Who’s Your Number One Enemy, Husker fans?
Off-field politics aside, the reason that Texas became the program that Nebraska fans were most antagonized with for the better of the last ten years was that Mack Brown won many a game against the Huskers with more talented players who didn’t play as hard as the guys who wore red. For over a decade, Husker fans would listen to Brown wax poetically while Husker players simply seemed empty. One thing Husker fans will appreciate about loosing to Ohio State is that as they did on Saturday night is that Urban Meyer would be fuming in the press conference if his teams played Nebraska in the same underachieving manner Brown’s Texas teams did.
It’s really the great part about being in the Big 10. Nebraska fans will no longer have to suffer regular fatigue of a passive fan base who are as come-and-go as Texas’ is. Ohio State fans are more like Nebraska fans: blue collar, many working in agriculture. Three years ago in September, I drove in a loop from Cincinnati to Hillsboro and back up through Lima, Ohio, and the whole corridor is littered with Buckeye-named businesses and little Brutuses line the shelves of Pamida
But still, Nebraska has to look up at the Buckeyes, and face the reality that even if they pay a great game on the road against the Buckeyes, they still could wind up loosing. Which was exactly what happened.
While disappointment is natural with a lot, there really isn’t a lot to be disappointed with from an offensive perspective. Against Ohio State, Nebraska’s usually below average offensive line was completely over-matched from the first snap. Even after handing the Buckeyes an easy seven, the Huskers ran the ball extraordinarily well. Unlike the loss at UCLA, the offense never shrunk and kept making plays, or at least trying to make. If Nebraska had held Ohio State to a field goal at the end of the first half, they could have tied the game at the beginning of the third quarter. (Like Kansas in 2007, the Huskers scored to 31 points between the first half and the first drive of the third. In both cases, it was all that could have been asked.)
Which leads to a coaching call that may have turned the game, Bo Pelini’s attempt to “ice” Carlos Hyde before fourth and one. In many ways, the situation can be evaluated like an opposing coach calling a timeout as a kicker winds up, or even attempts in some situations. Coach’s don’t get that much criticism if the kicker makes the kick after the timeout; really, the timeout is going to be wasted anyway, and the move is criticized just because it looks hookey. But when considered, the extra time does more to help the kicker, especially if he’s running on to the field trying to beat the cock.
It was no more evident here. Bo Pelini calls a timeout, and if Ohio State had to live with the play it was going to run out of their hurry-up offense, more than likely, they would have just kicked a field goal. I don’t blame Peini for using defensive timeouts, if he feels he can get his guys into the right situation. The problem is when he can’t, he’s his own worst enemy.
It ended up being much worse…
So where does Husker Nation go from here? The goal of winning the Big 10 is still attainable, even if it would be as meaningless as winning the Big 12 North back in the day. Going 5-1 down the stretch would guarantee winning the Legends, but that’s unlikely with road games at Northwestern, Michigan State, and Iowa (they’ll get better, believe me). 4-2 seems much more believable and attainable; the biggest challenges will be containing Dennard Robinson and not slipping up in the last three weeks of the season. Stealing a game on the road will also be a challenge. Michigan State is the hardest game to read. While the Huskers never seem to pack their defense, the Spartans don’t seem to have the quarterback to exploit the Blackshirts the way Braxton Miller and Brett Hudley have. Whoever does end up representing the Legends in Indianapolis may end up being the luckiest team, not the best.
Where to go?