Losing the close game a new reality for Nebraska Husker faithful

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This just in: Nebraska’s football team is officially in transition.
Following yet another disappointing setback on Saturday, this time against Northwestern, the final 30-28 outcome dealt a serious, if not fatal blow to any realistic chances this team had at making a bowl game.
Welcome to the new reality.
The loss was especially difficult to take because Saturday was champions day, as in Husker champions, teams mostly from 20 years ago. The national champion women’s bowling team, the College World Series baseball team, the volleyball teams from 1995 and 2005, the women’s gymnastics team and especially the ‘95 Big Red football team who, led by Tom Osborne and Tommie Frazier, enjoyed their own pre-game tunnel walk to the deafening roar of the crowd.
Hey, wasn’t it just “Back to the Future” day?
That football team 20 years ago is now widely recognized as the best ever in the history of the sport. Most of those guys looked like they could still put on a uniform and knock your head off. Too bad some didn’t.
Nebraska’s most exciting play was perhaps the mauling of Wildcat quarterback Clayton Thorson in the south end zone for a first quarter safety, defensive ends Ross Dzuris and Jack Gangwish meeting in the backfield for an impromptu party. And to be fair, Nebraska nearly tied the game with 4:23 remaining on a Tommy Armstrong, Jr. rollout run from three yards out. But his extra point attempt pass to Stanley Morgan failed and Northwestern was able to drive the length of the field to run out the clock.
The Huskers held the lead just twice, both times in the second half, and they trailed on the scoreboard a total of three times. I hate to beat a dead horse, but the ‘95 team trailed a total of five times....all season.
The Huskers held possession of the ball an astonishing 39 minutes yet still lost the game. The Huskers threw the ball 49 times and of course lost the game. The Huskers out first-downed Northwestern 22-15, but Nebraska also rushed for just 82 yards and that alone is why they lost the game.
Mike Riley’s press conference was disappointing. Disappointing because I didn’t feel the sense of urgency to get this thing turned around. And disappointing because I came away with the uneasy feeling that he doesn’t have a good enough feel for this program yet.
Maybe it’s not his fault. Maybe it is. Maybe it’s Bo’s fault that this team isn’t more physical, something that has to be addressed if they are going to compete in the Big Ten year in and year out.
“We couldn’t block their front to run the football,” Riley stated, something that was painfully obvious to anyone who watched. “We all thought we were making strides but it didn’t look too good today.”
One reporter brought up the idea (again) to rotate offensive linemen, to give the first unit guys a break during the game. It’s always made sense to me and they certainly have enough bodies to do that. Much to my surprise, Riley acted like he hadn’t thought of that strategy before, stating that it might be something to take a look at after admitting that it just hasn’t been this coaching staff’s philosophy to do just that.
Another reporter asked the head coach if something wasn’t quite right with the team on this particular day, whether that be a lack of focus, of drive, of concentration. Again painfully obvious to most but the head man wasn’t going to go there.
The Huskers were 3-1 versus Northwestern in the past four seasons but were a negative four in turnovers before Saturday. Ironically, that number is now minus five following Armstrong’s ill-advised throw in the right flat, just after he failed to see Wildcat defender Nick VanHoose looming there ready to pounce. I had a perfect angle of the play and nearly screamed for Tommy not to throw it. And 72 yards later the ‘Cat’s led 14-5 midway through the second quarter.
I’m no brain surgeon but on this particular day, one turnover was simply one too many. One turnover was too much for this team to overcome. One turnover. One drive. One stop. One and done.
I bleed Husker red and there’s always hope. Hope for a quick fix. Hope for growth. Hope for a new beginning starting next week at Purdue.
Transition? You bet.
I just wish I could jump ahead 20 years to find out how this story ends.

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