After Saturday, just where is the program headed?

by Dave Bradley

Looking back, no one could really blame the guy.
Seconds after the final gun on Saturday, when Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill was answering questions by an ESPN reporter at mid-field, a rather large, out of control Gopher fan jumped the fence and eluded security until he was just a few feet away from crashing in on the interview.
Luckily he was stopped just in time, and okay, maybe he did look a little drunk, but you’ve gotta like his enthusiasm, something sorely lacking for Big Red fans as they left the stadium.
And as Kill left the field, faithful Gopher fans in the southwest corner of Memorial Stadium chanted, “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry.”
Good for him. He’s done a masterful job up north.
But as painful as that four-point loss was on Saturday, I literally left the field as well as Coach Bo Pelini’s press conference wondering just where this program is headed.
For the second week in a row, the Huskers lost a 14-point lead, lost momentum and lost their focus.
Game over, even though Nebraska had a chance to pull it out in the final moments.
And just like a week ago, Bo didn’t have any real answers as to the why.
Why did NU come out flat in the second half on offense? How could Minnesota run the same five or six basic plays with so much success. And how could the Blackshirts not be able to stop the zone read?
Really?
“We weren’t able to finish drives,” noted quarterback Tommy Armstrong.
Okay, but why?
“I just think we were really inconsistent,” commented offensive coordinator Tim Beck.
Why’s that?
Minnesota, with a huge and physical offensive line featuring 6’ 9” sophomore right tackle Jonah Pirsig (the biggest football player I’ve ever seen in person), racked up nearly 300 yards rushing and held the football for over 35 minutes.
It’s a team built for cold weather. Smash mouth style. Take no prisoners.
And the Huskers knew that going in. They never adjusted and simply got whipped.
In the end, Nebraska did nearly pull out the victory, but freshman phenom De’Mornay Pierson-El suffered his second turnover of the game just when it appeared he was backing into the end zone for the winning score.
Yep, the Gophers stole one, quite literally, dashing Nebraska’s chances at a Big Ten West Division championship.
While that’s difficult to swallow, what’s even tougher is losing on senior day, for the second year in a row.
Ameer and Kenny deserved better.
For the second year in a row the Huskers laid an egg in their final game at home.
Injuries? Sure, the Huskers had a slug of them. Michael Rose, Jamal Turner, Charles Jackson, Cethan Carter, and just on Saturday alone Kenny Bell, Mark Pelini, Randy Gregory and even Jordan Westerkamp, among others.
But this is a program that should never make excuses, regardless.
Where does Husker Nation go from here? Friday’s game at Iowa may be final exam time for Bo. Another loss and you tell me.
I was one of the last to leave the stadium on Saturday, after listening to some of the players give their take on what had just happened, and as I walked in back of the Husker bench, I couldn’t help but think how lonely a place it had just become.
Lonely and sad.
The only sound, in fact, was that of a garbage truck picking up their haul.
In a way, it seemed eerily fitting.

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