Eight Burning Questions
Yes I know that we should be getting over the Texas Tech game, and I have I promise you.
What I haven't done yet quell some lingering thoughts in my head that have been there for several weeks, and finally boiled over when watching the game.
This Nebraska team is good, take away a big pass play and we beat Virginia Tech. Take away the fumble return against Texas Tech and who knows how the rest of the game plays out.
But if's and buts are always the losers consolation prize, and we are where we are, and with that in mind I ask these questions....
Should Cody Green start Saturday against Iowa State?
I want to start off by saying that Zac Lee is not the only problem this offense has, but I will get to that in a bit.
The fact still remains however that the offense starts with the quarterback, and Zac Lee hasn't shown signs of being what he was hyped up to be in the preseason: A more athletic Joe Ganz with a more powerful arm.
He does have a stronger arm, there is no doubt about that, but he routinely refuses to run the football. His longest rush is 17 yards, and there are numerous times when he moves out of the pocket, with 10 yards of green space in front of him, and yet he continues to look for an open receiver and tries to force it into coverage instead of taking the sure yards.
Don't they teach you to try and take what the defense gives you?
My biggest issue with Lee is his hesitancy in the passing game. Especially obvious in the Texas Tech game is that Lee is either terribly slow in reading coverages, or he is rarely sure of where he wants to go with the football, and this is why I believe Cody Green is the way to go this Saturday.
Green will make mistakes. This is a given. He's a freshman, and if he starts it will be his first extended collegiate action. But what Green lacks in inexperience, he makes up for in poise and confidence.
He is still having trouble reading some coverages (see the final drive against TTU when he threw not one, but two passes straight to the safety, the second which was picked off) and he still makes all of his throws as hard as he can, but what I love about him is that he makes decisions quickly, and sticks with them.
He consistently steps up in the pocket and zings the football to where he wants it, which is a welcome relief from an indecisive Zac Lee, especially when our offensive line is not playing very well. We need someone to make decisions quickly and I feel that Cody Green will more than make due if he were to start.
Yes, he is a freshman, but the sky is the limit for thing young man, and I say give him the reins. Will there be growing pains? Absolutely, especially because the rest of the offense is sputtering, which leads me too....
Why is our offense so bad?
The Nebraska offense has the potential to be very good. Just last year we ranked 11th in the country in total offense. So what has happened?
There are many reasons this unit is performing sub par, other than the issue at quarterback, real or imagined, and fixing just one single thing will not be the long term solution to the problem.
In my mind, the biggest problem is the offensive line. What happened to the Pipeline? It used to be that if Husker fans could count on anything, it was having five, 300 plus pound behemoths lining up against the defense and laying some unfortunate souls on their backs all game long. But this years squad lacks the intensity to do so. If I knew why I'd call up Barney Cotton right now and give him a few tips on what to do in practice, but I don't.
Perhaps the offensive line is just not a strong group of guys? I could accept that, except then why were we able to run anything we wanted against Virginia Tech? There is something missing from the offensive line, and I'm not sure what it is, but I hope it gets fixed, and quickly. Because while it is cliche, the game is won and lost in the trenches. Just ask Missouri.
We also only have an average group of receivers at best, which makes me ponder....
Do we need a go-to receiver?
This years group of receivers truly misses the departures of Nate Swift and Todd Peterson. We have a bunch of guys who are talented, but we have so many that the coaches feel the need to have a bunch of guys play, and thus limit the ability for them to get into a rhythm and grow as players and playmakers. Niles Paul would probably be our best receiver because of his speed, but he doesn't have the best hands.
So the question is, do we NEED a go-to receiver? I don't think so necessarily. If you had a bunch of decent guys it makes you harder to defend because they can't just key on one guy and shut him down to hurt you. Texas Tech is a great example of this.
But while we don't necessarily NEED one, I feel that having a true go-to receiver would help our quarterbacks out a ton. How many times did we see Joe Ganz in trouble and watch him throw to Swift or Peterson? Exactly.
Especially if Cody Green were to start, having a go-to receiver would help immensely in his development as a player. And while I ask this question I wonder.....
Why isn't Mike McNeil more involved in the offense?
If we have a go-to receiver, it is Mike McNeil. He has excellent hands, runs great routes, and has decent speed. He is a few inches short of being a Matt Herian clone.
So why isn't he more involved in the offense? I can't count the number of times we line up on third down and he's lined up..... on the sideline? Why is our best receiver sitting on the bench in the clutch? Especially being a tight end, he could, and should be a huge safety blanket for whomever lines up under center.
He is one of the best tight ends in the nation, so why Shawn Watson, is he sitting down during our most important plays of the game? I think he hates tight ends, which is a shame because our offense could be so much more dangerous if we looked to get McNeil as many touches during the game as we could. And if the defense is forced to account for him more often, it makes it easier on our receivers. What a concept eh Shawn?
Which makes me ask....
What has happened to Shawn Watson?
Last year Watson was brilliant in giving our offense an identity as one who controlled the ball and wasn't flashy, but did what it needed to do. The problem this year is that we still have no identity. Are we a big play offense? Should we go back to what we were doing this year? I have my opinions, but I'm not the one getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to make a game plan.
The biggest issue has been Watson's stubbornness to go to the running game. His excuse against Missouri was that he called more running plays but Lee made audibles out of them to passing plays. Which is fine, but why aren't there any power I formation running plays?
Before the last drive against Missouri, we had 37 rushing yards. Then on the last drive, Watson decided to go into the power I and run down Missouri's throat. The result? 68 yards and a touchdown. So why don't we do it more?
I wish I knew, but Watson also seems to think that Roy Helu Jr. is Reggie Bush in that he LOVES to call toss plays. I love Helu but that is not what he's good at doing. He's good at following his blockers, making a quick read, a quick cut, and then going down the field. It's been proven time and time again, so why does Watson refuse to do it?
He has proven to be a smart guy, so you have to figure he knows what he's doing, but I only hope that he figures something out soon, before our season goes down the tubes. Of course, it's hard for any offense to be productive when we get called for a million holding penalties, which begs the question....
Why is our offensive line so undisciplined?
Penalties have become one of the main stables of the Pelini era. But why? If Bo Pelini were forced to say one word for the rest of his life, it would be "execution". So why is it that a man whom stresses execution beyond anything else, overseeing a team that commits so many penalties?
I did some research and found that during the last two seasons, Nebraska commits 7.6 penalties for 65.4 yards per game. That's insane.
I would also venture to guess that 75 percent of those penalties are on the offensive line. Holding and false start penalties have hurt us in countless drives. There were three drives against Texas Tech this year that we killed in the red zone because of penalties. And what about last year, when Nebraska was driving into TTU territory late in the first half, only to get two consecutive holding penalties that drove it out of field goal range? Or perhaps the meltdown against Virginia Tech this year? Or the 2-point conversion attempt against Missouri?
Simply put, this needs to change. Now. The frustrating this is that I don't see it happening any time soon, and I can't comprehend it.
Barney Cotton was quoted this week as saying that the penalties "will be addressed" this week during practice. That's all well and good coach, but shouldn't this have been addressed about a year ago?
This still make me ask....
Why do the referees hate Nebraska so much?
Maybe this is coming from a homer who bleeds Husker red (but hey, who doesn't?) but ever since Bo Pelini took over the refs seem to magically miss a lot of calls when it comes to us. I'm sure there have been a few that were missed on the opposing side, but there are a lot of head-scratchers and no-calls all the time.
Just this Saturday there was a facemask and hit out of bounds on the SAME PLAY that weren't called. Perhaps the hit out of bounds could be debated, but the facemask? Not so much.
Then there was the personal foul for "unnecessary roughness" on a Husker lineman that pushed one of his own teammates near the end of a run. What's up with that? Since when did it become illegal to not only push the pile, but to push your own flippin teammate?
Steve Sipple wrote an article the other day saying that Bo yelling at the refs sends a mixed message to the players that the mistakes their making are not necessarily their fault, and I disagree. As an ex-football player, you know what you make a mistake. You know when you were holding, or when you committed pass interference. Sometimes you get mad that you were caught, but you move on. I like that Bo stands up for his players and gets into the ears of the officials. Heck, sometimes he might not even be yelling at them for making a call he believes is wrong, but might be saying "Hey, why don't you look at the other team a little more?" It happens more often than you might think.
One last little question that doesn't matter too much but has always puzzled me...
Why doesn't the center snap the ball when we use the hard count?
This isn't necessarily the biggest thing in the world, but I don't understand why the coaches don't have the center snap the football when we use the hard count. Zac Lee has been excellent at using the hard count, regularly getting people from the other team to jump offside. But why do we use it if we don't take advantage of it?
This happens all the time in the NFL, and when you snap the ball after the other team jumps offside you have a free play. It doesn't matter if you fumble the ball, throw an interception, or anything, because of the defenses infraction at the beginning of the play. This would be excellent for a struggling offense.
Why don't we do it? I don't know, but we should.