Tommie Armstrong wins 24-13 leading Husker Football to 4-0 start!!

Thirty minutes before kick off, I decided to quiet the kids at least for the first half with a trip to Dairy Queen.  On the way there I unexpectedly met a nice lady by rear ending her and then pulling over to exchange insurance information.  I was so livid deep inside because she accelerated after a brief stop as if to make her left hand turn, with only a car in the far distance which posed no threat whatsoever she slammed on her breaks leaving my bumper crunched and her’s scratched.  By the time we exchanged information and talked to our respective insurance agents I got a chance to witness the first fumble out of the back of the end zone ala Newby.  And, I decided at that point that the train wreck of the evening could have used a more of a Bo Pelini approach, at the accident and in the game!

The Oregon hangover was a setup for a typical Husker Football letdown.  Over the past 10 years or so, it seems that the Huskers find a game that on paper looks like a cakewalk while the whole while it looks like the Husker football team is walking the plank….so to speak.  I am not saying that Northwestern isn’t well coached and doesn’t have a history of upsetting the rosy applecart.  What I am saying is that the Husker Northwestern football game should at least be uneventful and predictable for a Northwestern team that appears to be in a proverbial limp to start the 2016 campaign and for an up and coming Husker team that seems a little more solid than the shaky ground it had been on over the Pelini era.

The first impression of the game was the apparent lack of attention the football field received and the condition it was in.  It seemed as though it were slick and difficult to run on for a fairly fast Husker football team, or as if it were mid-October and the overuse was beginning to take hold as the growing season and colder weather set in.  Second, was the stadium being more akin to a home game than an away game, and third was the apparent enthusiasm of the Wildcats even though they trailed throughout.  Most of which results in a nail biter of a game that is uneventful but error prone.

Given that last statement, it was the outright stamina and leadership of Husker football standout Tommie Armstrong who had an All-American night.  And although he had all kinds of yards on the ground with 13 rushes for 132 yards, and by the air with 18-29 for 246 yards, combining for 378 yards of total offense, there was still something I felt lacked in the offense tonight!  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but if its not fatigue from last week’s juggernaut, perhaps its the fact that all of the teams we have beaten so far has a combined record of 5-10, or that none of them have a winning record, and for us to break the chains of mediocrity (thank you Steve Pederson), that we should be blowing teams out like Northwestern and Wyoming and getting the second string reps as the first unit thinks of loftier goals, such as beating Ohio State and/or Wisconsin.

What I loved about the gutty Armstrong performance was that the doldrums of a post-euphoric triumph of cracking the top 25 with a win over a top 25 opponent like Oregon, wasn’t enough for him.  Sitting around waiting for the Bo-foot to drop so to lose a game that should have never been close to begin with, was not going to happen with Armstrong.  And on a night when a traditional running game wouldn’t take hold, a Tommie Armstrong ground game and passing game took shape.

I am going to remain critical for a few more steps of this masterpiece of something by saying that the lack of ecstatic behavior was also confounding.  The fumble by Ozigbo called for a Pellini response…it called for a crazy-eyed, saliva dripping every other word spitting referee ass chewing as to how the hell forward progress is clearly stopped and the runner is literally on his ass, how someone can come in and “strip” a football.  The lack of controlled explosion by the sideline and players revealed a lingering question in my soul…is this progression from the nonsensical and heated Pellini forays to a more quiet demeanor and reserved approach all the while you take it up the poop-chute on a terrible call, going to be the norm.  Because quite honestly it would have been nice to see a little more, “you’ve got to be shitting me,” sideline approach to getting screwed like that.

And, the other criticism I have is the use of timeouts because, again like the Pellini era, none of the defensive backs got the call and Northwestern was ready to run plays while we looked around lost on where to lineup in cover 2 and its cousin cover 6!

And quietly, you have to tip your hats to a defense that gave up just thirteen points…of second thought I was going to write about PAT’s and how this must be our year for coaches of teams we play to assist our efforts for victory in the kicking game!  But because the four points they didn’t get didn’t matter after we sacked them in a timely manner and shut down their forth down play, it became a moot point.

So, in another uneventful but much needed win, where do we view the Huskers a third of the way in?  This is by no means a National Championship caliber team right now.  It does have a Clemson-esk feel to it, but the talent has to be realized and harvested at the right time.  I like to think that Riley is on the righteous path as he walks the earth, but the stoic demeanor at all times is a questionable attitude at all times.  The offensive coordinator did a great job of adjusting the game plan and getting under center in the I-formation and doing the play action pass is what I was talking about three games ago.  Again, we need to play within ourselves but reach to get better.  What happened tonight worried me quite a bit.  With two major set-backs I wonder if we are geting better as the season goes on.  And that made be think of the journey the husker football team is supposed to be on, as the words of the Husker pre-game prayer I once was a part of said it like this:

University of Nebraska pregame prayer | Huskers | Pinterest

Perhaps I was in a pissed off mood due to the accident, the $500 deductible and another $1000 increase in the premiums, but I like to think that the TO, Riley in me prevailed at the right time and what could have changed the balance of power in the game and in life, and which ultimately could have caused our loss, was actually restrained ourselves for a secure victory!

Great job Huskers!!  Let’s keep getting better and better, til we can’t be beat and won’t be beat!

Can I get an AMEN!! Huskers WIN 35-32!!

Huskers were driving in the second quarter and a backwards lateral pass gets scooped up and one play later Oregon scores a touchdown forever changing the chemical imbalance we’ve had on offense the last couple of weeks.  In my, “here we go again” red zone pass attack, Coach Langsdorf does an alteration that I hope epitomizes the Husker attack for the rest of the season.

Tonight I lit a Cohiba Nicaragua cigar and was unimpressed with its taste.  I kept thinking that Cohiba is on top of the food chain as far as manufacturers are concerned, why the hell can’t it be as smooth and great as its cousin the Cohiba Red Dot.  As I was contemplating what I would write after such an exhilarating game, I kept thinking I should get a scotch neat to alter such an awful taste of my cigar.  Then as if suddenly by surprise, but really after a few minutes, the taste rolled wonderful in my mouth and it made me think…this is like the Huskers!  What talent, what effort, and what a wonderful way of calling the ghosts of Husker greatness to excise demons of losses of the past!  Not only did the ability to score quickly end the second quarter give us the momentum, but our West Coast passing attack  took a backseat to the resurrection of a running game long ago!

Opening the second half with the nut crunching, ass kicking, this is where were gonna run it and you try and stop, take over happen, but our Offensive Coordinator went away from a nasty instinct to develop a habit Husker fans have been longing for!  LOTS OF YARDS ON THE GROUND!

No leaving time on the scoreboard or a three and out at an inopportune time, no last second gaffs, calling timeout when a timeout was not called for….no personal fouls, no stupid mistakes, and the greatest of these…is love…going for it on fourth and long!!  I about crapped my pants in glea!  What set that up?  Keeping your good West Coast passing plays close to the vest, or rather not vain repetition of them the whole third quarter so Oregon can all of a sudden have muscle memory and mental repetition of seeing the same thing over and over, lead to a disappointing ending!  IT WAS GREAT!  It literally brought me to the point of ecstasy!

waterboy

I know it sounds as if I like only two Huskers, Ozigbo and Dzuris, but I loved watching Mr. Ozigbo look like old #22 Doug DuBois running the ball and finding the seam, running over people, and scoring or getting the first down when needed!  And as much as I harp on Tommie Armstrong for screwing up, the kid played lights out and having an IV on the sideline was something I felt the stoic and sterile Huskers of recent past showed great toughness.  Make no mistake, this origin is from the defensive line!  It is spreading through the linebackers and the offense now!  Its like a wildfire and Tommie has all hats off to his toughness.

I haven’t really talked much about our skill position players much this season, but on both sides of the ball the wide receivers, tight ends, and defensive backs look really good.  They played strong and tough…they played HUSKER FOOTBALL BITCHES!

And before we start talking National Championship just yet…I do want us to come to earth on a couple of things.  First, if Oregon kicks extra points after the initial debacle, they win or tie.  And second, Oregon is much younger, not as mature, and a lot more inexperienced of Ducks in the hunt of a title years ago.  This is a great win for the Huskers!  We need to relish it, we need to enjoy it, we need to drink to it, and we need to rub the media’s nose in it.  But with that said, we need to be realistic…and Coach Riley is!

I watched his (Coach Riley) press conference after the game.  This is what Nebraska needed after a Bo-failure.  He is the remedy to the cancer that can run rampant in a locker room of a players favorite coach like Bo.  I can no longer remember the 2015 season, as it has become a blip on a screen that has now disappeared.  Riley handles things with class, he is on top of things and going with his instinct rather than by the numbers.  He is second in class to only Coach Osborne and no matter what the Huskers do, I love that he was happy the way he was happy, I was encouraged that his approach is the same whether win lose or draw.  And I drew my last puff of my glorious cigar and watched the smoke dissipate into the dark night, and I thought…we have what it takes, we have the talent, we have the ability, we are now getting our soul.  Now we just have to do what we do well, not what we want to do well.  We need to play within ourselves and call upon those things that get us in trouble, self-sabotaging, and mistake prone only in dire situations.  Its nice to be able to move the ball in big chunks when you need to, but it is great to run over, through, and around your opponent in humiliating fashion.  Ozigbo had 95 yards on 21 carriers (4.52 per carry), Newby 7 carries for 42 yards (6 yards) and Tommie with 16 carriers for 95 yards (5.94 per carry).  Its not 300 or 400 yards rushing, but indeed the 4.8 yards average per carry is winning football!

Now its time to watch whats unfolding in Norman and South Bend!!

Huskers Win 24-17…I mean 52-17….Worried Yet??

When talking to a Husker fan today, I asked her what she thought of the way the Cornhuskers played.  Her response after a couple of pauses was, “A win is a win…isn’t it?”  True, I would say that in Nebraska’s three National Championships of the 90’s there was a game or two that came down to just needing a victory regardless of what it looks like (i.e., a a bounce off of someones foot for a reception). But true die hard Husker fans like myself have a lot to be concerned with.

Lets start at the end and work our way back, should we?  A 28 point explosion in a quarter is something that Huskers expect against teams like the Wyoming Cowboys, its just usually not the 4th quarter with our first team (and second team)!  What happened for the Cowboys in the final stanza of the game is tantamount to a meltdown.  Not to take away from the good defensive play, again for the second week with Dzuris!  He’s not an All-American but he plays like an All-American.  I personally coached with his dad in the college ranks and at times didn’t see eye to eye, but I am proud of this young man.  I digress.  I am not saying the defensive play didn’t force the mistakes, but what I am saying is that panic set in for the Cowboy staff, and that translated in to on the field player error that helped bolster an overall weak Husker performance.

So lets evaluate from the 3rd quarter backwards and see that the hell is going on with our Huskers.  Because back in the day I would have gotten playing time with a team like Wyoming!!

I am going to pick on the weakest link of the Husker chain tonight.  I thought having a blog I would always want to be positive for my team, but I have had at least one beer and want to run my mouth off!  The weakest link(s) of the Husker chain is the play calling offensive coordinator and the safety Gerry.

For whatever reason this coordinator loves to pass in the red zone or right before the red zone.  Let me explain something to you, in the West Coast Offense it is customary to take a shot at the endzone on first down as you near the red zone.  With that said, it is also West Coast philosophy that says do what gives you the advantage…i.e., take what the defense gives you.  This coordinator has missed the boat on all accounts of the offense we see.  What we see is a hodge podge of zone read, option and west coast, without really nailing the fundamentals of west coast.  If you outsize the front seven by over 50 pounds a man, you play into their strength to rely on a finesse passing attack in the prime areas (3rd down situations and red zone).  If you have greater than seven in the box you pass either in play action or drop back.  If there is seven or less than seven in the box you run the ball.  That is taking what a defense gives you.  We don’t see that in this coordinator and we see sketchy execution by our seasoned quarterback.

If you don’t believe me, lets take a look at a setup for failure.  And why do I know it leads to failure, its because in all of our losses last year, our coordinator did the same thing. The first series of the third quarter with the game went run, pass and pass (please refer to the following http://www.ncaa.com/game/football/fbs/2016/09/10/wyoming-nebraska/play-by-play).  The second series of the second half, again with just a seven point lead was, Pass, Run, Pass Pass, Run, Pass, Pass, Pass, Pass, and Pass (sack)!  Ok, so what went wrong last year, following the same pattern this year we got lucky due to the caliber of team we were playing.  With only a seven point lead we have a ratio of 3:10, run to pass.  Then it gets worse and lucky for the big red…

After a pick six for the Husker defense, the offense went straight to work with a 14 point lead to pass the shit out of the ball again!  We ran the ball just twice and passed the ball seven times for a touchdown to start the fourth quarter, that made us think this one was all over.  And I am not taking away from scoring a touchdown on a 34-yard pass to Westerkamp, what I am saying is that if the game were to have come down to clock management, the lack of a third quarter running scheme would have bit Langsdorf in his big butt!  Again, this wasn’t with the game in hand, this was with only a seven point lead!  Except for the only run in the first series of the third quarter, Ozigbo had 5 yards a carry!  Any coach in America would say if you can get 5 yards a carry, we’ll keep it on or close to the ground with a slight lead and use play action to keep a defense honest!

So, now we get into discussion of the first half. And I am at a loss!  I cannot explain the lack of concentration, the on the field issues, and the overall lack of starting fluid, but this didn’t look right and it didn’t sound right.  Again, I am going to blame the offensive coordinator.  Tommie Armstrong starts the second quarter with an interception, and of course in the red zone again.  I just don’t get this crap.  You throw a 55 yard vertical strike, I get it your hot and then the remedy is to throw in the red zone.  No, you did run it twice for a touchdown called back.  But the next thing to do at the opponents 14 yard line is to throw it three times in a row.  Sounds like a problem to me.  Does it anybody else?  I guess I am wrong because in the next series the run pass ratio is better and we have to settle for a field goal.  And then we bomb it for a 63 yard touchdown.

It isn’t like the game opened up really well either.  But I will stop pissing and moaning here.  Why?  Because in some ways I want to have hope that the purpose of some of this exercise is to practice against a team you know in the end you should beat is to work on those things you know you need to make you better.  We were 21 of 35 for passing and made 43 rushing attempts for a combined total of 550 yards.  So, whats my beef.  My beef is this, in an era were teams can have over 500 yards of total offense and still lose, our defense plays solid and makes sound choices, but all of that could have been nullfied against a team who wouldn’t implode like the Cowboys did.  With only a one touchdown lead and a choice of play calling that I feel is suspect in or around the red zone, we lose or are in a chance to lose (aka, Illinois, Purdue, BYU..and etc.) if we play a more sound team than the Cowboys.  Perhaps all the decisions were to alter the course that Tommie had last week, which wasn’t much.  But ultimately if you take away 5 pass plays that netted 278 yards, its a much different story.  And I am not saying that’s not a part of the game, I’m just saying we have over half of our total offense on only 5 plays.  That won’t happen against a team like, Ohio State, Wisconsin, or next week’s Oregon!

 

 

Huskers Beat Fresno 43-10!

This is the first time in a long time that I liked what I saw out of the Huskers on opening day.  And, unless you had money on the game and was holding your breath the last minute or two to see what direction your financial situation will turn, I think most Husker fans would agree that basic is good!

Now for the Reily era, it isn’t so much to overcome a last second loss to BYU the year before, or of the Bo era to see which referee would get a butt chewing, inasmuch as the approach to the opening game.  I loved the approach the team and the staff took in preparing and executing the game plan.  I loved the idea that two were suspended for violation of team rules.  It sets a standard, it sets a precedence, it lays the ground rules of expectation which was sorely lacking a year ago.

It wasn’t so much that Nebraska had the game physically in hand throughout as it was that the Huskers had the game mentally in hand throughout.  Only a glimmer of failure entered the scene late which was quickly quashed by a sustained drive.

Expecting an emotional season premiere in light of the death of Nebraska punter Sam Foltz, some thought a good old fashion butt whipping behind the shed was in order.  And, needless to say there was the tribute of the 10-man lineup and the presentation of the Sam Foltz Memorial Scholarship to Drew Brown before the game that stirred some ass kicking emotions, the subdued coaching approach was exactly what the doctor ordered!

It appeared that the coaching staff approached the game as if the outcome was inevitable, which is a far cry from last year’s constant frantic and self-inflicting wound approach.  Even at half time with only a slight lead after Fresno State’s mind blowing clock management blunder, there appeared no panic.  And it was refreshing to see Coach get the attention of his special team assistant when the issue of returner placement inside the 10 yard line was an evident oversight.

The offense showed itself as a focal point for me because last year it was the offensive decision making that left Husker Nation scratching its proverbial head!  We took control of the line of scrimmage, ran the ball effectively, and put the game in the hands of all 11 on the field instead of one or two.

Speaking of which, I think there is an undercurrent of QB Armstrong that still wishes for the hero part of last year.  Which is the self-inflicting wound of last year that became a glimmer of failure tonight.  I am not calling him a glory hound, except to say a couple of his reads in the red zone left him trapped when a give on the zone read would have netted the same if not better results.  I also didn’t like the way his demeanor was on the sideline when a coach was instructing him.  It was as if he already knew it and didn’t want to hear it.  I worry about that as the season progresses.  Needless to say, my vote for Offensive Player of the Game is Ozigbo who had just over 100 yards (103) on just 17 carries and 2 touchdowns.  For those of us who do great at rounding math that is over 6 yards per carry!  Nice!

As far as the offense goes, overall I was like, “here we go again” when Newby and Ozigbo ran the hell out of the ball and then close to the red zone we were looking to pass.  Gladly, that didn’t last long and Langsdorf achieved for me what I think all of Husker Nation was hoping for last year…a ground game in the red zone!  They helped Armstrong set up his deep play action pass with a good solid game plan that left the defense on its heels.

As far as our Blackshirts, well I think I loved that even more.  It looked like Parella may have much more of an impact than one would suspect this early.  But I saw signs of what I can only say is thoroughly, “Blackshirt” in nature.  When I played we fooled or sugared (it means lined up in a blitz alignment and dropped out) while others who appeared to be in coverage blitzed.  Pressure was put on the Fresno State QB via line stunts.  I think I saw my first properly executed twist stunt in over 15 years tonight!  I am not kidding you, I’ve watched the poorly executed half-assed twist stunt over the last 15 years or so!  It looked like a pleasant blast from the past, and not to brag, but the stunts looked like they should be done, back in the day when I was around!  Thanks Coach Parella!!  You made my night with what I saw!  And, in traditional Blackshirt tradition, my Defensive Player of the Game goes to Dzuris!  Not that it was an outstanding game versus the fact that he was involved in critical situations, which back in the day we called “factors.”  He was involved in what I call three critical points that never show on the scoreboard as critical moments and where the average fan would never figure out how one play can make such an impact as it appears so routine.  But like the butterfly affect, his few factors are what actually flipped the game.

Well its time for bed and Husker Nation can rest easy tonight.  But please, let it not be for the final score or the covering of the point spread.  Let it be because this Coach Riley appears to have learned from the past, has set a standard that is nearer to Coach Osborne than Pelini, and psychologically the team appears to be in a much better place as a whole, except for a few.  And that is how you go on to perform week in and week out…The Husker Way!