Like some of the other contests this year for Nebraska, this Texas A&M game was like a flashback. Not like the pummeling that the Huskers dealt to their old Big Eight brethren circa the 1980's and 90's. More like circa 2009, when the Huskers had no offense and relied on their outstanding defense to keep them in games.
Man, this one was painful. Am I surprised Nebraska lost? No, not really. I had this one down as a loss when I looked at the schedule in August. But the road to this loss was full of twists and turns, contradictions and unexpected outcomes. I predicted a win last week based on Nebraska's strong road record and against my original thoughts.
In the end, let the all-time record show 10-4 against the Aggies, in favor of the Huskers. And let's try and avoid scheduling any Texas teams for many many years.
On to the SWOT.
Um. Well. Uh. Pass.
16 penalties. 16. S-i-x-t-e-e-n. There were a couple of bogus penalty calls—particularly the roughing the passer call on Texas A&M's final drive for the go ahead field goal, but the number and yardage is absurd (145 yards in penalties). And half were of the most venal kind: unsportsmanlike conduct and personal fouls.
But this isn't about making excuses. Good teams put the game away before penalties become a factor. And penalties have always plagued Pelini teams. The coaching staff just doesn't seem to have an interest in curbing them.
I had a bad feeling about this game midway through the first quarter. The Huskers seemed discombobulated and the Aggies really had nothing to do with it. Nebraska was imploding with injuries and penalties.
But what really concerned me was the exploding head coach. Remember Tom Osborne's calm demeanor for 25 years on the Husker sideline? Even when things seemed to be melting down around him.
Like oh so many bowl games in Florida, he remained calm and reserved. Heck, at times it was maddening to see him calmly chewing his gum and managing the team while losing big to superior foes.
But Bo Pelini? Oy!
The coach was nothing but bulging veins and spittle the entire game, drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty himself. Several times he could be seen screaming at his fellow coaches or the sideline judge or his players or anyone in earshot. I used to enjoy the passion of our coach but this performance seemed out of control. And it's getting old.
QB or Not QB, that is the Question
Sorry. Let me just get this out one more time this year: There is no viable back-up at quarterback for Taylor Martinez. And offensive coordinator Shawn Watson has failed to prepare a back-up plan, aside from the Wildcat formation.
Sophomore back-up Cody Green cannot run this offense. His reads on the option are incorrect. His passing is inconsistent at best. He is not fast. He fumbles. At one point during the game announcer Kirk Herbstreit said Green could not be blamed because he was inexperienced.
Really? Inexperienced? So nearly two years of repetitions with the first team on offense, four starts in games last year and several quarters of playing time is not enough experience?
Nebraska still has an opportunity to make some major goals. The conference championship is still within reach with a game against Colorado in Lincoln the Friday after Thanksgiving. But this game is no gimme.
First, remember, it's in Lincoln. And the Husker's home aura is all but gone. Second, Colorado is surging under new (interim) head coach Brian Cabral after the firing of Dan Hawkins with solid victories over Iowa State and Kansas State.
Here's hoping the Huskers take a circle-the-wagons mentality and play with guts, determination, and attitude to take the Big 12 North.
On second thought, after this A&M game, maybe they could do with a little less attitude.
Short Work Week
The Cornhuskers are hurting and they have only six days to heal. Clearly the offense can only operate with Taylor Martinez at the helm and he's only on one leg. Several other players seemed to get dinged up during the game, including defensive MVP Dejon Gomes, who did continue to play.
Conspiracy Theory Conundrum
So, this final game of the regular season poses an interesting challenge for Big 12 officiating - and all those Husker fans who are convinced there is a plot by the conference to keep Nebraska out of the Big 12 Championship Game through unwarranted penalties. (By the way, I'm starting to lean on the side of the theorists after the A&M game.)
Do the officials favor Colorado, who is departing for the Pac 10/12, or Big Ten bound Nebraska? This is actually quite an easy call. If Nebraska loses and Missouri beats a feckless Kansas Jayhawks squad, then Missouri heads to the championship game.
Which is great for the conference because Missouri was spurned by the Big Ten—even though the Tigers have desired admittance to the Big Ten for nearly as long as the Big 12 has been around.
What a great conference the Big 12 is! I can't wait to leave it.