Head coach Dave Doeren, unable to find a reliable quarterback and faced with a string of injuries on the offensive side of the ball throughout the season, could never course-correct the downward spiral. The season went from bad to worse to historically bad in the final weeks, and Doeren shouldered the blame in his final press conference.
"As a coach when you go through a year like that, there are things you need to assess and it starts inside," Doeren said. "I will look at everything... every game, every play of every game, every player that played in every game that is returning."
Doeren was handed a bad situation – personnel that was a poor fit for what he hoped to run and the aforementioned injuries chief among the problems. However, Doeren also went out and grabbed an inexperienced quarterback to handle the job, a decision that didn't work out – and ended up playing quarterback yo-yo all season because of a mix of ineffectiveness and injury.
The offense itself, which was sold as a fast-paced spread attack – a mix of Oregon and Wisconsin as Doeren put it in the offseason - never really materialized. The Pack offense was neither fast, nor explosive, nor particularly effective. The Pack ranked near the bottom of the nation in red zone conversion and as a result cracked the 30-point barrier just once in 12 games.
"When you are in a funk like we are, I have gone back and looked at a million things"" Doeren said. "There are a lot of things that happened this year that did not go our way."
There was never a high ceiling for this particular Pack team, but it was also capable of being better than what happened on gameday over the last two months. It was a team that failed to improve as the season went on and a team that couldn't make a play late in the close games it did have late in the season.
"When you call good plays against good defenses, they are still good plays," said Doeren. "You just have to execute. There are a lot of things that go into that. That is the beauty of football-there is 11 guys that have to do it right on every play. We're just not where we need to be."
Doeren gets a pass on the season as a whole, but he won't get a pass on future seasons. He has his quarterback of the future on campus in Jacoby Brissett, along with a full season and another spring practice under his belt. Next year needs to go better, and significantly better – not making a bowl game necessarily but competing for one and remaining competitive in more games – or Doeren and his staff could start feeling some pressure in just their second season.
That's the reality of the modern college football landscape – a coach may still get four or five years but opinions will be formed and supporters will be lost if the Pack has consecutive disaster seasons under Doeren. He has to pull this team out of the rubble and show progress next year or the tide will start to turn – even if not directly against him than certainly against offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
"As the head coach here, obviously it is my job to get this football team here to play better than they did," added Doeren. "That is something I am going to spend every day in the offseason trying to make right. It starts with me and my staff... the development of the team. I look forward to that process."
It will be a long offseason for the Pack players and the coaching staff as they try to rebound from a season where everything went wrong.
Pack fans, meanwhile, now have a long wait before they can judge the results.