Nebraska Cornhuskers' Offense: Seven Points, Eight Turnovers, Zero Hope
What do you say after a game like that? What words can adequately describe such futility, such complete ineptitude? I find myself at a loss today, unable to come to terms with the nightmarish slew of mistakes I saw Nebraska commit yesterday in a 9-7 loss to Iowa State.
Christmas came early for the Cyclones, as the Huskers gift-wrapped a win for them and handed it over, again and again. We all know about the eight turnovers. Even more shocking than that staggering number is the manner in which they occurred. Fumbles with nobody touching you (Niles Paul). An interception thrown directly to a defender when no Nebraska receiver was within 10 yards (Zac Lee).
Four turnovers inside Iowa State's five yard line. Think about that. The Huskers were just a few feet away from winning this game 35-9. Hell, even if you only get field goals on those drives, you still win 19-9.
What initially was anger over turnovers turned to frustration. Then the Huskers hit the fourth turnover, and it turned to bewilderment. Once the sixth turnover was committed, it became disbelief. There aren't enough adjectives in the English language to describe the feeling that sweeps over you when your team commits that many back-breaking mistakes.
The real tragedy here is that the turnovers and garish play of the skill-position players on offense overshadowed a great performance by the offensive line and an even better effort by Ndamukong Suh and the Nebraska defense.
The Cyclones were held to 102 yards passing, 47 of it coming on one long touchdown pass. On 48 carries, Iowa State managed 148 yards rushing, giving them a three-yards-per-carry average, which dips to 2.72 when you take away the 20-yard gain on a fake punt.
You have to feel for the Blackshirts, who put up a Herculean effort only to watch it be wasted by an offense who couldn't get out of their own way. During the game, I tweeted that the Huskers weren't shooting themselves in the foot, they were blowing off their leg at the kneecap. Which is true.
Shooting yourself in the foot is having a couple of bad penalties. Shooting yourself in the foot is having two turnovers in the red zone. What we saw yesterday was far beyond that.
I don't care what Bo Pelini says: Zac Lee did not play well. I don't know what game the coaching staff is watching, but the quarterback play yesterday was downright awful. Did Lee's teammates do him any favors? No.
There was a litany of dropped passes, and those obviously aren't Lee's fault. Niles Paul and Meno Holt, in my opinion, need to be benched for a game just to give them time to pull their heads out of their ass. And maybe learn how to catch too.
But how many more passes do I have to see go above and behind receivers before the staff is convinced that Lee isn't the best option?
I don't know that I've ever seen a quarterback who delivers the ball to the back hip of receivers more than Lee. Nearly every time he throws, the receiver has to alter his route to attempt to bring in an errant pass. I only saw two or three passes yesterday that hit the receiver in stride, and those are the kind of plays that this offense is built on.
An offense predicated on getting a few yards after the catch isn't going to be successful when the receiver has to stop and reach behind him every time. And it's not just the poor passing, it's the questionable decisions.
On the Nebraska's final drive yesterday, the Huskers faced a 3rd-and-10 with just over a minute to play and no timeouts left. It is OBVIOUSLY four-down territory, meaning that you don't have to get all 10 on one play, because you know you're going for it on fourth regardless. So what does Lee do?
He throws it 50 yards down-field.
Into double coverage.
Luckily, Niles Paul turned into a defensive back (which he maybe should be one at this point) and broke it up. But the fact that Lee even threw that pass to begin with was mind-boggling. You don't need 50 yards there. Hell, you don't even need 10. You have another down after third, and you can get whatever is left on the next play.
That play would have stood as the perfect example of why Lee must be benched. But then Lee topped himself. When he threw his final interception, I at first thought he had thrown it to a Nebraska receiver.
Why? Because there was nobody within 10 yards of him. It was as if Lee thought the Cyclone linebacker was his own teammate, because that's the only way you can explain a throw that hits a guy right in the numbers. There was not a single Nebraska receiver in the camera shot. That throw was hands-down one of the worst throws I've ever seen in all my years of watching and playing football.
The only way Lee could have topped that series of mistakes is if he had dropped his pants and laid a deuce on the "N" at midfield. I say that in jest, because that's basically what his performance the past three games has been. His play is so bad that I just compared it to a bowel movement.
With Nebraska now mired at 1-2 in the conference and in desperate need of a spark on offense, there is no choice: Cody Green must play.
Not only because of Zac Lee's ineptitude, but because, at 1-2 in the conference and 4-3 overall, it's become apparent that the Huskers must start building for next season.
Let me clarify: I am in no way writing off this season. The Huskers still have an elite-level defense, and in a down Big 12, there are still opportunities to do great things yet this year.
But it has become painfully obvious that Zac Lee is not the future at the quarterback position. Now is the time to throw Green into the fire and let him make his mistakes now, because it surely can't be worse than watching Lee kill the Nebraska offense.
Yesterday was very odd to me. After the Virginia Tech loss, I was devastated. There was literally pain in my chest and stomach.
After the Texas Tech loss, I was angry. I couldn't believe how poorly the Nebraska offense had played, and how awful the play-calling was
However, yesterday's loss didn't result in either of these feelings. I walked out of the bar with a sense of detachment, an odd bewilderment reserved for those who can't comprehend what they have just seen.
I found myself resigned to another year of irrelevance for Nebraska, the reality creeping in that this year may result in an Insight Bowl bid if we're lucky.
I have a little story for you, perhaps one that will resonate for Husker fans after yesterday's game:
Every week, my brother and I watch the Nebraska game at a Husker bar in the Minneapolis metro area. We always bring along our friends, who are Minnesota fans. We always give each other crap about the other's team. We have heated debates about the Huskers and Gophers, the Big 10 vs. the Big 12.
After the loss to Virginia Tech, they were downright merciless, rubbing it in our faces.
Yesterday however, there was nothing. They saw it in my face: Giving me crap was completely unnecessary. I already knew my team sucked, and they didn't even need to reaffirm it.
Welcome to Nebraska football in 2009.
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