Husker Talk: Comedy of errors

Bill Murray was at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, which was fitting because it was definitely Groundhog’s Day.

What we’ve seen over and over is a team that won’t let itself be good, doesn’t know how to win and, simply, doesn’t do the “little” things. When was the last time that you’ve seen consistent, “good football”? I’m not talking about a quarter or two, or even a few plays. I’m talking about offense, defense and special teams all putting together a performance worthy of two thumbs up. Maybe against Minnesota two years ago? How about UCLA in the bowl game? Sadly, there are few to pick from.

Consistency has been a stranger in the Nebraska program for a decade now. It’s almost as though we should rename the team the Nebraska Jekyll and Hydes. Without any model of consistency, bad teams won’t become average, and average teams won’t ever become good. Nebraska is not even average right now, it’s bad — with penalties, coverage busts and special teams. It’s just bad with most of the decision-making on the field.

But then sometimes … a glimpse, a snapshot, a moment or series when Nebraska really looks decent. Like, wow, now there’s some progress. Look at that offense churning downfield. Was that a 3-and-out on defense? Boom, boom and then ... bust.

The glorious moments are soon cut short as a flag flies, a turnover happens or the defense allows a third-and-long to be converted. Stringing “good football” plays together for an extended period of time is just not happening. Once it does, look out.

Just think how incredible the turnaround from 1-11 to 12-0 will be?

I’m only kidding ... kind of.

Seriously, though, these players have so many bad habits, mentally and physically, to break before they truly can withstand all of the good and bad that comes at them on game day. Execution, discipline, attention to details. Good-to-great teams have these qualities.

Tunnel walk

I’ve mentioned this before, but I really think it’s an issue. Is it why they’re not winning? No, of course not. But the players seem way too calm coming down that tunnel. I’m a big body-language guy and to not see much jumping around before the game is a little concerning. The Peter brothers aren’t walking down that tunnel and about to smash someone. But Mo Barry can’t be the only guy fired up before they hit the field.

But my real issue is the music. Changing songs each week is not working. The fans are mostly silent trying to figure out what song is playing. There’s absolutely no connection to the music. There’s no build-up as the team gets to the gates. Like Sirius or not, it gave 90,000 people a routine and purposeful cheering during what was one of the best entrances in the nation. The videos and the messages on the big screen during the walk have been excellent. Not much else.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just the “get off my lawn” guy, but it doesn’t work.

Big underdog

Nebraska is a 22.5-point underdog against Wisconsin. Just look at how the Huskers fared against Michigan, and now Wisconsin poses a lot of the same problems. It’s back to playing in a phone booth with physical, assignment-sound football. Talent or not, will Nebraska match that physicality this time? How about mentally when the opponent is just trying to maul you? When bad plays happen, the Badgers just continue to do what they do until the opponent usually breaks. That’s mental. That’s knowing you will fall back on your strong culture. Nebraska, as we all know, is struggling to create that once again.

Two injuries that will really hurt Nebraska this week are the ones to defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg and reserve inside linebacker Will Honas. Stoltenberg is out indefinitely, but Honas is out for the season with a knee injury. Their strength in the middle will be missed against the Badgers.

Frost comments

After the game, Scott Frost was unbelievably emotional after the loss. His voice cracked and his eyes welled up. He knows there are players on the team who are “warriors” and give everything they have. They hate to lose and hate letting Frost down. But, on the other hand, Frost is “tired of playing the undisciplined” guys. If you don’t do the “little” things right on and off the field, that’s just not a guy who’s going to make the wise decision on the field.

Bad teams can’t have players making stupid, selfish penalties that literally lose the game one call at a time. For the first time since 1938, Nebraska is 0-4. This isn’t an 0-4 team. That’s why the idiotic play on the field has Frost so beside himself. He’s done with it. And it started after halftime.

After the Huskers defense finally got an interception that could’ve completely turned the game around, Lamar Jackson was flagged for a hold. Frost was more than agitated on the sideline as he chewed out Jackson about the flag and his demeanor in-game. In Jackson’s place, Eric Lee held up well in his most extensive playing time in a long time.

Frost also laid into Marquel Dismuke after he was flagged for a late hit. I didn’t watch many UCF games the past two seasons, but I’ve never seen Frost like that. Everyone has their breaking point after seeing constant, stupid, selfish penalties that are costing the game.

The problem with wanting to bench every player who might deserve it is the lack of depth. In some spots, you can’t help but to play a guy who needs to ride the pine because there’s no option behind him on the roster.

Penalties

And speaking of those penalties, seven out of the 11 were of the 15-yard variety. And worse when a player commits an infraction on the other side of the field, not having anything to do with the outcome of the play, but affecting the game instead.

How about the officiating? Nebraska shot itself in the foot, no doubt. But obvious pass interference calls went without a flag, yet phantom holds on wide receivers got called. With that, there was absolutely zero consistency in flagging holding on either sides of the offensive lines.

The only “good” that came of the terrible officiating was that the boo-birds came out in full force, and that energy juiced up the team. They showed some fight. Too little, too late, but the majority of the guys played hard and didn’t quit.

This and that

Dicaprio Bootle now has 10 pass breakups in four games. That’s more than the leader for the entire 2017 season.

Nebraska is the only FBS team to record 500-plus yards of offense and lose twice. That just goes to show you that playing smart, and owning the “little” things, will lead to wins. Instead it’s bizarro world out there.

NU turned the ball over on downs three times in Purdue territory. Third- and fourth-down failures for this team are especially bad.

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