Last week's 48-17 defeat at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers was the worst loss in Bo Pelini's career with the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
It wasn't just the defense's inability to stop the Badgers offense. It was that the team basically quit after T-Mart's interception to begin the second half. After limiting the Badgers running game to mild success in the first half (Wisconsin's plays were all coming off Russell Wilson's improvisational skills), the Blackshirts laid down in the second half. They rolled over. They quit.
The key to the defense's success under Bo Pelini has been the defensive line. Well, last Saturday night, the defensive line was useless. They generated no pressure on plays that they didn't blitz. They offered little resistance in the running game. Cameron Meredith's name hasn't been heard since Week 1. I'm told Jason Ankrah starts opposite him - news to me. Jared Crick either can't get the job done by himself, or is failing to live up to his Ndoversized expectations. And don't get me started on Sean Fisher, who might be the worst starter in the entire Big Ten conference. (Yes, I realize he is not on the defensive line, but I just couldn't wait any longer.)
I realize there is a good chance that the Wisconsin Badgers are simply the best team in all of College Football (I'd put them right there with Alabama), which would make everything that occurred semi-tolerable. However, that's dependent on seeing some improvement out of the defense, and the team as a whole. Which means...
It's time for Bo Pelini to do some coaching.
There certainly can't be any excuses flying around after this week. THEE Ohio State's offense is anemic. They scored 7 points on Michigan State last week, and they were to lucky to even get that (33 yard TD with 10 seconds left in the game). They scored 6 points on the Miami Hurricanes two weeks Pryor (see what I did there?). They scored 37 points on Colorado in between, which is counterproductive to my argument, but I'm limited in ways to make fun of the Buffaloes these days. You suck Colorado.
If Ohio St. is able to move the ball on the Blackshirts, it might be time to start asking some serious questions about Bo Pelini...
- Why was Alfonzo Dennard not on Wisconsin WR Al Toon the entire game? They had one good receiver. Nebraska has one good cornerback. And yet, Toon was repeatedly beating Ciante Evans in coverage (whodathunkit?).
- How has the defense suffered so much? The Blackshirts lost Prince Amukamara, Dejon Gomes, Eric Hagg, and Pierre Allen from last year. Is that enough lost talent to warrant the slip in play we've seen? Where is the (Bo Pelini recruited) talent behind them?
- How are the linebackers so bad? Lavonte David has been good, but not great. Will Compton makes a play here and there. Sean Fisher was so bad last week that my buddy John's head nearly exploded trying to explain how bad he was. Is this the best they've got?
- How can they keep Taylor Martinez's pants dry? T-Mart has not handled the big situations he's been thrown into very well. He seems fine until one thing goes wrong, and then all bets are off. This isn't Bo's wheelhouse, but if these problems persist, Bo might have to address the QB position. Or just run the ball...
- Why does Nebraska never seem to run the ball enough? The Huskers ran the ball down Wisconsin's throat their first two drives of the game and then became obsessed with throwing the ball. In a big game, on the road, stick with whatever's working please.
I'm still a Bo Pelini guy. He has this program headed in the right direction. All he needs now is to lead his team to victory in a big time game. He might get his chance in a rematch with Wisconsin this year. (Remember the upset in the inaugural Big 12 Championship.)
As far as this week's game goes, I see a big bounce back from the Cornhuskers. This smells like a game where Nebraska races out to an early lead and spends most of the game holding Ohio St at an arm's length. I'll say a decisive 24-10 triumph for Nebraska.