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                             First Downs and Second Guesses

                          Blog #204 - September 2022

            The hammer fell on the University of Nebraska football program following the Husker’s 45-42 loss to Georgia Southern on September 10th, dropping the Husker record to 1-2.  Husker athletic director Trev Alberts, a former Husker All-America linebacker in the 1990s, fired head coach Scott Frost the following morning and elevated assistant head coach Mickey Joseph to interim head coach status. 

            Joseph, also a former Husker quarterback like Frost, had the unenviable job of preparing to play the Oklahoma Sooners the next game.  The Huskers stopped the Sooners on their first possession and proceeded to score for a quick 7-0 lead.  That score didn’t last long as the Sooners scored on seven of their last eight possessions to win 49-14.

            The Huskers are in a bye week, one of three they have this season.  It couldn’t come at a better time after the long trip to Ireland to play Northwestern, then returning to the states for three games in a row at home.  Physical and mental exhaustion are on the menu for the players, and Joseph is shaking things up.

            Following the loss to Oklahoma, Joseph fired defensive coordinator Eric Chinander the following day, and appointed special teams coach Bill Busch to take the helm of the defense for the remainder of the season. Busch has experience as a defensive coordinator during past jobs.

The defense is giving up over 600 yards of offense to the opponents each game, including FCS schools North Dakota and Georgia Southern.  Oklahoma could have scored more points, but chose to run the ball with simple plays to eat up clock and not embarrass the Husker defense any more than it already did.

            One eye-opening post game player comment came from a Husker cornerback.  The defense has missed an average of almost 20 tackles per game this season.  It’s absolutely astounding to sit in the stands and watch Husker defenders miss tackle after tackle.  You’re wondering if these guys ever run tackling drills during practice.

            Well, the Huskers don’t run tackling drills at practice.  The cornerback said it’s not surprising that there are so many missed tackles because during Frost’s coaching tenure, defenders didn’t tackle, they “tagged” runners during practice.  “Tagging” is simply touching the running back or receiver at the end of the play.  That comment solidified what all Husker fans had been thinking.

            Joseph has the remainder of the season to turn things around and shrug off the interim title and earn the title of permanent head coach.  The game on October 1st will test how far Joseph’s leadership has advanced.

            Indiana comes to Lincoln for a 6:30 PM game.  Husker fans love night games. Indiana is ranked at the bottom of the Big 10 standings along with the Huskers.  If Nebraska loses the game to Indiana to go to 1-4 on the season, the hunt for the next Husker head coach will take on even more urgency.

            Opponents average 81 plays per game against the Husker defense.  That’s a lot of time on the field for a defense that can’t stop the run or pass.  To counter that, Joseph has directed the Husker offense to slow its pace to allow the defense to rest more.  The Husker offense is geared for an up-tempo pace, so it will be interesting to see how slowing down the offense will affect its effectiveness during the game.

            One constant during the past 20 years of bad Husker football has been the fans.  Nebraska leads the nation in sellouts at 385 and counting.  That streak began back in 1962, and has been extended through four stadium renovations to add more seating.  But it’s likely that streak will end some time this season as there are several thousand tickets available for future Big 10 games in Lincoln.

            As I’ve told you over the years, I’ve been a football season ticket holder for several decades.  I’ve been there during the good times in the national championship years of 1970-71, 1994, 1996-97.  I’ve been there during the downfall beginning in 2003 to the present. 

             Nebraska has not been to a bowl game since 2016.  Frost, a national champion as a Husker QB, ends his Husker coaching career with the worst record of any Husker football coach ever.  How ironic is that.  His 16-31 overall record included 23 losses of seven points or less.  In other words, the Huskers found a way to lose games instead of finding a way to win close games.  That is how Frost’s teams and tenure will be remembered.  Sad.

            I’m eager to see how the Huskers play against Indiana.  If they win and play with some direction and desire, things might change for the better.  If they lose, Joseph’s tenure will be a short one.

           

 

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