This was not a good day. As I sit here typing relatively late into the night, I can't help but think back to yesterday evening, when I was full of hope and expectations. Now it's gone, just like all the times before. Haven't we seen this before? Nebraska flopping in a big and potentially corner-turning game? Yeah, several times.
It's almost become a habit: 2009 against Texas, 2010 against Texas and Oklahoma, 2011 against Wisconsin and Michigan, and 2012 against Wisconsin again. Perhaps even worse than the losses themselves is that, aside from the Longhorns in 2009, none of those teams were particularly elite. In the late '80s and early '90s, Nebraska gained a reputation for not winning big games against top five teams. But now it seems that Nebraska can't even win big games against decent teams. And that is simply not okay.
I don't know what the solution is. I'm not going to sit here and say that Bo Pelini needs to be fired or that everyone needs to abandon ship. But I will say, with definitive certainty, that 10-4 seasons are absolutely unacceptable. Something needs to be done about it—quickly.
Bo Pelini's honeymoon with Nebraska is over. 2009 showed a lot of promise when Nebraska had the No. 1 defense in the country and experienced drastic improvement in each of the previous two seasons. But since then—Seasons of 10-4, 9-4, and in all likelihood, 10-4 again. That's three seasons of mediocre football.
Sure, Pelini isn't running a bad program. He's 48-19 in five seasons with Nebraska. That's not terrible, but in Lincoln it's pretty much a failure. Under his watch the Cornhuskers haven't finished higher than 14th in the AP poll, and it isn't gonna happen this year. Pelini is not a brilliant recruiter and recently his trademark defense has shown a tendency to give up 63 points far too often.
Which recent season was the most frustrating?
So what can be done? I wish I had the answer. There is of course the option to fire Pelini, but the last thing incoming AD Shawn Eichorst wants to do is pull a page from the book of Steve Pederson ("I will not let Nebraska gravitate into mediocrity blah blah blah..."). Additionally, further turnover within the program would surely scare off some recruits. (Speaking of recruiting, Nebraska desperately needs to step it up. Pelini has nabbed a few top-20 classes, but that's not going to cut it when Urban Meyer is picking up eight 5-star players every year. There's no excuse for not being able to recruit to Lincoln. But I suppose that's for a different article.)
Pelini, for his part, could get his team to stop doing stupid things. It may sound silly to say it like that, but the reality is that turnovers (especially fumbles), penalties, and playing poorly away from home are the fault of the coaching staff for not having their team ready to go. Off the top of my head, I can think of six losses in the Pelini era that can be placed squarely on silly mistakes. To be blunt—fix it. Give lectures on discipline, run through ball handling drills, whatever, I don't care. Just eliminate the mistakes.
The time has come for Nebraska to be dominant again. It's been 10 years since the Huskers played for a national title. It's been 13 years since the Huskers won a conference title. Let's be very clear about something: Ohio State football or Alabama football or Oklahoma football are not more special than Nebraska football. But we're sure trying to make it seem that way. I don't have the answers, but I sure hope somebody does, because 10-4 cannot happen any more.
Somewhere, Bob Devaney is rolling in his grave. And soon, Tom Osborne will be rolling in his recliner.
Thanks for suffering through this. I'm disappointed and I hope you are too. Hopefully something changes soon—for the better. Go Big Red.