There’s plenty to discuss in the world of pro football, tennis and baseball. But let’s stick to Husker football, the reason for this special Tuesday edition.
Late in the third quarter Saturday at the Rose Bowl, Tim Beck’s offense took over at its 4-yard line after a penalty. The score was 27-27.
Nebraska’s first two plays — both runs — left it with third-and-8. The quarter ended, giving Beck time to think what he wanted to do.
His next call was brilliant: quarterback draw.
Taylor Martinez ran over a defender and moved the chains. That’s when Nebraska, after a sluggish third quarter, found a rhythm. Ameer Abdullah burst free for 36 yards. Braylon Heard went for 9, 5 and 7. Then Abdullah for 2.
But on third-and-1 at the UCLA 21, Beck got cute. Fullback Mike Marrow got stuffed.
That call, followed by the next six calls, arguably lost the game.
Call No. 2: After a UCLA punt pinned the Huskers at the 5-yard line, Beck called a zone read, which Datone Jones blew up. Should Martinez have handed the ball to Abdullah? Yes. But that’s not a read you want your quarterback making on his goal line late in the game.
Calls 3, 4, and 5: The next drive was the one that really hurt Nebraska. The Huskers took over at their 20 with 6:49 left, trailing 29-27. Rather than going back to the ground, Martinez threw three straight passes, all incomplete.
Calls 6 and 7: Nebraska took over again at the 20 with 3:23 left. Again, Beck had an opportunity to run the ball — NU had three timeouts and needed only a field goal. Martinez’s first pass was batted down. His second attempt was intercepted.
From there, UCLA added a touchdown, ending any realistic hopes of a Husker rally.
You may have noticed that Abdullah’s last carry of the game came with 13:20 left. After a night in which he rushed 16 times for 119 yards? That’s not acceptable.
The way UCLA’s front four was beating Nebraska’s offensive line, Beck needed to lean on his backs. Let the offensive line attack those pass rushers.
Often when play-callers fall behind late in the game — even by two points — they get impatient. They feel pressure to move the ball quickly. Beck fell into that trap.
Nebraska’s passing game may be better than last year. But it wasn’t good enough to pass its first real test.
>> I asked John Papuchis about it last week. I asked Bo Pelini about it Monday. Why don’t the Huskers tackle more often in fall camp? Aside from scrimmages, defenders wrap up ball carriers, but rarely take them to the ground. It’s common practice under Pelini.
I understand you don’t want Rex Burkhead and Abdullah getting hit all the time. But aren’t there fourth- and fifth-stringers you can tackle at full speed? The roster expanded from 105 to about 145 three weeks ago. Why wasn’t the defense going full contact against the scout team more often?
I admit that I have little expertise on this subject. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts.
>> Looking for a bright spot from the defense through two weeks? Last year, the Huskers allowed opponents to score a touchdown on 69 percent of red-zone trips. That was 11th in the Big Ten and 104th nationally.
This year NU has given up touchdowns on just two of nine red-zone trips — 22 percent. In fact, when you consider that UCLA put up 653 yards, 34 offensive points isn’t very much.
>> Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo talked Nebraska on ESPN Radio Monday.
“People say, ‘Oh, Notre Dame’. We’ve accepted that Notre Dame really isn’t that good,” Russillo said. “Nebraska every year, let’s see what happens. And then they can’t even stop UCLA.”
Said Van Pelt: “The only nickname from past glory that has taken a bigger hit than Blackshirts is ‘The U’”.
>> Finally, a quote from Brady Hoke on the Big Ten teleconference: “Our conference, at the end of the day, will hold up to anybody.” Sorry, Brady. If the league continues at its current pace, nobody outside the Big Ten footprint will even know you’re playing by November.
The Big Ten is 2-7 against BCS conferences. One team has both of those BCS wins — Northwestern. Imagine that, the Big Ten needing Northwestern to carry the banner.
>> Thanks for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow with a regularly scheduled edition.