Published Tuesday, September 6, 2011 AT 3:19 AM / Updated at 6:58 PM
Dirk’s Brunch Bites, Sept. 6
Dirk Chatelain Omaha World-Herald

Time will tell if Tim Beck knows what he’s doing.

But his post-practice interview Monday night showed me something about the new Nebraska offense.

Beck said that Saturday’s performance “didn’t display the expectations of myself, our staff, I think even some of the team and certainly the tradition of Nebraska. We did not play the way we should play.

“And it’s our job to fix it. I’m gonna. I’m gonna fix it.”

Read the highlights of Beck’s media session here. (Or listen to the whole thing here).

I don’t know what Beck is like behind closed doors. I can only base my opinion on his public comments. But a huge problem with Nebraska football may be on the road to solution.

The past two years, there was a personality gap between the offense and defense (this was partly the head coach’s fault). The defense played with a hard edge. With consistent energy. With a fear that, if things went badly, there were consequences.

The offense was soft. Undisciplined. Inconsistent. Weak under pressure.

When defensive players missed tackles, Bo Pelini yanked them. When players dropped passes on offense, Shawn Watson made excuses for them.

Beck, it appears, doesn’t have much interest in excuses. He wants to bring a defensive edge to the offense. And he appears to understand the expectations that you — the fans — have for his offense.

I regularly got the impression that fans had higher standards of success than Watson (and Bill Callahan before him). That those coordinators didn’t understand the football knowledge and tradition in this state. That they were content to put up 400 yards per game, make a few highlights and win the Big 12 North.

Beck is telling you as plainly as possible that he wants to raise the bar. Make offensive players just as accountable as Bo’s Blackshirts.

Moreover, he does not seem interested in pulling the wool over your eyes, or glossing over his struggles. (That could change, of course, if struggles persist).

Beck’s approach is a breath of fresh air, just as it was on defense when Pelini took over for Kevin Cosgrove.

Over the past two years, nobody in the media was more critical of Watson than I was. And if Beck’s offense continually stumbles, I’ll be just as critical. But for now, he’s saying the right things. That’s worth something.

When Pelini chose Beck last winter, many fans grumbled. How can you promote someone from a failed offensive staff, they said. Wasn’t Beck part of the problem?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But there was an immediate advantage to promoting Beck. For two years, he had a front-row seat for the offensive meltdown. He witnessed how Watson handled players, and he read Watson’s quotes in the paper. You don’t think Beck was taking mental notes on what he’d do and say differently?

Sometimes when I hear Beck speak, I swear he’s trying to contrast himself with Watson.

“I don’t care about touchdowns, points, yards. None of that stuff (matters). You don’t win with scheme, you win with people. And we’ve got to get them to do the right things. …

“You don’t sugarcoat it. It is what it is. I’m not going to tell them they’re better than they are. But I’m still going to love them and hug them and let them know I appreciate them. And when they do good, we’re going to tell them that.

“They didn’t do good. Not to our standards.”

Watson made too many illogical statements that insulted fans’ intelligence, especially in discussing Zac Lee and Taylor Martinez. He never quite figured out how to show support for his players AND show fans he understood Nebraska football.

Watson’s replacement nailed it after just one game. (Read the quotes again).

Don’t get me wrong, Beck absolutely might fail in this very difficult job. His scheme may not work. He may not be poised in the press box or organized at practice. His leadership style may wear on players and assistants. Who knows?

But after his very first game as a Division I-A coordinator, a game in which Nebraska scored 40 points, committed just one penalty and one turnover (from the backup quarterback), Beck didn’t reveal an ounce of satisfaction. Nor did he plead for patience.

He accepted blame and admitted mistakes. He gathered his players and scolded them for poor effort and execution.

“It wasn’t a very pleasant meeting, I can tell you that,” Beck said.

Sure, Beck might fail in this job. But he won’t fail for the same reasons his predecessor did.

* * *

>> Pat Dye picked an interesting time to brag about the power of the SEC.

The former Auburn coach went on the Paul Finebaum radio show Monday and said this:

“The level of play in the Southeastern Conference is just different,” Dye said. “If you don’t believe it, call Eugene, Oregon and ask ‘em. It was a dang massacre.”

Look, the SEC is America’s best conference. Nobody in his right mind disagrees. But I’m also quite certain that the SEC was awful last week.

Georgia got drilled by Boise State in front of a pro-Dawg crowd. Dye’s old school, the defending national champions, should’ve lost to Utah State. South Carolina trailed East Carolina by 10 points at halftime. Kentucky nearly lost to Western Kentucky.

Every year, the SEC beats its chest, suggesting that seven or eight of its teams belong in the Top 25. And every year it’s necessary to point out that, yes, the league’s top tier is dominant.

But the middle and bottom tiers (as demonstrated in non-conference games) are sometimes mediocre and often bad. Just like every other league.

If you don’t believe it, call Boise, Idaho and ask ‘em.

>> Now that I’ve ripped SEC folks, let’s build them up again with Chip Kelly’s revealing analysis after Oregon’s loss to LSU:

“They’ve got a little bit different athlete running around out there right now. Looking at their D-line, standing next to them, walking off the field, they don’t look like the kind of guys we see. That’s the common trait, the trait you saw in the Auburn game.”

He’s right. The SEC has a reputation for speed, but toughness in the trenches — especially at defensive line — may be an even bigger reason for the league’s five straight national titles.

>> Here’s Mark Cuban’s advice for the Big 12. He argues sustaining the league is the smartest — and most lucrative — plan. Something tells me Oklahoma ain’t buying it.

About Dirk Chatelain

Dirk Chatelain is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and general assignments. You can follow Dirk on Twitter (@dirkchatelain) or email him at dchatelain@owh.com

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    And… BYU (non-AQ) beat Ole Miss (SEC).

  2. john says:

    Blaming Shawn Watson and Callahan is like saying “its Bushes fault”. Myself and some others are tired of that. Theres no mention of the fall in recruiting and depth issues there now. QB, RB, WR, freshmen playing on the line. Three 2 star or low recruited players related to coaches on the team. This flared its ugly head last year against decent talent in te Big 12 (not as obvious against non-rated teams). But theres a good chance this team could be in for some long games and losses the next couple of years. Especially if we lose TM or Berk.

    1. HuskerJay says:

      Oh, because Marlon Lucky (5-Star), Harrison Beck (4-Star), Chris Brooks (4-star), just to name a few turned out to be game changers? There is no fall in recruiting. NU had the best star average in the B1G last year. Chasing stars in recruiting does not get you anywhere. It’s about developing the talent. Take Suh for example. Yes, he was a 4 star coming out of HS but look at what the Pelini brothers did for him in 2 years. He was up for the HEISMAN TROPHY.

      1. UltimaRatioRegum says:

        I agree with john on one thing – the unheralded coaches sons coming it is way too much like the Colorado debacle for me.

        And I could argue that those 5 stars recruits largely failed because of a lack of coaching – Watson couldn’t have coached up Peyton Manning. Your example of Suh works just as well against your point: until the Pelinis showed up (and coached him up) he was not making much of a name for himself. If we had decent coaching ability on the offensive side maybe Harrison, Marlon, and Chris would have lived up to their potential. Don’t think for a minute the Gabbert brothers didn’t see that (along with many other 4-5 star recruits).

  3. SKERBATER says:

    It all comes back to the O-line, I’ve been screaming it for years!!!!!! hopefully people will start to take notice… If you go back and watch the game, they looked timid, it was fairly pathetic the amount of intensity they showed in the game. Looking at past years, I refuse to attribute it to the fact they were playing a cupcake team. I had lofty expectations for this team only for the fact the o-line would show improvement. Unfortunately I have to change my prediction for the year from 13-1 to 9-4 with losses at Washington, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa and no B1G championship game appearance. Sorry excuse for a line that’s for sure.

    1. ZHusker says:

      Skerbater you’re on crack! First of all, Washington comes here and not a chance they beat us, Iowa doesn’t beat us either with no RB depth and a slow-footed QB, Wisconsin I can believe and maybe even Michigan but maybe you should give it another week or two before you start spouting out silly stuff.

      1. UltimaRatioRegum says:

        Yeah, but the point is their defenses aren’t bad and our offense is not showing us anything new yet from the suck of last year. They should have pancaked Chattanooga all over the field instead of getting pushed back and opened up by a much smaller defense. Once again they failed to get up for a lower division foe, showing us the same discouraging lack of focus and intensity that has become the only consistent hallmark of the O line under Cotton.
        So maybe Iowa doesn’t have decent RBs and maybe Washington has to play here (big lot of help that was with Texas last year), so what – the point is if all we have to score with is yet another identity-less weenie offense, they could all take us.

      2. SKERBATER says:

        ZHusker, I will accept your apology the day after thanksgiving…. and hopefully Bo accepts Barney’s resignation shortly thereafter.

  4. Tbear says:

    I hope the offensive line can and will get better as the year progresses. I expect they are not as bad as the last game showed. However, until we develop a true passing threat, they will face a stacked box which is always tough to beat on the ground. Give me a QB who can pass over a QB who can run anyday..

    1. ncriggs says:

      You’re crazy…

  5. WA Husker says:

    IF Beck is serious about accountability on the offense, his first stop – after four years of dysfunction on the O-line – has to be Barney Cotton. Year after year his crew looks confused, outplayed, out-motivated, and badly coached. So when does accountability start up top?

    1. UltimaRatioRegum says:

      Seconded. Big disappointment that Pelini failed to exert leadership there when he juggled the coaching staff.

  6. Incorrigible1 says:

    And now Cotton is in the booth for games? Can anyone name another OL coach up in the booth? Hey, let’s hope Cotton is given a phony new title and shifted out of day-to-day coaching altogether.

    1. vlieg dawg says:

      Wasn’t Tenopir in the booth?

  7. Plznotagain says:

    We used to call the O-line, the “pipeline” after the waves on the northshore of Oahu. This years O-line should be called the “ripple”, as in I have seen larger wakes caused by a kayak. I will be happy to call them the “pipeline” when they earn the title.

  8. Josh says:

    Great article. Glad to see the common school of thought, from players and coaches, up to the media and fans, is that it was an OK game, with a lot of room for improvement. Hopefully we’ll see a little more fine tuned squad on Saturday. GBR!

  9. ben says:

    Skerbater you lose all credibility for saying Washington and michigan will beat us and not listing Ohio st as a team that will. First of Michigan has way more problems then we do, what? Cuz of Dennard Robinson they will win? And Washington??? You think this team wont be ready for them. No really people things didn’t look that great offensively Saturday but I still think we can handle everyone but Ohio st. And Wisconsin…penn st looked pretty damn good too…

  10. Bill says:

    ultimeRtioRegum mentioned Lucky as not not living up to expectations but under Callahan in 2007 he led the Big Twelve in all purpose yards but the next year under Watson his numbers fell way off. Gabbert and a few four star linemen changed there mind after it was clear Callahan wasn’t coming back, not because they didn’t want to play for him.

  11. CheezHead Husker says:

    Hey, it is all Bush’s fault.