Nebraska’s Trip to the Twilight Zone at Memorial Stadium
BY TODD NEELEY
I know I run a risk of nit-picking with Nebraska standing at 9-1 and just one win away from the Big 12 championship game, but what the heck is going on with this team? This coaching staff?
The Nebraska offense was flat against Kansas Saturday in Lincoln, against what was the 108th-ranked rush defense in the country. NU failed to break off long runs against the Jayhawks or establish any consistency at all. Blocking was horrible and, again, this offense played uninspired.
Like it did against South Dakota State, the Nebraska offense took another game off. Maybe coaches really don’t have answers, but it gets old hearing Bo Pelini say ‘we didn’t execute.’
Well, why the heck not?
It happened the week before at Iowa State, although there was an obviously huge problem at quarterback with Taylor Martinez on the shelf. That was more understandable, somewhat excusable.
What happened against the Jayhawks defies logic. Or should I say, what didn’t happen.
How does Nebraska’s offensive line not knock KU off the ball on every play? This happens when NU isn’t interested, and that falls squarely on the coaches.
The whole game atmosphere itself was like watching a bad episode of the Twilight Zone.
I know I’m not the first to say this, but the pregame featured a message from Tom Osborne on how great it is to have Turner Gill back at Memorial Stadium.
That’s all well and good, but it reminded me of the Wizard of Oz when the Wizard stops Dorothy, the Lion, the Tin Man and the Scare Crow in the middle of their panic — “Silence!!”
It was almost as if Nebraska’s Oz was telling fans to ‘go easy on Gill, he’s trying his best at KU and we want to honor his return with the utmost respect.’
Why did Osborne have to state the obvious?
Even the tunnel walk was strange. At the part where the opponent’s logo appears outside the Husker locker room and explodes, the Jayhawk logo explosion was soft, even drawing a few giggles in the press box.
What, we don’t want to hurt Gill’s feelings with the usual tunnel walk stuff?
It was all very bizarre. How about coming out and honoring the former Husker all-American with an all-star performance on offense? How about that?
All of this is otherwise trivial, but things became even more strange when Pelini called out the Nebraska crowd on his weekly football show, saying the crowd was flat as if it was a scrimmage and not a game.
When asked about it at the Tuesday press conference, Pelini tried to blow it off as if it was nothing — putting up his dukes as he usually does with the media.
Bo, you can get all huffy with the media all you want, but calling out Nebraska fans at all is shear stupidity.
Fans arrived relatively late Saturday because it was windy and 34 degrees at kickoff. Unfortunately Nebraska’s offense was even colder and gave the faithful little to cheer about.
The cold weather is absolutely no excuse for anyone, but this loyal fan base was asked to stand outside for three hours for this? Bo should be apologizing to fans for this offense.
Nebraska should have opened a can of whoop-ass on KU with a wide-open offense that actually resembled a gameplan designed to actually score. Shouldn’t Nebraska at least try to look like a team challenging for the BCS title? Darn straight.
NU should have had its way with that defense, but instead walked off the field Saturday night after not leaving it all on the field.
I thought Nebraska moved beyond lack of effort with Pelini’s arrival. I didn’t see that on offense, not even close.
This lack of focus from week to week is a mystery.
What’s more, the coaching staff’s apparent inability to get these players to move beyond the usual mistakes is an even bigger mystery.
At this point the Nebraska offense is nearly as big of a question mark as it was this time last season. OK, Martinez is still hurt and was hesitant to make cuts in running the ball against KU. But where were the deep balls? Why didn’t Nebraska get Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead into the Kansas secondary consistently? Why the heck is Nebraska still fumbling (they lead the nation in this category)?
And why does Nebraska insist on distracting the Memorial Stadium crowd with a weekly video production that includes fan games and waving guests during timeouts? I’m sure plenty of fans enjoy some of that, but it is a huge distraction to the flow of the game and distracts focus away from the game itself.
Here’s how we solve the video problem: Stop the games, wait until halftime to introduce guests. Sounds simple enough, but Nebraska football has become way too much of a production.
Second, if coaches want the Nebraska crowd to show up every game just quit already with the same, old lines about why the offense didn’t do its job.
It just sounds like Pelini and company are making excuses for a unit that should perform at a much higher level every game.
Just play football already.