More than Half of the Story
One thing Husker fans became accustomed to under Bill Callahan was that the halftime score was a pretty big indicator of the final score. If Nebraska trailed at halftime, they were going to lose the game. If they led, they were probably going to win. Though not as pronounced (see Ohio State game, 2011), the trend has continued under head coach Bo Pelini. Sure, it's probably generally true for any coach of any team that you tend to lose games you trail at the half and win ones that you lead. But is this an area that Nebraska needs to improve to go from good to great?
It's not hard to get the impression that Pelini can be a hothead. You might imagine that in games where his teams trail at the half, he lights into the team pretty good. And maybe that does more harm than good. But then, that would go against his stated philosophy that no player ever wants to play badly so getting down on him isn't likely to help him improve. Rather, you want to stay positive and teach or remind the player how they can do better. Only those in the locker room could tell you how the tone shifts when the team is trailing instead of leading.
Might the coaching staff be going too far in the other direction? Kind of like the husband who oversells it when asked if he thinks another woman is pretty. "Katy Perry? God she's hideous. She doesn't hold a candle to you." In trying to make them feel better, they sound so insincere that they actually make the wife (or in this case the players) feel more insecure.
The team hasn't always played as bad or worse in second halves. Against Virginia Tech in 2008, the final margin was smaller than the halftime one. The Huskers rallied to force overtime in 2008 against Texas Tech after trailing by ten at the half, and played the Red Raiders even in the third and fourth quarters in 2009 in a losing effort. NU actually outscored OU in the second half of the 2008 debacle, though the Sooners were playing reserves a fair amount to close the game. The 2009 Iowa State game was scoreless in the second half and the Huskers matched Texas 6-6 in the second half of the Big 12 Championship game that year. Nebraska cut the lead in half versus Texas in 2010 over the last two quarters to make it a game. The Huskers got by Iowa State in overtime in 2010 after trailing at the half. Bad second halves were the norm down the stretch that year though.
Last year, the Huskers trailed Fresno State and Ohio State at halftime and won both games. NU outscored Northwestern in the second half of the loss. The wheels came off a bit at Michigan in the second half though. The Hail Mary to close the second quarter by South Carolina seemed like it might have completely taken the life out of Nebraska.
So even if the Huskers lost more of the games they trailed at half, they didn't behave like a team that was defeated. The effort was usually there, but things often just didn't work out. Instead, perhaps they just need to start faster in some cases. As the saying goes, you never have to recover from a good start.