Apparently the word of the season for the Nebraska football team is “change.” There is change all over the place. Changes at quarterback, changes at running back and changes in the defensive system led most Husker faithful to doubt that a win in Eugene, Oregon, was possible last weekend.
At halftime, social media was lighting up like a Christmas tree. Change was playing a major role in many of those communications and it wasn’t the kind of change that Husker head coach Mike Riley and his squad cared to concentrate on.
“Change to a new head coach. Change to a new quarterback. Change to a new defensive coordinator.”
To say that most Nebraska football fans were running out of patience might be the greatest understatement ever uttered in the world of college athletics.
When Nebraska came out of the locker room trailing 42-14 to an average Oregon football team, many people had already switched their televisions over to the Food Network. Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert shredded the Nebraska defense for 295 passing yards in the opening half and Bob Diaco’s defense looked bewildered and confused.
People were commenting on Oregon’s offensive pace and whether Nebraska could hold the Ducks to fewer than 70 points. Even though Nebraska moved the ball early against the Ducks, the Husker offense was saddled for much of the second quarter. Even the most diehard and positive Husker football fans’ hopes for a comeback seemed about as possible as a mid-September blizzard in Lincoln.
It was at that point when it would have been so incredibly easy to give up on the Huskers. Here we were, in a game where we were going to be embarrassed and blown out on national television. We had seen this too many times in recent years. It would have been so easy to say, “Here we go again.” Or, “Some things never change.” Or, “It is time for a change.”
Now, there is still a ray of hope. Not only did Nebraska come out and play a strong second half, the Huskers darned near completed the greatest comeback in school history. Instead of staring at that 6-6 season so many experts have been predicting, Nebraska has given us hope of something better.
Wisconsin is not the overwhelming power in the Big Ten West that had been predicted and we could almost see a human side to Ohio State. Iowa struggled to beat Iowa State in overtime and Northwestern was humiliated by Duke. Nebraska’s 21-0 second-half surge against Oregon suddenly made the Huskers respectable again.
With all the smoke and mirrors on display in the second-half comeback, it would have been easy to go with the flow and shout out, “Just wait until next week.” But there is a nagging question that just won’t leave this journalist’s wee little brain.
“Why are we waiting until halftime to prepare our defense for the team that we are facing?”
For the second week in a row the defense came out soft and flat in the early going. Against both Arkansas State and Oregon the Blackshirts simply were not ready for their opponent. It reminded me a lot of the famous “Rocky” movies. Jab-jab-jab-jab. The Red Wolves and Ducks punched away with the short passes and hurry-up attack while the Husker defense took blow after blow to the chin.
It is safe to say Diaco is making some great changes at halftime in the defensive scheme. We have played better second halves against both opponents. We have that “change” figured out during the game. Now, what can the coaches do to have their team ready to play when they come out of the locker room at the start of the game?
I am not about to give up on this Nebraska team or the defense. I firmly believe Diaco has the talent and experience to make this 3-4 scheme work in Lincoln. It has already been a season of change and there will be many more changes to come. Hopefully, given the time and opportunity, the Huskers will get this thing figured out in time for Nebraska to have a very good season.