giving the Huskers a 7-3 lead.
On that third drive Nebraska had driven the ball 70 yards on 10 plays, and had the ball at the Iowa State 16-yard line. That's when quarterback Zac Lee found Michael McNeill over the middle. But just as McNeill had the ball, he lost it, Iowa State receiving and taking it back to their own 17-yard line.
Iowa State got a touchdown out of that.
The third turnover came on drive number six, and consider this one of the many ironic events during the game. For most of the game leading up to this moment, which was somewhere around the mid-point of the second quarter, Lee had been ultra-conservative with his throws and even more-so with his runs. It looked like the Husker coaches tried to make an effort to get Zac scrambling a bit more. But it was to no avail. But Lee was relying on the short game, which seems to be a continuation from last week where the deep ball, an aspect considered his strength, was apparently not considered such by his coaches.
Or at least, not a dependable one.
But Lee tossed easily his best ball of the day, a on-the-mark strike to an in-stride Niles Paul down the sideline for what looked like was going to be a touchdown. But as Paul seemingly lost his balance trying stay in-bounds, the ball came flying out of his arms, rolling into the end zone, only to be recovered by the Cyclones.
So, instead of Nebraska being up, 14-9, figuring the extra point would have been good, they are still down 9-7, and Iowa State had the ball at their own 20.
This isn't even the point where it got ridiculous.
Remember, Paul had a mental hiccup last week as he caught a lateral pass from Lee against Texas Tech, dropped it and just casually glided away from the play. The Texas Tech defender picked up the ball and raced the other way for the score.
So, mistake number two for Paul, and that doesn't include at least two dropped balls he had today.
OK, on to the next turnover, getting us just halfway to the game-ending total they had:
Starting at their own 48, Nebraska pushed the ball down to the Iowa State 15-yard line, ala Paul, wide receiver Brandon Kinnie and a rush by Roy Helu. But Helu fumbles again, turning the ball over, Iowa State recovering it in the end zone.
OK, now to Helu: After the game Bo was asked if Helu's shoulder was bothering him. Nope, Bo said, he's fine.
I'm no doctor, but it looked like he was favoring that shoulder almost from the outset, and certainly appeared that way after he was hit directly on that shoulder early in the game.
Here's a guy who hasn't fumbled the ball once the entire season and now he coughs it up twice, and correct me if I am wrong here, both times he coughed it up the ball was being carried in the arm hanging from that shoulder which had him in a green jersey all week.
And if he's fine?
Yeah, that's why he had five carries?
And they can't say they had lost faith in him because of the fumbles. Who was in toward the end of the game?
I'll tell you what I think, and you can't put either of those fumbles on Helu. It was whoever put him on the field. To my eyes he was clearly favoring that shoulder, yet he had the guts to go out there, when he shouldn't have been allowed to do it, much less asked to.
Bo's comments of his health not being an issue and that number of carries simply doesn't add up, especially when Helu was back in the game when Nebraska had one final chance to try and snatch victory from humiliating defeat.
Back to the turnovers, and you'll have to forgive me if I lost track. There were a lot. Oh yeah, turnover number five happened at the end of the Dontrayevous Robinson show.
I am saying that for two reasons.
The first reason was that he got the ball every single snap of this drive. There was little doubt that the coaches obviously had some confidence that he could carry the load, especially since Helu was "fine."
The first carry a modest two yards. The second carry a nice burst up the middle for nine, bringing up third and one. Then Robinson got a nice block, made a nifty cut back run where he jaunted seven yards and a first down.
He got up, pounded his chest and gave this long stare to the crowd.
Yeah, he's a freshman, and he's excited to make a play.
We'll give him that.
Next play was, of course, to Robinson again, this another nice seven-yard gain, right behind left guard Keith Williams.
Once again he gets up and then stares long and hard at the crowd.
OK, that's a bit much, especially when you get tackled by the first guy you run into.
Next play Robinson bursts up another nice hole, off to the left side and goes for what would be another first down. Well, outside of the fact that Robinson got stripped by the Cyclones, a ball which they recovered, giving Iowa State first and ten at their own six.
What I found pretty interesting about that play other than it being the on-going turnover affair was junior offensive guard Keith Williams (the guy who opened up most of the holes Robinson ran through on that drive) absolutely giving Robinson a verbal pounding all the way to the sideline, to the point fellow lineman Marcel Jones actually pulled Williams away from the true freshman running back.
I think we can call that lesson learnt, or let's just say it had better have been.
But once again ,Iowa State didn't get anything out of that.
Where are we?
Oh yeah, number six. Almost home.
Start of the fourth quarter, Nebraska still down 9-7, Zac Lee, on the second play of the drive, completes a pass to wide receiver Menelik Holt. Holt fumbles the ball, getting stripped from behind, Iowa State takes over once again, but this time at the Nebraska 22-yard line.
They still didn't get anything out of that.
More on that later.
The next turnover, actually the next two, came via the arm of Zac Lee.
Now, let's just say that Zac Lee didn't have his best game. He still has issues not throwing behind his receivers on those short crossing routes. And while he seemed more eager to run, I still wouldn't necessarily call it eager, overall. Had Nebraska been anything other than a complete disaster waiting to happen on offense, Lee might have gotten a bit of flack for this one.
But as Bo said after the game, Lee was the least of their problems.
The first of the two interceptions was a bit of a high ball to wide receiver Curenski Gilleylen. Gilleylen tips the ball trying to get it, and, of course, it gets picked up by an Iowa State defender. The second interception was just a bad ball he threw , where it seemed like his vision of the defender who picked it off, was skewed by an official who happened to be in direct line of sight of that defender.
So, the first one you can kind of put on Lee, but maybe Gilleylen could have pulled it in. The second one basically has to be put all on Lee…or the ref…if you like.
At this point, does it really matter?
OK, about that defense:
Iowa State won the game, and at the end of the third period they had less than 200 yards in total offense. Not only that, Nebraska blocked two of their field goal attempts, both by Ndamukong Suh who continues to add to his legend, along with notching eight tackles, one of which was a sack.
Despite a breakdown here and there the defense did exactly what they were asked to do, and more than they should have had to do in order to keep Nebraska in this game.
But it would seem that's becoming a bit of a habit.
In the end you can write this game off for what it was: an event so bizarre that there are no questions or answers which can accurately describe what it was or even what it means.
But for the Huskers, the drawing board was thrown in the trash after the fourth turnover, and there's no amount of designing, ranting and concocting which will erase this or even make things seem like they are going to get turned around.
Remember, they didn't fumble like this the entire week of practice, according to both coaches and players.
Nobody saw this coming.
Let's just hope that everyone can see it go away.