Let the Second Guessing Begin
Husker fans will no doubt take issue with the fact that Nebraska only threw 17 passes in its 28-10 defeat at the hands of USC. Surely, with only a meager 2 yard rushing average the Huskers could have thrown more, especially when they averaged about 6 yards per passing attempt.
Of course, that assumes a couple of things. First, that the Huskers would have continued to average six yards per pass and that they would not have turned the ball over if they'd passed more. It would also ignore the lessons of the USC-Arkansas contest where the Razorbacks threw 32 passes and watched the Trojans turn three interceptions into 21 points. The Trojans have been extremely opportunistic in 2006, turning every turnover into points. The Huskers survived two near turnovers on pass plays. First, an apparent Taylor fumble was returned for a touchdown. Thankfully, Taylor was ruled down. Later, a Trojan penalty spared Taylor a fumble in the red zone, also on a play that was designed as a pass.
The fact is, Callahan was using his offense to play defense. By running the ball more than 30 times, the Huskers limited the Trojans to 10 possessions (versus 13 that they had versus Arkansas). Considering that the Trojans scored 14 points in their last 3 possessions against the Razorbacks, it doesn't seem to be an altogether bad strategy. It's not like the Huskers were having a lot of success containing the Trojan receivers.
Callahan's playbook seemed very much like the one that Bill Parcells used to defeat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV. Parcells used the run to shorten the game (even though his team trailed by as much as 12-3 in the contest) and pulled out a close game at the end. When the Huskers closed the gap to 21-10 early in the fourth quarter, things probably felt almost according to plan. That the Huskers failed to score on their ensuing possession or stop the Trojans from rolling up 144 yards on their last two time-consuming drives was unfortunate, but certainly was not part of the Husker game plan either.
Yes, Callahan will take a lot of criticism for his decision to stubbornly stick to the run game (something he's been accused of abandoning too quickly in the past) against USC. But not from me.
The Huskers had some chances in the game, but simply failed to capitalize. Both Cortney Grixby and Andre Jones had a chance to make interceptions deep in USC territory that might have gone for touchdowns. If Marlon Lucky had secured the football better, the Trojans might have had one fewer touchdown. If a Husker had fallen on the fumble that Stewart Bradley forced, the Huskers might have had another scoring opportunity. Instead, the Trojans picked it up and ran for a first down.
On 4th and 9 on a key second half drive, Maurice Purify nearly pulled in a completion to keep that drive alive. There were also some other dropped passes at other points in the game too. Sure, â€œwhat ifâ€? sounds like an excuse. But the same goes for saying â€œwhat ifâ€? Callahan had called more passing plays.
The Huskers can be encouraged by the play of their front seven on defense, their special teams, and that the offensive line kept Zac Taylor alive to fight another day. As we've known for a few weeks now, the Huskers have a weakness in the secondary and on Saturday they faced a team that was perfectly suited to exploiting that weakness.
The Huskers had better not feel sorry for themselves. Self-pity is the lowest of human emotions. First, it's a selfish one (â€œwoe is ME, poor MEâ€?), and second it is a useless one because it keeps you looking backward instead of forward.
The Huskers need to get angry about the opportunities they wasted and show some determination to correct the errors and get better. The Troy game coming up is no freebie. They went four quarters against both Florida State and Georgia Tech on the road. Time to get back to work or else the second guessing will really start.