A strange thing happened in Los Angeles on Saturday night. The Nebraska Cornhuskers lost a game in September. According to many Nebraska fans, the end of the world must be near. After all, Nebraska never loses in September.
Yeah, that's not true. Nebraska lost September games in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. If its game against Wisconsin last season had been a day earlier, it would have another loss in September. It isn't that uncommon for the Huskers to lose in their first month.
What happens when Nebraska loses in September? Well, it either appears to be feast or famine for the rest of the season.
- In 2002, the Huskers lost 40-7 at Penn State. The season unraveled from there. They also lost at Iowa State the following week. It was the first time Nebraska lost two games in September since 1981. Nebraska finished with a 7-7 record. It was also the first time since 1969 that the Huskers had not won at least nine games.
- In 2004, Nebraska lost at home to Southern Miss. It was Bill Callahan's first loss, and it wouldn't be his last that season. After being demolished 70-10 on the road at Texas Tech, the Huskers lost four of their final five games and finished with a 5-6 record. Their season-ending home loss to Colorado marked the end of NCAA records for most consecutive non-losing seasons and bowl appearances.
- In 2006, Nebraska lost 28-10 at No. 4 Southern Cal. The Huskers rebounded by sweeping through the Big 12 North and nearly upset No. 5 Texas in Lincoln. In the Big 12 championship game, they gained more yards than Oklahoma but also had five turnovers in their 21-7 loss.
- In 2007, Nebraska again lost to USC. This time, though, there was no rebound. The Huskers lost six of their last seven games and finished with a 5-7 record. It was also the worst performance by a Nebraska defense since the 1950s and led to Callahan's firing.
- In 2008, Nebraska lost to Virginia Tech at home in Bo Pelini's first season as head coach. The game was extremely close, and a late personal foul call against the head coach sealed the deal for the Hokies. The Huskers lost their next two games but rebounded and lost only once the rest of the season. After a victory in the Gator Bowl, the Huskers finished with a 9-4 record.
- In 2009, Nebraska lost 16-15 at Virginia Tech in which it didn't score a single touchdown. The Huskers' season looked to be almost lost with a 9-7 defeat at home to Iowa State, but they won six of their final seven games and took No. 3 Texas to the wire in a controversial finish to the 2009 Big 12 Championship Game. They finished the season with a 33-0 demolition of Arizona in the Holiday Bowl.
Can Nebraska win 9 games in 2012?
What am I trying to say here? I'm saying, Nebraska fan, please do me a favor. Please stop calling for coaching changes after one loss.
I understand UCLA piled up a ton of yards on your team's defense. I also understand Nebraska looked lost at times on defense. You and I could easily see the running back out of the backfield in the slant over the middle on third-and-short. If you don't think the coaching staff can see that, I think you need to take a big drink of reality.
Under Pelini, Nebraska has reacted well to early season losses. They have a dynamic quarterback, a deep stable of running backs and a quick defense that just needs to break down and tackle. I watched the game. I saw how many times Husker defenders should have had a Bruin down behind the line of scrimmage. If they are able to break down and make the tackle, this game isn't close.
Nebraska is a good ball club. You saw how fast Taylor Martinez is again. You saw running backs fighting for extra yards. You saw the ball put in the right spot for the most part.
Does it hurt that there were drops and that Martinez sometimes made the wrong reads? Of course it does. Does that mean the coaching staff needs to be replaced? You've got to be kidding me. So, please do me a favor. Take a step back, take a deep breath and realize this:
From 1972-1979 during Tom Osborne's first eight years as head coach, the Huskers lost in September four times. Another game was a 6-6 tie at LSU. They also lost four times in September in the 1980s and three times in the 1990s in arguably the most dominant era of Husker football. In all those seasons, Nebraska never once won fewer than nine games.
With that in mind, please put the pitchforks down. The season is still early. There is still a lot of football to be played. Nebraska's goals of winning a conference championship are still intact. I mean, have you looked at the rest of the conference? It's not like they are playing any better.