Nebraska Football: Is John Papuchis in over His Head?

J.P. ScottSenior Analyst IOctober 10, 2012

Sep 15, 2012; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers coaches John Papuchis, left, and Rich Fisher fist bump near t he end of the game against Arkansas State Red Wolves at Memorial Stadium in the second half. Papuchis coached Nebraska in the second half when Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini was taken to a hospital. Nebraska won 42-13. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE
Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

There are two numbers that stick out in regard to Nebraska's two losses so far this season: 653 and 63.

In Week 2 vs. UCLA, the Nebraska defense gave up 653 yards of total offense; a school record.

Saturday night in Columbus, the Ohio State Buckeyes scored nine touchdowns on the scoreboard (63 points) against the Huskers. Seven of those were scored on the same defense that gave up 653 yards to UCLA.

After both losses, many people (including myself) have been quick to pile on and push the blame onto two guys: Bo Pelini and Taylor Martinez.

As far as Martinez, those who argue in his favor against my reasoning may be right. He does turn the ball over at the most inopportune of times; however, he wasn't the one who gave up all the yards and points.

Pelini does not have quite the same excuse, as this is supposed to be the defense he constructed himself. As a result, he alone should be in the cross-hairs of the critics, if not for one minor detail: Nebraska has a defensive coordinator.

John Papuchis (above, left) is the guy calling the defensive plays and formations for the 2012 Huskers. His name has been mentioned a few times this season, the first was immediately after the UCLA game when some pointed the finger at him for the loss.

Then the attention was turned away from the game to his outburst at a fan breakfast. That incident was subsequently dropped a few days later, when Papuchis stepped in for Bo Pelini at halftime of the Arkansas State game when Pelini was rushed to the hospital. Papuchis guided the Huskers to victory and all was forgotten once again.

That was until Saturday night, when Nebraska's defensive woes were on display for a nationally televised prime-time audience.

This was the fourth time that the Huskers defense looked confused this season. The first was the Southern Miss game; the second was against UCLA; the third was the first half of the Arkansas State game. 

At this point, because he does in fact hold the title of defensive coordinator, I believe it's time to take a closer look a John Papuchis.

His bio on the official Nebraska football website almost makes it a point to brag about how he is the youngest solo defensive coordinator in the nation at 34.

Prior to being appointed defensive coordinator for Nebraska, he was the position coach for the Husker defensive ends. Before that, he was a special teams coach for the Huskers and LSU.

He got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant at Kansas after he graduated from Virginia Tech in 2001. Before that, his only coaching experience was as a JV basketball coach at a high school in Virginia.

He has never set foot on a college football field as a player.

Now it begins to make sense. The guy calling the defensive shots for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, a Division 1, Big Ten team with one of the richest histories in the sport, is a 34 year old man who has been involved with college football for 11 years; eight of which he spent coaching special teams and pounding the pavement on the recruiting trails.

This guy was handed the keys to the Blackshirts. Since taking over as defensive coordinator before the January 2nd bowl game against South Carolina, the Papuchis-led Blackshirts have given up an average of 28 points and 364 yards a game. Are those Blackshirt numbers?

There you have it, Husker Nation. You wanted answers, you got one. 

If you are looking to defend Papuchis with the "Pelini calls the shots" argument, I have to ask, Why are you paying Papuchis?

The bottom line is that, right now, John Papuchis is not experienced enough to be the defensive coordinator for a Big Ten team, and the mounting statistics are beginning to show exactly that.

Some will say he's paid his dues. I'm here to tell you he took a shortcut at the expense of the Nebraska defense.