The Nebraska Cornhuskers know a lot about struggling. This is not the first time the storied program has experienced questions and been faced with doubt. For those of us who grew up in the 1980’s, this is routine. There are differences between then and now. Head coach Tom Osborne was trying to put together a formula that would bring Nebraska it’s third National Championship. His teams were always one or two plays away from making something magical happen, from returning glory back to the humble and proud people of this state.
Today we are in a much different situation. Head coach Bo Pelini is trying to figure which eleven men can put the Huskers in the best position to win. This team is nowhere near elite status, there are no dreams of a BCS Championship in 2013. There are hopes for a return trip to The Big Ten Championship Game, possibly a showdown with Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes.
After Nebraska struggled with Wyoming last weekend many in Husker Nation have been filled with doubt about the chances of a conference title. They are wondering if the Huskers will be able to get through the season without giving up 600 yards every week. The Huskers have struggled defensively throughout their last three games, causing debates between the fan base. Is Bo Pelini the guy? Will he ever turn things around? Is Bo too stubborn to change his defensive philosophy?
While the context of questions might be differnent, I can’t help but flash back to the mid eighties. I can remember my grandfather talking to his friends at The American Legion. “Osborne won’t pass the damn ball.” That was something brought up about fifty times every Saturday and then several hundred more throughout the week. Another classic was, “Well it’s not hard to beat Nebraska when they always run to the short side of the field.” Let’s not forget, “Osborne can’t win the big one.” Back to modern day Nebraska. “The Huskers can’t stop the run. They can’t get over the hump. Pelini can’t get this team out of neutral.”
I am in no way comparing Tom Osborne and Bo Pelini. That wouldn’t be fair to either man. I am comparing a passionate fan base that questions what they are witness to. Whenever there is adversity you can expect a wide range of opinions to follow, and right now things a tough. What a lot of people forget that however tough it seems for the fans, it’s nowhere near as hard as it is on the coaching staff and players that proudly wear the “N” on the side of their helmets or hats.
Nebraska football has always been about the process. Struggling to overcome doubts, obstacles, and road blocks. They were there in the mid nineties when Tom Osborne was winning championships. They have been lingering ever since Tom left. The hard times are part of the genetic makeup of who Husker fans are. While it sometimes takes longer then most would like, the process is just as important as the rewards.
There are discussions between players, reminders that last weeks effort was sub-par. Coaches are still tinkering with position groupings and making adjustments. The team will suit up on Saturday and walk out of a tunnel in front of over ninety thousand fans and do everything they can to give them a victory, just as they did years ago. This young team is going through the process of finding out who they are and what they are capable of. Maybe we should give them time to go get through that process. You never know, they could surprise us.